Don't fear creativity - there's plenty of proof that embracing it drives growth for your business

Creativity is an art. And art evokes emotion, good and bad. The good is uplifting, positive and powerful. The bad makes you turn away. The great marketers have always known how to use creativity as an art for good. But it’s a subjective area that’s not well understood by many senior leaders and Board members, who seek more science and more certainty.

Yet every day, those same senior leaders and board members, as consumers, react emotionally to the creativity they see. Creative work, as a means of marketing, persuades them to buy one product or service over another. And that’s because 95% of purchasing decisions are made not rationally, but from our unconscious minds and our intuition. Daniel Kahneman, the psychologist who won a Nobel Prize for his work in behavioural economics, says that intuitive system “is more influential than your experience tells you, and is the secret author of many of the choices and judgments you make”.

Further evidence of the power of creativity in business can be found in the annual Advertising Effectiveness Awards around the world. Colloquially known as the “Effies”, they are the awards most sought after by marketers. It is the ultimate proof that a creative campaign has worked, and worked better than all of the other campaigns that year.

The honour roll of winners in Australia over the last 5-6 years has you nodding knowingly. Of course the NAB “Break Up” campaign won one. And of course Tourism Victoria’s long running “You’ll love every piece of Victoria” won one too. As did “Share a Coke”, and AAMI’s “Rhonda and Ketut”, and the Australia Day lamb campaigns with Sam Kekovich. And Tourism Queensland’s “Best Job in the World”, and Bond’s “Boobs” and “She Bought a Jeep”.

All of these are famous creative campaigns that worked. That delivered big sales and ROI’s. They used creativity to drive not only fame, but an emotional, positive purchase decision. And the two key words there are “fame” and “emotional”. In a study by the UK advertising industry body the IPA, fame campaigns, and emotional campaigns, were the two types of campaigns that drove the most effective results. Some 72 percent of campaigns that were deemed famous, that were widely talked about and shared, were effective, as were 68 percent of emotional campaigns, whilst only 59 percent of rational campaigns were found to be effective.

A piece of research by Adobe a couple of years back showed that 80% of people thought that unlocking creativity was critical to business growth. But like creativity itself, it is one thing to think it, it is another to do it. It takes a concerted effort to creatively think through a problem, and a further investment to execute it well. And clearly the results are there to be had for those that do.

Yet for the past decade, the perceived uncertainty of creativity, and the short-term outlook of many senior leaders, has led to rational and conservative strategies that have resulted in incremental ROI at best, and not the long-term sizeable growth that can be gained from famous and emotional campaigns.

At a time when there has never been more evidence that emotive and famous creative work can drive major growth for businesses, the only thing that has been growing is a lack of confidence in many senior marketers and leaders buying such campaigns. It can certainly be a difficult thing to commit to a creative idea. It is after all hypothetical, subjective, untested and doesn’t currently exist. But in its most basic form, the creative idea should simply be a way to solve the problem at hand, or bring to life the strategy that will do so.

There is certainly an appetite in many companies to tap into the power of creativity to drive growth. The evidence of those that have already done so is there to see. For the others, the quicker they overcome their fears around the emotional art of creativity, and their mindset of short-term incrementalism, the quicker they will unlock the rewards of creativity in their business.