Creative Brand Strategy Business Leadership

You have to be a risk-taker to change the world (and so does your brand)

By Richard Preedy | Creative director



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November 4, 2022 | 5 min read

Following the rules might get your brand seen, but breaking a few will make sure you’re remembered. Richard Preedy of creative communications agency DRPG explains why it’s the risk-takers that really make a marketing impact.

A man walking a tightrope over a canyon

Are you taking enough risks? / Loic Leray via Unsplash

How many ads do you see in a day? Whatever number sprung to mind, I’ll bet it was a long way short. The latest research suggests that the figure sits at around 5,000. And it’s only going to grow. Standing out in this unbelievably crowded market can be tricky. But it’s certainly not impossible.

There’s a clear route to marketing that makes an impact, and it starts with creativity. As infamous ad man Bill Bernbach said, “creativity is the last unfair advantage we’re legally allowed to take over our competitors.” With a good dose of creativity, you can outsmart the competition. With one big, bold idea you can leave every brand you once jostled with for space in the consumer’s mind firmly in the background.

Beyond conformity

No question, this takes vision and more than a little courage.

Conformity is human nature. Long ago, fitting in with a larger group was key to survival. People who explored anything new or different, or took a big step outside the status quo, didn’t last very long. All these years later, the desire to fit in is still hardwired into our DNA. We feel safe when we blend in with other people and we feel comfortable when we’re accepted by a larger group. We feel this more keenly when there’s something on the line. That’s why so many clients can be tempted to revert to what we might call ‘safer’ concepts, even when the bold idea that could make a real impression is right in front of them.

It’s because of this comfort with conformity that most automotive adverts boil down to ‘car drives on mountain road,’ and almost all finance businesses feature blue as a primary brand color. There are rewards when you fit in: understanding what you offer is easy for consumers and you don’t risk failure when you never rock the boat. But when you’re part of the herd, it’s hard to get noticed. It’s almost impossible to gain a greater share of attention than others in the same space.

This is why the vast majority of marketing is entirely forgettable. It might look good in the moment, it might even win prestigious awards, but it doesn’t leave a lasting impression. Ask someone about the advert they saw half an hour ago, amid a selection of others, and they’re unlikely to recall any detail. Psychology explains why it’s so easy to forget the concepts that play by the rules.

Breaking the mold

Our minds look for patterns in everything. We like to group similar items together, so when every ad we see follows a set style or form, we file them away in one group. If something breaks the mold, though, we’re immediately drawn to it. When they each follow a similar, established formula, we might see 20 adverts and remember none. Swap one for something disruptive and our mind forms two distinct groups. There’s a group of 19, getting half our attention split between them. Then there’s a group of one, getting the other half. A single rule-breaker with an incredible share of focus.

This is the power of disruption. It’s a less-used and somewhat less-revered term than its close neighbor innovation, but this approach holds endless potential for marketers who want their content to inspire real change. Where innovation starts with the established norm and pushes it a little further, disruption flips that established norm on its head.

It might seem scary to present your audience with something they’re completely unfamiliar with, or to take a bold step beyond what your team has done before, but it really does get results. Marketing is all about people. Different mediums will fall in and out of fashion, but real human connection will always be our goal, so we have to put people at the heart of what we do.

The most successful marketers aren’t afraid to stand out from the crowd. They’re not nervous about breaking the odd rule. Change-makers are risk-takers by definition. Are you?

Creative Brand Strategy Business Leadership

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