The value of creative risk

Are you overwhelmed by performance data but not really seeing the shift in brand advocacy you want? Are you stuck in a transactional rut?

If so, then you may be looking through the telescope from the wrong end, focusing on what feels like solid KPIs and metrics, like click-through, conversion and cost-per-click, when bigger measures like NPS scores or share of voice might help you make a bigger leap. Sometimes just looking at the obvious metrics won’t be able to show the true value of taking creative risks.

Mark Zuckerberg did have a point when he famously said, ‘the biggest risk is not taking any risk’. When we’re not seeing the results we want sometimes it’s because we need to be taking bigger risks, and thinking more creatively. A great place to start is by taking all the limiting factors away. Things like tight deadlines and budgets will always be there to haunt us, and of course we have to pay attention to them, but when we let them lead our thinking we invariably think smaller (and safer!).

At Something Big, we’re BIG advocates of putting all the problems we’re trying to solve on the table. We like to take time to peel the layers back until we really understand what we’re trying to achieve, ask yourself what success really looks like – describe it, visualise it, colour it in for yourself. Now ask yourself how you’d solve this if money and time were limitless, or if you were given double the budget how would you spend it, what would you do differently? If your answer is that you’d just do more of the same or scale up the media spend then you’re probably happy with your original solution, but if you’d approach the whole thing differently then keep going with this thought. Your creative mindset might help you unlock a powerful new solution.

The power of creativity

A client once came to us with a problem, they were busily sending email newsletters to a data list but weren’t getting any traction. Once we’d peeled back the layers on what our client was really trying to achieve, we discovered they wanted to demonstrate that they were more innovative than the leading competitors in their industry. Their challenge wasn’t really that the open rates were low, it was how could they start conversations with prospects about their innovative work and be taken more seriously.

We swapped the boring email newsletter with a printed coffee table-style thought leadership magazine, crammed with the latest industry innovation, and we sent it only to the biggest customers in the industry. It was a leap of faith and came with no obvious KPIs, but it paid off quickly with an invite to a significant contract tender.

Leading the conversation

On occasion our clients have been brave enough to let us produce virtually unbranded materials, taking minimal credit for valuable content. We know it’s risky spending valuable marketing budgets on activity that isn’t clearly brand building, but sometimes it’s this kind of creativity that pays off longer term by positioning a brand right at the heart of something.

One of our CEO’s career highlights was helping to inspire British businesses to trade internationally. A survey showed that a lack of knowledge was the key factor holding businesses back from exporting, instead of a lack of funding, poor accessibility, language barriers or even currency exchange risks. Taking that insight, we helped a client set about filling that knowledge gap whilst clearly positioning them at the heart of export. This resulted in the client leading on British exports, double digit growth and far out-performing their competitors.

But why was the creative decision to reduce the branding on this information so vital? Simply because the audience were not ready to be sold to. In fact, they weren’t even in the mindset of buying, but they were in the market for learning, so it was essential that we nurtured them on that quest for information. The risk, of course, is that you’re warming up potential prospects that could just as easily go to competitors but building up vital trust early in a relationship pays off longer term in loyalty.

On another occasion a client in the retail sector had experienced a clear run for many years with very little competition, but when a copycat brand arrived it quickly eroded their profits. Desperately trying to keep up with this new competitor their marketing efforts had become dangerously similar. We encouraged them to take a big risk by approaching things in a completely new way, it not only paid off by being a successful campaign but also put much needed distance between themselves and their new competitor.

How to start taking creative risks

If you want to find your inner creativity, or just want to press reset on the way you’re approaching something, there are endless frameworks, theories and methodologies, but here are some practical quick starters. We recommend A Beautiful Constraint by Adam Morgan which helps you tap into your challenger brand thinking and to unravel how to make the impossible possible. Alternatively you can rummage around in the Design Thinking Toolbox to find some useful tools that move you on from the blank page.

If you’re looking to step away from just focusing on metrics and instead want creative that truly engages, inspires and builds brand advocacy, get in touch to see how we can help.