Creativity In The Context Of Brand Management (Part 3)

This post is part of my paper ‘The Evolving Role of Creativity in Brand Management’. You can see the table of contents here. The previous parts touched on brand definitions, brand management paradigms, the challenges facing brand management, and how a systems theory based approach would mean for learning, planning and capabilities.

At the heart of a successful brand is a great product or service, backed by creatively designed and executed marketing.

(Kotler & Keller 2006, p.273) 

As Kotler and Keller put it, “creatively designed and executed marketing” is needed to build a successful brand. There are however, apart from the quote, no mentions or systematic definitions of creativity in Kotler (2006), Keller (1998), or as an example for a German textbook Schweiger & Schrattenecker (2009).

What does creativity mean in the context of designing and executing marketing? How can it be applied, what are its effects along the brand management process and what facilitates or hinders “creatively design and executed marketing”? 

While creativity has always been a topic of heated debate in the advertising discourse, advertising is only a part of brand management. The following chapters therefore suggest a categorisation of different types of perspectives on creativity in brand management and try to give an overview of the debate and research in each of the different fields. 

3.1 What Is Creativity? 

Before looking into aspects of creativity in brand management, its general meaning should be defined. However, according to Schmidt (1988, p.35 qtd. in Zurstiege 2005, p.181) creativity is a notoriously universally used and notoriously vaguely defined expression, that has seen so many meanings that Zurstiege (2005, p.182) calls the quest to find out about what creativity is a hopeless endeavour. This however, would leave the meaning of a widely used concept in business practice to changing fads and fashions and may also leave valuable insights untouched. Therefore, it is tried here to find a definition or at least a useful conceptualisation of creativity. 

Merriam-Webster Dictionary and the Encyclopedia Britannica provide a first hint: 

Create, to make or bring into existence something new; to produce through imaginative skill.

(Merriam-Webster Dictionary 2011

Creativity, the ability to make or otherwise bring into existence something new, whether a new solution to a problem, a new method or device, or a new artistic object or form.

(Britannica Online Encyclopedia 2011

From this definitions of creating and creativity, it can be derived that creativity has two distinct  features: “First, there must be something new, imaginative, different, or unique – this component is generally referred to as ‘divergence’. Second, the divergent thing produced must solve a problem or have some type of ‘relevance’” (Smith & Yang 2004, p.32). 

Table 1: Creativity as a function of divergence and relevance (Smith & Yang 2004, p.34) 

As seen above, creativity viewed from this perspective is defined as a function of divergence and relevance. First, to be creative, something has to be divergent, then it has to be shaped to be somehow perceived as relevant, i.e. it has to be useful, help to achieve a goal or be somehow socially valued. This position is reflected both in research on creativity in psychology as well as in research on creativity in the field of advertising (Smith & Yang 2004, p.34). 

With divergence and relevance made out as the two most prominent determinants of creativity, this still leaves open questions regarding the what and who of creativity. What is it that is creative in brand management? And who is it that is creative? 

Theories of creativity have considered different aspects of creativity as an answer to this question, with the most prominent referred to as the four “Ps” (Kozbelt et al. 2010, p.25ff). 

Contrary to marketing textbook definitions, the 4 Ps of creativity refer to process, product, person and place. Process research focuses on the mechanisms and techniques for creative thinking. Research focusing on product is usually carried out to measure the level of creativity in ideas. The person perspective looks more general into creative people’s personality and cognitive traits. Last but not least, research highlighting place considers the contextual variables which determine how creativity will best flourish. 

In line with these four fields of creativity research, this paper will look into four different aspects of creativity in brand management: 

  • Process
    • Creativity as a tool 
  • Product
    • Creativity as a feature of advertising 
    • Creativity as a feature of strategy 
  • Person
    • Creativity as a trait of stakeholders 
  • Place
    • Creativity as the feature of an organisation 

Table 2: Different Roles of Creativity in Brand Management 

The process view of creativity may be used to shed light on the use of thinking styles, creativity techniques and in general the process of coming up with what Kotler and Keller (2006, p.273) called “creatively designed” marketing.

The product view of creativity leads to looking into two of the most relevant outputs of the brand management system, namely creativity in advertising – or more general marketing communication – executions and creativity in marketing and communication strategy.

The person view of creativity in brand management leads one to ask about creativity as a trait of different stakeholders identified in the brand management system. This perspective might for example ask for the levels of creativity in brand managers who steer the brand, agency teams that are co-responsible for brand and campaign planning and executions and consumers as the audience or users of brand(ed) content.

Furthermore, a place perspective on creativity in brand management deals with the meaning and determinants of creativity on an organisational level. To reflect the different priorities in advertising and brand management research the review will start with the product view of creativity and will then continue with the findings on process, person and place. 

Britannica Online Encyclopedia, 2011. creativity — Britannica Online Encyclopedia. Britannica Online Encyclopedia. Available at: [Accessed January 23, 2011]. 

Keller, K.L., 1998. Strategic brand management: building, measuring and managing brand equity, Prentice Hall.

Kotler, P. & Keller, K.L., 2006. Marketing Management 12th ed., Prentice Hall. 

Kozbelt, A., Beghetto, R.A. & Runco, M.A., 2010. Theories of Creativity. In J. C. Kaufman & R. J. Sternberg, eds. The Cambridge Handbook of Creativity. Cambridge University Press.

Merriam-Webster Dictionary, 2011. Create – Definition and More from the Free Merriam- 65 Webster Dictionary. Merriam-Webster Dictionary. Available at: [Accessed January 23, 2011].

Smith, R.E. & Yang, X., 2004. Toward a general theory of creativity in advertising: Examining the role of divergence. Marketing Theory, 4(1-2), p.31.

