A recent report on the future of creativity reveals that consumers think brands lack originality and that 65% think that all brands look alike.

The start of a new year is a time for optimism, enthusiasm and creative strategising for the year ahead. But before truly getting stuck in to 2019, brands and agencies might want to spend a little more time than usual taking stock of the state of creativity across their disciplines.

Our recent survey, conducted in collaboration with Opinium Research, revealed that the most influential consumers are getting tired of seeing repetitive and predictable campaigns that lack genuine creativity and originality. In the survey, we talked to 2,000 changemakers and early adopters: the elusive group who drive global consumer behaviour across all sectors. Gaining their advocacy is crucial because where they go, others follow. And vice versa – falling out of favour with them can prove detrimental to a brand.

After tapping their insights across 10 global markets (UK, Brazil, France, Germany, Russia, China, Nigeria, US, India and Australia), some of the cold hard truths our research revealed include:

  • 65% say brands all look alike
  • 68% say brands all sound alike
  • 72% say brands are predictable and follow the same strategies
  • 73% say brands play it safe
  • 80% believe brands focus on sales over people and culture.

This led us to start thinking seriously about what’s driving this creative deadlock. Why are brands thinking so short term? Why do so many campaigns feel the same? Why is there a perceived lack of individuality and creativity? And most importantly, how can brands break through this perception?

Drawing on the full body of insights, we identified some of the key pitfalls currently stunting creativity and started thinking about ways to work beyond them:

GET THE BRIEF RIGHT: AVOID SHORT-TERM FIXES

It seems obvious, but all too often the drawbacks in the creative process start at the very beginning. Many briefs are written to address immediate challenges, instead of looking deeper to where real difference can be made. For example, “we need more traffic to our website” or, “we need a social campaign with clear routes to .com”. Briefs like this are looking for a short-term fix to a long-term problem.

Instead, you should be asking questions like, “why is there no traffic to .com in the first place?” and “how do we address this wider issue?”. It’s a classic case of ensuring that all briefs that come to your desk are really addressing the root of the problem, not just its symptoms, in order to inspire genuine change and creativity.

FIND NEW WAYS OF MEASURING SUCCESS

When campaigns are created today they have to respond to a myriad of metrics and targets set by diverse departments: impressions, reach, comments, likes, engagement rate, conversion rate, click-through rate, purchases made and the all-important: return on investment. The question is, can we be truly creative if we only measure the success of a campaign through the metrics and revenue it generates? In a world where we are bombarded with hundreds of adverts per day, is this even possible?

Brands and agencies need to find new ways of measuring the success of their campaigns that have genuine originality and creativity at their heart if they want to continue to engage the most influential consumer groups. In our research, changemakers across the globe expressed that they want brands to pivot in their thinking and stop putting profit over people, urging them to shift from purely capitalistic measurements like ROI (return on investment) to measurements that respond to people and real creativity, like SEI (Societal Effect and Impact).

“Brands and agencies need to find new ways of measuring the success of their campaigns that have genuine originality and creativity at their heart”

CHALLENGE ALGORITHMS

We live in a world where we can increasingly have whatever we want, whenever we want it, (within reason!). We are constantly confronted with suggestions: ‘people who bought this also bought this’, ‘person x also liked this’, ‘other videos you might like…’. It’s harder and harder to follow a truly individual path online with everything so predetermined, suggested and filtered, leading to a lack of true discovery.

Algorithms don’t just influence us in terms of what we like or buy, it begins sooner: in the creation process. Companies like Netflix produce content based on data collected from their users. Again, while this may be a safe way to work, it raises questions about if it will stunt new ideas before they’ve had a chance to be tested, or even dreamt up.

Instead of relying on algorithms and data to determine our creative expression and content creation, (we) need to work harder to create moments that allow us to break the strands of code that determine so many of our decisions and interactions, and employ the same methods in their own creative practice too.

Anna Lisa Lappenküper is co-founder of consultancy The Akin; Banner image: Ricardo Gomez Angel at Unsplash

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