Convention: the enemy of creativity and effectiveness

5 Oct

Psychologists often say the best predictor of future behaviour is past behaviour. Marketers often say the best predictor of future successful campaigns is past successful campaigns. And so, the old cart of tricks is wheeled out: “mention this ad and get 10% off”, “4 out of 5 doctors agree” and “Canadian-made”. Ad convention continues along.

I can think of four reasons why sticking to convention is dangerous.

It’s expected
: good advertising is unexpected. Doing the same thing year after year makes it very expected. A “spot the bumper sticker” promotion is stale as last year’s fruitcake.

Technology changes: technology and the way consumers use it is changing at a remarkable pace. Those stamped loyalty cards that people consider “tried and true”? Their use will erode as Foursquare gains in popularity, a social media network that makes tracking store visits so much easier.

Competition copies: competitors are quick to copy what works. A long time ago, a money back guarantee was a huge differentiator. Now everyone offers it. Time to find a new hook.

Brand suffers: using conventional advertising positions a brand in a by-gone, irrelevant era. Take a magazine from the ‘60s and compare its advertising to a magazine from today. Overall, you’ll see a lot less body copy. It might be time to refresh that text-laden creative.

Maybe the best reason to avoid doing what you’ve always done and challenging the team to keep evolving your strategy and creative is this: it’s fun. If crafting the advertising isn’t engaging, how can we expect consumers to find it engaging?


One Response to “Convention: the enemy of creativity and effectiveness”

  1. maureen blaseckie October 5, 2010 at 9:46 am #

    There must be a marketing version of Einstein’s definition of insanity: doing the same thing repeatedly and expecting different results. In this case the different results would be a happy graph of increasing sales.

    I would think the idea here is to look, not at the techniques being used but the reasons behind them, why they worked and how to bring about the same results with new technology.

    In the loyalty cards being replaced by 4square, you still need to encourage people to check in. Our own Rod Phillips has made great use of Twitter to bring people to his stores – a variant on the loyalty card that I’ve personally taken advantage of many times.

    As a consumer I like to feel my loyalty is rewarded but I am extremely wary of any program that blatantly attempts to exploit those feelings. I guess what I’m trying to say here is that any successful novel use of modern electronic technology has to take into account the very old technology of human nature.

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