“We must understand that one person can make a big difference,” stated Jim Stengel, president and CMO of the Jim Stengel Company, on the power of an individual to drive creativity in marketing. He cited the cases of GE, and Samsung, which has been crowned the ‘Creative Marketer of the Year’ at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity 2016, to make his point.
Stengel is no stranger to the title. The former global CMO of P&G is credited with driving the company to win the same honour in the past. On 21 June, he shared stage at the festival with Airbnb CMO Jonathan Mildenhall, who led Coca-Cola to the title as its CMO.
Setting the tone for the discussion was Previously Unavailable’s founder James Hurman, who presented the latest findings from his book ‘The case for creativity’, which saw an updated edition releasing this year. The book makes the case based on three decades of international research.
“The role of the individual, the creative catalyst, is to set a very clear learning agenda. The case for creativity never ends,” observed Mildenhall. He underlined that the case had to be continuously made about how creativity can increase the value of the brand not just commercially, but also culturally.
“Quite often, we get lazy as marketers; we don’t push the case for creativity,” he admitted.
‘Go where the energy is’
The role of the CMO is to harness the power of young talent, noted Stengel. He said, “Younger people can impact enormous change. It’s our job to encourage young people to create the best work of their life, and share the risk.”
Citing the example of ongoing Old Spice work that broke category and brand norms, he added, “Don’t underestimate the power of one person or team to make a difference.”
Mildenhall cited the case of Coca-Cola’s vending machines installed in India and Pakistan to connect people of the two countries, through its ‘Small World’ campaign. The most successful Coca-Cola idea at Cannes, which won the brand 11 Lions, wouldn’t have come about without Jackie Jantos Tulloch, a mid-level brand manager (then Coke’s global creative director, now at Spotify), the speaker pointed out.
“You have to build a sense of community in the organisation. Every single company has a set of renegades. If you introduce a creative agenda within the organisation, that group can become much more effective. The voice of one can become the voice of many. You can start to collectively build a drum beat,” explained Mildenhall.
“Go where the energy is – where people want to change,” advised Stengel.
Working on the relationship structure
Client-agency relationships could become ‘toxic’ and deteriorate, noted Mildenhall, if there existed no structure to support the relationship. He revealed his relationship with the agency currently, which involves a weekly meeting to thrash out differences. “We are not allowed to bitch about each other during the week,” quipped the Airbnb CMO.
Clients sometimes accept work that they shouldn’t be accepting, ceded Stengel, adding that with creative people who loved to solve problems, clients must be open with their business problems.
He surmised, “The reason P&G came to Cannes in 2003, was because Saatchi (Bob Isherwood, then worldwide creative director), told us to go to Cannes. It changed our standards, our expectations.”
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