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Debunking 3 of the biggest myths about creativity in marketing

January 25, 2017

Creativity is a term which is often thrown around carelessly, as though its meaning is self-evident and its desirability in marketing circles should not be questioned. But when people say that marketing needs more creativity, what do they really mean? Today we’re debunking the three biggest myths about creativity in marketing.

What’s in a name, really?

You’ve definitely heard it and most likely used the term yourself, but what do marketers really mean when they speak of creativity and being creative? Do they mean originality, innovation, novelty or imagination, which each hold their own unique place in strategy? Do they mean the traits often displayed by the array of designers behind a final campaign? Or do they simply mean the ability to generate new ideas and challenge convention?

This point is far from mute. The terms we choose to use inevitably affect what we as marketers expect, not only from fellow team members who have been designated as “being creative”, but also what we demand of ourselves in our own job role. In what is deemed from the outside as an inherently creative industry, marketers must be careful not to overuse and conflate such terms for risk of losing sight of what we really intend to say. Copywriter Mark Duffy’s recent article for Digiday humorously sums up what happens when too much ‘creativity’ is thrown around.

Here are the three biggest myths we’ve heard about creativity. Together, we an move beyond such buzzwords and sound bites.

Myth number 1: Everyone in your team must be creative

Marketing is an industry heavily influenced by design and new ideas. It naturally attracts individuals inclined towards such skills. But, this doesn’t mean that you need to have a team built only of creatives and creative people.

In fact, despite the popularity of listing “creative” as a key competency in marketing recruitment, a number of commentators have argued that a balance of personality types and skills is a far better way to ensure your marketing team has a holistic approach to tasks.

Only last week Marketing Week, in partnership with Adobe, wrote that ‘marketing teams of tomorrow will need people who are curious, flexible and have a mix of commercial and technical skills.’

Following on from Marketing Week’s Vision 100 panel, it was argued that digital specialists with a sound understanding of data and technology, copywriters adept at telling stories, often in multiple languages, and decision makers who can manoeuvre through an increasingly globalised market, are in fact crucial elements of a marketing team equipped for the challenges 2017 could bring.

Creativity and an eye for design clearly still has its place in marketing. But, to suggest that this alone is a sufficient and necessary skill for all team members is risky. You might accidentally create imbalance and inefficiency in your team.

Check out Harvard Business Review’s article. It shows how personality tests can help balance a team and gives practical tips on how to address the imbalance.

Myth number 2: Being creative is an easy job

If it really is integral to your job role that you are creative, it can often feel that others believe your only worry is to sit around all day daydreaming in order to generating ideas. Worse still, if the ideas just aren’t flowing that day, being required to be creative on demand can cause stress and anxiety in the work place.

Nicola Brown, a freelance writer for U.S-based content agency Skyword, recently wrote that:

‘as workplaces become increasingly fast-paced production environments, the need to be creative on demand has become a very real one for the millions of people whose jobs rely on a robust pipeline of creative thinking and output.’

There is so much pressure on creatives to supply a seemingly endless stream of words, images and concept. Yes, it’s important to satisfy the current marketing trend for authenticity and storytelling. However, putting pressure to create, deliver and market that content is damaging.

Nicola points out that many industry giants like P&G and Google are slowing the pace. They are beginning to introduce ‘employee meditation programs’ to foster working environments more conducive to creativity. Employers are starting to recognise the pressure creative thinking places on employees.

Myth number 3: Data and creativity don’t mix

It has become commonplace to assume that you have either a right or left brain approach. Most people are also quick to point out that data and creativity don’t mix. A lot of this accepted wisdom stems from the fact that many marketers feel their strengths lie in one field or the other. As such, the functions are often separated between different roles.

Yet just as research has shown that in fact there is ‘no direct scientific evidence supporting the idea that different thinking styles lie within each hemisphere [sides of the brain],’ the idea that the logical and numbers-based realm of data cannot mix with the artistic and imaginative world of ‘creativity’ doesn’t stand up to closer analysis.

For LinkedIn’s Jennifer Brett, marketing is experiencing a crisis of confidence when it comes to data. She told The Drum:

‘Despite evidence that data in marketing increases ROI by 10 to 20%, many marketers still feel uncomfortable in using numbers or data to help their creative campaigns, believing it hampers creativity.’

Quoting WPP founder Sir Martin Sorrel as saying that ‘the definition of creativity needs to change’, Brett argues that data brings highly valuable insights to inform more traditionally ‘creative’ practices. Think about storytelling and branding. Data is not a barrier to originality. Rather, it should inform and inspire it.

Marketing continues to demand more of its employees. The trend towards brand storytelling and content marketing is going nowhere soon. It is likely, therefore, that we will see repetition of these three creativity myths. But next time you think of asking someone or something to ‘be creative’, don’t. Stop to think what you actually require could work wonders for better crafting a meaningful marketing strategy.

Sign up to one of our innovation workshops to get your mind working in the right way for success!


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