Does Creativity Scare You?

Marketers tend to think that creativity, innovation and brand identity are complex concepts. This fear leads them to get stuck in their safety bubble where their success is measured by Google rankings and the number of clicks. 

By Maria Tsnompilantze

Brand identity, creativity, innovation — these words have taken a central stage in the annual strategy presentation of every person who identifies themselves as a marketing specialist.

Yet, interestingly enough, beyond the bold fonts and the flashy visuals, these words are often doomed to remain on the shelf (or the "unnamed folder" on your laptop).

I can't help but wonder how is it possible that even though we all recognize the importance of these aspects in building a successful business, we tend to get lost throughout the way and focus on more conventional and measurable campaigns?

The truth is, marketing departments work under the constant pressure of calculating their impact here and now. They spend all their time and energy coming up with measurable campaigns that they can include in their monthly reports to showcase how hard they've worked. This is partly because today's businesses are mostly impatient, which can result in sweeping creativity, brand identity, and innovation under the rug. 

But is this the way forward?

Let's take Nike's "Just Do It" campaign, which has been generating billions in sales. If you watch their ad campaigns, you will realize that, ironically, Nike does not focus on the shoes. They focus on cultivating a relationship with their audience and urge them to overcome their boundaries. This non-traditional approach to sales, where the conversation went beyond the product they were trying to sell, was vital in their overall strategy and success. Their message is built around precisely developing a brand identity, encouraging creativity, and innovating in the way they make sales. 

Some would say it was a risky move. But who knows where Nike would be if they didn't take it? 

It sounds absurd to have to argue that marketing and creativity go together, but the creative crisis speaks for itself.  

Why the creative crisis?

Today’s world is heavily data-driven. The questions that dominate the marketing discourse are how to achieve the perfect ROI and how to collect data to make informed marketing decisions. Don’t get me wrong — I am a big fan of data myself, and even though working with your intuition and gut feeling can sometimes prove extremely fruitful, it’s always best to analyze data and think some steps ahead. The real problem is when the focus lies only on data because people believe creativity is way more complex than it really is (and I will explain this point further later on within the article).

Focusing on numbers and the desire to know what worked and where to invest our efforts and money often come with the fear that exploring our creativity and moving beyond the conventional (proven) methods bring us further away from answering these questions. Moreover, the proliferation of tools and software that focus on measuring numerical results has shifted the emphasis to numbers, and therefore quantity, as opposed to quality. 

Today, we measure the success of the articles we write by the number of clicks it generates, the social shares, the organic traffic it brought to the website, the click-through rate of the links, and our Google rankings. There is no need to read the article and reflect on it if it ticks all these boxes, right? Even though these are all good indicators that the article is resonating with your audience, we have to start thinking about the time that the audience spent reading it, the bounce rate, and its educational value. These are the actual indicators of your success and simultaneously the metrics that are typically excluded from reports.

How to not get discouraged when Google rankings measure your success?

It is important to remember that creativity, innovation and brand identity can also convert. A 2018 study by the World Economic Forum revealed that 34% of businesses have seen a positive impact from their digital transformation and that 51% of organizations with a formal innovation system are first to market with more innovations, products and services. 

When discouraged, you should never forget that creativity is not merely about flashy campaigns that cost tons of money. Today, creativity means leveraging the data you have in hand, adjusting your methods, performing A/B testing and measuring impact. Creativity can be as simple as changing your call to action button colour or your slogan, going for a bold design, or exploring new formats. Creativity is about repurposing your material and finding alternative ways to promote it via all the available channels. You can revive the blog post you wrote some years ago through updating it with useful information to make it relevant today or creating an educational video on the same topic. An old visual can be optimized and transformed into a fantastic billboard. The notes you took in a meeting can be your next big marketing message.

Even though we often think that the way forward is adjusting to the new trends and sophisticated tools on the market, we should sometimes take a step back and think about how companies used to work before all these were available. They invested their time in understanding people’s motives and human psychology and built their message in a way that would resonate with their consumers. This way of thinking is the core of creativity, the core of innovation, and finally, this is how you build brand identity.

The key to not getting discouraged from innovating and exploring your creative potential is to realize that being creative is more important than we think and less complex than we imagine.

Why is this important in the world of affiliate marketing?

The question is not whether all these aspects — creativity, innovation and brand identity — are essential in affiliate marketing. They are. The question is, why?

To put it simply, people don't like to be pushed towards making a buying decision. Therefore, those who work in affiliate marketing have to get creative in terms of how they choose to market the products and services they are promoting. The process should involve a lot of effort but seem effortless at the same time — the audience should feel like they are going through an organic process where they take ownership of their decision behind purchasing a product or using a service. 

As an affiliate, you might think that you have everything under control as you've spent considerable time on finding new products to promote, making sure that your SEO is on point, and keeping your offerings up-to-date. Your design is sleek, and your affiliate links are all working. 

This systematic approach is already a step in the right direction, but how can you make your platform stand out, highlight your uniqueness and engage your audience? 

This is where creativity and uniqueness should step in, especially given the competitive nature of the industry and the fact that today's audience is overwhelmed by the number of marketing messages they receive daily. What used to be word of mouth or a TV ad that you can always switch off is now a constant flow of information that bombards you even when you read a piece on your favourite news website.

In this advertising chaos, you have to go a step beyond being methodical, especially when you work in the gambling industry. Most of the casinos have the same payment methods, the same game providers, and typically a similar design. Yet, the conversions are not the same. Curious, isn't it?

Final thoughts

One of my favourite authors, Tom Robbins, wrote: "You should never hesitate to trade your cow for a handful of magic beans," summarizing the lesson we've learned from the old fairytale "Jack and the Beanstalk." A poor boy, Jack, was brave enough to trade the family cow for a handful of magic beans that ended up growing so much that the beanstalk reached the clouds, and Jack could finally retrieve the goods that were once stolen from his family.

There are tons of ways to interpret the words of Tom Robbins. But in our specific context, the cow is the conventional methods that make you feel safe about your choices, and the magic beans are creativity, innovation, and brand identity.  

Data is "King," but we all know what happens when "Queen" creativity falls. And we all know the number one rule: never lose your Queen. 


Disclaimer: This article was written for Issue 50 of the GPWA Times Magazine