Tobias Wacker, group ECD at hasan & partners, explains why he thinks commercial creativity is in crisis and what it needs reinjecting with
Purpose, style, experiences: Once an ideology gains momentum, many brands start to become pathetic copies of the original and are bound to fail.
Welcome to the age of consolidated creativity
Just take away the logo and you can’t recognise the brand anymore – but then again, not even that is needed anymore, even logos are more and more identical. Visual style and expression? Driven by short term trends. Websites and digital experiences? Lookalikes or identical twins. Covid-19 commercials? All the same, no matter the product or service. “We’re in this together” and “We’re there for you.” Sure. Purpose and values? Replaceable. The endless stream of meaningless jargon functions as a distractive placeholder for own ideas, vision and aspiration, and often is identical, word by word, brand by brand. In endless workshops we test and evolve to create true value – and yet are just finding the same pain points, resulting in identical customer “experiences” and journeys which were supposed to set us apart. Values are defined by copy/paste, often a result of a corporate exercise instead of a true belief. Pointless at best – useless, demotivating and utmost boring at worst.
No doubt, commercial creativity is in crisis. Once something becomes trendy, the marketing- and creative industry follows in masses. All the tools, knowledge and methods we’ve been developing over the years lead us to a place where very few brands and businesses dominate the market, and diversity disappears. The mass of me too brands never make their way and struggle in the battle of low prices and poor development resources. How come that being unoriginal has become a thing?
Be careful of what you are inspired by
We do know more than ever before, are highly educated and have access to global benchmarks, research, best practices and case studies. And that makes it dangerous. Starting with what we are referencing. Everyone wants to be the Patagonias, Teslas, Elon Musks. Few lighthouse brands lead the (wrong) way. Because it’s not our own way. Our job is to find the right and unique way and role for the brands we are working with.
Inspiration is crucial for creativity – but can evoke the opposite if coming from the wrong place. Trends are more and more taking the role of creative thinking and exploring, a lazy and short sighted route. It takes bravery and time to find your own way, and it is widely accepted to go with what everyone else does. There is no value in being different just for the sake of being different, but unless you are leading the way with your brand, you need to come up with something better and different – otherwise the economy of scale will wipe you out before you are learning about the next big thing.
If we want diversity in the market, if we want choice, we need to leave behind what we’ve heard, learned, seen and what has inspired us. Not just because it would be nicer that way – but because it works for all in the long run, not just for a few in short term. A brand's cultural footprint matters. We like to see ourselves as creators and curators of culture - and it is only up to us if we’re giving or taking, creating or polluting.
Justice for creativity
Creativity has a good reputation, at least at first glance. Everyone loves to be creative, creativity is described often as the only way for brands and businesses to survive. Yet, there’s very little what we do to give it the role it has in talks, speeches, seminars and company powerpoints. The role that is true to its meaning – doing something original, being inventive, surprising. We all need to create circumstances in which creativity can strive again. Creativity also means chaos, detours, musings, explorations, uncertainty. Let’s keep that part of our work alive.