Proving purpose – How creativity activates your north star

How does creativity help businesses achieve their goals?

  • Does creativity trivialise an issue or empower change?
  • Does creativity draw attention to disingenuous activities or ensure credibility?
  • Does creativity oversimplify or make things easy to understand?

There has been a shift in communications, a move away from promoting benefits towards building belief. “What do you stand for?” is the new USP for brands as they seek to build meaning, enhance credibility and spur advocacy. Often described as a company’s ‘north star’ the idea of purpose is very much that of a guiding light; providing strategic direction by clarifying the ambition and contribution of your role in solving the world’s big challenges.

Driven by consumer branding’s constant focus on placing the customer at the centre, “cause-related marketing” has become the big trend in proving you share the same virtues and values of your customers. Companies are now joining in on conversations once deemed too serious for soap and soda pop – from International Woman’s Day to Mental Health Awareness Week, everyone is jumping on the altruism bandwagon. And it’s not always successful.

This mixed reaction often relates to another shift – from saying to doing. Simply talking about plans of change can quickly become lip service… or worse. Weighing in on popular issues without evidencing your genuine commitment to help will always be called out. Cynicism has become the default position for purpose campaigns are viewed, because saying you care is easy, proving it on the other hand takes real action.

The power of creativity to connect issues with audiences

A by-product of the convergence of corporate and consumer communications is we are all being influenced by the same do-good messages of consumer brands making it increasingly difficult to discern what is purpose and what is a ‘noble stunt’. The reason this matters is consumer campaigns have massive reach; ultimately defining audience expectations and set the standard on how best to engage with the world’s biggest issues. Creativity is being employed as the tool of choice to ensure you take notice and inspiring you to take action.

But slick campaigns talking about purpose doesn’t replace actual purpose. The really big issues require an investment greater than just changing your profile picture. Likewise, corporate communications can no longer just deal in corporate documents. They must borrow from consumer communications, master the techniques of creativity and relate on a human level to build emotional value. And they must connect on the platforms that communities inhabit, not through a diagram embedded in a results deck.

So, what are these techniques of creativity?

Creativity’s biggest strength is to harness imagination. The creative process is designed to unlock free thinking, discover surprising associations and connect the unconnected. From these moving parts you can surface an ownable insight that can turn a long list of complex corporate commitments into something tangible and accessible for real people to relate to.

The outcome is a simple, portable and memorable idea.

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The best campaigns harness the collaborative nature of digital to fuel conversations – creating even more content as they’re liked, shared and commented on – growing organically into genuinely inclusive initiatives. Hashtags are an obvious choice to promote a cause but won’t guarantee a trending topic. Going viral shouldn’t be the ambition; connecting with real stakeholders is.

Creativity also allows for more expressive ways to prove your relevance. The activist nature of many big issues brings with it an urgency that can be explored – both in the use of language and visual styles. For example, short, active statements in hand drawn fonts feel more personal in conveying an authentic tone and therefore are seen as more credible. They’re also easier to remember.

Speaking of statements, a big part of connecting is done via your tone of voice. It establishes your attitude, gives your actions personality and ultimately determines the position of your messages. Finding the correct tone for your business is essential to setting the right feelings around your ideas and activities. Try to embrace the language of the communities you are representing; it shows you understand the sensitivities of the issue and can reduce scepticism around your motivations.

Above all, to be taken seriously, companies need to steadily build up and out over time. So, rather than attempting to design the most perfect campaign on day one, think about how it can be iterated over time. Proving purpose is about amplifying your activities, confirming your commitment and delivering on it, not just talking around future plans. The role of creativity, therefore, is not to create controversy, it’s to create a connection.

So, how does creativity help businesses achieve their business goals?

Creativity empowers change by recontextualising the problem, drawing focus to a new way of thinking about an issue.

Creativity establishes credibility by discovering the correct tone for the issue and audience, ensuring it resonates and is therefore relevant.

Creativity makes issues easier to understand by simplifying the communications and distilling multiple ideas into a clear thought.

It’s a challenge to creatively connect with today’s complex issues. They can be overwhelming, confusing and often quite scary. Some feel unsolvable, others infinite. But embedded within this problem lives an incredibly powerful opportunity – to think big. And transform your company in the process.

Want to know how to apply creativity to your purpose? Get in touch...

Jarrad Comley, Partner and Executive Creative Director

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