Insights | March 28, 2019

Creativity Is Good For Business

Prioritizing creativity in marketing is not something that every business owner is used to doing, but failing to do so can set your brand back more than you may realize.

By Gerald Schoenhoff

For some, it would seem like an obvious statement to say creativity is good for business, but surprisingly not everyone thinks that way.

Just recently, we saw how Heinz Kraft had a 15.4-billion-dollar write-down. That was in part because the parent company, 3G was focusing on cost-cutting rather than growth.

On paper, a better balance sheet looks great for a while, but meanwhile, the competition could be stealing market share, and the consumer could be changing their lifestyle. According to Fortune Magazine, this could become a Harvard Business case study of what not to do. The company of such brands as Jell-O and Oscar Mayer lost sight of the millennial consumers who were making healthier choices. Instead of focusing on the bottom line, Heinz Kraft should have been thinking about product innovation, marketing and creative thinking. More importantly, the company lost sight of the consumer and their changing mindset. As a result, Heinz Kraft has a weakened brand portfolio and will find it extremely difficult to gain back market share.

If you look at the successful companies out there right now, they are all about building a creative culture that breeds innovation and performance. Amazon, for example, has an incubator that is entirely focused on innovation. Their ethos is, we’re customer obsessed, and so the incubator thinks of far-fetched ideas that would make the customer experience better. No idea is too out there if it meets a customer need by making the experience frictionless. Later, they figure out how to make those ideas a reality, like for example drone delivery.

A few years ago, Proctor & Gamble completely disrupted the men’s grooming category by reviving a dying brand with breakthrough creative. Old Spice was the brand young men saw as their dad’s or grandfather’s aftershave. Axe owned the young man, positioning the brand as having sex appeal for the every-guy. In 2010, Old Spice came along with “The man you could smell like” featuring Isaiah Mustafa. The video went nuts in the first week getting over 40 million views, becoming the all-time highest viewed “branded” channel on YouTube. To keep the momentum, Procter & Gamble and the Old Spice team did something incredibly brave: they went live, responding to social media with 168 videos created over two days. The brand kept expectation high while everyone waited for what the next great ad would be – videos featuring Fabio as a challenger to Isaiah or former NFL player, Terry Crews being a musical instrument in “Muscle Music” – all dominating YouTube and the conversation on social and mass media. Everything Old Spice did went viral and completely stole the attention in that category. With that came product innovation and share of shelf with line extensions. Within the first six months, sales went up 27% and the first video made over 1.4 billion impressions. Sales more than doubled in the first year.

In the world of marketing, creativity is about taking fresh and imaginative ideas and turning them into reality. It’s solving problems in unexpected ways never been considered before, and venturing beyond the familiar. It requires a brave heart and unwavering conviction.

So, by this point, if you’re still reading this, you’re likely thinking, “that’s great for the big guys like P&G, Google or Amazon who have a gagillion dollars to play with but I’m an entrepreneur sometimes living on a hope and a prayer.”

The principles are the same. Innovate or die, outthink don’t outspend, and zig while everybody else is zagging. In short, be creative.

For the entrepreneur, challenge yourself to look at everything you do with these principles in mind. A more creative display ad often pulls more engagement, a more creative video will be less skipped, a better-designed package with great copy will drive on-shelf decisions, photography with a higher degree of creativity will build a stronger brand affinity, innovative distribution channels will increase sales, a smarter more intuitive user experience can build online sales and customer-centric insight-driven content will develop a following.

However, it’s not just the agency that should be creative. If creativity is a shared value, there will be a higher chance of success. If you think about it, P&G had to put a lot of trust in their creative agency and hold hands in the process.

So, here are some things that you, as an entrepreneur, can do in your organization to encourage creativity. First, have fun. Try monthly screen-free innovation sessions that are like what digital startups call hack-a-thons. Pizza, chips and candy always go a long way to making them a success. Bring in people who make creativity their business like a chef, magician or a comedian and have them talk about their process. Get them to talk about your business. It may be unconventional, but it could dislodge some thinking blockages in your organization. Better yet, ask your staff for ideas that would encourage creativity in the workplace with the purpose to grow your business. You’ll get the best out of your team when you involve them and value their insight. That’s the secret to creativity; great ideas can come from anywhere. Your people are an investment and involvement can increase your ROI on them and increase the potential for growth which is good for business.

Talk to me or CREW if you want to go deeper on making creativity a part of your business. It’s what we love to do.