The third article in our series of ‘Brand Matters’ for Luxury Briefing, the renowned international magazine providing news, analysis and opinion across the luxury industry.
You can read it below.
Years ago, a four-footed ancestor of us all gazed out through the primordial mists, appraised a half-gnawed mammal bone, and decided things had to change.
The very first spark of the very first idea was struck. The human race was on its way to champagne, diamonds, watches, five-star hotels, and haute couture.
Later, in Lascaux, Dordogne, cavemen saw paintings on the wall and another spark was struck for brand narratives....
Where does commercial creativity begin? Those of us who work with brands spend our life with ideas. Our days are surrounded by them; the good, the bad, the desperate.
It’s being re-engineered as you know. AI is unlocking ‘a world of creativity’ with AI’d imagery, video, and text all remixed based on the audience it wants to reach.
In fact, creativity has been repositioned before. It doesn’t have a long history. Ancient cultures had no conception of it, seeing art as discovery, not creation.
Creativity, as we understand it, did not happen until the Renaissance when it was acknowledged that humans, not religion, had the ability to create something new. According to Aeon, things really took off in the business world after WWII, when the Manhattan Project was seen as proof that you could organise slightly peculiar, talented, people and achieve things that were new and consequential.
‘Creativity’ was then taken very seriously, particularly in the not-so-hidden persuasion business. It could no longer be left to chance. It had to be understood and owned. Who had it, and who could do it, who had that magic marker, who could delve into post-Freudian unconsciousness and create the desire to consume? Bill Bernbach invented the then-radical idea of ‘creative departments’ in the '60’s. They’re still with us, just.
Well, academic theory only goes so far. Regardless of what the cultural scientists say, luxury reveres the mystery of creativity. We mythologise it. We put it on a plinth in a gallery. We house it in a Parisian atelier. We worship the Maker. The Designer. The CD. It is in the marketing playbook. In part because it is so difficult to do with skill, style and integrity. In part because at its best, its humanity ennobles a brand story. Making the heart a hero in any story is hard.
Dave Trott, ad legend, said there isn’t any formula to creativity. “You have your personality, experiences, hobbies, a life lived. So, the idea – or at least the raw material – is already there. Inside you. It’s how you bring it out. There isn’t a formula – if there was it wouldn’t be creative. You have to do whatever it takes, and that changes every time.”
Creative Director Paul Arden said it’s OK not to know: “Experience is the opposite of being creative. If you can prove you're right you're set in concrete. You cannot move with the times or with other people. Being right is also being boring. Your mind is closed. You are not open to new ideas."
Every creative journey starts with a problem. Which can be scary. Stories about creativity tend to leave out this stage. (Tends to worry clients.) The feeling of not knowing the answer is itself part of the process. Before we can find that answer there might be fear. You must believe the solution lies beyond the horizon.
Think Archimedes in the bath, and Isaac Newton under the apple tree. We take the ideas we’ve inherited or we’ve stumbled across, and we reshape them. Shoulders, giants etc. Mark Twain said that “All ideas are second hand, consciously or unconsciously drawn from a million outside sources and daily use by the garnerer with a pride and satisfaction born of the superstition that he originated them.”
Whether manufacturing cars or making music, art, products, campaigns, design, logos, or sites, creators remodel what they’ve seen. They absorb the world into their systems and manipulate it to create a shock of New. Consider the cut-up technique, in which written text is cut up and rearranged to create new text. A Dadaist discovery, it was famously used by Burroughs and Bowie.
Why is all this important? Still, smart creativity and good ideas matter in the matter of gaining attention and selling. Someone needs to tend to the light at the end of the tunnel. Yes, AI has raised the stakes. Original creativity matters more than ever.
AI algorithms don’t cry, laugh, or suffer, they have been nowhere, they didn’t live through it, they are pastiche, they have no inner being, and they don’t know truth. (Oh, don’t worry. We’re pros. We will adapt, we will endure, we will co-create, we will follow the path.) You can’t hold back the future.
Fashions come and go (NFT, anyone?), but human nature has actually changed little over the centuries. We should continue to appreciate deeply the sometimes-strange talent that brings forth ideas, products, and experiences.
Creativity, founded on meaningful insight into human nature, with the artistry to touch and move people, will be much needed for the raw, nervous times ahead.
Read more from our Brand Matters series:
- The enduring importance of craftsmanship here
- Why craftsmanship's vulnerability will win in the tech world here.
- Luxury is ageing gracefully here
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