March 9, 2017
by Carla Johnson
Marketers love massively creative work. We hype Super Bowl ads. We study the most innovative companies. And we follow curious minds.
But that’s where much of our inspiration ends and reality sets in. We have bosses who would never go for such wild ideas. Budgets that can’t stretch that far. There’s too much bureaucracy. And, let’s face it, it’s incredibly risky – and scary – to be the one who pushes the creative envelope that far.
But our audiences don’t just want experiences from us as brands. They want creative experiences. They want us to surprise and delight them. But instead of doing just that, we marketers fall back and resort to the same old everything that we’ve always done, succumbing to all the excuses we hear about the ridiculousness of creativity.
Are you ready to break from the pack and do work that’s truly different? Work that inspires audiences to hang on your every action?
Here are three steps that every marketer can take to shed creative isolationism and begin looking at experiences through a lens of greater possibility. First, start by picking some of your favorite brands. It doesn’t matter if they have anything to do with your industry or your product. B2B or B2C, it doesn’t matter. All that matter is that they are brands that you feel consistently deliver amazingly creative experiences. Now ask yourself…
What value does this brand deliver that’s truly unique to them?
This has nothing to do with the product or service they sell. It’s about the experience itself. Take a look at LEGO. For more than 80 years LEGO has sold interlocking toys that kids use to build stuff. They could go on until the end of time about the quality of the product that they sell (it’s solid) and how long they’ve been in business (implies customer value). But they’ve gone well beyond that to dig into the value that they deliver that’s much bigger than interlocking pieces of plastic. They deliver value by pioneering new ways of playing that realize human possibility. Notice how they’ve broadened the definition of the value they deliver to “new ways of playing”? That’s how they could expand into making movies (enormously successful ones, mind you), strike licensing deals – because they understand that the value of their brand was much bigger than the toys that they sold. It was the experiences they created for their audiences. Interestingly, kids are now playing with more LEGO people than there are human beings on the planet.
Why do people keep coming back for more?
Brands can be interesting once. That’s a campaign mentality. But companies that keep people coming back, again and again, understand what keeps people intrigued. Schneider Electric continually woos people with their Energy University. They knew their audience needed to know what’s happening in the energy industry and that colleges and universities couldn’t keep pace. They’ve created an educational experience that delivers over 200 free, vendor-neutral e-earning courses in more than 13 languages. Their audience comes back again and again because Schneider helps them become more qualified professionals and that helps move their career forward faster.
What change do they affect within their audience?
People don’t think of 150-year old, engineering-driven business-to-business companies as being massively creative. But that also means that they haven’t met the wickedly creative marketing team at Emerson Electric. Emerson is as old-school as an industrial company could get until they decided that they wanted to change how people looked at science. And by “people” they weren’t just targeting engineers. They went after the general public – both students pre-college and their parents. They wanted to tap the passion that young people have about science, keep them interested and make it downright sexy to love knowing what makes the world go ‘round and how to be a part of designing the future. Their #ILoveSTEM site delivers one of the most creative and popular experiences in all of business-to-business
Ask yourself these same questions about your brand. Would you have consensus with others on your team? Within your greater marketing department?
Once you’ve answered these three questions, now ask yourself: If (fill in your favorite brand) built an experience for my brand, what would it look like? The key here isn’t to force the tactics of a creative brand into your world. It’s to look at the opportunities for your brand to be massively creative by thinking like the most innovative brands in the world. To understand the value they’re delivering that keeps people coming back time and again, and, ultimately, making a difference in the lives of their audience.
So, give it a try. If LEGO were to build experiences for your brand, what would it look like? Share your thoughts in the comments below.
This post originally appeared on the Mura Experience Platform blog.
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Photo credit: Flicr user Leonardo Melo
About Carla Johnson
Carla Johnson is a world-renowned storyteller, an entertaining speaker, and a prolific author.
Over the last two decades, Carla has helped architects and actuaries, executives and volunteers, innovators and visionaries leverage the art of storytelling to inspire action. Her work with Fortune 500 brands hasn’t gone unnoticed and the latest of her seven books, Experiences, sets the benchmark for a new era in marketing. Named one of the top 50 women in marketing and the incoming chair of the ANA’s Business Marketing Association, Carla regularly challenges conventional thinking.
Today, Carla travels the world teaching anyone (and everyone) how to cultivate idea-driven teams that breed unstoppable creativity and game-changing innovation.