For the greater majority of times your marketing strategies and creative strengths are what make your brand or product stand out from the crowd, like it did, for example, with Deadpool when they announced the blockbuster movie and real size stands were distributed to thousands of cinemas around the globe. However, there are times when that creative talent misses the mark completely and the campaign doesn’t even warrant a second glance.
Creativity is more than just a part of the marketer’s toolkit; it is that extra something which makes your brand stand out from the already burgeoning crowd of competitors. Have a look around – don’t they all have that ‘look-alike’ feel to them? All you need is the added flair that creativity brings to imprint your campaign in peoples’ minds.
To observe this in action, you have to look no further than Christmas and the race to win the ‘Award for the Most Touching Christmas TV Advert of the Year’ (if there was such a thing). Last Christmas, consumers raved about The Old Man on the Moon by John Lewis and applauded its great story telling. This goes to show that it doesn’t matter if a consumer's loyalties lie elsewhere, such as with House of Fraser, Tesco, Aldi, Lidl or Morrisons; true creative marketing places your brand at the forefront of their mind.
Creativity in marketing isn’t easy
Research published by Google shows that simplicity along with creativity are the keys to a successful marketing campaign as these will ensure that your brand is instantly recognisable on both the high street and online.
You may be wondering why ‘simplicity’ is best. Well, at its basic marketing is communication. If you don’t understand a message being communicated to you, you’re likely to instantly reject it. In that respect, being over-creative could easily draw you a blank on the marketing front.
In addition to this, creativity can sometimes lengthen the time it takes for the intended recipient to cotton on to your message, making the need for simplicity that much more essential. For instance, great works of creative art, such as Van Gogh, weren’t recognised as such until long after the artist’s death.
The hardest part of being creative is to put yourself in others' shoes – see your creativity from another standpoint. All too often a creative team will come up with a superb idea but it only makes sense to those ‘in the know’ – in-jokes, however, don’t work.
Injecting creativity into your marketing strategies
Creativity is achieved by great storytelling and/or by mixing, changing and playing with the expected marketing channels. On the one hand, you have to encourage creative thinking in your own team but on the other hand you have to eventually come up with something that is going to be more creative than your competitors. But more importantly, the idea you do settle on has to work for and benefit YOUR business.
To win this challenge you have to be almost superhuman – a person with two heads, so to speak. One head will be thinking from your customers' perspective and the other will focus purely on your brand. Now, if one of those heads is stronger than the other you will either fail in your customer communication or your campaign will generate all the wrong signals.
We mentioned earlier the campaigns of John Lewis and Deadpool as examples of great creativity. They are totally different in their approach but they both work because they have taken into consideration:
- Brand / product guidelines
- Business goals
- Customer expectation
Since 2009, the British public have eagerly awaited for the new John Lewis Christmas TV advert and each year their narratives have grown in terms of emotiveness. However, the key to their success is that, even through all that, they keep the basic message and theme consistent with their brand. Last year's Man on the Moon ad, for example, was meant to raise awareness of the loneliness and isolation felt by many elderly people, especially during the Christmas holidays. This ad was a culmination of John Lewis teaming up with Age UK.
Let’s see how that ad achieved its goals: it had a simple message that we can all associate with in one way or another; there was no use of garish colours, they used the same tonal texture found on their website and in-store; there was no focus on any real products, the ad narrated a story and wasn't blatantly selling something, not to mention that the soundtrack used is a modern cover of a classic song – showing that John Lewis has at its core modernity but faith in its own legacy.
In other words, they delivered what their customers expected from such a high end brand's communication, i.e. great storytelling. Customers are too aware that top brands don’t need to focus on products and prices such as needed by lower-end brands which is why they keep such expectations high for brands like John Lewis.
This year, John Lewis has unveiled their Christmas campaign with a TV advert starring a dog in a trampoline. The official campaign hashtag, #BusterTheBoxer has also taken social media by storm.
John Lewis has once again proven to be consistent in its messaging with this ad, finding a creative new way to convey the joy of Christmas to viewers. Seeing as the brand's ad has claimed the position of the most viewed and appreciated TV ad of the year, it is clearly an example of creative marketing strategies at their best.
