Don’t be brave, be right: The value of creativity in marketing

Ryan Wallman & Giles Edwards, Authors of Delusions of Brandeur
As marketers, the word 'brave' has entered our vocabulary when it comes to our work. But is this warranted? Is there a better way to speak about how we take risks in our roles?

Giles started the session saying “Marketing is not a matter of life or death. Far from it. Yet, how we present ideas, how we glorify risk, and talk of being brave is equally as absurd, as it is ultimately self-defeating… The language of marketing is one that is few speak, and is often beholden to those who do not: such as the finance department. “

So, it’s up to us to guide ourselves, as marketers, out of this position. How do we do that? Two ways.

First – language.

What we mean by ‘brand’ or ‘strategy’ is going to be interpreted differently by different people. What you think you mean is going to be different to what I or your team think you mean. And it’s when those definitions drift apart is where the trouble starts.

Tone, context and method are what matters with words – and it’s all about how the customer or the recipient takes in the message that you share. That’s why marketers branding themselves as brave doesn’t land to anyone other than other marketers. 

But what is the risk if you don’t speak the language of the people receiving the message?

Simply, you start sounding like every other marketer. Giles points out then when it comes to marketing, the more you stand out, the more distinctive and salient you are, the more successful you are too.

Paradoxically, in marketing, the right way to go in the opposite direction to everyone else. Commercial suicide is what we risk by following other people. 

Second – Creativity

“Creativity is the last unfair advantage we’re legally allowed to take over our competitors” – Bill Bernback

Creative execution is the second-highest driver of ad profitability (Data2Decisions), so the stakes are high when it comes to creative execution.

Take a look at the above image. The X that stands out is an example of the Von Restorff effect in action: i.e. the X sticks out like a sore thumb. And this is important because Gestalt psychology works on the theory that humans will perceive a group of objects as its entirety, before recognising the individual elements that make up the whole. All this means that you really have to stand out as a marketer if you’re not going to be tarnished with the same brush as everyone else.

Marketing is applied to creativity.  And it’s our job to be effective – not have subjective conversations about whether you ‘like’ something. We need the information to back our points, not just subjective opinions. 

Take Gio Compario – the Compare the Market mascot. People may not ‘like’ the mascot, but the usage of him has been one of the most effective campaigns for Compare the Market for over 10 years now. Giles’ mum puts it best by saying ‘I hate that guy, but whenever I need insurance, I think of him.

To liken this to another analogy… no one asks whether ‘do you like this parachute?’ – people care about whether the thing works. That’s marketing right there!

Gio Compario is a successful and distinctive brand asset. But how do you create one?

According to research (below), using anthropomorphisation (or characters), you are far more likely to create a distinctive and memorable brand asset- think go compare, and compare the meerkat. We remember these the most.

Proper marketing is effective, smart, distinctive and creative in execution.