For CreaTech Month, Dave Corlett (pictured above), Business Director at Bristol-based creative agency Shaped By, has put together a guest blog to share his top tips on optimising creativity in marketing!
From Slack’s war on the tedium of email to Stripe’s solution for easy online payments, the world’s fastest growing technology companies all have one thing in common when it comes to their success: finding a new and ingenious way to solve a problem.
Actually, there’s a more succinct way of describing it: creativity. Contrary to what you might believe, being “creative” isn’t simply the art of visual expression. Creativity is problem-solving through originality. Finding a new answer to an old issue. Tackling conventional challenges via unconventional means. You can put it any number of ways.
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The engineers and developers at the coal face of those tech firms are nothing short of creative pioneers. Their relentless drive to disrupt and innovate is truly inspirational. In many cases, it certainly seems to inspire their marketing colleagues to produce equally pioneering content and campaigns.
But in others, not so much. Which is puzzling. After all, if your marketing isn’t disruptive, then can your audience really be expected to believe that your technology is?
Admittedly, it’s not always that simple; especially within larger companies. At startup stage, firms benefit from two catalysts of creativity: restriction and agility. Restricted budgets mean dollars need to work harder, so ideas need to get braver. And nimble structures mean they can be quickly green-lit and executed.
But as teams grow, and those ideas need to pass through more layers of approval, they often become watered down – or shut down. Also, that big conference you couldn’t afford to sponsor, so you sold fries outside to get your branding in the hall? That was super creative. But now you can afford it. So you’ve dispensed with that innovative spirit and simply stuck your logo everywhere.
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I appreciate there’s a slight paradox within what I’m saying here. If the business is growing at a rate of knots, what’s the problem? Surely marketing is doing its job in generating growth and revenues, right?
Well, yes. But it’s not quite that straight forward. Getting ahead in the game is one challenge. Staying ahead is a very different one.
In startup and scaleup mode, the name of that game is brand awareness (along with sales, obviously). But beyond that, it shifts to brand perception. And to be perceived as ground-breaking, your marketing can’t be anything but.
So how do you embed (or re-embed) a culture of creativity within your marketing team? The answer lies in making sure that everyone within it has a healthy amount of freedom to experiment and push boundaries.
Here are a few starters for ten on how to make this happen…
The 80/20 rule
No, not the one about 80% of sales coming from 20% of customers. This one’s about budgets. 80% of your marketing budget goes on tried and tested initiatives, and the other 20% is set aside purely to play around with new ideas.
Try, fail, learn. Try again, fail again, learn more. Try again, succeed. Now that successful project goes into your “tried and tested” bucket, leaving more budget for more new ideas.
Working 9 to 5 (it’s all taking and no giving)
The creative process is no respecter of your working day. In fact, the composer Mark-Anthony Turnage says the afternoon is flat-out the worst time for creativity.
Inspiration for new ideas is just as likely to be sparked on a walk, in the shower or just as you’re drifting off to sleep than sitting at your desk.
So encourage team members to carry a notebook or record voice notes when they get a sudden brainwave.
Go fully epic
Prioritise what experienced tech CMO Robin Daniels refers to as the ‘epic idea’. One project per year (or whatever frequency works for you) that is so bold, brave and downright outrageous that the more reasons found internally for it not to be done, the more you should push to make it happen.
If it scares you, and takes you and your team outside your comfort zone, it’s worth doing for that alone. It could even define the future of your company.
As Robin says, it will be “scary, hard, nearly impossible, but so worth it”. Now that’s epic.
Now – go forth and create!
But will you, really? I can feel the hesitancy. “We’re doing fine just ambling along,” I hear you mumble. “Revenues are up, so is market share. Gartner’s pushing us upwards and right on the old Magic Quadrant. Why rock the boat?”
Well, that Gartner point is interesting, as your competitors are right there alongside you. And without adopting a suitably creative mindset to your marketing, in the long run you’ll just end up looking and sounding just like them.
Actually, that may not be true. The more creative ones in the category will stand out more, because they look and feel different to the rest of you.
That word “mindset” is a good point to wrap up on. Because problem-solving through creativity is more than a process. It’s a mindset.
Once you have it, and begin to apply it to everything from your “epic” projects to your everyday tasks (event sign-ups, ABM campaigns, social content etc.), its positive effects really start to become apparent.
And let’s face it, it’s more fun, too.