The need to stand out triggers the comeback of creativity

14 January 2022

In these times of frantic digital transition, the importance of creativity in marketing communication might have gotten a little bit lost. This happens even when creativity and a sound creative concept are desperately needed to attract and hold the attention of your target group, to raise awareness, to mobilise, to improve your customer experience and to drive innovation. Fortunately, we see some positive signs that inspired, creative campaigns will soon be in the limelight again. In this blog we will identify these signs, we go deeper into what exactly creativity is, and we look at how you can create an environment where fickle creativity can thrive.

Team organising a campaign

If everyone is on board, only a select few will be ahead of the curve.

Now that most marketers are gradually moving over to digital, and they all have more or less the same online marketing toolbox, the real difference will be made by the enthusiasm and energy of the creatives, rather than through technological advantage. You can compare UX optimisation in the digital industry with the influence of the wind tunnel on the automotive industry: if all digital vehicles are streamlined to perfection, they will all be very similar.

Although we assume that the digital marketing revolution will continue for a while, we at iO believe that quite a few companies will soon go to war with a similar digital toolbox, and they will indeed have to focus more on branding and creativity to distinguish themselves. Moreover, the post-pandemic landscape in many organizations will require a (re)branding that goes much deeper than a cosmetic facelift: consumer brands, employer brands and corporate brands will all be overhauled and updated.

Light at the end of the funnel

Another reason why creativity will soon have the wind in its sails again: cracks are finally appearing in the wall between advertising and content marketing. While advertising has always focused on creativity, the power to arrest and the expectation of the repetition of the wow feeling that inspires customers, content marketing has long subscribed to ideas around funnel thinking. Led by martech, they helped to build a marketing machine that was compelled to generate as many leads as possible.

It goes without saying that funnel thinking does not have to change. On the contrary, whoever controls both the funnel and has the capacity to creatively interrupt, disrupt and influence tunnel vision has a strategic advantage. There is a possibility that by hiding your content behind constant pay-with-data walls, you may be pushing potential customers into the funnel against their will. You create a lot of leads, but they lack the quality that drives conversion and connection. Content marketers who dare to relax their obsession with the funnel and focus instead on strong content that a prospect really needs, may generate fewer, but probably better, leads.

Mutual rapprochement

Of course, any rapprochement between creatives and content marketing must be mutual. The creative department needs to adopt a mode that flourishes in collaboration with the performance marketing generated drive of the digital channels. This is usually in the little things.

For example, a seasoned copywriter isn’t finished once the perfect copy is written. There is an expectation that a range of different variants will be delivered for thorough A/B testing. That jars with the methods of old school craftsmanship, which aimed at producing precision language; the ultimate, perfectly chosen words, as concise and as beautiful as possible. Under time pressure, a copywriter today might be inclined to write more modularly, in the knowledge that it is inconceivable that all of the text they produce would be used.

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Woman drawing sketch

Creativity remains a powerful weapon

Today consumers see between 400 and 10,000 ads per day. So now, more than ever, it is essential to stand out. The impact of creativity remains crucial. The more creative you are in solving problems, responding to the market, and creating distinctive campaigns, the better it is for your business.

Creativity also sets things in motion, it is an excellent way to raise awareness. For example, Wies De Graeve, director of iO client Amnesty International, knows that creativity helps to ensure that his organisation has a positive impact on human rights. He realizes that creativity can both sensitise and mobilise people by stimulating conflicting emotions like 'indignation' and 'hope' with equal force for Amnesty International. Their striking campaign with drummer Mario Goossens of the Belgian rock band Triggerfinger, who performed one thousand drum strokes for the imprisoned Saudi blogger Raif Badawi is an excellent example of this.

But what exactly is creativity?

Creativity is such a subjective idea that there is not even the hint of an unanimously agreed upon definition. In ancient Greece, Plato and Socrates thought that the creative person was given their skills by God. The creatives were the chosen ones and were therefore rare among the masses. Aristotle was less lyrical. He regarded creativity more as a component of a melancholic temperament, but fortunately he elaborated on his ideas and suggested that the possession of a creative temperament did not necessarily go hand in hand with negative notions of psychological distress.

No matter how you define creativity, the physicist and philosopher David Bohm suggests that it always comes down to a conflict that arises between old and new knowledge, that demands that you find a new balance. This can occur in any discipline imaginable. At iO, we like to define creativity as 'inventing or putting together something that wasn't there before.'

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Vulnerability, courage, and trust

Creativity thrives in a nurturing environment. Is a (premature) thought right or wrong? Doesn’t matter.

Uncertainty is inherent to the creative process. Of course, the beauty of the process is that you can never be entirely sure of what it will become. As organisations get bigger, they become less able to deal with that uncertainty. That’s why courage plays a crucial role, both for the creative and for the client who dares to choose an off the wall idea. Coming up with creative ideas is not that difficult when you have the right experience. Choosing creativity is. And in the face of critical resistance, perseverance is key.

It takes a lot of different types of courage to implement creative ideas. It starts with the creatives themselves, then it’s for the gatekeepers in the agencies who decide which proposals the client sees and finally, of course, the client themselves.

As a creative, you have to have the freedom to express your crazy thoughts, to dig deep in the less commonplace corners of your brain and dare to expose the depths of your inner creativity. You have to be vulnerable. This isn’t just with your creative sparring partners, but also with your colleagues, as you share your raw, sometimes premature, partially formed ideas. The most important factor here is trust. If trust is absent, self-censorship will prevail and creativity evaporates.

Avoid a culture of mediocrity

Of course, the first response to the most innovative creative ideas is often very negative. When more people are involved in the decision-making process, you are more likely to slip into a safe, uninspired culture of mediocrity. Circulating the same tried and tested ideas while distinctive ideas and innovations are ignored. Limit the number of people that are empowered to make decisions, keep the chain short, and be brave. Creativity is always the first victim if everyone has to agree.

Now that marketeers are starting to use the same online marketing tools, the real difference will be made by the creatives.

According to the physicist and philosopher David Bohm, no matter how you define creativity, it always comes down to a conflict between old and new knowledge, which means you have to find a new balance.

Now that marketers are starting to use the same online marketing tools, the real difference will be made by the creatives.

According to the physicist and philosopher David Bohm, no matter how you define creativity, it always comes down to a conflict between old and new knowledge, which means you have to find a new balance.

Jan Schuddinck
About the author
Jan Schuddinck
Senior Creative Copywriter - iO

As an experienced conceptual copywriter, Jan is iO’s jack-of-all-copy-trades. From senior-level snappy taglines to ever-lasting elaborate blogs, Jan’s value comes from what he does best: taking in the complex and putting it in words your audience can really get behind.

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