How To Get Attention In A Crowded Market? Get Creative

Unique color yellow human shape among dark ones. Leadership, individuality and standing out of crowd concept. 3D illustration

Unless you happen to stumble onto a hitherto undiscovered product category – which has been known to happen from time to time – you’re going to run into market competition. The more valuable the space, the fiercer the competition.

Just look at the generative AI gold rush since ChatGPT launched in November last year. By February 2023, ChatGPT had clocked 100 million active monthly users, making it the fastest-growing consumer application in history, fuelled by an eye-watering US$10 billion (AU$15 billion) investment from Microsoft. It’s triggered a tech arms race that’s being compared to the advent of the internet.

But it’s worth pausing for a second to think about how brands can gain market recognition, and user traction, in a saturated market, where products are starting to look and sound the same.

For brand strategists, such as Thinkerbell’s Adam Ferrier, the answer lies in going back to basics. Moving away from algorithmic, click-based metrics, and returning to the heart of good branding, which is simply being yourself.

“Marketing was, is and always will be a mass market game,” Ferrier previously wrote for B&T. “In fact, the very point of marketing is to ensure as many people as possible both buy and buy into your brand. We look for brands that have a strong, clearly articulated promise, and the brand gets stronger the more it consistently delivers on whatever it is that it’s promising.”

The key phrase here is “buy into.” It’s hard to stand out from the crowd or generate real emotion with algorithmic, ROI-driven strategies, especially if that same crowd is using them too. But creativity is, and will probably always be a rare and precious coin. And the stats tend to back that up.

One study by Adobe found that companies that foster creativity are 3.5 times more likely to outperform their competitors in revenue growth. Nielsen found that ads with above-average creative scores (which, it has to be said, is probably a subjective metric) were more likely to increase brand recall and purchase intent – according to the research, 47 per cent of sales contribution from advertising can be traced back to creative.

The alternative is what Darren Savage at Tribal Worldwide London called the “effectiveness death spiral”. It’s the phenomenon where brands sacrifice creativity and promise delivery for hyper-personalised, short-term engagement metrics. The result tends to be bland, homogenous and (worst of all) forgettable. By tailoring their promise to everyone, individually, the brand eventually gets hollowed out from the inside. This approach might deliver a successful sales campaign, but it doesn’t do much for long-term brand recognition or consumer loyalty.

Brands tend to do better when they’re backed by memorable creative and fuelled by out-of-the-box problem-solving. In fact, LinkedIn Learning ranked creativity as the most important soft skill in the world. This doesn’t just apply to marketing either. Creativity and imagination, backed by strategic thinking, can be incredibly valuable for any field, industry or any team.

It’s hard to put an exact dollar figure on this sort of thing, although DDB’s Creative Index is trying to do just that. It scrapes historical and live ASX share price data from 2012 to the present day, trying to measure the financial impact of Australia’s most ‘creative’ companies. At the current count, the Index puts the value of creativity in Australia at more than $600 billion.

There are a few ways we can encourage this kind of thinking within our organisations. We can dedicate time and resources to brainstorming sessions and hackathons. We can foster a culture of experimentation, where failure isn’t seen as a negative. We can embrace design thinking to empathise with our customers, prototype solutions, and test them against the market. And finally, we can train our employees to become more creative.

Companies often neglect that last one – training. Creativity and problem-solving are sometimes seen as inherent. You either have it or you don’t, and if you don’t, there’s always room in Accounting. But science says that creativity is a learned skill, just like anything else, and it becomes stronger the more we use it. Studies have shown that training in creative thinking techniques, like analogical reasoning and brainstorming, actually leads to improvements in divergent thinking.

In other words, we can all become better thinkers, more creative thinkers, and more effective marketers. It just takes practice. Tertiary institutions, like RMIT Online, are encouraging this trend, with six-week courses (built with names like Thinkerbell, The Iconic and Monitor Deloitte) in Brand Experience, Design Thinking and Strategic Problem Solving.

“For too long, the value of our greatest resource – creativity – has been seen as cultural, not economic,” said DDB’s Stephen de Wolf. “The Creative Index changes that. It is tangible evidence that creativity has incredible commercial value. And it proves that creativity is the most powerful force in business, worth the investment.”

Want to get more creative? RMIT Online offers a range of short courses and degrees to help you think bigger and bolder. Click here to explore.

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