3 Ways of Creative Thinking That Will Actually Drive Action

What the best campaigns all have in common

It’s harsh, but if your creative doesn’t drive action, it might as well not exist.

Sure, awareness, the traditional hallmark of creativity in marketing, still matters and makes a competitive difference for brands. But for top creative marketers, amazing content is increasingly defined by its ability to capture the imagination and inspire customers into action.

It’s simply what matters most in our often ruthlessly data-driven world.  It’s unlikely there will be any action if your idea is tired, clichéd or irrelevant.

Consider the brands that regularly surprise and inspire with their campaigns, like Nike (with its social manifesto “Dream Crazy”), McDonald’s (the enlightening “The Flip”) or T-Mobile (its “T-Mobile Tuesdays” thanking app). Creativity is still king to the brands that consistently reign supreme. These brands engage people with big ideas that change human behavior and create real, measurable action.

Every day at The Marketing Store, we face the challenge of keeping creativity front-and-center in a business world that acts as if it would rather have an algorithm that connects people to brands than to take a chance at being different and interesting. In the spirit of our open-source culture, here are the three ways of creative thinking we use to inspire each other, our clients and millions of consumers to take action.

1. Be a punk

Don’t just challenge convention. Crush it. Be skeptical of anyone who says, “that’s the way we’ve always done it.” Don’t let yourself kill an idea because you think the client will never buy it. Resist the urge to conform—your work, your thinking and your solutions will be stronger for it.

Think about it: A mohawk is a radical thing to do to your hair, but a mohawk is still just a haircut that’s been messed with. And now it’s an iconic cut. Punks are proactive. Punks don’t wait for permission. If it feels dangerously cool or freakishly unique, make it. Write it. Design it. Develop it. And with a little luck, it just might change everything. The Ramones said it best, “Hey! Ho! Let’s go!”

2. Play to your strengths

Trust your instincts, not your assumptions, and more often than not, work from the gut. Look for sparks in the things that get you excited in music, art, culture, humor and in the people around you. Invest your time in the stuff you know and love. The inspirations that make you who you are and get you thinking have the energy to make your work just as unique and fascinating as you are.

When you play to your strengths, you think faster, take more chances, and push the limits. This is a formula for new ideas that have a distinct point of view. Creativity loves confidence.

3. Prototype or die

Nothing demonstrates the power of an idea or exposes it like execution. Prototyping used to be a digital thing. Now it’s an idea thing. It’s the way to fully explore a game mechanic, bring an activation to life or even give copy its most authentic voice.

Clients are evolving to expect prototypes. If you make the idea real for your presentation, you’ll be selling the experience, not an explanation of what it might be. Plus, there’s a screw-it-just-do-it vibe to prototyping that builds confidence in the possibilities for both agency and client. Dare to do it. Your bravest ideas will thrive.

When clients need to see results, data and metrics can make creativity a huge challenge. But great creativity can make for some amazing metrics. The rules are constantly changing, and when you focus on inspiring action through big ideas and personal moments, you can make it possible for consumers to invest in your client’s brand in ways that really mean business.

As Chief Creative Officer, North America at The Marketing Store, Michael Rivera is responsible for leading creative across mobile experiences, branded gamification and package design. He works closely with the London and Hong Kong creative agency leadership teams, and leads the design practice in Boxer, a branding design boutique housed inside The Marketing Store.