3.2.2 Creativity As a Feature of Strategy
In a more and more cluttered market space with a myriad of media and non-media options for brand managers, doing the right things is at least as crucial as doing things right (Rose & Zuckerman 2009). So while research shows that creative advertising might be more effective and efficient than non-creative advertising (doing things right), not advertising at all, or using a different form of marketing communication, or different content, or targeting different people or changing the packaging might be even more effective (doing the right thing). This again points to the contingency and complexity that Tropp (2004) introduced as one of the major challenges for brand management. Every decision made could have also been made differently, and therefore brings about the risk of omitting a possible better solution. – You never know.
The landscape for brands to act in contemporary culture is vast and options for brand management are abundant. While Holt described the branding paradigms he identified as happening in a sequence, the world is still full of ‘modern’ branding. ‘Post-modern’ branding techniques are still in use and only some brands have recently started to embrace what he coined a post-postmodern branding paradigm (Holt 2002) – being genuinely creative contributors to culture.
In light of this and the pressures on brand management, the creativity – the divergence and relevance – of companies’ brand strategies becomes one of the most crucial outputs of the brand management. Robert Campbell, head of planning at the independent agency network Wieden+Kennedy coined the phrase of the advertising industry ideally being at the “creative end of commerciality” (Campbell 2008, n.p.), not at the “commercial end of creativity”. This point of view looks at advertising agencies and specifically account planning not merely as a supplier of creative advertising and communication, but as a resource that can provide an original and relevant perspective –strategic thinking – on the question of what to do to solve a specific marketing or business – and only therefore brand – problem. It is brand management in companies and (account) planning in agencies of all sorts that have the task of not only making sure the level of relevance and divergence of a chosen solution (e.g. advertising) is high once it is determined, but to make sure the right solution is pursued in the first place (Baskin & Pickton 2003, p.419). This calls for creativity in the strategy development process, both on a macro- and a micro-level.
From a macro-perspective, creativity as a trait of a firm’s or brand’s strategy is closely related to Holt’s (2004a) and Grant’s (2006) arguments of brand innovation, brands as cluster of cultural ideas and branding as cultural activism. They suggest that for brands to become successful they have to stay culturally relevant. To illustrate that point, Levi’s is an example of a brand that stuck to the same strategy while always delivering highly creative advertising within a strategic brand framework:
During this time, Levi’s used highly entertaining and highly creative television advertising, and still, when the demand for denim in the UK returned, Levi’s was stuck between cheaper brands and “cooler, more expensive designer brands such as Diesel” (Grant 2006, p. 30). Levi’s – at that time – apparently missed changes in the social and cultural context and it subsequently didn’t come up with a creative strategy for their brand, while producing one award-winning ad after another. This of course is Grant’s reading of the scenario. He didn’t publish BBH’s, Levi’s then long-standing agency, point of view in his book.
On a micro-level, AMV BBDO’s “Try something new today” for Sainsbury’s can serve as an example for creative strategy. This is a piece of thinking that won the 2007 Grand Prix at the Account Planning Group creative strategy awards (Dutta 2007). AMV BBDO was briefed to jumpstart a process that would lead to an increase of profits by about two and half billion over two years.
As the first step, they broke that sum down into a more manageable number and calculated that they needed to get around £1.50 more per visit from their existing customers. This is what Andrew Howell (2007, n.p.) called “a brilliant re-framing of the objective. It’s a credible goal everyone can work to. Creatives, the Sainsbury board, every member of staff” . Their insight into the cultural context was that while people were sleep-shopping in supermarkets, food culture had evolved from basic menus and foodies were always looking for new ideas. And that is where the brand idea came to live: “Sainsburys, the mid-market food mecca could encourage people to spend a little more by giving them failsafe tips” (ibid.). Using Jamie Oliver as a credible spokesperson, being true to the food-heritage of the brand and linking every piece of communication to a otherwise very abstract commercial objective, this might serve as an example for the creative thinking on a more micro-level.
Baskin, M. & Pickton, D., 2003. Account planning–from genesis to revelation. Marketing Intelligence & Planning, 21(7), S. 416–424.
Campbell, R., 2008. The New Home For The Ambitious. « The Musings Of An Opinionated Sod [Help Me Grow!]. Available at: http://robcampbell.wordpress.com/2008/09/01/the-new-home-for-the-ambitious/ [Zugegriffen März 8, 2011].
Dutta, K., 2007. Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO scoops APG Grand Prix. Advertising news – Campaign. Available at: http://www.campaignlive.co.uk/news/766451/Abbott-Mead-Vickers-BBDO-scoops-APG-Grand-Prix/?DCMP=ILC-SEARCH [Zugegriffen März 14, 2011].
Grant, J., 2006. Brand Innovation Manifesto: How to Build Brands, Redefine Markets and Defy Conventions 1. Aufl., John Wiley & Sons.
Holt, D.B., 2004. Douglas B. Holt on Branding as Cultural Activism. Emory Marketing Institute. Available at: http://www.emorymi.com/holt.shtml [Zugegriffen März 14, 2011].
Holt, D.B., 2002. Why do brands cause trouble? A dialectical theory of consumer culture and branding. Journal of Consumer Research, 29(1), S. 70–90.
Hovell, A., 2007. Sainsburys. Northern Planner. Available at: http://joymachine.typepad.com/northern_planner/2007/11/i.html [Zugegriffen März 14, 2011].
Rose, J. & Zuckerman, N., 2009. Can You Reach the Masses Without Mass Media? Available at: https://www.bcgperspectives.com/content/articles/cmos_dilemma/ [Zugegriffen Februar 4, 2011].
Tropp, J., 2004. Markenmanagement: Der Brand Management Navigator. Markenführung im Kommunikationszeitalter, VS Verlag.
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