I’ll be honest, Bill Bernbach is a bit of a hero of mine. He was the grandfather of modern advertising and a champion of creativity (his agency was behind these classic ads.) He once claimed that “it may well be that creativity is the last unfair advantage we’re legally allowed to take over our competitors.”

Yet if you listen to the buzz around marketing and advertising these days, you won’t hear much about creativity. Instead, you’ll hear plenty about the possibilities of VR, apps and content marketing. Or about precision targeting, data and analytical models of consumers.

To be fair the technology of the digital era is exciting. But it’s only a small piece of a much bigger puzzle if you want to do brand building.

A gorilla solution

Technology optimism means a generation of clients and agencies might even believe that creativity can be reduced to an efficient process or formula. But as Bernbach once warned – “the memorable never emerged from a formula.”

In 2007, the Cadbury brand was on the slide after years of formulaic advertising. So they turned to a creative agency to put the brand back on the map. As you know – one of the best brand campaigns in decades emerged from that process.

The case for creativity

Gorilla is a case study for the ages on how creativity does drive sales to businesses. And yet this this campaign faced serious opposition from the Cadbury board. Worse still the ad failed in research. At this point, the pressure was huge to just bank a much safer campaign from their tried and tested past.

Of course – that was already the problem. Safe creative work was hurting the brand, so they had to put formulas to one side and take a risk.

Their reward? A 9% increase in sales almost overnight – powerful evidence of the potential gains to be had from bold creativity. And it’s not just Cadbury who have reaped the benefits. Since the mid 2000’s, The Ehrenberg Bass Institute in Australia have set about proving the business case for evidence based creativity to the world.

Here are three of their key principles:

  1. Get interesting messages to lots of people – including those who aren’t buying from you. In other words, even if you’ll never buy a pair of Nike trainers, it can’t hurt for you to know Nike exist. Lots of people now call this kind of advertising “waste.” But as studies show – the waste in advertising is actually the part that works.
  2. Be bold and distinctive. Lots of businesses make the mistake of following trends or choosing cheap, generic design. But any cost savings are usually offset by the fact that this simply makes the brand invisible, and harder to find or buy. Distinctive design and creative ideas get you out of this trap.
  3. Be consistent, yet fresh and interesting. In other words, be creative. A designer or a creative agency will help you find lots of ways to tell your story in imaginative ways. That imagination can capture new customers and make old ones interested in you again.

Some things never change….

Put simply, you need to get on your customers radar and stand out from the crowd. How do you do that? You could do worse than investing in a bold, distinctive brand design for your future. Done right, that will lift you up and away from your competitors, and people will find it easier to remember and buy your brand.

So Bernbach was right. Creativity is one of the most powerful levers you can pull to drive business growth.

That’s why creativity is still the killer app for brands in the digital age.

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