When times are tough, marketing is often the first line item to be cut, particularly anything creative. Businesses suddenly see creativity as a luxury, or something fluffy that creates feelings, not results. Tactics become tactical. Robotic. Every cent is measured against direct results, and if it’s not performing immediately, it’s scrapped.
But this magnifying glass approach to advertising has made it formulaic, lazy, and frankly, very boring. In the hunt for effectiveness, brands are often achieving the exact opposite.
When there’s no lateral leap, everything becomes predictable, and averages out to be the lack-lustre grey wallpaper we so often see, blending with everything else in the world.
This short-sighted tactical-only approach is a dangerous spiral that can really come to bite a brand in the long-term.
On average, a tactical ad lasts in the minds of consumers for no more than 3 seconds. In fact, most of the time, people simply ignore these ads (usually those annoying barriers between you and your Youtube videos), and often create a negative association with the brand. Not a great ROI on your spend.
On the other hand, emotion-led, brand-building comms are there to engage, add value, be memorable and ultimately build a connection with consumers that sits in their mind for, in some instances, years. This is the stuff that, when done well, people actively share with others, not actively ignore. This is what sustainably grows a brand.
In fact, multiple studies have concluded that dollars invested into highly creative comms saw sales results in the mid to long term to be double that of non-creative comms.
Creativity is the silver bullet to standing out in a crowded world of sameness – the way you break through on lower budgets, and find a place to live in consumers’ minds.
Dove is the ultimate example of this (who remembers the ladies in the white underwear? Yes, that was 20 years ago!). They are known to have paved the way in the world of advertising for striking the perfect balance between tactical comms (product-led) and highly creative purpose-driven brand comms (higher level, emotionally driven). I was fortunate enough to work as the Global Head of Art on the Unilever brand and saw first-hand the results that came from a healthy balance of tactical and brand comms, which by the way is 40:60 respectively.
Highly creative, emotion-led brand advertising won’t necessarily gain you immediate results. This is a long-term play. This high volume of brand comms is what helps your brand ride economic storms – rather than having to constantly pump money into tactical comms where sales drop the second you stop advertising, it instead sits for free in the minds of consumers over time. Tactical comms can then be used in lower volumes to remind people of this brand and help drive the short-term action.
The thing we need to remember, that will be applicable now or in 50 years, is that all advertising, PR and any form of marketing in any industry is talking to humans. This is true of B2B comms as much as Nike – we’re all people. No matter how rigid, business-minded or scientific a person’s disposition, we all build rapport with a brand, and ultimately make decisions based on emotions. This is not a matter of opinion, but hardwired biology.
This means creativity shouldn’t stop at the marketing department. Creative thinking needs to permeate through every aspect of business, from product development to the boardroom table and through to the workshop floor.
Ultimately, it is a business risk to be uncreative.