The Myth of the Creative Equation - Fabric Digital
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The Myth of the Creative Equation

5th Sep // 2014

Talk to any creative, feed them some truth serum and then ask them about the fabled (but never spoken aloud) creative equation.  The one that creatives scoff about when they’re sat in an ‘oh so trendy’ bar having just spent the last hour trying to out do the floor staff in the nearest Apple shop.

So what is this mythical yet secret equation.  It’s simple really.

Good creative = happy clients + profitable campaign

However...

Great creative = creative industry awards - (client satisfaction + profitability)

This sounds a bit polarised and infers that great creative cannot fulfil a brief and deliver the results that the client requires. This is clearly not the case but it is something that partially blights the creative industry as it something that a huge proportion of senior creatives belief - hence it being an underground opinion that is never to be spoken aloud to clients or ’suits’.

Creative Perception


The perception from the creative side of the fence is that most clients inherently do not understand ‘cool’ or contemporary design or are too fearful of the repercussions of being brave with their marketing to sanction anything too risky - and for too risky read safe, corporate, linear and familiar.

The big global brands have the kind of brand penetration and customer loyalty that affords them the opportunity at times to be brave, to tear up the rule book and to try different tones of voice, creative approach and new and interesting ideas.

Big Brand Saturation

Great Creative
We’re all saturated with campaigns from the likes of Nike, Apple, Carlsberg, Red Bull, Nissan etc.  A campaign that springs to mind is Nike’s from a few years ago.  It featured the Brazilian football team messing around with a football in an airport.

Nike were effectively trying to promote the overall brand and used the familiar route of celebrity endorsement to do this - and to great effect.

But imagine taking a smaller unknown sporting brand and telling them that their new campaign should feature footballers running amok in a busy airport, kicking balls left right and centre through throngs of holidaying families, through passport control and around the customs officers.  It’s not an overly brave campaign but you can easily see how a smaller brand might think that elements of this were a bit edgy.

Small Brand Values


Smaller brands whose brand values and previous campaign work are relatively unknown have a habit of understandably erring on the side of caution - your first touch point with your target market cannot be too outlandish as you need to establish your core brand and values before you can play with peoples’ perception of this.

There is also the fact that smaller companies do not have a dedicated marketing department full of experienced marketeers who understand the value of compelling campaign work - practitioners that have been schooled in how to penetrate various channels and markets.

Creative & Marketing Tone


When dealing with a marketing department of one, the danger is that you are selling to single persons viewpoint of the marketing process rather than a team with a rounded and expert opinions with several years combined application.

That is not to say that all campaign work needs to fall into the category of cool, edgy or pseudo ‘Apple lite’.  Sometimes a more traditional or safe route is the best fit for a company and it entirely depends on the product, the market and the companies brand values.

creative logic


However, this doesn’t stop creatives pushing the boundaries of contemporary and when their very trend relevant design is watered down in their minds, they have a habit of blaming the clients lack of vision rather than their treatment.

Appropriate Creative Design


Not every site needs motion graphics, Nike aesthetics or so many interactive social media widgets that it looks like the next thing that all young teens need turned into an App for their smart phones.

A large proportion of creatives are in it for the accolades. Winning awards sets them apart from the rest of the herd and elevates their creative sensibilities above that of the mere designer who loving fulfils briefs that might be safe, but are appropriate to the client of brief they’re given.

Creative Design Stella Artois


And winning awards is fine…It’s good and should be applauded.  But not at the expense of losing sight of the brief.  If and when you find yourself working on a new campaign for a brand like Stella Artois or Durex and they ask you to come up with a risky campaign that might go viral socially, then knock yourself out.

But, and this is the key point of this article, do not bestow these qualities onto every bit of work regardless of client or brief and then hiss into your Mac book when the client comes back to you and asks you to tone things down.

Correct Creative...


What is correct creative then? The equation should be:

Great creative = client satisfaction + profitability (+ potential awards)

According to Alexa, the top three websites globally are Google, Facebook and Youtube.  None of these sites contain a design award winning pixel anywhere.  They are all about functionality, features and content - the minute Zuckerberg makes Facebook look like it’s been designed by the offspring of Giorgio Armani is the minute that it loses some of it’s USP.

Likewise, if Adidas chose to go for the ‘under designed’ interface of most social networks, it would immediately lose ground from a brand perspective on Nike and Puma etc.

Win awards but win client satisfaction first.

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Penned by Jack Carpenter in Creative Design