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Friday, 22 March 2013

Friday Guest Blog: Is Creativity The New Hangover Cure?

Let Ideas Take Flight in Unconventional Ways

By Seb Thompson
Head of Creativity, English Regions & Wales
Weber Shandwick Manchester

As we edge further and further into what has been dubbed the hangover year, creativity in business is becoming more and more paramount and companies need to let ideas take off with new, fresh ways of thinking to avoid being left behind.

The Jubilee, The Olympics and Royal Wedding fever are long gone and brands now need to find (or create) something else to be inspired by in 2013. Without creative and innovative thinking, brands become stagnant and tread water. Now is the time to come up with new fresh ideas to set themselves aside from the flock and standout this year.

The importance of this is ever more so, as we live in an age when the consumer is becoming more and more creative themselves and are demanding much more from a brand. What we cannot allow is for the consumer’s creativity to overtake a brand’s. With the rise in social media, brands must live and breathe 24 hours a day, seven days a week, meaning we all need to be increasingly mindful of creatively engaging with consumers at all times.

Creativity breeds new ideas, new approaches and ultimately innovation, which in essence creates engagement. As we step into the engagement era, this is something that affects all brands and businesses. Engagement covers a whole range of areas and companies need to address how well they engage with their consumers, employees and stakeholders to ensure they don’t sink in the hangover year.

At Weber Shandwick, creativity is key and at the heart of what we do for all our brands. Be that through traditional PR campaigns, social media outreach or designing & creating branding campaigns.

Our creative culture and stance is what gives our ideas the edge and ensures our campaigns (and clients) will always be one step ahead.

We believe creativity is within everyone whether you are a PR, a digital media specialist or even a plumber or builder – it is inherent within us all. It is how you channel and cultivate creativity that is crucial and people often summon, and find their creativity in a whole manner of ways and methods.

Take brainstorms for example, these are a key way to unearth ideas, but should not be the only route a company takes. For an idea to be truly creative and inspiring, it needs to be organic and unforced. Companies (and people) need to have a culture where they live and breathe creativity at all times and have an open forum for sharing ideas outside of the traditional brainstorming environment.

One of the best ways to instil creativity of this nature from a grassroots level within an organisation is to make a workplace as inspiring as possible. This can be done through a variety of methods such as having relevant books to read or a range of stimuli for people to access to help ideas flow.

A great example of a way to spark creativity is to set up what we call a Creative Playroom. Here at Weber Shandwick Manchester, our Creative Playroom includes a range of creative stimuli, inspiration, case studies and props to allow the entire agency to think in an inventive manner.

In essence, to keep moving in this hangover year, brands need to make creative thinking part of employees’ daily routine, like reading the morning paper, and in no time at all employees will be firing ideas around left, right and centre.

Companies and clients often get hung up on ideas being very expensive. However, strong creative ideas needn’t cost the earth to execute or facilitate, the simplest of ideas can often prove most effective. The rule is not to over complicate otherwise messages will get lost, hidden or become too difficult to convey to your audience. An easy and often successful method to try is breaking down all the individual elements a story needs to convey. By taking an idea back to its roots, you will then uncover the inherent messaging a brand needs to tell.

Weber Shandwick Manchester calls this the smash it up and put it back together method. This involves taking apart all the essential messages and elements of our client, the media landscape and the timings for the story you want to tell. You then piece all these strands back together to hopefully unearth an idea that is simple and has all the inherent messages in.

Take the below for example, an idea which was extremely cost-effective, but had standout cut through and media coverage.

Weber Shandwick Manchester was tasked by one of our North Wales tourism clients to create news during August, a key holiday time for the area, but with a limited budget.

The below diagram shows the thought process and individual strands of smash it up:
When the strands were packaged back together it led to an inspired and quirky idea – warm ice cream! It ticked all the boxes for seaside holidays, silly media and luckily, it was quite a wet and chilly week in August last year, which played perfectly to the media’s agenda.

Through our connections we sourced an ice cream producer free of charge and launched the product on the beach in Llandudno. The activity led to a wealth of positive coverage, a reach of over 128,000,000 people and a PR value in excess of £49,000. The ice cream proved to be so popular it ended up being sold in the area for the summer.

Thinking back to 2013 and the hangover year, ideas do not necessarily have to equate to media coverage. Creative thinking can be applied to all aspects of business and by breaking down the problem into smaller pieces, companies will find it easier to package their findings back together to create a solution.

In summary, whether a brand needs fresh thinking with regards to driving web traffic, motivation or NPD etc, by simply taking a step back and applying a bit of creativity in a way that suits the organisation best, will pay dividends. Remember, people, like ideas are all different, and the routes we take to unearth them should be treated as such.

For more information on how best to stimulate creativity in your organisation, consultation requests or to see our Creative Playroom in action, please get in touch:
Seb Thompson / 0161 238 9429 / or Jo Leah / 0161 238 9400

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