How to get the Big Idea

“What’s stayed the same is that the big idea is as important today as they’ve ever been.” Lauren Crampsie CMO, Ogilvy Mather Worldwide

Creativity is one of the most valuable drivers of growth in business – but is not always channeled as well as it could be. Focused appropriately, creativity builds competitive edge, attracts customers and creates real value. Organisations that respect and value creativity are also, generally, more innovative than those that do not.

However, marketers cannot expect creativity to take hold in the business at large without a helping hand – it’s vital to nurture a culture and methodology that supports it. There is much debate over who can be creative, and, evidently, some are far better than others, but anyone can take the first steps to learn the necessary skills. Here are four principles for actively releasing creativity in marketing:

Creative thinking demands time. While Post-it Notes might have been invented by chance, you can’t rely on that as your path to creativity. At 3M the technical teams allocate up to 15% of their time to projects of their choosing. IBM has its “Think Fridays”, and Pixar employees can spend up to four work-hours a week getting involved in activities that are not job-related. Service companies and agencies, where billable time is critical, inevitably face a particular challenge in this respect.

Creative endeavor needs an end goal. Dove’s ground-breaking “Campaign for real beauty” was driven by a clearly stated “big idea”: that “the world would be a better place if Dove could make more women feel more beautiful every day”. It is carving out a role to make more women feel better about themselves. By encouraging women to take greater care of themselves, Dove has a positive impact on their self-esteem, which helps build a stronger emotional connection to the brand. This clearly defined task helps release great creativity behind “real beauty” initiatives.

Creativity needs careful steering. Most successful companies have developed their own ways of immersing themselves in their customers’ worlds. Lego crowdsources ideas from its most passionate consumers to develop new products. Crayola undertook a massive exercise to truly understand its target customers before embarking on major product innovation, resulting in a manifesto that established who it was innovating for and why. Unilever has its “Consumer Nation”, where employees experience what the consumer experiences; with tracking, monitoring and the sharing of learnings across the organisation.

Many people, marketers included, need help to think creatively. There are many well-known techniques to help break established patterns and routines; everything from brainstorming, structured idea-generation, filtering the most promising ideas and ideas optimisation. But here are some more unusual examples:

  • Teams at Facebook move around their desks and furniture, joining new groups to hatch fresh new ideas.
  • British Airways puts people on a plane – “an innovation lab flight” – to problem-solve.
  • A growing number of FMCG companies borrow from the world of IT, adapting the ‘Hackathon model’ to boost idea-generation.

So take time out to transform creative thinking. Great innovations and breakthrough ideas come when creative thinking is encouraged. In a world dominated by technology and big data, let’s not forget the value of great creativity and big ideas.

CMO Perspective – Lauren Crampsie (Ogilvy & Mather Worldwide)

One thing Ogilvy does not lack is tools and process, and it is the output of being a company that has been around for as long as we have and has scaled as much as we have. The ability to understand a customer at any point in the buying journey, whether it’s pre, during or post sale is not an issue for us. We have enough tools, process, and data that we can completely understand any customer’s journey to purchase, what the barriers and drivers are at any given stage in the purchase process, and how to act accordingly depending on those barriers and drivers.

The challenge is less about understanding the consumer and putting ourselves in the consumer’s shoes. The challenge for us is more about figuring out which types of messaging are going to resonate. What type of messaging is not just going to resonate but feel true and authentic to the brand because the job now is not only to give the consumer something interesting that they can really engage with. It’s also building brand and business value over time. The only way to do that is to be clear about what your brand stands for in the world and continuing to build on that brand proposition. It’s having to do both of those simultaneously that gets tricky, because if you have to do one without the other, you might see a short-term sales spike, but you’re not going to see the long-term growth that we want to represent for our clients.

We try to take a long-term as well as short term approach, and the best way o do that is to look at the brand over time and make sure you’re continuing to be true and authentic to the brand.

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