Over 140 hours of jury duty that gave me a lifetime of learning; Around 1,700 PR campaign evaluations that gave me countless insights and some answers to the central question - so what is 'creativity'? What is the role and texture of storytelling and conversations in the creativity that surrounds us? And what makes ‘creativity’ relevant and powerful, both as a noun and an adjective – in our lives and times today?
Creativity is about collaboration
My first epiphany at Cannes (and I had many) is that creativity breeds when there is a mindset to collaborate with your people, partners, and the public at large – and nurture an exciting environment and ecosystem where creativity in our work, becomes a way of life.
While our own people and partners are relatively easier to collaborate with, the challenge always lies in connecting with people at large. But fortunately for us, today, we have 'Information Technology' that put the power in the hands of publics across the world and results in “user generated content” to the tune of a 100s of hours of content being uploaded to YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and the like, every second, connecting over 4.7 billion people across the world.
The big opportunity for us, is harnessing the creative power of the public in real time.
The question is: how we do this in a world where governments, brands, and companies are losing control over their own positioning; and where peoples’ opinions are what drive messaging, and build the image and reputation of leaders, products and companies. Where there is a growing trust deficit with the public towards these very big institutions
Let us start, by caring!
It is imperative for companies to understand, not only what their own people and their own partners want and care about, but also what the public wants and cares about – not just in the context of your brand or product category. We need to understand what triggers conversations between our audiences, evaluate how brands can be part of it in a manner that has meaning and value to their lives.
What’s your story?
At the heart of creativity, is the ability to spot, tell, or share, a good engaging story. Right from childhood, we are fed and brought up on stories – both imagined, and real – which capture and showcase the various universal emotions of life. We are inspired by some, and are frightened by others. We’d like to replicate some in our own lives, and we wouldn’t wish others on our worst enemies. But most importantly, we learn from all of them.
In essence, we are the storytellers of the current, imagineers of the future, biographers of our products, brands and companies we have a stake in.
It is up to us to conceptualise and communicate stories that touch peoples’ hearts; stories that are emotional and shareable; stories that serve a higher purpose.
Purpose, builds Character
We know that companies and brands need to stand for something, and that we need to be accountable for more than the money we earn. We have to start looking at the larger role we play in society, and the impact we have on our world today. This is what builds real character and real reputation for a sustainable future.
At Cannes, I was inspired by the story Mark Pritchard, global brand building officer at P&G told us: the story of P&G brands, and how they connected with women with their “Thank you Mom” campaign. The deep human insights gathered and used in this campaign saluted women in a very personal manner – engaging and recognising individuals who aren’t just ‘prime decision makers in a product category’ but are the centre of most homes and societies, almost everywhere in the world. Thanking a Mom, to me, is a higher purpose than most in our lives today, goes a long way in making the world a better place for all of us.
In the hard-nosed, fast-paced world we live in, it is ideas and ideals such as this – with heart, soul, and higher purpose – that create conversations that connect with people.
Purpose and the pride of the Lions!
Simply put, 'good' triumphed over everything else, at the 2014 Cannes Lions. They were campaigns that had a larger purpose and wanted to make a difference to the world.
Chipotle Mexicon Grill, a fast casual dining chain in the US which propagates better food for a better planet – devoured the PR Lions Grand Prix. This was aptly done, by a scarecrow telling the horror story of processed food and its impact on people’s health!
Among the rest, the other two stories that grabbed my attention the most, and enthralled their audiences by making them happy and hopeful are:
Honey Maid – “This is wholesome - this campaign is about how Honey Maid a breakfast cereal created a conversation around #wholesome by telling an emotional and insightful story around new age parenting and LOVE. They effectively used a crisis to engage with the public and changed behavior.
Autocomplete truth –a powerful campaign by UN women that kick- started a conversation on gender equality across the world and eventually influenced policy decisions around it.
In the end, I hope the examples I shared, help spark creativity in your work; I hope my thoughts add value to your life; and I hope I you found some answers to the question “why should anyone care about your brand, and why should your company matter to the public at large?”
I hope they did. After all, that was my purpose here.
(Radhika Shapoorjee is President of Hill+Knowlton Strategies, South Asia, and was Jury Member at the 2014 Cannes International Festival of Creativity.)