As an industry we’re in the grip of touchpoint anxiety, and this is posing a major threat to our creativity. It’s that irrational fear of missing out on reaching people through every consumer touchpoint possible, and therefore increasing our chances of securing industry awards and what’s more, being seen as “cool” because we’re using all the new tech. And I can say this because coming originally from a ‘digital creative’ background, I’ve had no shortage of experience of the expectation that any loosely conceived thought can be magically turned into a "cool digital idea".
I first got into marketing because and I wanted to do cool, creative work. Work that adds value to people’s lives one way or another. I love new technology, but I never cared about what medium I worked in. It’s the idea that counts.
But we’re all subject to this same pressure. Over the years I’ve seen an increasing emphasis on new touchpoints and technology. So much so that everything we do must be digital, interactive and shareable.
Because everybody and their cats are online, people think that not only do we need to be digital, but also that we can’t be creative unless we’re using new technology. As a creative, I see this as a worrying trend. Creativity must be inspired by the brand challenge, not by an imperative to use a particular channel.
In China for example, everyone wants to do something on WeChat. Of course, because it’s the most popular app right now, with over 600 million active users. As if the most popular channel MUST be the right channel to use for your brand. But it’s not the channel that will reach your audience; it’s what you’ve got to say.
This issue is compounded by the fact that many people think that their brand is the best thing since sliced bread. And of course you do need an element of this self-belief to succeed. But this does not mean that any movie they put on YouTube will be watched, any post they put on social media will be read and that everyone is waiting with bated breath for their next campaign. Brand love isn’t automatic, it springs from answering a need, an interest, a desire in people’s lives. It adds value.
As marketers, we sometimes forget how normal people, us, live our lives. And this is stopping us from doing good work. It’s like dating. When you are at the start of a relationship with someone, you’ll try to impress them, listen to their needs, offer free advice, spend quality time with them, be there for them emotionally. It’s a process and it takes time.
This is what we need to do as marketers and creatives—get back to the first date and understand how we can make a difference to people. And with this understanding, we can get on with the most important part of being a creative: coming up with great ideas.
This year’s winners at Spikes Asia should be great inspiration for us. Many of the Gold and Grand Prix winners focus on end users and how they can add value to their daily lives. 'Life saving dot', one of the most awarded campaigns, works because it answers a need with a beautifully simple insight and solution and doesn’t need to be in every channel. And Samsung’s 'Look at me' uses technology in a way that fulfils a need in people’s lives.
It’s time that we put our egos aside and put people, not touchpoints at the heart of everything. Only then will we reach our creative potential.
Karen Chui is senior creative director with Jack Morton Worldwide in Shanghai