To understand the business of creativity, you have to understand the relationship between creativity and genius that is in essence the difference between an ordinary mind and one of genius.
Most people would agree that the likes of Albert Einstein, Wolfgang Mozart, DH Lawrence, Henry Moore, Friedrich Nietzche and Henri Poincare are recognised the world over – not only for their genii but also for their invaluable contributions to the world as we know it. After all, they were scientists and artists in combination, proving that creativity is not limited to the arts.
Creative thought abounds in all occupations and can be practiced and cultivated in anyone.
Unfortunately, no educational system on the planet puts as much emphasis on creativity as they do logic, a fact proven by the number of mathematics and science classes versus the arts and humanities. Not that logic is bad. In fact, it’s a critical element of who we are. I just think it is over played compared to creativity, and that leads to the underestimation of the role of creativity in business and its contribution to business success.
The lack of creativity is slowly killing business because it drives everything to a commodity price-driven market.
Without creative thinking, it is impossible to discover the next breakthrough product or for the product once discovered, to break out be noticed in a crowded market place.
Make no mistake, creativity is not exclusive to advertising agencies or designers nor is it only associated with art. Creativity is not wild and crazy or even foolishness; creativity is the use of the imagination or original ideas, it is applying out of the box thinking to find a new approach, embracing innovation and daring to do things differently – all of which are critical for business survival and success.
Growth in business demands creativity – it is what separates successful businesses from their competition.
It is no secret that in times of economic uncertainty, businesses shift their focus from long-term strategy to short-term sales when in fact a recession is not the time to trim brand portfolios, but to expand them and take advantage of changing consumer behaviour.
According to Millward Brown, a leading global research agency, lessons from recent recessions provide powerful arguments for maintaining a longer-term view, even in the face of pressure to cut advertising and communications budgets in favor of promotions. Marketers who resist this pressure and use their budgets effectively and creatively will find that their brands emerge from the tough times in good competitive shape.
Lessons learned from businesses that survived the Great Depression – successful companies the likes of Procter & Gamble, Levi Strauss & Co, Federated Department Stores (today known as Macy’s), Hewlett Packard, and Disney, to name a few – incorporated creative ideas to solve their business problems. In so doing, these companies not only survived the Great Depression, they came out of it stronger than ever before.
Creative ideas that changed business included:
Procter & Gamble’s use of radio to promote their Oxydol brand – bearing in mind that radio was at the time, merely a free entertainment channel. Via radio, the company offered down-to-earth advice for the challenges faced by housewives resulting in massive sales of Oxydol, the creation of the first soap opera and the establishment of radio as the fastest growing medium.
Jeans manufacturer Levi Strauss & Co. creatively emphasised the Western mystique of Levi’s jeans in its branding and added the Levis trademark on the back pocket of the jeans giving the brand free advertising and subsequently changing the clothing industry forever.
Federated Department Stores (now known as Macy’s) introduced a “pay-when-you-can” credit policy and re-arranged store layouts to present clothing by size in order to make products more accessible and affordable to accommodate consumer budgets.
There are many, many case studies that prove the importance of creativity in business and its contribution to business success. Where then does a business lacking in creativity source original ideas and boundless imagination to grow and generate profit? The answer: the advertising and communications profession.
Why then is the contribution of advertising and communications to business questioned especially during a recessive economy and when businesses need to break through excessive clutter to reach consumers – their means to revenue, profit and growth?
Consumers are inundated with information – the average adult is exposed to anything from 3 000 to as much as 10 000 messages in any form, be it television, print, radio, social media or banner advertising in a single day.
For a brand to stand out and be seen, creativity is essential. Fresh, innovative, new, out-of-the-box ways to reach and talk to consumers are needed. Who better than professionals who are not only inherently creative but also trained and experienced to tackle business problems for the purpose of generating revenue to assist businesses break through the clutter, stand out and be noticed? The advertising and communications industry understands the psychology of consumer behaviour.
Psychology Professor Walter D. Scott wrote “As our nervous system is constructed to give us all the possible sensations from objects, so the advertisement which is comparable to the nervous system must awaken in the reader as many different kinds of images as the object itself can excite.”
Advertising and communications uses creativity to do just that – to awaken consumers from inertia and drive them to action.
Advertising genius Bill Bernbach, the legendary founder of Doyle Dane Bernbach who has been credited with igniting the creative revolution, once said, “What some people simply fail to realise is that smart creative work will be more effective at building business.”
With economists increasingly warning that the world’s most advanced economies are about to relapse into recession, creativity in advertising and communications is at its peak, building business to survive what is and has been the worst recession the world has ever known.
Odette van der Haar is CEO of the Association for Communication and Advertising