Invoking Creativity in Marketing Strategies Pushes Industrywide Change

It forces others to approach obstacles in new ways

A lightbulb, a pencil, a brain, and a piece of paper are connected to solve a puzzle
One of the best parts of creative strategies is that they're ongoing in nature and can continuously be tweaked. Getty Images

In a way, all strategy is creative.

Strategy is about taking stock of your position, understanding how you can garner more power for your company, brand or business and making a move that will bring you more power as a result.

For millennia, creative strategy has been a route to increased power. Whether it was Hannibal facing the Roman army, David facing Goliath or the Allied Forces on the beaches of Normandy, thinking more creatively about strategy gives you an effective plan that will overcome any obstacle, no matter how insurmountable it might first appear.

In fact, we might say a creative strategy is doing precisely what your enemy is not prepared for.

A creative strategy really comes down to taking a perspective that your competitors were not expecting. And that means ridding ourselves of biased thinking and assumptions that we might have been carrying around for decades and instead challenging the norms that we have become lazy enough to think of as “just the way things are.” When we do this, we suddenly open upon new alternatives and new options and make the shift from probabilities to possibilities. In my view, that’s what creative strategy is.

Thinking more creatively about strategy gives you an effective plan that will overcome any obstacle, no matter how insurmountable it might first appear.

This year, Cannes Lions launches the Creative Strategy Lion, a well-received and timely innovation designed to acknowledge and reward the role of strategic planning, insight and foresight leading to creative ways of approaching or executing strategy.

It is hoped that the Creative Strategy Lion reflects this in the sub categories we will be judging. There are categories for individual sectors, allowing entrants to display the way in which they have created new possibilities within categories that seem to have accepted, perhaps outmoded, conventions.

There are categories for insight and analytics. Was there a particular data point or an anomaly in the data that challenged a bias or undermined long-held assumptions about how consumers behave, or does it consider what they want and why?

Partnerships can present a new route to market or a way to unlock a new service experience, but realizing that and then operationalizing it is not easy. Creative strategies for striking partnerships or presenting them to consumers should also be acknowledged.

And then there is the very disruptive end of things, in which challenging the status quo, the competition or a whole category brings about a transformational way of seeing the world, a new perspective on the world or even a whole new way of living our everyday lives. We can point to the Apple iPhone, Amazon books and Tesla motors to see this.

But it is not always that we have a new innovation to present to people, either. Sometimes it is a comparable product or service that needs communicating in a new way or might meet a new set of needs.

This award should be of interest not only to media and creative agencies and brands, but to consultancies as well. Creativity is often associated only with execution, but creativity has moved upstream into strategy and is now encouraging disruption and innovation across any sector in any corner of the world.

And, of course, the real point about creative strategy is that it never ends. As soon as you have solved the problem, overcome the obstacle immediately in front of you and deposed or weakened your competitors, a new obstacle almost immediately presents itself. Strategy has no beginning and no end; it is ongoing, ever-evolving and continuous in nature. It is always dynamic because it is always a response to the conditions or environment in which we find ourselves. Strategy is therefore always creative, too.

@traceyfutures Tracey Follows is the founder of Futuremade and president of the Creative Strategy Lions.