4. Conclusion and Implications About the Roles of Creativity in Brand Management

This post is part of my bachelor paper ‘The Evolving Role of Creativity in Brand Management’. You can read the introduction, other posts and the table of contents here.

In this chapter, the key thoughts of the preceding two chapters about brand management and creativity will be merged. The first chapter about brands and brand management tried to draw a picture of the major issues brand management is facing today and the answers that are given in the management paradigms present today. It argued for the essential role of brands in steering organisations and introduced the systems theory based model of brand management by Tropp (2004). In this model, management is dealing with three major issues: complexity, coupling and communication. The brand concepts talked about in this context are brand potential, brand relationship and brand experience with the according management dimensions learning, building and nurturing relationships and intervention. The strength of a perspective like that is that it acknowledges both the environment of organisations and regards the self-management of brand management as an essential part of the system. By doing so, brand management can be viewed as an organisational capability, just like an organisations can have an ability to produce in time, or excel in logistics.

The following chapter then used the different lenses applied in creativity research today to derive conclusions about the role and effect of creativity in different aspects of brand management. It looked at creativity as the trait of an output – like an advertising execution or a strategy, as a process, as the trait of a person and as the trait or capability of a place – in an organisation.

What role does creativity play in relation to the aforementioned brand concepts and brand management dimensions? There are a number of conclusions that can be drawn from the four analysed perspectives on creativity. For the conclusions, the order of analysis will be reversed, from place to product.

4.1. Brand Potential and Creativity

It was argued that reflection and systemic thinking and acting are essential goals of an organisation that wants to increase its brand potential. Learning was identified as the major management dimension to influence these capabilities. This perspective of a reflective and learning organisation and the findings about organisational creativity neatly align. Variety and redundancy, the goals that brand management should pursue to manage complexity, to innovate and to strategise, necessarily demand divergence and relevance, in other words, creativity (Wit & Meyer 2010, p.33; Mintzberg 1994).

The first and very general conclusion, therefore, is that creativity – regardless if viewed from the perspective of place, product, people or process defined as divergence and relevance – should be of high value to brand management. Thus, an organisational culture of creativity should be nurtured, just like brands should be a structurally reflected top priority for organisations. This is about acknowledging, valuing and trying to understand creativity per se and the complexity and irritation it often brings with it in organisations built around reliability and logic. With this thoughts in mind, an organisation that has nurtured a culture of creativity, should engage in a process as suggested by the proponents of design thinking to arrive at solutions. Be it customer relationship management, communication planning, pricing, channel management or product innovation, a generic, circular and social process of (informed and emphatic) inspiration, ideation and implementation – divergent and convergent thinking – can be applied in any of the methods and tasks of brand management. This, however, is not so much about the application of a specific process, but the importance of an open ended search for validity – a structural balance between intuition and logic.

Regarding learning and knowledge, there are more conclusions to be drawn. First of all, there is building knowledge about the environmental context – the culture – which is often the tacit starting point for the creative processes that happen within an organisation.

“[C]ohen and Levinthal (1990) posited that the ability of an organization to recognize and use external information is crucial for innovation. This ability, which Cohen and Levinthal labeled absorptive capacity, may be related to a variety of innovation activities, including investment in R&D, the conduct of basic research (thus providing a link to creativity), and the adoption and diffusion of innovation.” (Woodman et al. 1993, p.308)

These are the outside-in capabilities that were mentioned already before, and there are numerous ways to go about building contextual knowledge within organisations. McCracken (2006) e.g. taps into complexity theory and suggests to build a “big board” (McCracken 2006, p.121) that tags and monitors opportunities and challenges for the brand as flocks and flows move through culture. Making sense of trends (Ofek & Wathieu 2010) and weak signals (Ansoff 1975; Day & Schoemaker 2006; Day & Schoemaker 2005; Day et al. 2009; Schoemaker & Day 2009) using network and cultural science (Bentley & Earls 2008; Bentley et al. 2007; Hartley 2009; Watts 2004), information technology like Google’s big data analysis and prediction API (Isaac 2011) and data visualization (Garber 2011) seem to be promising fields when it comes to real time insight and awareness in organisations. As Schoemaker and Day (2009, p.84) explain, this is a continuous, ‘real-time’ process of scanning for weak signals, sense-making and probing, that has important implications for strategic planning. If this has been acknowledged by general strategic management long time ago (Ansoff 1975), and if brands are supposed to be of central importance for general management, than this way of constructing knowledge should be pursued by brand management as well. In this context, it is interesting to note the discourse about how to conduct strategic planning itself. McKinsey, the leading management consultancy itself published a special issue of the McKinsey Quarterly about how the strategy making process should be reconstructed to be more agile and reflect the faster and more complex world:

“The past is no longer a guide to the future. To meet the challenges of discontinuity and to perform like markets, a corporation must learn to change as rapidly as they do.” (Foster 2002, n.p.)

Subsequently, this conclusion is boiled down to management recommendations:

“Many companies get little value from their annual strategic-planning process. It should be redesigned to support real-time strategy making and to encourage ’creative accidents.’” (Beinhocker & Kaplan 2002, n.p.)

