Unleashing Your Marketing Creativity

At the beginning of the busy 2013 holiday travel season, Canadian airline WestJet pulled off a carefully choreographed and highly creative marketing campaign. As 250 passengers waited to board flights in Toronto and Hamilton, Ontario, WestJet asked them each a question: “What do you want for Christmas?” 

As soon as they received the wish lists, WestJet employees charged out on a frenzied shopping spree to purchase and wrap a gift for each passenger. A few hours later, when the flights landed in Calgary, astonished passengers found personalized packages waiting for them at the baggage claim. What a customer experience!

WestJet filmed the whole scheme, including the passengers’ reactions: laughs, tears, and exclamations of “No way!” At the peak of the holiday season, the airline released a video. Christmas Miracle captured viewers’ attention for over five minutes and portrayed WestJet as compassionate and willing to provide second-mile service to its passengers. What a creative marketing ploy!

Within a few days, the video surpassed 13 million views in over two hundred countries. WestJet’s holiday surprise generated massive exposure for the company. What an advertising coup!

Creativity is a strategic imperative in your marketing planning.

But, as a practical professional, you might be thinking, Me, creative? Not really!

I’m not talking about paint-splatter-on-the-wall-modern-art creative. Neither do I expect (or recommend) that your company try a marketing campaign to rival WestJet’s Christmas Miracle. 

Instead, I hope you’ll find inspiration to add at least one fresh tactic to your marketing strategy this year.

What Is Creativity in Marketing?

In his book Human Motivation, Robert E. Franken defines creativity as “the tendency to generate or recognize ideas, alternatives, or possibilities that may be useful in solving problems, communicating with others, and entertaining ourselves and others.”

Creativity in marketing is using innovative ideas and methods to promote a product, service, or brand. Creative marketing requires thinking outside the box and finding unique ways to attract potential customers.

How Does Creative Marketing Look in Action?

Creative marketing is less a single event or campaign and more a long-term strategy for communicating with your customers. 

1. Problem-solving content

Why are customers searching for a business like yours? They have some need or problem, and they need your help to solve it. Creative marketers brainstorm new types of content to provide answers and tips to meet their customers’ needs. 

Write fresh, high-value blog posts addressing pain points, industry trends, or business news. Not only will you establish yourself as an expert in your field, but you’ll also boost your ranking with online search engines.

Send newsletters to your subscribers. Load them with helpful tips and valuable products. Announce events that may help your clients. Yes, you’ll invest considerable time and effort, but email newsletters can return $40 for every $1 they cost.

Answering frequently-asked-questions, hosting webinars, and publishing original research are other types of creative problem-solving content.

American Express provides a real-life example of the power of content marketing to earn customer loyalty. American Express began content marketing by producing travel guides to popular tourist destinations. The company went online with the OPEN Forum, a spot for tourists to find solutions to their travel questions. Offering free value, solving problems, and answering real-life questions has helped make American Express the most trusted credit card company in the United States in 2023.

“Creative marketing requires thinking outside the box and finding unique ways to attract potential customers.”

2. Memorable visuals

Humans are hardwired to connect with visuals. Almost half of our brains are engaged in processing visual information, and 70 percent of all our sensory stimuli occur in our eyes.

Visual marketing content like photos, videos, and charts increase views and viewer engagement (clinking a link or filling out a form). Online content that contains an image gets 94 percent more engagement than content with only text.

Research shows that adding a video to your web landing page can increase page conversion by 80 percent. It also shows that customers are ten times more likely to watch a video than to read a text block with the same content.

Creative or unique photos attract consumer attention and set your ads apart from your competitors’ ads. Staedtler, a German pencil manufacturer, launched a simple yet visually stunning ad campaign in 2012. At first glance, the ads show bizarrely sharpened pencils. A second look reveals a series of intricate buildings carved into the pencil lead. The simplicity of the photo, coupled with the tagline “Where it all begins,” rivets the brand message in customers’ minds.

You may not be a professional photographer or have the budget to hire one. Start with the photos you have and trade them out for better as you can afford to. Ask your vendors if they have professional product photos they can share with you. Simple photos are better than no photos.

3. Captivating storytelling

From “Once upon a time…” to a fitting sermon illustration, stories captivate the human mind. And for solid scientific reasons. An engaging story involves so much of the brain that you can almost see, hear, and feel what the story characters are experiencing. Stories cause measurable reactions in your brain and release chemicals that trigger an emotional response to the tale.

