Creativity be Damned? Roundtable Discussion
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Is creativity in marketing as important as it used to be? Of course it is! But how do creatives make sure that their brainstorms pay off for their brands?

A roundtable discussion featuring: Robin Blunt of MasterCard, Bryan Finke of Nike, Lewis Goldstein of Snapple, and Steve Rotterdam of EastWest Creative.

How do you make sure creativity pays off in your marketing programs?

Bryan Finke: Our mission at Nike is to bring innovation and inspiration to every athlete in the world and creativity is incredibly important in delivering a return on investment. Innovation obviously is very connected to creativity and understanding insights, and then translating that into breakthrough communications and products that hopefully inspire people and lead them to better performance.

Lewis Goldstein: Creativity is paramount in our industry and for our consumers -- the young, 15-to-24 year olds. They're always looking for new things. They're looking for innovation. They're looking for communication about products from us that are interesting and add value and that aren't the same. Our ability to be creative really is key to whether we live or die.

We're continuously challenged at Snapple by Michael Sands, the head of our group -- is it an evolution or revolution? And if it's not a revolution, then in most cases it's because we haven't done a good enough job creatively. Whether it's a piece of point-of-sale, a new product, or whether it's advertising -- if we're not stretching the limits, our consumers will probably go to someone else.

Robin Blunt: One of the things we've done at MasterCard is migrate our promotional platform into our "Priceless" brand positioning. To truly impact consumers from an interest and engagement perspective, linking the brand equity of "Priceless" into our promotional efforts has been pivotal -- and our marketing mix research studies reveal that it is highly effective.

So, integration is a key. That integration is driven not only by astute channel management, but also by creatively taking the brand essence and capturing that in every version of the channel marketing. That includes banks or merchants at the point of sale, or on Web sites.

Creativity plays a huge part in that because it is the essence of the consumer involvement from an awareness and attitudinal perspective. Do I engage with the brand? Does it mean something? Does it resonate? It's the creativity element that cuts through the clutter, and that means not only having your messaging sharp but also delivering that messaging in a creative and engaging way.

Steve Rotterdam: Creativity is the reason we exist. I once had a conversation with a client who was talking to me about fees. The context of the conversation was that we were looking for innovative ways, new ways in which to respond to some serious financial pressures that the client was under. I half jokingly said to her, "Well we can always deliver a less creative product," looking for a laugh. She looked me straight in the eye, and in dead seriousness said, "No, you can't. Your people don't know how to be less creative."

I took that not only as an incredible compliment, but also as incredible insight into the nature of what we have been trying to build. It's not that we're one of the most technologically advanced agencies on earth, or that we have very cool and nicely designed business cards, catchy slogans, a great PR agency or very, very overly glib officers. It's that creativity is marshaled with -- and in a service of, brands -- creative brand advocacy. That's what we attempt to do, even on the most minute, seemingly run-of-the-mill projects.

If you had to make a choice between building a database to reach your consumers and brainstorming a new, creative, mass media campaign to inspire them, which would you pick and why?

Lewis Goldstein: I'd pick the mass media campaign initially, with the database to support it. The mass media campaign allows us to set our strategy and set our tone and manner for who we are. And then if we do it right, the database marketing should follow up with specific information that's relevant to the consumers. But I believe we have to reach them first in a wider way, through mass marketing, and then target them.

Robin Blunt: This is a left-brain versus right-brain question. One could argue this from the perspective of "attitudinal" versus "behavioral" marketing. I would look at "behavioral" as being on the database side and "attitudinal" as being on the mass media campaign side.

It's on the mass media campaign side that I create awareness of my brand, of my campaign, of my message. My database, meanwhile, is pivotal in attempting to influence consumers in a very direct way, and to understand who those consumers are and what their interests and preferences are, so that I can better target the message to specific constituencies.

So, you're killing me on this one! Given the choice of the two, we went with mass media for this calendar year and we're pursuing databases in this coming year. But it's hard to choose between the two because both are so pivotal. If I had to choose from a brand perspective, I might go for the mass media. But the disciplined marketer in me, who is accountable for effecting change in a one-to-one type environment, I would have to go with the databases.
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