McFarland (2008), in an article in the MIT Sloan Management Review even posed the question if strategy should be built like software, which is usually developed in an agile and iterative way. While this paper, again, cannot cover this topic in depth, the notion of an agile and iterative way of building strategy, based on changing states of knowledge and strategic surprises, suggests a growing importance of creativity in brand management.

Thirdly, there is concrete and somewhat static knowledge that should be available across the organisation. Creativity research has taught us that personal creativity depends on antecedent conditions, cognitive styles and abilities, personality, motivational factors, and knowledge. Regarding the brand potential and learning part of the brand management system, a hardly surprising conclusion is therefore to select, train and manage people accordingly (Amabile 1998). Developing creative thinking abilities and expertise in the field that brand management deals with – culture and generalisable laws of how people behave, the knowledge already written about above – should therefore be a high priority.

“Wheatley, Anthony, and Maddox (1991) have advocated creativity training for organizational strategic planners. Their argument is based on the observation that the strategic planning process is characterized by high uncertainty, which places a premium on people’s imaginative attempts to reframe old issues and explore new ideas. Thus, they reason, the improvement of creativity and problem-solving skills would improve the strategic planning process in organizations.” (Woodman et al. 1993, p.305)

Generalisable laws such as double jeopardy, skills like abductive thinking and a general academic knowledge about the effects of creativity in advertising and communication should be known by all stakeholders included in the brand management process, if the organisation aims to increase its brand potential. Procter & Gamble’s reinvention can serve as an example for an organisation that reinvented itself with a focus on training and a culture of ‘design thinking’ (Martin 2009a).

Amabile, T.M., 1998. How to kill creativity. Harvard business review, 76(5), S. 76–87.

Ansoff, H.I., 1975. Managing strategic surprise by response to weak signals. California Management Review, 18(2), S. 21–33.

Beinhocker, E.D. & Kaplan, S., 2002. Reshaping the strategic planning process. McKinsey Quarterly. Available at: http://www.mckinseyquarterly.com/Tired_of_strategic_planning_1191 [Zugegriffen Mai 24, 2011].

Bentley, A. & Earls, M., 2008. Forget influentials, herd-like copying is how brands spread. Admap, 43(499), S. 19–22.

Bentley, R.A., Lipo, C.P., Herzog, H.A. & Hahn, M.W., 2007. Regular rates of popular culture change reflect random copying. Evolution and Human Behavior, 28(3), S. 151–158.

Day, G.S. & Schoemaker, P.J.., 2006. Peripheral vision: Detecting the weak signals that will make or break your company, Harvard Business Press.

Day, G.S. & Schoemaker, P.J.., 2005. Scanning the periphery. Harvard Business Review, 83(11), S. 135.

Day, G.S., Schoemaker, P.J.. & Snyder, S.A., 2009. Extended Intelligence Networks: Minding and Mining the Periphery. The network challenge: strategy, profit, and risk in an interlinked world, S. 277.

Foster, R.N., 2002. Effective strategic planning approaches. McKinsey Quarterly. Available at: http://www.mckinseyquarterly.com/Strategy_in_crisis_1203 [Zugegriffen Mai 24, 2011].

Garber, M., 2011. The New York Times’ R&D Lab has built a tool that explores the life stories take in the social space. Nieman Journalism Lab » Pushing to the Future of Journalism. Available at: http://www.niemanlab.org/2011/04/the-new-york-times-rd-lab-has-built-a-tool-that-explores-the-life-stories-take-in-the-social-space/ [Zugegriffen Mai 16, 2011].

Hartley, J., 2009. From cultural studies to cultural science. Cultural Science, 2(1), S. 1–16.

Isaac, M., 2011. Ford, Google Team Up to Make Smarter Cars. Autopia | Wired.com. Available at: http://www.wired.com/autopia/2011/05/ford-google-prediction-api/ [Zugegriffen Mai 16, 2011].

Martin, R., 2009. The design of business: why design thinking is the next competitive advantage, Harvard Business Press.

McCracken, G., 2006. Flock and Flow: Predicting and Managing Change in a Dynamic Marketplace, Indiana Univ Pr.

McFarland, K.R., 2008. Should you build strategy like you build software? MIT Sloan Management Review, 49(3), S. 69.

Mintzberg, H., 1994. The fall and rise of strategic planning. Harvard Business Review, 72, S. 107–107.

Ofek, E. & Wathieu, L., 2010. Are You Ignoring Trends That Could Shake Up Your Business? Harvard business review, 88(7-8), S. 124–131.

Schoemaker, P.J.. & Day, G.S., 2009. How to make sense of weak signals. Leading Organizations: Perspectives for a New Era, S. 37.

Tropp, J., 2004. Markenmanagement: Der Brand Management Navigator. Markenführung im Kommunikationszeitalter, VS Verlag.

Watts, D.J., 2004. Six Degrees: The Science of a Connected Age Reprint., W W Norton & Co.

Wit, B.D. & Meyer, R., 2010. Strategy Synthesis: Resolving Strategy Paradoxes to Create Competitive Advantage, Cengage Learning EMEA.

Woodman, R.W., Sawyer, J.E. & Griffin, R.W., 1993. Toward a theory of organizational creativity. The Academy of Management Review, 18(2), S. 293–321.

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