Lesson 3 // Creativity
Creativity is essential to build brand value
It thrives in organizations that invite originality
Creativity, the capacity to produce imaginative or original ideas, was not a characteristic often associated with Chinese brands 10 years ago. At that time—before widespread digitization, mobile phones, e-commerce, and the instant gratification enabled by O2O New Retail—copycat products sufficed for most Chinese consumers, many of whom were experiencing significant disposable income for the first time.
Today, because of the rapid increase in product choice, along with consumer purchasing power and sophistication, creativity is essential for building and sustaining valuable brands. As the rate of economic growth slows, creativity will become even more vital for connecting with evermore discerning Chinese consumers.
Creativity is a culture, not an add-on. It requires a brave mindset open to new ideas and risks. Creativity is at the heart of all great brand ideas. Creative brands are category leaders and category disruptors. They deliver products and services that are unique in some way to the consumers being served, and they communicate in ways that distinguish the brand from the competition.
Huawei, the telecommunications and smartphone brand, scores especially high in BrandZ™ measurements of creativity. Its acceptance by discerning overseas consumers who enjoy wide choice has raised Huawei’s stature in China, where its smartphones are able to command a premium based on both functionality and design.
Chinese brands that score high in BrandZ™ measurements of creativity cross many categories and include: Gree (home appliances) and Haier (IoT ecosystem); Lufax (consumer finance); Fliggy (travel agency); and Yunnan Baiyao (pharmaceuticals and TCM).
Creativity is imperative for ongoing brand success in rapidly changing China. Creativity is a prerequisite for the increasing number of Chinese brands seeking overseas success. Chinese brands that have achieved overseas success, such as Huawei and Xiaomi, have minimized the negative inference of “Made in China” and elevated the promise of creativity implied by “Created in China.”
Key Takeaways // Creativity
Brand Building for Future Growth
- Be open
Create an open atmosphere within the organization that encourages original thinking. Creativity is not something that belongs exclusively in the marketing department silo. Creativity is contagious. It is easy to encourage; Just let people be themselves. And it is easy to stifle; create more rules than absolutely necessary. Reward mistakes, or at least do not punish them.
- Encourage conversation
Encourage people to speak up in meetings. But if some people find it difficult to share their ideas in a group, accommodate them with a more private forum. A quiet person may have some of the best brand-building ideas, but the ideas cannot be actualized unless they are shared.
- Foster collaboration
Germinating the best ideas is like procreation. Conception requires more than one individual. Rearranging the office furniture so the fengshui encourages conversation, and people can communicate over a cup of coffee or tea, is a useful design initiative. For these conversations to produce creative ideas, however, people need feel they can express themselves freely.
- Look across categories for ideas
Know what the competition is doing, but do not obsess about the competition. Study the successful products and services in other categories. Find the core ideas that have larger social currency and reinterpret them in new products and services.
- Challenge the status quo
The ideas that succeeded in the past are not the standard for what will succeed in the future. Perfecting a better version of yesterday’s winning product may produce a short-term benefit, but it is not a prescription for long-term growth in a competitive market.
- Engage consumers
Organizations with a creative culture produce the kind of creative and relevant content that begins with a human insight and engages people across all touchpoints, online and offline, communicating a meaningful difference that generates sales short-term, and builds brands long-term.