The Musings Of An Opinionated Sod [Help Me Grow!]


If You Want It To Be Easy, You Don’t Want It To Be Great …

Not too long ago, Campaign – in the UK – asked me for my point of view on Byron Sharp and the obsession with brand assets etc.

Specifically, they wanted to know if I felt he was hindering creativity as well as making it harder for small business to ever stand a chance of breaking through.

Now I have some issues with Mr Sharp’s character, but if I put that aside to answer the question, I said this:

First of all, I don’t think Mr Sharp wants to kill creativity.

From my perspective, he recognises its value far more than others in his position. If I’m going to talk about who is undermining the power of creativity, I’d say it can be aimed far more at the companies who outsource all their training needs to the same few individuals because it’s easier and cheaper for them to do.

God, that’s started off controversially hasn’t it?

The reality is what Mr Sharp says isn’t wrong, it’s just not the one-size-fits-all approach that so many seem to have interpreted it as.

And that highlights what the real problem is for me: conformity over possibility.

Or said another way, the modern equivalent of ‘no one got fired buying IBM’.

Look, I get it … marketing is expensive, complicated and influenced by a whole host of factors that you can’t control, so if someone say’s “this will stop you making stupid mistakes”, it’s pretty compelling.

But the reality is not making stupid mistakes doesn’t mean you are ensuring success. Worse, blindly following these rules creates a real risk you will commodify yourself … looking, talking and behaving just like everyone else. Let’s be honest, you don’t have to look too hard to see that already happening …

And that’s my problem with terms like ‘brand assets’ … they’re talked about as if you can buy them off the shelf.

Simply choose a single colour, add a logo and some category cues … then sit back and count your billions.

But people are confusing visual distinction with brand value.

Sure, being recognised in some way helps … but it only becomes an ‘asset’ if it has meaning built into it and to do that requires distinctive and deliberate acts, actions and behaviour over time.

Or said another way, you don’t ‘create’ a brand asset, things become a brand asset.

The industry is continually looking for shortcuts.

I get it … I really do … but the irony is the thing that can deliver so much of this, is the thing the industry continually tries to diminish or control.

Creativity.

At its best, creativity rewrites rules and changes the odds in your favour.

Creativity helped Liquid Death get men to want to drink water.
Creativity helped Gentle Monster become the fastest selling and growing eyewear brand across Asia.
Creativity helped Roblox go from niche player to the single most played game by kids and teens across America.
Creativity even helped Metallica use a 30 year old album to attract more fans resulting in them becoming the second most successful American band of all time.

They didn’t achieve this simply because of smart distribution of their brand assets. Nor did they achieve it by placing their logo as a watermark throughout their TV commercial [which has to be the laziest and most misguided attempt to achieve ‘attribution’]. They achieved it by allowing creativity the freedom to push forward in ways that – as a by-product – meant their voice created value in their numerous assets.

I get it’s not easy.

I get it requires real energy and openness.

But little can achieve what creativity can do when you commit to letting it loose.

My problem [and I appreciate this may just be me] is that many seem to have interpreted the words of Sharp [and others] in a way where they see creativity as simply the ‘wrapping paper’ to execute their rules and processes.

But creativity isn’t the wrapping, it’s the fucking present.

A gift that offers value to brands that goes far beyond the fulfilment of singular commercial objectives and goals.

There are countless examples of brands achieving incredible success and growth following different rules so much of the industry feel is the only way to progress.

That’s not meant as a diss to Mr Sharp, he is obviously very good – though I note he and his peers choose to not highlight that many misinterpret and misuse their guidance, which suggests there is an element of complicity and profiteering from the one-size-fits-all blandification that is happening all around us.

But even then, the real blame should be aimed at the industry for fetishising the learnings and viewpoints of the same few people, because however good they may be – and they are good – it means we’re literally choosing to narrow our own potential and future.

Don’t get me wrong, brand assets are definitely a thing. But they don’t make creativity valuable … creativity makes them an asset.

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