CREATIVE AGILITY: DUNKING IN THE DARK, SAVING FLEETWOOD MAC, & SWATTING FLIES
WHAT. A. WILD. WILD. WILD.
And, to be someone working in an industry that is poised to literally change the world for the better... if. (I’ll come back to the if in a little while, hold tight)
I’ve been a bit MIA recently when it comes to penning opinion pieces that relate back to marketing & advertising for a few months now because my heart just hasn’t been in the mood & my mind has definitely not been focussed on “the game.” In fact, my main focus in 2020 has been staying optimistic, helping others where I can, & choosing to work with some truly kick-ass teams/brands.
Since the onset of Covid-19, the divisive rhetoric that used to trickle into my mostly liberally-minded newsfeeds across social & digital channels has become an absolute torrent. A tsunami of hate & icky-ness that has broken my heart & rebuilt it over & over & over again this year.
Also, if I’m honest, the MIA bit has happened because I’ve been spending a lot of time logging off & getting my introverted butt out & about to be with people IRL (in real life). We’re in such a lucky position in New Zealand to be able to gather, so I have felt it’s almost been a duty of sorts to meet colleagues, friends, clients, & stakeholders to talk about the world, humanity, business, connections, conversations, & creativity. Anything, really.
Recently though, I’ve been thinking a lot about creativity & the ability to step outside of rules, templates, & processes that feed the inverse of what we’re trying to output. I’ve been working closely with global powerhouses on reimagining client/agency relationships & ways of working. And, I’ve been listening. A lot.
When it comes to creativity, & the most important part of creativity – connection, I feel like marketers & advertisers are missing the proverbial boat 9 times out of 10. Standing on a seemingly safe shore that is underpinned with a foundation of sparkly new martech that treats humans as datapoints & counts connection as sales figures that’re loosely attributed to aforementioned martech – I feel as if I am jumping from ship to shore & forever paddling between actual human connection & brand impact versus perceived connection & impact.
The proof? It’s in the puddin’ of vanilla branding & beige “storytelling” that we’ve all seen flood into our worlds (& then quickly be ignored). In 2020 we’ve seen a million TVCs & big-budget social media ads that tell us that we’re “going to make it through these unprecedented times together.” There’s been a sea of sameness when it comes to messaging from coming big budget brands – all accompanied by overt corporate silence during a time when many of us simply needed a heartfelt conversation more than ever.
At the same time though, 2020 has brought us absolute FIRE in the creativity & connection stakes as well. My optimistic heart knows that our next gen of futuristic predator storytellers & highly-connected creatives feels safe in a world where communication is truly democratized.
Just recently we’ve seen a TikTok microinfluencer in the USA not only make headlines across the world, but also single-handedly reinvigorate a cranberry juice brand whilst simultaneiously bringing iconic 70’s band Fleetwood Mac to the top of the music charts for the first time in 40 years. How? Simply by looking at life from an optimistic perspective, feeling a groove, & recording that groove whilst skateboarding his way to work after his truck got a flat tire. We’ve all lived in relatable moments. Shit happens, we get to either wallow in it or hop on a board & cruise downhill whilst enjoying a banger tune. Optimism, hope, & surprise are all important ingredients to virality these days. So is seeing ourselves in a seemingly mundane, yet magical moment.
Brand love, PR coverage, earned impressions, & viral off-shoots of the original TikTok post have gone through the roof for Ocean Spray. And, I imagine that urinary health for the USA should positively skyrocket in the coming weeks, too. Lol, but seriously, it should. Right... remember that if from the beginning of this post? Here it comes! All of this has me thinking of change & how we can make things better if we as marketers & leaders in business learn to truly have compassion for & to master the art of Creative Agility. During this time of abject change & social media mastery by the masses we must dig deeper. We must care deeper. We must become the depths.
Hear me out here. My mind is constantly whirring & thinking about how brands & personalities alike are planning for the un-plannable. Who will create the next dunk-in-the-dark moment?
One of my favourite moments of America’s Presidential election this year was the fly that landed on Pence’s head during a Vice Presidential debate (if you don't know about this one - Google it. It's a goodie.) This moment was, for me, one of the most powerful & apt reminders in recent memory that in business, as in life (& politics & everything else), you will never ever be able to anticipate everything. Or anything.
Which means that, as always, the best strategy for content, brand, & conversations is to make plans & then be completely ready to break them for the sake of context. Being nimble, humble, & hilarious/appropriately measured in your reaction to events as they happen is a superpower for agencies & brands alike.
Navigating trust & a landscape of conversation being the realm of communities inviting brands in, not vice versa, will take time. Businesses simply cannot shortcut the hard work involved in building trust or communities. You cannot buy either.
I repeat: no budget can buy either trust or true community engagement that works in both the short-term (tactical tickles) or the long-term (strategic pillars).
But what time is better than now to begin? Meeting the moment we’re in culturally is the single most powerful way any person or brand can create impactful, contextual memories in the minds of others.
My best tips for creating communities, conversations, & building true connections are simple in ways that promote creative agility in real time are:
1) Remember that content is easy when context remains your North Star.
2) Don’t overthink or wait for high-spec – iterate by channel & move fast.
3) Be aware, be kind & stay humble – you will mess up at some point, that’s okay. <keep on learning as you repeat this cycle>
4) Listen up! The more you listen to what people are saying across major platforms & touch-points the easier context & content become.
5) Track your progress & apologise if you f*ck up, brand is a never-ending story. Play the long-game & iterate consistency in the short & mid-term.