Creative reinvention

This is an industry fascinated with reinvention, new models and turbo-charging creativity. Yet the rigour applied to brand-related activities - R&D and metrics - is rarely applied to this process.

This is an industry fascinated with reinvention, new models and turbo-charging creativity. Yet the rigour applied to brand-related activities – R&D and metrics – is rarely applied to this process.

I recently met with the global CEO of Grey Group, Jim Heekin, and Grey Canada’s new president, Ann Nurock, who are embarking on such a mission. Grey was proud of its client service and consumer strategies, but adding creative brilliance is a more recent goal. ‘We talked about creativity before, but 24 months ago we decided to make it damn serious,’ says Heekin.

Having permission from the top to reinvent themselves seems to have had a rejuvenating effect. Vice-chair and CCO Tim Mellors put together a book of Grey’s best global work, and Canada has the most entries. Heekin says Canada was the ‘least broke’ in Grey’s firmament, so was last to receive intervention in the form of Nurock, who says that while Grey Canada is good, it’s not great, and the goal is to be in the top 10 in 12 months. How? ‘As of today, culture will change.’ Since 60% of Grey’s revenues are digital, it’s well positioned for the current shift.

But the recognition that greater creativity is de rigueur in all categories is perhaps best exemplified by the company featured in our cover mosaic.

Our Brand of the Year, as you may have surmised, is P&G. And while brands like Pampers and Tide, now celebrating its 60th anniversary (see p. 47), are top performers, this recognition is not just about bottom-line results. It’s about a new approach to communicating.

The company’s global push to amp up creativity in its advertising entailed much-discussed missions to Cannes and, true to its test-and-learn heritage, the fruits of those forays have permeated the organization. More creativity, emotion and fun are in the marcom, but the science – deep research, thorough tracking and sifting through both to spot an angle – is still there.

I asked P&G Canada president Tim Penner to share his perspective on the new attitude. He says it’s about knowing you have to try new things to get a different reaction. ‘We need to use different media,’ he explains. ‘We have to find a way to connect with people that’s worthy of their time. Otherwise, they’ll click their mouse or hit the remote, and we’ll be gone.’

Curiously, P&G’s core strength in research plays a part in the transformation, by allowing a large organization to try new things. ‘There’s a belief that the consumer is the boss,’ says Penner, ‘and that you need to spend time understanding what consumers are interested in, what their motivations are, how they view your brand and what you could do to delight them more. And I think that’s why we’re successful, because we start with such deep understanding.’

Having more fun can be risky. ‘We’ve set goals for people that caused them to think out of the box,’ Penner says. And structurally, it’s embedded from the ground up. ‘You have to drive a culture of innovation through the entire organization,’ he confirms.

Creative reinvention always seems to focus on advertising, but reimagining other areas can also have an impact. Penner points to logistics coups and in-store prowess. ‘We work hard at understanding shopper behaviour, and what can translate into business growth,’ he says. ‘It’s an area that doesn’t get much discussion, but makes a huge difference.’

One final thought: While visiting P&G HQ, I saw a more authentic reflection of Canada’s diverse consumerscape than I’ve seen on other jaunts. Category brand manager Rob Linden confirms that one of P&G’s missions is to have a diverse workforce, and says it’s occurring through on-campus recruitment and the cross-pollination of global teams. The organization also has professional diversity networks and cultural education. ‘If you have a diverse workforce, you get diverse experience and benefit from different ways of thinking,’ he says.

So if you want to stay in touch with consumers, be more inclusive in your teams and watch your marcom naturally become more inclusive and relevant. As the folks in this issue’s Roundtable (p. 12) ask, why the hell not? Cheers, mm

Mary Maddever, exec editor, strategy, Media in Canada and stimulant