As I reflect on the big themes in marketing in the past year, I am struck by the relative absence of one that has historically been of great importance to brands and marketers: creativity.
Can it really be the case that creativity has ceased to be of critical importance to solving brand problems and engaging potential customers? It seems creativity has fallen out of fashion in a world continuing to make sense of so-called digital channels, data and tech, and artificial intelligence.
Creativity is the oxygen in marketing – it is important in all aspects, from how we understand and collaborate with the people who use our categories, to making sense of brand challenges, and coming up with memorable solutions which will build our brands, as well as landing a sale.
We are all creative and need to draw on that more to generate new ideas, push the boundaries of how we see our world today, and to sustain future growth. In a world where there is so much talk of robots, we need to recognise how essential human creativity is, and increase its supply.
In our marketing effectiveness work at Diageo, we strive to ensure our marketers have more solid long-term plans and that we free up time for them to place some bolder bets and experiment. We must remind ourselves that data is an aid to judgement and meaningless without context, and that creativity is the magic which can boost our performance further.
To help drive more growth from creativity, we have developed a programme called Creative Sparks, in which all 1,200 Diageo marketers are enrolled. Part of the programme ensures people involved in developing creative work engage with the best tools and ways of working.
The sessions are presented in a variety of formats but are intended to be used alongside gaining real experience and on-the-job coaching. We have focused the content around the things our experience shows can make the biggest difference:
Inspiration matters. We are inviting the most interesting brands, planners, creatives and experts from around the world to come in and share brilliant case studies. We run these as real and virtual events, creating a bank of content for marketers to learn from.
Act like a detective. Creativity is best when pointed at a problem, so we have emphasised the skills that help our marketers frame their brand issues and immerse themselves in culture to uncover great insights that inspire the kind of strategy that leads to exciting work.
Partnerships are everything. Our partners are critical in getting the best creativity for our brands. We are emphasising how to develop the most effective ways of working, so our marketers create the right conditions, deliver amazing briefs, and are expert in nurturing ideas.
Think end to end. It is not just the big challenges on your brand that will benefit from creativity.
Mindset is key. Things such as patience and belief are as important as having the right approaches to create the conditions for creativity.
We are lucky we have a data set across our brands that enables us to see the full range of effects of creativity and where we can improve. What we see is fairly consistent with a 2017 Nielsen study across different media, which showed the difference in sales effect between weak and strong creative could be as much as 13 times, depending on the medium.
It is also consistent with consultant Peter Field’s recent study for the Institue of Practitioners in Advertising (IPA), which looks at the causes of decreasing effectiveness among creatively awarded case studies. He mentions Guinness, plus Snickers and John Lewis, as positive examples.
We can also see the importance of how we deploy creativity – against well-defined strategic opportunities, targeting a broad audience, with significant and sustained media investment, carefully balancing long-term and sales-generating activity.