Benjamin Braun
Benjamin Braun
A view from Benjamin Braun

Creativity and emotion must take the lead as we approach an uncertain future

Marketers must make it their mission to break analysis paralysis and build new campaigns and products that don't optimise existing trends, but create new ones.

The coronavirus pandemic has changed us all. We’re rethinking how we work, play and interact with our friends and families. As a marketer, I’ve found myself considering how this experience will change my future work.

When I look at campaigns that have been launched during the past few months, two things have really shone through: emotion and creativity. Because in uncertain times, people want to be reassured, motivated and inspired. They want storytelling and hope. Brands need to show they care – but also that they can help consumers connect with new and exciting worlds.

Historically, it’s been easy to lean on data that proves a campaign will take off. But there is no rulebook any more. We don’t quite know what future our society is heading into – so creativity and emotion must take the lead, for now.

Let me take you back to 2009, when Aleksandr Orlov was born. His calling in life was to compare meerkats. And it took just a simple creative spin from "market" to "meerkat" to help the now-infamous insurance-comparison website Comparethemarket.com increase its market share by 76% in just one year.

Between 2012 and 2016, I was working for Mark Vile, the marketing director at Comparethemarket.com, and learned lots. There was no science to prove why people would engage with meerkats – or meerkat toys. It was a tough sell to the owners and a massive leap for the business to back the meerkat wordplay. But the simplicity and creative approach just worked – people connected with the brand and the rest is history.

I learned an important lesson. You can only get so far by pushing what has been done before. You need to look beyond the data of what should happen and be courageous.

I attended one of the world’s biggest creative showcases last year, Cannes Lions. Surprisingly, every conversation, with every major technology platform, centred around data-driven incremental growth for whatever KPI was on the agenda.

An event that should breed creativity was not very creative. I was disappointed. I saw marketers reinventing themselves as analytical scientists. A/B testing. Multi-variant testing. Testing the test. Testing the test of the test of the test. People advocating an industry to follow data trends instead of creating them. Gosh. An industry in analysis paralysis. What happened to the big disruptive ideas? Where is the next meerkat?

Don’t get me wrong: optimising data is sensible; we need to do it. It is hygiene; we should have artificial intelligence doing it. But you need creative disruption too.

Because if you never try something new, your brand and sales will stay the same. And though your data may be reliable, if you take it at face value every time you plan a campaign, you are missing new opportunities to grow.

For example, numbers might show that boys under 12 pick football as their hobby, so you could market football-related products to parents of young boys. But doing so would miss the opportunity to bring other consumers in. At best, you’d be stopping others (girls) from creating a connection with your brand. At worst, you’d be reinforcing gender expectations that the world is fighting so hard to move beyond. In short, the data you were relying on would work against you.

This is where creative courage comes in. Finding that "big idea" can take a number of leaps, but sometimes you have to be the frog. Use data as your platform – your jumping off point. But when decision time comes, you have to leap and not inch forward. 

At Samsung, we get a buzz from the big leaps. We optimised our mobile phone screens to be bigger and clearer. But the leap was to make a foldable screen. It’s a bold idea now that in a few years’ time will be the standard.

When the Samsung Frame TV is switched off, it is not a big black box hanging on your wall. It comes to life. It shows art from the best museums and galleries in the world in your home (or your family snaps). It taps into a human’s most straightforward joys. We create products that lead with creativity and fulfil an emotional need as much as they do a practical one.

As I said at the beginning, recent times have proven the value of emotion and creativity more than ever. As we move forward, it is my wish that marketers continue to hold these values close and use them to be more daring in their work.

I hope that we break analysis paralysis. That as marketers we build new campaigns and products that don’t optimise existing trends but create new ones. Campaigns that bring us all together in shared experiences and draw out the emotional comfort that the world really needs.

Benjamin Braun is chief marketing officer for Europe at Samsung