The Creative Process

Why is creativity so important in communications?

When you see something you remember it - whether that memory is conscious or subconscious can depend heavily on how you connect. Is it memorable? In my career in advertising the campaigns I worked on varied from the hard-hitting sales and promotional ads for Crazy Prices to brand and public service ads to change behaviour. They all had a creative element so that they would stand out in an ad break on TV, and messaging that would engage the viewer.

By creating a memory we are starting along the road of delivering results, to shift behaviour towards achieving the goals we have set.

Being creative is being different. There is a lot of competition out there. People control their own time and media engagement more than ever.

So how do you develop creative content?

For a start, you need to have a clear idea of what you are trying to achieve.

To do this you can follow a process, and it is all about Audience First Marketing.

First of all, think about the audience you are going to try to influence.

Who are they?

What age, gender, income bracket, family situation.

This is a top-line persona. Because within that profile there will be sub-sections that are dependent on interests, political bent, types of media they like and more.

Then with a little Agile technique, “I want - so that “ you can think about why they would buy from you? What are they getting out of the transaction? Sure they get the product or service, but is that it? Or are you giving them comfort, satisfaction, happiness, less stress, opportunities?

What are people getting when they buy a set of golf clubs? 14 sticks to hit a ball?


They are getting healthy, chatting on the course, connecting to nature, socialising, satisfaction from a good shot, and the potential to get better at golf.

So engaging potential customers about golf clubs has huge potential for creative content.

Where will the audience see your content?

You have to create the right content for the media you are going to use. Too often I see press ads online. TV Ads on Facebook. Brand ads in Newsfeeds. The new digital space is being misused more often than it is done well. What does that person on Facebook want? An ad from you, or interesting content that is designed to interest them?

A bit of disruption

Another part of developing a creative strategy is using disruptive techniques. This involves research, looking at the conventions in the market and how by disrupting them you can create space for your product or service.

The hardest part of developing a creative mindset is disabling your own conventions. We are all programmed by our experiences, education and environment. There are hierarchies in meetings that prevent people from sharing their ideas. The fear of being ridiculed is high.

But think about the Cadbury’s Gorilla.

The agency team pitching it were brave, but the Marketing Director who brought it to the Board and told them that he was advising them to spend £10m on a gorilla playing the drums to a Phil Collins song deserved the equivalent of the business VC. With no chocolate to be seen. And he got them to agree and not send him for treatment.

So ask yourself.

Would you have bought that campaign?

I have had one, or maybe two clients that might have “taken the risk”. The results for Cadbury’s were incredible. The brand was shifted from being old fashioned and out of date in the face of lots of competition to being the funkiest chocolate on the shelf. Where was the risk? In choosing something that had never been seen before. By parking personal conventions.

That is what happens when people are confronted with a creative solution that they have never seen before. They reject it and revert to something that is more comfortable, and that often looks very like a competitor’s marketing and advertising. They are wary of wasting budget, and not getting the right results. If it worked for them, then it will work for me. Except that it doesn’t. It actually helps the competitor because they got there first.

By understanding the conventions that exist you are then become open to new ideas. If you look or sound the same as your competitors, then it is time to reboot. If you are challenged by a concept, that is not a reason to reject it, being uncomfortable is often the first stage of realising that you are looking at something very different. Imagine when Picasso showed his first Cubist paintings to his friends. “Pablo’s lost it now, did you see those paintings!”

Being creative and using these processes can also help in your wider business.

Disruption has led to Uber, AirB&B, Amazon, the iPhone and many more. When Steve Jobs brought the iPad to the market, Steve Ballmer of Microsoft scoffed, they had already tried that and it had failed. He was wrong, they hadn’t tried it, their product had not had the touch technology that made the iPad so tactile and engaging. And that opened the internet up to a whole new community, old people.

It may surprise a younger generation but the business world used to be divided into two, those who could type, and those that couldn’t. Older people who couldn’t type were put off using computers because of the keyboard, so when the iPad removed the need for typing, one of the fastest sales sectors was those people that could now access all the benefits of the web with touch and tap.

If you use some of the processes above when thinking about new products, new services and new markets, you can develop a clearer understanding of the opportunities in the market. With Google, you can research much more than in the past.

Creativity drives us all forward. A new movie, using amazing special effects, tells a story about dinosaurs and makes them so real you believe they exist. A band from Liverpool challenge conventions by playing some tapes backwards and make sounds that change modern music. A TV producer throws out an idea about a programme showing people watching tv, and Gogglebox is born. All these were about breaking with convention. And all of them worked.