Creative Thinking.

We tell ourselves we have creative thinking in B2B marketing. We give ourselves awards for creativity.

We try to be creative. But few really think creatively.

Superficial creativity is easier. The immediate pressure of campaign execution or lead generation has led us (even forced us) to accept the most immediately available solution and call it ‘creative’. But immediacy doesn’t improve the marketing plan, it simply speeds up delivery. And with speed comes the demand for more, which in turn only increases the pressure to deliver an immediate solution. It’s little wonder we rarely have creative thinking or even time to think creatively.

To fuel the fire of marketing communications we have therefore harnessed the power of technology. We use technology to produce more, deliver faster, analyse deeper. We’ve built an entire industry around marketing automation – technology that does stuff. But it’s not making us happy and it’s certainly not creative. I’ve yet to hear a client tell me how ‘happy’ they are with their marketing technology investments. I’ve yet to see a marketing technology case study that inspires creative thought.

As a society, we have (and continue to) witness a revolutionary technological change in the development of how we live, work and interact. Who would have believed a few years ago that social strategy would change the marketing mix so dramatically? The rise of email, the decline of snail mail, the decline of email, the rise of social and mobile, the decline of telephony, the rise of big data…

Who would have thought even a few years ago that business-to-business communications would be wholly democratized? That we would be given the power to communicate image, voice, video, graphics – instantly and globally within advocate networks and online communities.

No longer slaves to the corporate rhythm, but liberated advocates of corporate branding, free to create that brave new world, free to create… anything.

And what are we actually doing?

Wasting a remarkable opportunity.

We haven’t been given the technology so much as taken it. Technology is created by the technologist, but demand and application are shaped and driven by the individual(s). I’m all for technology in marketing but the opportunity is with us to take it and use it – creatively – to communicate our business concepts and ideas in more meaningful, differentiated, effective and inspirational ways.

And yet digital marketing in business is already regressing back to old historical patterns. Repetitive templates, automating meaningless processes, depressing corporate broadcasts. Bleurgh. Just, bleurgh.

It’s all so… ordinary. Is technology meant to inspire ordinary? Is the leading edge of business and the bleeding edge of business technology really that dull? I want technology to revolutionise B2B communications, not kill it with boredom. The adoption of a couple of hashtags and the production of a corporate video does not constitute the seizing of a revolutionary opportunity.

Creative outcomes require creative thinking. It’s not the technology that will raise the business from ordinary to extraordinary. It’s the ideas behind the technology that will do it. It’s the application of the ideas, the creative development and the creative communication.

In a marketing strategy context there’s no competitive advantage in using technology to return to the status quo as fast as possible. It’s safer being ordinary, no doubt. And then there’s risk, excitement, reward… that requires creative thinking.

Just a thought.

Scot McKee