12 Teaching creativity


It’s time for the brave… or time to say goodbye

Josep-Maria Fàbregas

When we relate the words ‘creativity’ and ‘marketing’, another word often comes to mind: ‘advertising’. That’s true, but it isn’t the whole truth. Of course, advertising requires high levels of creativity to surprise and persuade people. No doubt. What is happening today is that the problems facing brands no longer start with communication, but begin much further back.

Some time ago, marketing departments hired market research institutes, consultants and agencies with a briefing aimed at solving a communication problem: ‘I need to launch a brilliant campaign to gain market share from the competition!’ These days, this is no longer what people say. Now they are more likely to say: ‘I need to grow (but don’t know how)’. The challenge therefore comes before communication, and of course, before advertising.

In recent years, we have seen quite a bit of evidence that creativity geared to the operational side of marketing (the famous four Ps) is no longer enough to earn market share, or sometimes even to survive. Kodak’s advertising campaigns were of little use: they fought against Fuji… and were swept away by smartphones!

This is just one of hundreds of examples that we know of brands (or entire sectors!) vanquished by  competitors that weren’t on their radar and suddenly forced a disruptive change. And nobody should doubt it: this won’t stop, but will only accelerate.

Soon it will affect sectors like banking (some ‘small’ new players like Apple, Amazon and Facebook are waiting around the corner), automobiles (do the youngest Millennials really want to own a car, or only use one when they need to?) and higher education (perhaps companies will listen to Laszlo Bock, the Senior Vice President of People Operations at Google, when he says that ‘GPAs are useless for hiring’)?

Finally, marketing creativity applied only to product innovation and promotion in the market is already a thing of the past. Now, in addition to that, creativity is also required in the business model. Experience shows us every day: if you do not disrupt your own businesses from within, someone will do it from the outside. And when that happens, it’s too late.

Consequently, this leads to a key question: how can marketing people set the direction of the brands sailing in a constant storm? It seems to me that, apart from all the technical skills typical of marketing positions, they would need a couple key personal traits: emotional intelligence and courage.

Today and tomorrow’s CMOs (Chief Marketing Officers) must possess emotional intelligence firstly so they can empathise with clients and consumers and thereby respond to them before the competition; secondly, so they can manage interpersonal relationships with increasingly multidisciplinary teams where the technological and scientific profiles are becoming more important all the time; and thirdly, so they can efficiently manage emotional deluges of uncertainty, pressure and frustration.

Yet it seems that all these skills and abilities will be of little use if you do not possess an essential personal characteristic: courage. CMOs will have to take risks, open unexplored paths, follow their ‘gut and intuition’ where data cannot be found, unsettle colleagues ensconced in their comfort zones and finally convince the CEO that disruption is better coming from inside than from outside.

Finally, it’s time for the brave… or time to say goodbye!

Josep-Maria Fàbregas

Josep-Maria Fàbregas

Director of the Master in Direct and Digital Marketing


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