A new Forrester report by Jay Pattisall, unveiled at the start of Cannes Lions, highlights how the pursuit of customer experience (CX) as a go-to strategy has in fact inhibited growth for many brands. Instead, brands must invest in creativity (and identify the right partners to help them do so) to achieve higher returns. It’s welcome news at Cannes, which celebrates creative excellence and serves as a benchmark for best-in-class communications—and MediaMonks is proud to have been interviewed alongside other agencies for the report.
Pattisall relates CMOs’ focus on CX to a diminishing prioritization of creativity; one finding in his Forrester report is that “Every brand offers the same digital experience because they all address the same customer needs, use the same technology platforms, and design for the same mobile use case.” Brands shouldn’t put all their eggs in one basket by focusing purely on function, but place greater attention on offering creative experiences.
A recent article published by Marketing Week agrees that brand creativity is on an overall decline, yet is a key indicator of success: 67% of companies with top ratings on McKinsey’s Award Creativity Score—measuring quantity, variety and consistency of Cannes Lions awards won—have above-average growth, according to the article.
Every brand offers the same digital experience because they all address the same customer needs.
What does this mean? Creativity might not be immediately quantifiable, but it can go a long way in increasing enterprise value. MediaMonks Global Executive Creative Director Jouke Vuurmans has long spoken out against brands failing to take advantage of the creative opportunities available to them. He has noticed a “suburbanization” of design where bold brand identity has taken a back stage to sanitized interfaces that tick off the same boxes. Because digital interfaces are often the most common—or even first—settings in which users will engage with a brand, this results in a lot of wasted potential for brands to differentiate themselves and deliver on the brand promise.
Building content and experiences requires input from many people across the organization, each perhaps pursuing their own goals—but they must collaborate to ensure their efforts are on the same page. “Just because so much focus is on digital doesn’t mean we should ignore brand within this relentless creation and distribution of content,” says ter Haar as quoted in the Forrester report, “The Cost of Losing Creativity,” highlighting the importance in remembering that even the most solutions-oriented approach shouldn’t dismiss the brand-building opportunities of creativity.
The Interface is the Brand
At MediaMonks, we believe every engagement that users have with a brand is an opportunity to represent its core products and services. Most apps that exist to fulfill a specific function essentially look and feel identical, lost in a sea of sameness where differentiating factors are slight, if they exist at all. This is especially true in travel brands, for example: any airline app will let you book a flight or check in with a digital boarding pass. But brands can stand out by fusing creativity and technology to fulfill a wider purpose. The Aeroméxico app is a great example of this by offering smart content based on users’ itineraries, helping them easily find offers most relevant to their trips.
People underestimate the creative value of always-on communication.
The use of highly relevant and targeted personalized content shows how even the smallest interactions can make a big impact on the user experience—and those interactions directly translate into brand loyalty. “Creative experiences that embed the brand’s purpose and values within a tech-fueled solution connect the uniqueness of the brand, the emotional needs of its customers, and the convenience of technology,” writes Pattisall in the Forrester report.
We agree. While brands have come under great pressure to engage their consumers through always-on content, it’s become easy to view small pieces of content as disposable or having limited impact on the overall consumer experience. “People underestimate the creative value of always-on communication,” cautions ter Haar. “Just because it’s 6 seconds on Facebook doesn’t mean you can’t think about distinction.”
Drive Purpose Across the Ecosystem
A remedy for unlocking the creative potential in any touchpoint or piece of content is to begin thinking in terms of ecosystems. The user journey extends beyond individual channels and platforms. Likewise, brands should take a more holistic approach at the creative experiences they provide. “We spend a lot of time thinking about creativity as a broader term—something as part of UX, digital design, flow—across anything that’s building people into an ecosystem,” says ter Haar. “How does the work we do for brands lock people into an ecosystem?”
Forrester's report on the importance of creative experience released at the Cannes International Festival of Creativity, shown above.
Take grilling brand Weber, who also realized audiences were beginning to care less about objects—like grills—and gravitate more towards experience. This shift in consumer focus provided Weber with an untapped opportunity: how could they use creativity through content and experience to position grilling (and by extension, their brand) at the center of social experiences that consumers crave?
The result is an all-encompassing digital ecosystem that serves not only as a place to learn about grilling products, but to seek out and discover inspiration about grilling as a lifestyle. By infusing this promise across an ecosystem that encompasses personalized web content, connected apps, interactive demos, in-person experiences and more, Weber has achieved a compelling digital ecosystem that accounts for a griller’s every need, infusing emotion and aspiration into every step of the experience.
We spend a lot of time thinking about creativity as a broader term, across anything that’s building people into an ecosystem.
In his Forrester report, Pattisall highlights the importance of infusing creative problem solving at the beginning of every creative process: “Rather than bolting creative on at the end of the process as an established look or defined list of deliverables, initiate the project with creative problem solving to help define the problem and craft a solution at the start,” he writes.
It all boils down to instilling your work with a sense of purpose. When working with clients to narrow their efforts and align those goals with moving the business forward, we enjoy quoting the NASA janitor who proudly told President Kennedy that he was helping to put a man on the moon. A similar sense of purpose should manifest from every step of the creative process, at every level of an organization and at every touchpoint at which users engage. Such an approach ensures customer experiences differentiate a brand and uniquely affect consumers to strike a stronger, longer-lasting connection.
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