Creative professionals, whether they’re graphic designers, art directors, copywriters or anything else in the long list of jobs that our endlessly evolving sector – the “creative industries” – constantly invents for us, may be surprised that I’m telling them to remove the word creativity from their CV, but it’s the smartest move you can make if you want to get closer to the brands you want to work for.
Here’s the thing - brands aren’t directly interested in creativity. Creativity is this amorphous, abstract term that’s hard to pin down in a PowerPoint and even harder to assign a budget to. In a rigid, corporate hierarchy, creativity is a difficult thing to push from department to department and even harder to explain up the chain of command, to where the decisions are made.
Strategy, however, is a concrete data set with target insights, market trends, customer journeys, client touchpoints that is explainable, understandable and sellable. The word strategy appears 10 times more in business books than the word creativity. When someone says “I have a strategy” people in companies start listening, but when someone says “I’ve got a creative idea” half the room just rolls their eyes and starts checking their email on their phones. Strategy is what makes clients stop seeing you as some unsettling creative person with off-the-wall ideas and start welcoming you with open arms as their new strategic genius with top creative approaches.
How do we teach students studying graphic design and creativity at IED to put this into practice in the real world? It’s easy. Act like a consultant instead of a designer or creative. Consultants, unlike creatives, are business friendly; people in companies call them because they want to talk about their brand’s problems or future with them.
And that’s precisely it, you want to be the person they call to discuss their brand. So, to be that person just apply the 80/20 rule, which means talk 80% of the time about their brand and 20% of the time about your own ideas. If you think about it, it’s logical – companies employ you to think about their brand so show them that you’re more interested in their brand than in your own creative work.
What’s more, once they see you’re fascinated by their brand, barriers between you and the company come down, they share more information with you and you learn even more about the brand. And suddenly something amazing happens, you’ve discovered your secret weapon. By spending 80% of your energy thinking about the brand you’ve become a brand strategist.
You’re concentrating like never before on the brand, and then something else equally amazing happens. Your creativity gets better. More focused and infinitely more on-brand. And it even comes easier because you haven’t spent the most part of your time thinking about creativity, exploring idea after idea and often getting more and more lost and frustrated.
Finally, one last wonderful thing happens. You’re not a designer or a creative any more. You’re a design or creative consultant. And instead of you trying to talk to companies, companies may well want to try to talk to you.