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Let's destroy sameness: why uniformity is the death of creativity

By Marcus Foley | Co-founder and chief growth officer



The Drum Network article

This content is produced by The Drum Network, a paid-for membership club for CEOs and their agencies who want to share their expertise and grow their business.

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June 30, 2022 | 5 min read

Every brand wants to stand out in culture. So why do we see so many cookie-cutter campaigns and approaches? Marcus Foley, co-founder and chief growth officer at creative agency Tommy, looks at how brands can re-assert their individuality.

Tommy on what creatives can do to prevent the death of creativity. La Partida via Unsplash.

Tommy on what creatives can do to prevent the death of creativity. La Partida via Unsplash.

I've become obsessed with sameness. Not any old sameness; the mind-numbing kind. I know what it takes to deliver; sameness is an effortless endeavor delivered with ease.

But there's a problem with sameness: it doesn’t create ever-lasting, one-of-a-kind, first-of-its-type impressions. It, literally, can't deliver smart deviation from the norm. It won’t wrestle our attention from the grasps of our callus-hardened, cold-as-ice thumbs as they swipe up and down at the speed of light, caring not for what's in front and remembering little of what has just passed.

I’ve become obsessed with sameness. I can’t stop thinking about it. It’s like an affliction. I can become irritable, flaring up at the smallest of issues. My triggers are easily identifiable: images of millennials with gleaming white teeth huddled around a table enjoying a forced moment of togetherness; purpose-driven statements that are as shallow as they are deep; influencers holding up one more product to proclaim its glory.

Blame it on the whiskey

I blame this obsession on whiskey marketing. I was drawn to the oak casks, roaring fires and highland backdrops accompanied by the smoldering Scottish voice-overs with their armchair sense of smugness and achievement. They all looked the same; each blended into all the others.

I was drawn to the nothingness. It left me feeling empty and emotionless without a single flickering on the inside. It drew me in and hasn’t eased its vice-like grip on me since.

As a content obsessive, it’s the smallest things that somehow seem to have the biggest impact on me. When I delved deeper, my internal workings said “hold on a minute, this ain’t right. How can there be so much of this at play?"

The same sameness, wherever you look

Sameness is not just the preserve of our spirited friends. Many brands appear to suffer from historical relationships with category codes that seem to hold them back.

Across categories, there's a dearth of creativity and imagination at play. For all I try to remember some of them, they never seem to take hold in my brain. There's just so much commodification, conformity, copying and replication v the creativity and boldness that emerges from curiosity and determination.

I’m not one to gallop in on a high horse proclaiming to have all the answers (I’m far too simple for that). But, for all that I love about our industry, I can't help feeling a sense of sorrow when I see brands feeding this bottomless pit of nothingness.

Taking a stand

Sameness is our enemy. Duplicating and replicating are dangerous. It may be easier for us to sell, satisfy or explain to others but it won’t be so easy when the reckoning day comes and you realize how far behind you have fallen. A distance that can be hard to claw back.

We need to stand out because everything in culture is craving our attention; not just brands. The world has become more distracting and brands have to be disruptive more than ever before. Being the antidote to zero-out culture is a must.

It's our remit to poke and prod to make people remember (consciously or subconsciously) the wares we peddle. We have a duty to think about how we exercise consumers' brains by challenging them with well-thought content, improving connectivity and overcoming the natural decline in people's attention.

Competition for consumer attention has increased exponentially and we have to make an impact. Brands need to build fame and celebrate what makes them different; effectiveness is unlikely if you're just another 'me-too'. Identify your brand's distinctive truth, consider breaking and disrupting normal category 'codes' and build emotional connections. It's important to focus on long-term effectiveness, sustained awareness and recall - supported by high-impact, standout, quality assets.

Let's sweat the small stuff, ask different questions and create new checkpoints in our minds as we go about our content marketing creation. Together we can destroy sameness.

Creative Creativity Marketing Services

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