Creativity is often defined as being different, innovative, thought provoking, and even “out-of-the-box” thinking. While marketers would tell you that to market a product or concept, the key is to get your message across in any way possible, the experts point to creativity as an important factor in those products that rise to the top. But what is creativity?
There have been studies that show that consumers tend to like messages that make them think, laugh, or even angry (although not suggested for user-friendly products). Remember the “change” message of candidate Barack Obama who was able to use the message to trigger anger, hope, and even pride. Creativity then is to get the message across but in a manner that gets consumers to notice and perhaps even better to encourage an emotional response.
It is not uncommon for some marketers to resort to negative messages as a method of “attention grabbing.” In the aftermath of 9-11, many Republican candidates used negative messages to scare voters from voting for more liberal candidates. They wanted to make people think that the Republicans had a lock on security as opposed to liberals who may be doing business as usual. Many public interest groups routinely use such messages to frighten citizens about the ecology, global warming, and widespread availability of firearms.
Creativity can be used in many forms. It can be in a word or phrase that generates a desired response or it can be in the visual. The oft-quoted saying of “a picture is worth a thousand words” always applies, but by the same token some photos and words generate the opposite response. Animal rights activists who show photos of tortured animals believe that the visual will discourage women from wearing furs. Marketers say that the visuals have had the opposite effect, causing readers to brand the activists as extremists. Sales have on many occasions risen dramatically after an ad campaign by the animal rights extremists.
The Geico advertising campaign is cited by many marketers as an example of creativity that does not necessarily follow the rules. To some listeners the ads appear to be silly. They discuss off the beaten track life scenes and draw Geico in as the solution. The marketers say that this “silly” approach has actually worked well for Geico. It has gotten people to tune into the message and think of Geico as a solution to whatever problem they may have.
I have often seen creativity that you might say is overkill. Imagine an ad that is so well constructed visually that the average reader has no idea who the ad might be for. I recently saw this in ad that was designed to market a certain program, but instead the ad tried to be cute making it appear as if the ad were actually for a well-known product. My guess is that the message and in this case the creativity was totally lost on the average reader.
Some people actually confuse cute or even humor with creativity. I remember several humorous ads that in tests consumers failed to associate the brand with the humor. In other words, while they remembered the joke, they did not recall the sponsor.
Creativity nowadays is often measured in relevance. Messages that seem to tie-in with lifestyle seem to do well. Researchers say that people are still concerned about the basic needs of their own lives: feeling secure, comfortable, and free. Finance companies (credit cards) and even food companies have used the theme of well-being as a direct message to consumers.
A noted marketer recently pointed out the difference in approach between the ad campaigns of two state lottery organizations. One used creativity to paint a picture of just how much the revenues would do for the economy of the state. It listed projects that the state could not otherwise afford. The other state lottery focused on how a lottery winner would actually be able to fulfill their dreams. The New York State Lottery had a winning campaign for many years in its “Dollar and a Dream” campaign.
Creativity is more than coming up with a heading or a slogan. It is projecting on how to motivate the reader into action. It is particularly challenging when the desired action is life changing. When the concept of seatbelts in automobiles was first introduced, many states simply showed the consequences if seat belts were not worn. Experts felt that many young people in particular felt invincible and still did not heed the message. It wasn’t until the law and even insurance came into play that customers paid attention.
Creativity is an important marketing tool, but it also continues to be one of the most misunderstood concepts in marketing.