Creative heads in the clouds

Share these new ideas

Creativity in advertising can help catch people’s attention and win customers. Yet some advertisers’ heads seem to be in the clouds when they don’t pay attention to the conversation taking place in their market. Creative approaches need to link with the customer’s world to provide returns.

 Sometimes you just wonder how “creative” advertising can be so detached from its real world surroundings. It’s much too easy to criticize someone else’s advertising so I will mention just one short falling of an advert I saw in a national business weekly. It totally missed a big opportunity.

The advert was about cloud computing and gave examples of its applications in society and ended by mentioning the company’s contribution to global computing. All very good except that this ad was run on the Sunday midway through the COP 17 climate change negotiations in Durban. Surrounding pages in the business section were plastered with ads about climate change and solutions for a low-carbon future. Now, how possibly could the advert fail to mention any reference about climate change? It’s sort of like walking up the road from King’s Cross Station and not being aware that the place has social problems (which we won’t go into here).

After reading the advert on a flight to Durban I asked the passenger sitting next to me: “What do you make of this?” He took a look and said, “They could at least have mentioned something about their e-waste and what they are doing about it.” Later the passenger mentioned that he was the climate and environmental advisor to the presidency of a country in Africa.

Being present to the conversation already taking place

So what is the real message for marketers – off-line and online – with this advert? Simply put, to be present and listen to the conversations already taking place among customers. Surely, the team that put together this advert could have thought about what would be going on when the ad would appear? If they had, they might have recognised that COP 17 would be a major topic of discussion in the papers and online during the negotiations taking place in Durban.

They could have come up with a quick short-list of examples of solutions that their computing is bringing about to help mitigate climate change. It would have then been easy for them to join their customers’ conversation which would have certainly included climate change and the global climate change negotiations. The other advertisers had thought about their timing – some even used leaves symbolically acting as the blades for wind turbines to promote renewable energy.

Creativity doesn’t mean generating ideas that are detached from people and the marketplace. Products of creativity are meant to inspire, entertain, influence perhaps and ultimately sell. Even a five-minute session with a basic idea generation tool would have assisted in this instance with developing the original idea and making it so much more powerful.

Loosen up and fire your imagination

By joining the customer’s conversation, understanding their interests, problems and aspirations, businesses become more relevant and real when they try to connect with customers. Communicating with worn-out come-ons or unsupported authority in a competitive marketplace is just not authentic or meaningful. But to get there companies need to loosen up and become more creative.

The problem is that the words “creative” and “creativity” are such catch-all terms that they have come to even have negative connotations. What we mean here by these words is to come up with new ideas that will profit your business. It involves a search for ideas using creative and innovation tools that help you generate a range of possibilities that hold the potential to produce amazing results whether for your product, service or business.

Encourage expansive thinking

Such expansive thinking may itself sound like needing to put your “head in the clouds” but it is vital when your business is under threat or you need innovation to compete against increasingly strong competition, especially in 2012. Innovation, coming up with new products, services and new ways of doing business, is essential for responding and anticipating a changing business environment. For smaller businesses that are much closer to their customers whether on main street or in industrial parks innovation is critical for maximizing returns on any investment.

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