Evolved, Involved Creative

APCO alumnus Howard Pulchin co-authored this piece.

Creative has always been a big word meaning too many different things to too many different people in marketing and communications. It can refer to the work, the process, a way of thinking or even a role within the team.

Creative has also often been viewed as exclusive; a world where some belong, and others don’t.

But for the audiences we’re trying to reach, creative isn’t exclusive. It’s personal. It is simply about what interests them, what appeals to them, or what turns them on or off.

For a long time, communicators have said that we need to reach, target and engage our consumers with great creative—as if there was a common standard for it. Instead, we need to be expanding how we talk about creative.

To meet the consumer of the future in where they are in their lives, in a meaningful way, it’s about evolved, involved creative.

This goes beyond involving consumers in a contest or creating content that catches their attention on social media. It’s about showing empathy for what’s meaningful to a consumer; it’s about tapping into societal context of the day and it’s about making people feel first and think second.

Good creative for consumers involves them. It is as much about consumers as it is about the brand or the company. Good creative serves as a bridge between a brand, its consumers and the things they care about in their daily lives.

Creative involvement isn’t easy, but there are simple steps to get there.

One, it starts with a true actionable insight—not a fact or a data point or a gut instinct. It’s about putting a fresh illumination to an objective reality about what people believe in and aspire to. An insight truly considers the times we are living in—the context of the present.

Two, it must start from the premise that it is by the company or brand, but not about them­­—and it can’t be seen as merely seeking credit. We have recently seen that when companies not only take a stand, but also take action, they will be rewarded with the best kind of credit they can hope for: new engagements, stronger loyalty and greater affinity.

Three, evolved, involved creative must be fueled with emotion. It needs to make people care and feel. They have themselves “in it,” or believe it has a connection to their lives and experiences. It must have a tie—loose or strong—to their aspirations, ambition or outlook.

Four, it needs to combine audacity with simplicity. It has to answer these three questions: Will it induce chills? Will it make people pause? And is it easy to explain? The best involved creative is boldly inspiring and easily “gettable.”

It’s obvious to state, but necessary. There are more players, including consumers themselves, who are vying to capture our hearts, minds and attention with creative.

We’re operating in an era in which there is an abundance of great creative: from streaming television programming to intriguing podcasts; from incredible works of fiction to amazing movies about superheroes. It will be increasingly more difficult to break through and register. As consumers ourselves, we don’t want to be reached, but we do welcome opportunities to be involved.