Another major multinational reporting results this week was Diageo. According to Mark Choueke’s piece in Marketing Week, “Swimming against the tide: brands need to embrace a culture of creativity,” the executive won’t be hitting the booze if a few number don’t meet expectations…

  • “’We believe that creative work scoring ten out of ten will lead to disproportionate financial returns for this business,’ says [Andy Fennell, Chief Marketing Officer]. ‘But you can’t get that score every time. At Diageo, we try to make people understand that we will support them when they make mistakes, so that they remain bold in their thinking when they next try something after failing the time before.’ Despite Fennell’s view, a culture of creativity is a hard thing to achieve. For many stakeholders, especially those tied into the relentless routine of quarterly financial reports to the stock market and the culture of short-term success that goes with it, the idea of embracing failure is a non-starter. Neither is the ‘soft’ idea of building internal business processes around human insight or creativity likely to inspire the approval of many FTSE 100 CEOs when they are so focused on the immediate share price.”

The article also looks at embracing failure in pursuit of creativity at Sky, Cadbury, IBM. I also liked the Unilever example of their ‘dirt is good’ campaign which Unilever SVP for Marketing Unilever’s senior Marc Mathieu comments on…

  • ’The Dirt is Good’ brand positioning reverses all previous washing powder marketing norms, claims Mathieu. In the world of detergents, clean is ‘good’ and dirt is ‘bad’. But he argues that reversing this position to focus on how Persil can help parents deal with the positive, natural consequences of child play – getting dirty – has not only helped the brand stand out but it has required it to look at consumer behaviour in an entirely new way. ‘Such an idea requires creativity, not just in the marketing department but across the whole business. It requires a certain humanity to see past what was a conventional and embedded wisdom,’ he says. ‘Is it more important that my clothes are clean or is it more important that my child plays, grows and is happy? You need this humanity in the way you look at the data to get this kind of reversal.’

It’s not just the creativity of the message that embraces failure, but the message itself which echoes the sentiments of my post ‘Anti-Anti-Biotics.’  His note about the humility and embrace of critique by creative people is a powerful lesson for all enterprises…

  • Creative people automatically assume that when you have an idea, you have to present it for assessment and evaluation by rational people. Those people look at your idea and demand proof, cost-benefit analyses and all manner of justification before you’re allowed to go ahead and try it out. However, the same principle does not apply in reverse. When rational people come up with a logical argument for a course of action, they do not take it as a given that they must show it to creative people to see if they can improve on it.”

 

Embrace the dirt of shortfalls in financial scores, the shortcomings logical courses of action, and shorts soaked in mud.

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