Creativity is a tricky quality to define. I’ve seen it assigned to a department or a team, treated as a skill to be learned or held up, like a shaman’s magic, as the ability to tap into an idea mainline and channel its goods to the mortal realm.
To me, Creativity is the name of a little creature. Playful and mischievous, it peeks over the lid of my laptop and treads its footprints over the brief. On more than one escapade, it picked up a painstakingly crafted campaign concept and dropped it on the floor. When it did so, the pieces looked all the better for it.
And it’s got a friend, or a partner in crime. An equally hard one to pin down, this: the inner entrepreneur. The name brings to mind like a little Monopoly man, doffing his top hat while the runaway creative is setting his coat tails alight. The truth is, it’s actually quite hard to tell them apart, and sometimes I’m not sure if they’re actually the same.
The kindred spirits of creativity and entrepreneurship have been around all my life. They were sitting on my shoulder when, at ten years old, I sold my neighbours on a made-up scheme to purchase a giant bull for our street. They were there when I took my first client brief at Fold7 and it was there when we turned an entire street into an 8-bit arcade game.
When they come out to play, you’ll know it, and I’m sure everybody can relate to their influence at some stage in their life. It’s a wonderful thing, I think. Together they make magic.
But, just like creativity-by-department, entrepreneurial spirit sometimes gets pigeonholed, thought of as the preserve of start-ups and founders in a shared Shoreditch loft space. But why should they get all the fun, just because they have the best coffee?
We can all benefit from bringing a little entrepreneurship into our day-to-day thinking, and it’s not as daunting as starting up a business every week. The essence is in considering unconventional opportunities and imagining a new twist on business as usual. After all, behind every client brief lies a business problem, and their solutions seldom rely on repeating convention.
So how can we tap that more often? Without attempting a formula for entrepreneurial-meets-creative thought, I’d like to offer up three questions which we can all refer back to from time to time. Some starting points from which an unconventional thought train might depart.
“What good can we do?”
In the age of clickbait, data leaks and corporate feet stuck in the middle of sensitive debates, advertising often gets a bad rep from the audiences it’s supposed to be talking to.
The need to meet a ‘real customer challenge’ and to ‘add value’ are commonly cited as solutions here. What I would add to this is more direction: what can this client add that nobody else can, or how can they do it better? Can the brand itself, rather than the product they sell, do that job?
“What routine we can break?”
John Lewis has earned itself the honour of ringing in our festive season each year with the unveiling of each new campaign. It may seem a distant memory, but there was once a time when John Lewis did not own Christmas, and Coca-Cola’s truck was the only thing lighting up our streets on those dark winter nights.
Not only did John Lewis knock Coca-Cola off its Christmas pedestal for a new generation, it did so by reimaging what Christmas looked and felt like. No longer red and white with lights all over, John Lewis’ Christmas was heart-warming and heart-wrenching at the same time, leaving us weeping into our hot chocolate and happy about it.
Over a decade after John Lewis’ first Christmas ad aired, in 2007, could a new brand be primed to reimagine what the festive season might look like? In an age of constant disruption and expansion, why on earth not?
“Where did we come from?”
Brands, like people, go through complex journeys in order to grow. Often these journeys take you to a better place, but it’s easy to get lost en route.
In these times, an entrepreneurial strategy might include revisiting their business’ origin story to plot their next move. What problem was it founded to solve? Why did its founder get out of bed one day and decide to make it happen?
When Carlsberg arrived in the UK it took a cheeky challenger approach to communication which made the public smile and built associations with a vibrant footie culture – and produced a certain favourite billboard of mine.
But times change. In a rapidly changing market, the brewer was at risk of losing its hard-won fan base to craft rivals.
In tracing the brewer’s origin story, we reacquainted audiences with two valuable assets to the brand: not only was Carlsberg’s founder, J.C. Jacobsen, a legitimate beer pioneer, but the beer’s homeland is none other than the happiest nation in the world. The resulting ‘The Danish Way’ campaign brought these ideas to life with a nod and a wink back to the brand’s long-established sense of humour, and the re-birth was complete.
The resulting success from the campaign, including sales upticks and positive brand perceptions shows us how even a global business, 150 years after its founding, can experience such a positive business transformation thanks to those two little creatures.