Lidl's campaign focuses on convincing doubters about the high quality of Lidl’s meats, fruit, fish and other products. How do they achieve it? By showing ‘normal’, everyday people challenging the doubt and being proved wrong. The inspiration for this campaign came from Lidl's research which had revealed that many Brits still thought their produce was second rate and imported from other countries.
Once again, you can see how a winning campaign has been designed by the points already raised. This particular scenario wasn’t put together to sell more produce but to change customers' perceptions of the quality of goods on offer, and in that it has succeeded tremendously.
How many times have you heard: you must stand out from the crowd? Here’s the important question though; how can you stand out from the crowd when you have no idea what the crowd are up to? The solution? Get out there and see what the rest of the world is doing. Is your competitor’s strategy working? Would yours do better?
Try these steps:
- Check on marketing news: your inspiration can also come from another firm not associated with your industry. Don’t be blinkered.
- Check on your competitors: they have similar goals, products and audiences. How are their customers reacting to their brand's messages?
- Pay attention to what grabs your attention and why: while you must think as both your brand and your customer, you must also never neglect the first-person perspective.
- Analyse your target demographics: each generation can be touched by different messages, so you have to understand their perspectives and cater for them respectively.
Getting out in the world and seeing what is trending and popular, and what isn’t, is going to take you a long way in understanding how your campaign could work and how to avoid costly pitfalls. Take, for example, the highly successful Pokemon GO campaign – it quickly proved itself to be more effective than other like-minded campaigns.
Great ideas come forward through brainstorming sessions. Also, during those sessions there will be a lot of ideas that may not be relevant or capture the imagination. That is why you have to take time out and go through the ideas with a clear, open mind. It is at this point that you should be looking at them through others’ eyes.
A way of helping achieve results is to ask yourself:
- What am I trying to convey?
- Is my decision completely in line with my brand?
- Would this campaign have the same professionalism as other campaigns?
- Who is the target for this campaign and will it grab their attention and understanding?
- What would the business board think of it?
Answering the above truthfully will have huge consequences on your final decisions and you will see definite steps being made towards consistent creative outcomes.
The creativity in changing channels
Modern marketing is all about innovating and utilising creative solutions that will maximise returns by reaching each target in the best possible way. Research from Google suggests that mobile search is a key part of the decision-making process and we know that an online purchase is generally made only after several sessions, even on different screens and devices.
The ideal target of your campaign is not always going to be in the same place as you or your marketer and you will have to chase them over several channels.
We have discussed Deadpool many times in this article. More importantly, it shows just how creativity at its best can work brilliantly. So much so, it won an award for its marketing strategy.
So let's analyse how Deadpool managed its campaign consistency by playing with marketing channels:
- Brand / product guidelines: Deadpool is both an irreverent and comic character who breaks the 4th wall speaking directly to readers.
- Business goals: Make Deadpool great again by being respectful of the character’s comedic side.
- Context: 2016 New Media Age
- Customer expectations: An irreverent character who breaks the 4th wall
Yes. Deadpool achieved all this and made it in the most consistent way: by flooding any kind of media and topic with messages in the character’s tone and style. This has to include topics that may have otherwise been deemed unsuitable at a brainstorming, such as testicular cancer.
For a more in-depth understanding of what Deadpool's integrated campaign entailed you can watch the video, made in person by Deadpool himself, here and read this article on Wired. Unfortunately, the film studio Fox blocked the video in the UK so we can only suggest you have a look for it in a "creative" way. You can also have a look at Deadpool's top ten marketing initiatives made by Screenrant here.
If you complement your brand guidelines with creative ideas aimed to fulfil and exceed customer expectations, you'll undoubtedly find your own creativity in marketing. In addition to this, never forget to play and mix with the marketing channels in your integrated campaigns. It's not by chance that this year's John Lewis Christmas campaign works perfectly with its own hashtag, #BusterTheBoxer, in every media channel from TV to YouTube.
For more information on our integrated marketing services, please contact us and a member of the team will be happy to discuss your requirements.