Ads that tell a story or hint at a plot line elicit an emotional response from potential clients. Bosch ran ads asking, “Do you need a cordless drill?” The photo–decorative wall plates clustered around an electrical outlet–tells the story at a glance. A Bosch drill will free you from the constraints of a cord.

Case studies tell the story of an authentic human validating your brand’s effectiveness. Such stories explore the problem-solving process with relatable examples. Potential customers can fit themselves into the case study and see how their goals can be achieved. 

We call case studies and testimonials “social proof.” Don’t you find it easier to make a big decision if you hear the story of someone who has navigated the process successfully?

4. Meeting your audience where they are

A creative marketer is first a learner. He studies his target audience. How do they behave? What values motivate them? What needs drive them?

How does he find these answers? He asks his customers directly. He learns from his competitors and their marketing. He collects first-party data through email list-building and lead-generation forms. He tracks and analyzes his online and offline leads.

Once he has an accurate picture of his audience, the creative marketer crafts messages that meet his audience where they are in their buyers’ journey and guide them through the next steps.

Combining data and creativity makes marketing more effective and efficient, saving valuable resources in the long term. 

5. Nimble marketing approaches

Some of the most creative marketing occurs behind the scenes, invisible to your audience. Innovating a solution to a marketing challenge requires creativity. So does mastering various marketing channels, from traditional advertising to social media. 

Creative marketers stay abreast of industry changes and adjust strategies accordingly. In the year 2000, no marketer was concerned about optimizing websites for mobile phones. Today, every marketer is. Remember the earthquake rippling across the business landscape in early 2020 as lockdowns, remote work, and social distancing entered our everyday language? Creative marketers adapted.

Creative marketing is the willingness to take a calculated risk on a novel idea and know when to shift your resources to a different strategy. 

Why is Creative Marketing Important?

1. Creative marketing helps your brand stand out.

Creativity will help your brand stand above your competition in an increasingly noisy and crowded business landscape. A dash of creative flair can elevate your product or service and leave an indelible impression on your potential customers. 

2. Creative marketing connects with your audience.

Human creativity touches emotions. Human emotions create connections. When a potential customer feels an emotional connection with your brand, he is well on the road to brand loyalty and an ongoing relationship with your company.

3. Creative marketing engages your audience.

A unique advertising campaign or an innovative website is more likely to engage your audience than colorless marketing efforts. Any innovation that impacts user experience increases the likelihood of users engaging with your marketing material. Frontline, a flea and tick prevention product manufacturer, installed a giant photo of a scratching dog on the floor of a public lobby. From the upper floors of the building, pedestrians crossing the lobby looked like fleas tormenting the dog. The involuntary involvement of people in producing the image and the involuntary conclusions viewers drew hammered the message home–protect your dog from insects with Frontline. 

“Any innovation that impacts user experience increases the likelihood of users engaging with your marketing material.”

4. Creative marketing sticks in the customer’s memory.

Which are you more likely to remember–a flooring ad with a typical photo of a perfectly furnished room or a flooring ad showing a scratched floor? The scratches may emphasize the durability of the flooring, but the sheer novelty of advertising a scratched floor enhances the chances that a consumer will remember the brand.

5. Creative marketing enhances your brand’s image.

Consumers gain impressions of your company based on your marketing collateral. Fresh, original ads? Your company appears cutting-edge. Bland, colorless ads? Your company appears dull in customers’ minds. Over time, creative marketing differentiates your brand from your competitors.

6. Creativity keeps your marketing agile and flexible.

Brainstorming fresh marketing ideas fosters an innovative mindset within your company that serves you well across economic swells and declines. Innovative companies gain a competitive edge in their industries.

Marketing is not a destination–it is a journey with no finish line. Over time, once profitable marketing channels dry up. Sizzling ad campaigns cool. New trends and technologies emerge. Creative marketing includes the flexibility to pivot to new marketing channels and try new marketing ideas. 

Summing it up.

Creativity is not just a bonus in your marketing strategy; it is imperative. 

Implementing creative marketing ideas will help your brand cut through the marketing clutter and connect emotionally with your target audience.

Take the challenge to try one creative idea in your next marketing campaign. You shouldn’t expect 13 million global views like WestJet’s Christmas Miracle, but you can still take a positive step toward more effective marketing.

About the Author: Lyndon Martin is Rosewood’s Messaging Director. He collaborated with the Messaging Team and the Sales Team to create this article. Contact Lyndon and the Rosewood team at lyndonmartin@rosewood.us.com