It is hard for a marketer to approach the business or brand they are working for with a brand new idea, or a creative approach. This isn’t a manifesto for creativity, but a simple approach to show businesses, or specifically, the C-Suite, how a brand can actually embrace creativity while being grounded with sound marketing strategy.

The Struggle with Creativity

The ‘war’ against creativity is nothing new. In the 1960’s, when advertising was establishing itself as a roaring industry, advertising greats David Ogilvy and Bill Bernbach went toe-to-toe about research and facts versus creative art and the ‘gut feeling’. After more than a half century later, the battle continues.

One reason why we struggle with this lies in our inherent biases. An IBM study showed that although executives appreciate creativity in leadership, those same executives admitted that they had trouble identifying creative solutions. Indeed, Jennifer Mueller, an associate professor at the University of San Diego, wrote a wonderful article that shows that the struggle against creativity is real.

Why Marketers Avoid Creativity

The marketing team and the CMO are under more pressure than ever before. With the fragmentation of media, along with consumers sticking in media siloes, businesses want to increase revenue, decrease costs, and build customer loyalty all at the same time, in increasingly impossible timelines. All the while, the CMO is a position that rarely warms a seat. A study done by Korn/Ferry noted that the average tenure of a CMO is 3 years or less. Adding on to that, in late 2016 Forrester released a report that predicted that 30 percent of CMOs in 2017 will either be asked to leave, or resign. Not to be outdone, the management consulting firm Accenture reported in November of 2016 that 37 percent of CEOs surveyed believe that the CMO should be fired if business and growth goals aren’t met.

It is not hard to imagine then, why the CMO and marketing leads shy away from ‘creative’ marketing initiatives. The culture in which they find themselves does not bode well with risk- the term that is most often associated with creativity.

That doesn’t have to be the case.

Why Mitigate Creativity?

Creativity, especially to our colleagues in the financial and operations departments, can be scary and seen as a risky investment. We are wary of new and novel ideas because they are unfounded. Creative ideas can readily fail. But, like the IT department installing a new server or moving to the cloud, or the operations teams moving all activities to an ERP system, risk mitigation strategy is put in place to make sure that if those systems fail, business continues.

How Marketers Can Mitigate Creativity

Some of these steps are not new. But if marketers need a step-by-step guide to implement a creativity mitigation plan, this can serve as a model starting point and then marketers and adjust based on their needs.

  • Does this new idea or concept fit our brand’s mission, values and principles?
  • Is there research available (or need to be done) that our target audience and partners may be receptive to this new idea or concept?
  • Before testing, what are the parameters? What does a ‘successful’ test look like? What amount of resources do we dedicate to the test?
  • TEST. And TEST again.
  • After testing, does the new idea or concept pass? If not, is the idea worth re-visiting, or do we move on?
  • If successful, what does the implementation plan look like? Full speed ahead, or a roll-out? What makes sense in our industry? What are our competitors doing?
  • How do we categorize success? What metrics do we use? If it’s a completely new concept for the brand, is there a process in place to imitate, or do we create something new? Are there practices outside our industry we can use as benchmarks?

Expect the Unexpected

One can do all the research, all the testing, and implement everything according to plan, and still run into unexpected events. It is easy for brands to shoot down creative ideas because of market uncertainty. Yet, business is inherently risky. Thinking that avoiding creative solutions because the market is good now, is a riskier path. If the marketing team knows that it must think on its feet during implementation, time can be built in the calendar for the team to devise counter measures.

Marketing is Expected to Lead- So Do It

When it comes to innovation and ‘creative disruption’ in the marketplace, marketing professionals, according to reports from the Boston Consulting Group, are assumed to be the game-changers. If that is the case, then we should own it- chase the creative ideas. Find a that novel concept that could change the way customers and partners look at your brand, for the better. A lot is expected from marketing leaders these days, so we must be smart about it. Implementing creativity with a risk mitigation plan will not only make it easier for buy-in from the rest of the executive team, it can show the rest of the organization that creativity isn’t that scary, after all.