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Why creativity matters in marketing and 14 insights

Everyone likes to think they are creative and indeed in different ways we all are. But creativity for commercial advantage is a much rarer commodity; can you get someone’s attention and hold it long enough to start a conversation? That’s the toughest challenge in marketing.

The problem is, because there are so many design, visual and channel software tools available now, it is easy to look creative, and disguise what lies underneath – a bad idea, badly executed, badly targeted and lacking any urgency on the part of the target prospect to act.

One thing I do know is, a bad idea can travel a long way before someone realises it’s rubbish, by which time it’s too late. It’s out there, clogging up the airwaves and inspiring no one except the team that created it and some of their competitors. The people it was aimed at missed it, or just didn’t get it, or saw it and immediately forgot it.

So that is my definition of creativity – having an idea that will drive a campaign that will generate traffic that leads to conversations. If you can’t accept this mechanistic view of creativity, then go and start an art co-op, or write a book or make a film.

You cannot be taught to be creative

You either have it or you don’t. You can’t be taught to be more creative (in the same way a good actor cannot be taught how to act) only how to get into a creative frame of mind. Wearing black and wearing Nike trainers won’t make you a creative person.

If you are not creative, admit it and then hang out with people who are.

Stop organising brainstorms

Formal brainstorms are the death of creativity. If something comes out of a brainstorm, it was probably already there, brought into the room fully formed by an attendee.

Go with your instincts

You are unique, so chances are you will come up with something unique.

Copy but copy well

If you must copy other people, then try to add some value by either sending the idea up or putting a twist on it.


This is a classic ad person’s technique; put two things together that are never seen together.

Have 10 ideas, lose nine of them

Or lose them all. Any idiot can have an idea. And they frequently do.

Know your limitations

If you are over 50 and wanting to sell something to someone half your age, your core idea may be fine but your mode of delivery may be well off.

Go for a walk

Ideas come from movement; get some oxygen into your blood stream and get the blood moving. If it’s raining, don’t wear a hat. The whole point of getting out is to open yourself up.

Dream on a problem

Articulate the challenge to yourself before you fall asleep at night. This often doesn’t work, after all the brain has a mind of its own and works through what it wants, but sometimes the idea pops out once you let the universe know you are trying to solve a problem.

Talk to people you disagree with

There is no point hanging out in your echo chamber, better to get challenged. Talk to a complete idiot, you may discover that the only idiot in the room is you.

Tell people to wait

I worked as an account executive with a guy called Simon Pipe years ago. We were late and the taxi was waiting to take us to the client to do the pitch; Simon always refused to hand over his work until it was right. Bless him.

Let go of a bad idea

Bad ideas are often dressed up as good ideas. Know when to spot when the wheels have come off and have the balls to drop it.

Don’t have a back up

I never saw a back up idea work. I may be wrong here, but better to start again than go back to the original scratch pad.

Ignore everything I just said

Everything I just said has already been said, mostly by ad man John Hegarty. Even he would say, do your own thing.


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