This month I want to celebrate the power of creativity in marketing and help local SMEs to consider the way it is leveraged by the most famous and successful brands to drive growth. For some, creativity is synonymous with visionaries, highly strung designers and the absence of rationality. However, the marketer’s objective is not to ‘be creative’, but instead to drive growth by giving clients a competitive edge. Distinctive creativity with its roots in deep insights then bolted to sound strategy will always provide the best blend; which is magic and logic.

Increase your brand value

We have often experienced mistrust and misapprehension surrounding creatively-focused marketing, with many SME leaders struggling to link original, distinctive treatments to purchase propensity and return on investment. Evidence shows, however, that creative campaigns are generally the most effective. As Keith Weed, Chief Marketing and Communications Officer at Unilever, writes in his foreword to The Case for Creativity, ‘more creative work delivers better results than “safe” and rational advertising.’

Digging deeper into the ‘science of creativity’, McKinsey’s Award Creativity Score Index (ACS) proves that creative companies perform better financially. Companies awarded a Cannes Lions marketing accolade consistently outperform their peers. 67% had above-average organic revenue growth, while 74% had above-average net enterprise value. If that’s not convincing enough, over the past 12 years, the Kantar BrandZ Global Top 100 brands viewed as ‘Most Different’ grew by 258% in brand value, while those viewed as ‘Least Different’ grew by just 21%.  So, as Apple’s seminal advert once said, ‘Think different’.

Stand out from the crowd

Investment in creativity doesn’t have to break the bank. The ‘Fame Effect’, where powerful social sharing and word of mouth result in the highest commercial gains and brand effects, can be cheated using much smaller budgets. It is amazing what a deep understanding of a brand and its prospects can achieve when combined with a fertile mind, a modest budget and a social media account…

As the celebrated Von Restorff effect predicts, when multiple similar entities are present, the one that differs from the rest is the most likely to be remembered. Pretty obvious, you say?  So why do so many private schools, accountants, estate agents and developers’ (etc etc) brands appear remarkably similar to each other?  Perhaps because only those partnering with creative agencies to bring imagination and innovation into the hearts of their organisations can expect to challenge convention and reap the rewards.

Make yourself memorable

Information is stored in our long-term memory, where it has the potential to remain for your entire life; and that’s what the best brands tap into. By producing distinctive, compelling and enduring branding and messaging, your prospect and customer’s brain will find it easier to retain key details. This explains why marketing often works best when people get talking and sharing, because brands are, in part, social constructs. Popular examples include the Always #LikeAGirl viral campaign or the John Lewis Christmas advert phenomenon; not to mention a drumming gorilla promoting chocolate, a shaggy dog endorsing paint and a family of meerkats selling insurance!

A study by Thinkbox used brain scanning technology to evidence that memory encoding levels are on average around 15% higher for brands associated with emotion and humour rather than hard information. This doesn’t mean that creativity and rationality are incompatible – by pairing the facts you need your customers to know with unconventional ideas and visual stimuli, you’ll be able to increase your impact and add value to your marketing.  As I said earlier, magic and logic.

Submerged in mass communication where virtually anything can go viral, the pressure to be original in order to become visible amidst the white noise can seem insurmountable.  However, focusing on engagement and execution and having the conviction to captivate pays dividends when it comes to elevating your SME as a brand. In the words of award-winning game designer Jenova Chen, ‘Creativity is not talent but attitude.’