Creativity isn’t always the answer


I work in an industry that places a great deal of emphasis on creativity and originality. Within some corners of that industry, creativity is worshiped with the fervor of a religion. If something isn’t new and innovative, it’s viewed as second-rate and embarrassing.

It’s true that there are many times when it pays to be groundbreaking, especially when you have to be sure that your message is noticed among a large flock of competitors. But there are also times when that frantic devotion to the newest and the latest actually gets in the way of the message.

That’s particularly true when you’re dealing with something that draws a strong emotional response among your audience, like their financial security or their health. In situations such as those, people don’t want to venture into experimental territory. They usually want to be comforted by things that are familiar and nonthreatening.

In other situations, creativity can get in the way of clarity — and if it’s important that your audience understands what you’re trying to say, it’s crucial to focus on clarity. You can be so clever that the audience completely misses the point that you’re trying to make.

There are exceptions, but in the vast majority of cases, marketing channels such as ads, websites, and emails are ultimately trying to sell something to the audience. Like a good salesperson, the most effective marketing will focus on the audience’s needs and wants, explaining what the product or service can do to help them. Simply trying to dazzle them with something new and novel is more likely to confuse them.

Yes, there are times when creativity truly is king. But more often than not, meaningful and straightforward will nearly always prove to be more powerful and effective.