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Why Creative Bravery is a business imperative

Henri Matisse famously said, “Creativity takes courage.” But, how do you start being brave with your creativity?

Interbrand set out to explore this at its Creative Bravery event in partnership with D&AD on July 26, where speakers from D&AD, MINI USA, Chobani​, charity: water, WeWork, SAP and PAC discussed how they are embracing the power of creative excellence as a force for good in the world, creating better commercial, social, cultural and environmental outcomes for everyone.

Interbrand’s very own New York and Toronto Managing Director Daniel Binns kicked off the event, addressing the fact that the desire for brands to create an image of being good corporate citizens is one thing, but they need to actually put their marketing dollars where their mouths are and take action.

Tim Lindsay on Creative Bravery - Interbrand

If there’s any organization that truly does put its money where its mouth is—by giving its profits back to the industry—it’s D&AD. The non-profit’s CEO Tim Lindsay took to the stage, giving the audience an overview of its mission to inspire, stimulate and nourish the creative community to work towards a fairer, more diverse, and gender-balanced industry future. In the words of Bill Bernbach, “If you stand for something, you will always find some people for you and some people against you. If you stand for nothing, you will find nobody against you and nobody for you.”

He discussed the importance of industry awards, not purely for back-patting reasons, but to help create a benchmark that drives everyone forward. “Awards encourage and reward innovation, experimentation and risk taking,” he said. He shed light on the fact that companies in the top quantile for racial and ethnic diversity are 45% more likely to have see an increase in financial performance. “These organizations can actually deliver the solutions that their clients need because they can properly represent them.”

Lee Nadler on Creative Bravery - Interbrand

Speaking of delivering on client solutions, MINI USA’s Metro Manager Lee Nadler then presented a keynote about MINI’s partnership with Sing For Hope, where, collectively, they gathered 50 colorfully painted pianos and installed them in public places throughout New York’s boroughs, along with creating a 51st touring piano built into a 2018 Countryman. From June 4-24, 2018, MINI roved around the streets of New York with their mobile MINI piano, throwing block parties, piano lessons in schools, surprise performances by big name artists, and even on-demand concerts on the Sing for Hope app. “Music and the arts have a power like no other to bring people together from all walks of life,” Lee said.

Bringing people together from all industries for a panel,Adweek’s Lindsey Rittenhouse sat down with SAP Ariba’s Head of Global Customer Marketing April Crichlow, WeWork’s Culture OS Deployment Director Deborah Alden and Packaging Consortium (PAC) Founder and CEO James Downham to discuss all things “creative bravery”.

SAP Ariba’s April Crichlow shed light on how professional and personal creative bravery has historically been compartmentalized. “Now we’re living in an age where you can bring your authentic self to your work,” she said. She also spoke about the conscious effort SAP has been making in the last couple of years to double down on diversity and inclusion. “For many years, the hero was always the IT Director, but now it’s not about the technology itself, but the impact technology has on people’s lives. How is technology enabling good in society with regards to equality, sustainability, and helping the world run better?”

WeWork’s Deborah Alden discussed WeWork’s mission to inspire people to make a life, not just a living. “Authenticity is such a big part of our lives now. If a company’s mission doesn’t resonate all the way through its organization, it will come out,” she said. She also touched on how there is no gold star for sustainability. “There are only progressive, continual decisions that are made.”

PAC’s James Downham voiced his opinion on how the circular economy concept is going to drive innovation for the organizations that embrace it. “It’s no longer about just getting products to the consumer. You have to ask yourself, ‘What’s going to happen to it once the consumer is finished with it?’ We need to turn our consumption society into a society that takes what we produce to the next life, so it’s not ending up in landfills or oceans.”

Leland Maschmeyer on Creative Bravery - Interbrand

Beyond speaking of what happens to products in their ‘after-life’, but instead what happens to them pre-production, Chobani’s first-ever Chief Creative Officer Leland Maschmeyer shed light on the yogurt company’s bold rebrand that he led and how it needed to get internal things right first before it began on any form of expression or design. “Before we attempted to change the outward-facing brand, we had to change our inward-facing product innovation roadmap, architecture and brand positioning, along with defining our culture and what we believed in,” he said.

