We’re living slap-bang in the middle of The Age of Technology. The ways we interact with brands and marketing, along with how we live our personal lives, are ever-changing, and as such it’s easy to become swept up in the excitement of newly developed tech.
This, accompanied with client’s understandable demands to see results from their investments in your agency, can make it all too simple to fall back on the cold, hard results technology can bring, and leave your creativity at the door.
Marketing’s most prestigious awards ceremony, Cannes Lions, has recently rounded up its 2015 edition. Feedback from journalists attending the event have lamented time and time again that, this year in particular, marketers seem to have lost their focus on creativity, the very thing the awards aim to celebrate.
Marketing trends for the following year are made in this time, as marketers schmooze with other big wigs, all supposedly forgetting what should be at the heart and soul of every campaign: the user.
Excitement at what we can do in this new age, with the Internet of Things, hyper-personalisation and metrics on everything from your social account to your fridge, have made us crazy with tech-lust.
Technology is not the enemy of creativity
Life in and out of work has become immeasurably better with our advancements in technology. I am a huge supporter of the selfie-stick, and you’ll never find me without my smartphone. No content strategy is undertaken without spending quality time in the client’s Google Analytics, and I’m excited to face the challenges hyper-personalisation will produce.
I also cannot wait to see what virtual reality will mean for a plethora of industry sectors – I’m pretty sure my colleagues became sick of hearing me talk about Microsoft’s HoloLens after E3 2015.
I do fear, however, that content marketers are forgetting what Javier Sanchez Lamelas, Vice President of Marketing for Coca-Cola Europe, so eloquently encapsulated in this article: “Tech can’t save average creative campaigns.”
By funnelling all of our funding, time and passion into technology, we can fall behind on what makes users want to connect with the brand. Big businesses like Coca-Cola have made waves across the advertising industry as a whole because they think about what users want, and deliver it to them in simple, creative ways.
But what the giants such as Coke are doing is nothing new, and Lamelas isn’t stating any fantastical innovation; he’s simply spelling out the obvious truth that many seem to have forgotten.
What is “creativity”?
At this point, I want to back right up and discuss what “creativity” actually is. When we talk about “creative content”, often the image that comes to mind is interactive digital pieces that feature beautiful design, and go far beyond static copy both visually and functionality.
It’s this image of “creativity” that I personally feel is limiting our creative practices. As much as we all enjoy working on these visually creative pieces, this is not what the concept of creativity is at its core.
One of our biggest areas of success with creativity has been based on the simplest of approaches: answering the questions that real customers ask.
Our multi-award winning campaign for Virgin Holidays Cruises is visually simplistic, but the thought process behind it focused on the task of answering the questions that desperately needed answering, and giving users a one-stop destination for their cruise holiday needs.
Likewise, we’ve seen great success with health and fitness company British Military Fitness, speaking with industry experts and utilising the experience of their highly professional staff to provide expert advice to the questions asked across social media by potential users.
Which leads me to a point I live my professional life by, and it has yet to let me down: be the user.
Anyone who is anyone working in digital has read and referenced the Google Zero Moment of Truth research, and understood that content now has to be about the user. Unfortunately, the number of campaigns that display this theory in action appear to be few and far between, and as such users are becoming increasingly detached from marketing as a whole.
Being the user, and thinking about their basic needs, desires and passions are the only ways to connect. Stop thinking of users as numbers on a graph, and remember (in the words of one of my favourite musicians,@rxchoi), there is no algorithm for integrity. Look at the client’s website and online portfolio and think like the user. Create the content the user wants to read, or watch, or listen to, and create it.
This is where technology comes in.
Technology as an enabler
The growth in technology should absolutely be celebrated, because it means we can put this creative content where it is most needed. We can reach audiences in ways that have never been considered possible before, and provide them with content that truly enriches their lives.
Technology is a facilitator and, to a certain extent, an enabler of creative content, as it gives us access to previously uncharted territory that was previously impossible to reach. But what we put in that territory, our content “flag” if we are to carry on with this metaphor, still has to be something special to make any kind of impact.
The fact that many, many businesses won’t be able to afford the big tech for a long while also cannot be ignored. And the user certainly doesn’t need to be bowled over with amazement in technology every time they interact with a brand.
Working in the marketing industry makes it very easy to fall fool to the illusion that our audience is as excited about every new tech development and launch as we are, when the reality would actually suggest that it’s quite the opposite.
Over and above all else, users want the answers to questions they might not even have yet, and it’s our job to deliver the answers to them in a variety of useful, interesting and creative ways.
Creativity has the flexibility to fit any brief and budget and, no matter what we create, users have to be at the heart of what we do and how and why we do it.