The power of creativity and purpose: predictions for what's in store for 2018

Carter Murray is the worldwide chief executive officer of FCB, an IPG-owned, global, fully integrated marketing communications company with more than 8,000 people in 109 operations across 80 countries.

Creativity will help drive success in 2018

It’s that time of year when predictions and trends come out in full force. Personally, I’ve never been a fan of playing fortune-teller, because no one has a crystal ball that really works.

Remember when everyone was predicting that Second Life was going to revolutionize the world, and marketers would be dead if they didn’t move substantial portions of their budgets there? Or, do you remember when the 2008 World Economic Forum in Davos took place, just weeks before the “collapse” – and no one seemed to have even a whiff of a prediction that it was coming? Instead, I prefer to highlight some things that I already see happening, which I hope will gain momentum in 2018.

In 2017, I saw clients making some interesting moves that helped them find great business success – moves that I think will gain momentum in 2018 because they both drive business success and seem to be the right things to do in general. Below, I am happy to share with you my industry anticipations for 2018.

1. We stop talking and touting only “tech,” and refocus on the power of creativity

I love technology as much as the next person. And it has a pivotal role to play in marketing. In the business world, the advent of game-changing e-commerce platforms, like Amazon and Alibaba, has made it easy to focus primarily on tech. BUT in the world we live in – the world of building brands and giving clients a competitive advantage through distinctive creative platforms and ideas – it is the power of creativity that defines the multiple returns on clients’ investments when done right. Technology plays a fundamental role in finding better insights, better ways to engage, better pricing, better value. But it is through creativity that we find a story, voice and identity to stand out and add value in a swamped marketplace. Creativity is the ultimate multiplier; it’s where the magic is. Creativity is still essential to create genuinely enduring brands.

2. Clients see the benefits of mass marketing again

Clients have been known to separate their digital and traditional marketing teams, both internally and even externally with their agency partners. And with the arrival of marketing’s digital age, the buzzwords and focus have been on “net promoter score,” “one to one” and “segmentation”; all of these remain incredibly important for us, of course, but they alone won’t get us to the prize we all seek. That prize is driving significant incremental growth for our clients, and nothing does it better than mass marketing, which is creating big, beautiful, inspiring, engaging campaigns that reach large audiences.

Mass marketing reaches not only your loyal or hardcore users but also your infrequent ones – who, incidentally, often make up 80% of a business’s sales – as well as those whom we never expected.

In 2017, we saw the experienced marketers refocus on mass marketing and earn significant results. In 2018, I hope this momentum continues, and that we see more people thinking about how to do mass marketing across all touch points, rather than separating channels and shortchanging growth opportunities with obsessions on smaller, niche segments.

3. Brands think value, not just price

As big-box retailers and FMCG brands face the big squeeze on margins because of large e-commerce platforms, this may sound counterintuitive, but there is only so much cost-cutting we can do – and so many price battles we can win – over time. Increasingly, brands need to find “added” value, not only in the minds of consumers but also in e-commerce platforms and amongst their employees. I hope we see this take hold in many ways. In 2017, we saw “purpose-driven” brands being touted a lot, which helped push the discussion from price to value. This year, I hope the push value will help re-center the debate again on building brands, the power of real creativity and the need for a brand to invest more in itself.

4. People recognize that purpose drives profit

Purpose has undoubtedly been a hot topic in the marketing world in recent years, but this year I hope we continue to drive home with clients that purpose drives profit. Simply put, companies with a soul are going to win. That’s why passionate upstarts are disrupting so many mature businesses. People want authenticity, and start-up founders come with that authenticity. Leaders of mature companies will continue to look to start-up founders for guiding principles to impact businesses and brands positively. This is what today’s consumers expect and need to buy our brands and products. And when done right, it makes a brand more successful and enduring.

5. Our talk turns to incremental action

2017 brought us substantial political upheaval, with new voices and personalities emerging – some good and some not so good – that gave rise to important movements. Among the good was the #metoo movement: a genuinely empowering moment for many, and a time for pause and listening for others to understand better and improve the world in which we live. I hope that similar activities continue in 2018, with brands, leaders, and companies being more conscious than ever that they need to have proof points to support their touted POV on life, culture, their industry and their business. The talk is no longer enough. Hopefully, 2017 made us all better listeners, but 2018 can deliver the incremental action that will make both our professional and personal worlds better.

Carter Murray is the Worldwide CEO of FCB and a regular contributor to The Drum.

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