Schmidt, S.J., 1988. Kreativität – aus der Beobachterperspektive. In N. Luhmann & H. U. Gumbrecht, eds. Kreativität, ein verbrauchter Begriff? W. Fink, pp. 33-51. 

Schweiger, G. & Schrattenecker, G., 2009. Werbung 7th ed., UTB, Stuttgart. 

Zurstiege, G., 2005. Zwischen Kritik und Faszination. Was wir beobachten, wenn wir die Werbung beobachten, wie sie die Gesellschaft beobachtet 1st ed., Halem.

2.2 What is a Brand?

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

There are a lot of diverging descriptions and definitions of what a brand is (Wood 2000, p.664; De Chernatony & Riley 1998, p.417), with de Chernatony & Riley (1998, p.418) identifying twelve categories of definitions, with brands being a

“[…] i) legal instrument; ii) logo; iii) company; iv) shorthand; v) risk reducer; vi) identity system; vii) image in consumers’ minds; viii) value system; ix) personality; x) relationship; xi) adding value; and xii) evolving entity”.

Among those categories of definitions that cannot be sharply separated from each other, three stand out more prominently. First of all, there is the basic understanding of a brand as a signifier of distinction, “[a] name, term, design, symbol, or any other feature that identifies one seller’s good or service as distinct from those of other sellers” that is now the standard definition of the American Marketing Association (2010) and e.g. also used by Kotler and Keller (2006, p.274). It was already used by the AMA as early as in 1960 (De Chernatony & Riley 1998, p.419) and is closely related to the legal definition of a brand, which deals with the protection of intellectual property. It derives its relevance from the time when companies started to “brand” their products in the strictest and simplest sense through visual identities (Gries 2006, p.15ff; Tropp 2004, p.23ff).

Another very frequently used perspective to define brands is the one of a brand as an image in consumers’ minds. Practitioners and researchers referred brands as being associations in people’s minds as early as 1955 (De Chernatony & Riley 1998, p.421). While there is no consensus among researchers about the conceptualization of brand image (Louro & Cunha 2001, p.863), Keller (1993, p.3) defined brand image as “perceptions about a brand as reflected by the brand associations held in consumer memory”, with the thought being that the value derived from brands is based on associations built upon “the complete experience that customers have with products” (Keller & Lehmann 2006, p.740).

However, the image perspective has come under harsh critique by another perspective, which lays its focus on brand identity (de Chernatony & Riley 1998, p.420). One of the strongest criticisms of the brand image perspective comes from Kapferer & Gibbs (1992, p.11):

“[A] brand is not a product. It is the product’s essence, its meaning, and its direction, and it defines its identity in time and space. Too often brands are examined through their component parts: the brand name, its logo, design, or packaging, advertising or sponsorship, or image or name recognition, or very recently, in terms of financial brand valuation. Real brand management however, begins much earlier, with a strategy and a consistent integrated vision. Its central concept is brand identity, not brand image.”

Another advocate of the brand identity concept is Aaker who defines brand identity as “a unique set of brand associations that the brand strategist aspires to create or maintain” (Aaker 1995, p.68).

All these definition show a persistent duality in current brand definitions (Tropp 2004, p.55) that also exists in organisational theory (Gioia et al. 2000, p.63). On the one hand there is the brand as an identity and on the other hand there is what is perceived by people. This was already identified as early as 1955 in an often cited article by Gardner & Levy (1999, p.35):

“A brand name is more than the label employed to differentiate among the manufacturers of a product. It is a complex symbol that represents a variety of ideas and attributes. It tells the consumers many things, not only by the way it sounds (and its literal meaning if it has one) but, more important, via the body of associations it has built up and acquired as a public object over a period of time.”

These different definitions of brands and what their function is seen to be is a reflection of the development of diverging brand management paradigms that will be introduced in the following paragraphs.

Aaker, D.A., 1995. Building Strong Brands Nineth Printing., Free Press.

American Marketing Association, 2010. Dictionary. Available at: [Accessed October 22, 2010].

De Chernatony, L. & Riley, F.D.O., 1998. Defining A“ Brand”: Beyond The Literature With Experts’ Interpretations. Journal of Marketing Management, 14(5), pp.417–443.

Gardner, B.B. & Levy, S.J., 1999. The product and the brand. Brands, consumers, symbols, & research: Sidney J. Levy on marketing, p.131.

Gioia, D.A., Schultz, M. & Corley, K.G., 2000. Organizational identity, image, and adaptive instability. Academy of Management Review, 25(1), pp.63–81.

Gries, R., 2006. Produkte & Politik: zur Kultur- und Politikgeschichte der Produktkommunikation, Facultas Verlag.

Kapferer, J.-N. & Mayring, P., 1992. Strategic brand management, Kogan Page London.

Keller, K.L., 1993. Conceptualizing, measuring, and managing customer-based brand equity. Journal of Marketing, 57(1), pp.1–22.

Keller, K.L. & Lehmann, D.R., 2006. Brands and branding: Research findings and future priorities. Marketing Science, 25(6), p.740.

Kotler, P. & Bliemel, F., 2006. Marketing-Management. Analyse, Planung und Verwirklichung 10th ed., Pearson Studium.

Louro, M.J. & Cunha, P.V., 2001. Brand management paradigms. Journal of Marketing Management, 17(7), pp.849–875.

Österreichisches Patentamt, 2009. Geschäftsbericht 2009. Österreichisches Patentamt. Available at: [Accessed July 12, 2011].

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

Willman, J., 2000. Leaner, Cleaner and Healthier is the Stated Aim. Financial Times. Available at: [Accessed January 4, 2011].

Wood, L., 2000. Brands and brand equity: definition and management. Management Decision, 38(9), pp.662–669.