Five brand creativity killers (and how to avoid them)

— Sophia Brockman 

In a rapidly evolving communication industry with smaller budgets, bigger expectations, and a deluge of stimuli bombarding our target audiences, creativity really is the new currency to cut through the clutter, and capture the hearts and minds of consumers.

In a pay-to-play environment, CREATIVITY is the approach that allows you to maximise the spend you put behind content. In a cluttered conversation, CREATIVITY is the tool that makes you stand out. In a reality where consumer attention span is less than that of a goldfish, CREATIVITY is the secret weapon to keeping consumers engaged with your brand long after they glance at your content.

It’s no surprise then that creative minds are a coveted resource – and the number one thing your brand needs. That said, with all the focus on creativity, even the most seasoned industry vets can fall prey to the creativity doldrums. The road from ideation to strategy to execution is rife with creativity pitfalls, and being able to spot them (and prevent them!) is the first step to rapidly accelerating your brand’s creative outputs.

There are five stages of ideation at which creativity is most at risk, and we’ve identified how to prevent creative stagnation from happening at each:

The moment when….you’re prepping for the big brainstorm

Being broadly creative dilutes ideas, dilutes the work and takes out all the magic that makes it powerful. Saying a lot, trying to talk to everyone or talking about every occasion that the product may be used in, is not effective communication. That is why before you even start your divergent thinking phase to open the floodgates of creative ideas; you must first get specific.

Ensure you have defined the challenge that your creative solution needs to solve and asking the right question in your ideation session. Otherwise, you’ll walk away from the brainstorm with a lot of general ideas that don’t move the needle or address the problem.

The moment when…you open the floor to those big ideas

Have you ever had a brainstorm fall completely flat? We’ve all been there. And it can be incredibly frustrating. The divergent thinking phase is one of the most common moments where creativity can be squashed.

This is why prep work to bed down your context and insights is the essential first step to a successful brainstorm. If you lock in the right challenge, all your participants’ creativity will naturally flow through that lens, addressing your identified brand challenge.

So, before you open up the floor, make sure you give participants the time and space to explore the insights and context of the challenge – an opportunity especially important for personality types that prefer to journal or jot down ideas instead of thinking out loud (looking at you introverts!).

Try your best to nip ‘group think’ in the bud. We all know to “yes, and” during a brainstorm, but its human nature to not go against the grain. Try different tactics in your brainstorm that remove the possibility of judgement and you will see the creative ideas flow. For example, asking everyone to write down one idea and then slip their idea to the right for someone to add to anonymously.

The moment when…you converge on ‘the one’

You’ve done everything right up to this point – a great creative focus, fantastic ideas in your brainstorm, and now it’s time for convergent thinking – hygiene checking your favourite concepts and evaluating them against the realities of strategy, budgets, plausibility and efficacy.

There are several things in this phase that can affect your creative capacity, the most prevalent of which is taking a brilliant idea from your brainstorm and watering it down because it’s ‘too bold’ of a concept to bring to your business leaders, or because frankly, you’re afraid to commit fully in case it falls flat.  

Time can also be an enemy of creativity, giving your team long-enough to over-workshop or second guess its brilliance. While you need to take a good, hard evaluation of your ideas strengths, pitfalls and extensions, none of this should affect the creative focus of your concept. If you’re going to embrace an idea, maintain its integrity.

The moment when…you test it with your audience

When you make the executive, strategic decision to commit to a creative concept, you’re giving your campaign focus that realistically, won’t resonate with everyone in the room. That’s okay, because creativity is not by committee.

If I asked you to paint a picture based on group consensus of what should be included, you would end up with a boring, vanilla and meaningless landscape that while inoffensive, would not engage either.  When you try to please everyone, you end up pleasing no one. While road testing your idea with your broader team or a focus group of the intended audience is valuable, take the feedback with a grain of salt and interrogate the results closely.

The moment when…you run it up the chain

Here it is. The big pitch. The moment when you present your creative concept to your business leaders and take them along on the journey. There is only one thing that can stifle creativity with decision makers, and that is fear. It’s a valid fear, thanks to countless examples of brand creativity gone wrong.

It’s not hard to understand why leaders can be risk-adverse – leaders take the fall, if the concept is ineffective. First, to push a bold, creative idea through this final stage, it is imperative that you get all the brand’s decision-makers in one (virtual if required) room to sell in your idea. This takes the burden off them to try to sell it to their boss, and to their boss’s boss, and so on, and so forth.

Next, keep the idea simple and don’t over-conceptualise so it holds up in internal conversations. And lastly, customise the creative proposal for different audiences to ensure it resonates the same with your calculated, risk-savvy communications manager as it does with the CMO, as it does with the CEO.

If you are in need of a creativity boost in your communications strategy, WE Buchan can help with a design-thinking session. Let’s talk: https://buchanwe.com.au/connect