They realized they were part of a ‘food movement’—from foodies who instagram their acai bowls to hardcore activists that advocate fort sustainable sourcing. “Popeye eats spinach and his muscles get bigger. Alice in Wonderland drinks potion and gets smaller. We have all these phrases like ‘superfood’, ‘soul food’ and ‘liquid courage’. Food is a powerful force of change in the world. It has a magical impact on the mind, body and soul. So, we in our own special way wanted to contribute to that vision to make universal wellness happen sooner,” he said.

Scott Harrison charity: water - Interbrand

On the topic of universal wellness, we then listened to a tale of transformative character development if there ever was one.  charity: water founder and CEO Tom Harrison went from working as a New York club promoter toting Rolex watches to moving to Liberia to found a charity that aims to bring clean water to everyone on earth. After spending time as a medical aid in the country, he realized that so much of the sickness and suffering was related to the fact that 50% of its citizens were drinking dirty water. “It was absolute madness because back in the New York night clubs I used to party at, my friends would pay $10 for a bottle of water that they didn’t even drink!”

Scott asked himself if he could create a business model where 100% of profits would go towards funding water projects. The idea was that private donors would cover the operational costs and all of the public donations would go towards the water projects themselves. They developed 11 different technologies across 26 countries, drilling wells, hand-digging wells, using biosand filters and piped systems. “The momenta local community would see clean water for the first time, kids would rush to the drilling rig clapping and dancing,” he said.

Setting out to build the most hyper-transparent charity people have ever experienced, Scott worked with Google Earth founder Brian McClendon to provide Google Earth locations for every donation so donors could track what their money went towards. “The more people can see the impact of their giving, the more they are willing to give,” he said.

He also touched on how most charities don’t work to build a brand, but work to get donations. “Toothpaste is peddled with more sophistication than all the world’s lifesaving causes. We never wanted to be the hero; we were just the guide, trying to connect those who wanted to do good in the world with those that wanted to implement it, and then using tech to show their impact. We wanted to create something so cool that people would feel that they were missing out if they weren’t a part of it.”

Speaking of impact, Interbrand’s Global COO Andy Payne gave the final keynote of the evening, breaking down Interband’s approach to creative bravery in three phases: new expectations, new creations and new orchestrations.

He discussed how consumers today expect relevance, transparency and authenticity, and showcased Interbrand’s G’ AY Mate campaign for same-sex marriage in Australia, where our Sydney office rolled out how-to-vote flyers, free G’ AY MATE T-shirts, social media conversation starters, a national poster campaign, and pro-marriage equality marches, and even won two D&AD pencils this year. Andy also spoke about our Mandela95 Poster Project where we challenged our designers to honor Nelson Mandela’s 95th birthday and life by designing a poster that was exactly the same dimensions of Mandela’s prison cell where he spent 27 years of his life. This poster was chosen out of over 700 entries to be part of the exhibit. We then showcased it in spaces around the world.

Beyond this, Andy  discussed how brands and businesses need to adapt how they engage and operate, defining not only their ‘what’ but their ‘how’, ‘why’ and ‘where’. “What’s needed is an always-on operating system for a new era—one that takes current brand inputs (such as research, customer and communications data) and filters them into a new model—one based on action,” he said.

Speaking to this, he showcased Interbrand’s ONE HUNDRED project that we worked on with six other Omnicom agencies, launching the world’s largest multidisciplinary collective with a mission to create positive, purpose-led change. ONE HUNDRED was awarded a D&AD impact award in 2016.

“In today’s age, there must be a new definition of success. In the age of immediacy, we need to think bigger and go long. Growth alone is a limited goal for business. We need a broader definition and goal in which prosperity is connected to helping businesses, communities and people thrive,” Andy said.

And, that’s a wrap! We hope to see you at our next CMO Leadership event. Please continue the dialog by calling out brands and ideas that represent #ActivatingBrave on social.

If you have an inquiry about our CSR work, please contact us at hello@interbrand.com.