The epitome of this worldview, to my mind, came last year when a respected industry figure said that a stunt by Amazon (floating Borat down the Thames to promote a film) symbolised an ‘industry floundering for ideas and purpose.’ It’s sin? River inflatables had been done before.
Never mind that it got global media coverage and the film was one of the most watched of the year. It wasn't original, so it must be rejected by marketers!
As communicators, our job it to make our clients look good and trustworthy, not to out-compete each other on originality. Doing things that work is a good idea. And doing things that have always worked in the past if often a good model.
In B2B, consistency and quality are key
I'm not saying creativity is bad or that we shouldn't try new things. But is constantly pushing the boundaries of marketing really the best way to deliver value for our clients?
In B2B, especially, I'd say no. Leaping from one creative campaign to the next can be a distraction from the core message.
On the other hand, well-planned strategic campaigns, which use proven approaches to consistently demonstrate your value, always do well.
Industry types yawn about whitepapers, blogs, and case studies. But almost every B2B marketing lead I’ve ever seen generated has involved one of these. When done well, these shape internal narratives, build evidence, and inform customer buying decisions. That is what buyers actually want.
Creativity is important, but it must align to goals
All that said, each element of your rational, well-planned campaign should be original, or you will quickly lose audience interest.
Each piece of content should dig out ideas that are engaging and relevant to your audience, whilst staying aligned to your message and strategy.
And each should embrace the creative mindset to ask interesting questions, and come up with ways to frame those ideas through words, design, and presentation.
Creativity should certainly be applied to augment a well thought through plan. But it is not the only element of communication.
What good really looks like
The reality is that good marcomms is mostly hard work. It involves understanding your audiences, what drives their decisions, and then creating content - whether articles, graphics, reports, videos, ads, or floating Borats - that influence those decisions.
It should do this regularly, offering new and relevant ideas to your audience, which consistently project your expertise and capability.
It should deliver this content through relevant channels for each audience - whether that is LinkedIn, trade media, or the Thames.
It should evolve and optimise content and tactics, but only revolutionise them if the business need suddenly changes. For all the radical changes of the last 20 years, the fundamental marketing truth of ‘say the right things to the right people’ remains the same.
That may not be as exciting as a big creative campaign. But it is what works.