Creative Marketing Today

October 8, 2014

creative marketing

A few weeks back my friends at Buffer invited me to moderate their #Bufferchat on Twitter on the topic of creative marketing. Creativity has always been an important tool for marketers, serving as either a campaign ingredient or embodied by the creatives who make the magic happen. However, with the tectonic plate shifts of digital media shaking everything around us, what is the role of creative marketing today?

During the #Bufferchat exploring this topic (here’s a link to their Storify recap), one thing became clear. Creativity in marketing has evolved from its traditional application. More than just creative art and copy, creative marketing has grown into a multi-dimensional pursuit that allows us to be more relevant, authentic, and unexpected than ever before.

It might be helpful to think of modern creative marketing as a three-legged stool that you can use to stand out in our increasingly noisy marketplace. Let’s take a look at the each of these legs.


One of the biggest changes in marketing is the shift from broadcast or mass communication to 1:1 personally relevant connections and conversations. Creativity in the broadcast world was about bold ad creative that stood out in a crowd. Today, creativity is about tailoring conversations to as many unique segments as you can. Your task as a creative marketer isn’t about appealing to the masses. It’s about reaching an individual with the most relevant appeal.

When in doubt, if you’re looking for ways to be more relevant to your community of customers online (or off), a simple solution is to ask them. Ask them what kind of conversations they want to be having. Ask them what kind of useful content you can create. The key to being relevant is to learn what matters most to your community. And you can only learn this by asking them.


Obviously all of this requires more intimate communication than most marketers are used to. Some rush to label this as marketing that’s more personal, however, it’s really about showing more personality. It’s about defining an authentic brand voice to ground your communications, whether it’s a 140-character tweet or a 140-page ebook. With the increased use of these personal forms of media we need to ensure that we’re communicating with personality. People connect with personalities and brands that they like. Your charge as creative marketer is to be more likable.

NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory realized early on that their tweets about their Mars rovers sounded like sterile press-releases when phrased as third-person updates. Re-imagined as first-person accounts of the crafts’ travels, NASA better captured the spirit, excitement, and personality of space exploration.


One thing that’s not hard to find in the digital age is a case study for just about anything. Every brand of every shape and size is documenting everything. As a result, we’ve almost gotten “over case studied.” Instead of getting creative with our marketing, it feels safer to just find a case study from a similar organization with a strategy we can steal. (Hey, it beats putting all of that brainpower into coming up with something original!)

Creative marketing is further stifled by the industry constraints we confine ourselves to. “We’re a B2B company. We can’t do something cool like that.” Non-profits, education, and government often make similar statements. Instead of letting these limitations confine your marketing, look beyond the case studies and industry stereotypes for unexpected ideas you can borrow. Maybe your B2B business can refit that user-generated content campaign from Ben & Jerry’s. Or perhaps your non-profit can embrace visual social media like Oreo. Being unexpected also helps you deliver awesome brand experiences for your community. And these wow moments aren’t always digital.

To bring this full circle, after hosting the Twitter chat I received a care package in the mail as a thank you from Buffer. Along with a Buffer t-shirt, stickers, and a handwritten note, the gift box contained mementos of a couple of things I mentioned during the chat — a 3-pack of small, red Moleskine Cashier note pads (how I capture my ideas) and a booklet of travel games for road trips with my kids (because I have a million of them). Unexpected, awesome, and certainly very creative.

Creative marketing is not only alive and well, it’s more necessary than ever before. More than just pretty pictures and clever words, we have the opportunity to do amazing things for our community of fans by making our messaging more relevant, authentic, and unexpected.

What will you do with this opportunity? How do you get creative with your marketing?

Photo via Flickr user Dennis Hill
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is a strategist, speaker, educator, and author of Brand Now: How to Stand Out in a Crowded, Distracted World and Get Scrappy: Smarter Digital Marketing for Businesses Big and Small. He is the Chief Brand Strategist at Brand Driven Digital, an educator at the University of Iowa, and host of the On Brand podcast. More about Nick.