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How often have you found yourself in the unenviable position of having to implement a poor marketing concept someone else thought to be creative, made worse only by its poor execution? Or, even less enviable, have to come up with one yourself, only to find you have bucket-loads of ideas but no clue where to start?
Most often than not, these issues are a result of a struggle between creativity and consistency. To sort it out, people tend to sacrifice one for the other, making brands either painfully dull or terribly chaotic.
The good news, though, is that you’re not on your own so let’s see what it takes to turn the marriage of convenience between creativity and consistency into a true love match.
What’s the matter with the match
The fact that a creative campaign is a major differentiator for any brand, is a no-brainer, right? Ridding this wave, we tend to hunt for a “You can still dunk in the dark” concept for everything from a job ad to a product launch campaign.
Well, marketing doesn’t work that way. Creativity isn’t a big, fat cow full of brilliant ideas you can milk three times a day. Marketing, however, is and the processes, assets and guidelines you put in place, ensure you deliver consistency.
In other words, you can’t realistically expect every one of your fractured campaigns to blow people away but you can build the stuff that’ll help you deliver a high-quality experience, consistently. Seeing as people need to run into your brand at least 5 times to even remember it, a consistent experience is essential.
On the other side of the argument, we have the people who understand the value of consistency but, for a great many number of reasons, are only able to manage the brand’s image by sticking to what they’ve done before. Which isn’t a very effective strategy in an industry moving in leaps and bounds.
To become and remain engaging then, brands need to allow themselves to take risks with being creative while operating within a well-defined identity.
Finding common ground
Just like any relationship, the one between creativity and consistency starts by getting to know each other. What are the defining elements of our brand and how do they work together? Keep in mind, though, that a brand isn’t just a logo, fonts and colours. It’s about communication, language, a visual style, an attitude particular to it, and more.
And it’s not just about who the brand is today, it’s about what we want it to become tomorrow and how all of these elements, working together are going to help us get there.
Let’s look at a simplified example and say you want to make your unremarkable coffee shop more appealing to 30 to 40 year old freelancers who either get together to sip your brew and iron out kinks in their projects or pair your coffee with a healthy snack and spend the afternoon working.
This goals in itself, provides you with very valuable insights in terms of looks – comfortable, homey, with small tables that seat 2-3 people and little nooks, perfect for alone-time. The look and feel of your coffee shop extends to your style of communication (familiar, friendly, inviting, etc) and visual identity (warm, complementary tones, clean looks that draw on your decorative elements, etc). We call this consistency.
Getting them to get along
The more we understand about a brand, the more we can mess around with technology, engagement tactics, products, etc to improve its image, dialogue with consumers and reach. Consistency helps brands make a clear promise to their customers – We will deliver this experience every single time – and stick to it, which is what customers keep coming back for.
Creativity, however, keeps things from becoming dull and builds on that experience to improve it, making it more accessible even when people don’t have your product under their noses. A lot like a freelancer going back to the coffee shop in our previous example to work, not because they can’t find some other place to finish their project or have a cup of coffee, but because they like the experience they get here.
True creativity is not a tagline that mangles two words together and calls the resulting tongue-twister clever. It’s not a shallow visual representation of concepts people within the organisation barely understand, let alone those outside it.
When it come to a consistent brand, creativity is a reliable tactic that helps develop the brand. It translates what one does into a clear, aspirational concept consumers can sample through your marketing, communication and products.
In other words, you’re not selling soap, you’re selling the way people feel after they’ve washed with your soap and the only way to communicate both is through marrying consistency with creativity.
The Bottom Line
Pitted against each other by overly-conservative marketers going for the safer choices, on the one hand, and enthusiastic artsy-types who barely know the basics, on the other, creativity and consistency in marketing seem to be at odds now, more than ever.
As consumers are constantly being bombarded with information, new engagement models, real dialogue with the companies they grow to like, the safe tactics that worked this morning, aren’t likely to work by this evening, let alone next week.
Our brands of choice will, therefore, be the ones who will be able to integrate both new technologies and changing user behavior into an ever-growing, complex, engaging and conversational brand.