How to ramp up the creativity in your next digital marketing campaign

Digital marketing requires ever more creative approaches. The swathes of ways to reach the target audience all come with their own benefits and challenges.

At the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity last year I heard Dave Droga (founder of eponymous agency Droga 5) talk about consumer engagement. The agency is famous for some of the most inspiring and contagious digital work of recent years, including ‘I will what I want’ for Under Armour and ‘Not There’ for the Clinton Foundation. Droga said that if you work in marketing you’re in the ‘time and attention’ business. The question to ask (and that you have to be able to answer for work to resonate) is

“why should anyone give you their attention”?

I think it’s a great question. Time is the ultimate constraint in many digital marketing executions – we all know about Facebook’s so-called ‘3 second audition’ – the amount of time marketers have to grab ever-shorter attention spans with compelling content.

So how do you connect your idea with your audience, inspiring them to share your content and then take whatever action it is that you want them to?

I’ve been researching creativity in business for the past few years for my new book, In Your Creative Element. I love reviewing campaigns and trying to work out how the idea was born, and why it works, a bit like trying to work out why a joke is funny.

I’ve unpicked a few digital campaigns that I love along with some practical methods from my toolkit chapter to help inform your creative process and work.

 “They may forget what you said — but they will never forget how you made them feel.” Mormon preacher Carl W. Buehner

 Emotion is one of the creative elements I’ve identified, and using emotion as the lens through which to view your challenge is one of my favourite ways to crack a problem.

Think about the last time you shared any digital content. Or when you told a story to someone about a product or a customer experience? Why did you share it? Was it because it stirred an emotion?

Content analysts at Buzzsumo analysed the top 10,000 articles shared online over a given period, and mapped them to a corresponding emotion. The most shared were: awe (25%), laughter (17%), amusement (15%) and joy (14%). The least shared were anger (6%), empathy (6%), surprise (2%) and sadness (1%). It’s an interesting lens through which to generate new ideas.

Last year’s successful #ManBoobs4Boobs campaign by Argentinian breast cancer awareness group MACMA, is a great example of ditching a cliché in relation to the emotions usually associated with this important health issue. To get around the censorship of nipples on social media sites like Instagram and Facebook, a male model’s body and nipples were used – meet ‘Henry’. Fun and humour were used in the video, juxtaposed with the seriousness of the topic. It was a clever way around the rules instead of going on a rant about censorship. According to MACMA the earned media had a value of $17million, their fan base grew 20,000 followers on launch day and the video was shared over 700,000 times. The campaign won a massive haul of Lions across many different categories at Cannes last year.

Whilst it’s a few years old now, the award-winning ‘Dumb Ways To Die’ campaign that helped take Melbourne Metro Trains’ safety message way beyond Australia is another great example of challenging conventions, and using an unexpected emotion. The campaign challenged preconceptions about safety messages – chiefly that they need to be either shocking hard-hitting or sensitively handled. Humour was the chief emotion employed via the animation and ultra-catchy, earworm of a song and it worked: accidents on the network fell by 20 per cent.

  • Try it for yourself: Think about something that you’re currently working or that you want to generate ideas for. Or take an existing idea you’ve already developed. Does it currently evoke any emotion? What is it?
  • Is it the same emotion as you want your target audience to feel when they think about your product, service or idea?
  • Is there a clichéd or well-trodden emotional path in your category or subject matter? Is there a way you could do something unexpected to engage your audience?

As Nobel Prize winner Daniel Kahneman’s masterly Thinking Fast and Slow told us we are ruled by emotional (system 1) rather than rational thinking (system 2). On an unconscious level we are going through a vast range of variables to make decisions – what does this make me feel? Does it make me feel good about who I am? Does it give off the right impression to others? Using tools that leverage empathy and the power of emotions can be useful ways to walk those two moons in someone else’s shoes.

This article first appeared here in December 2016.

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