Here’s a summary of the advice I recently gave a group of creative professionals, which I believe you will find useful.
It’s all about the labels we use and how they shape the way the marketplace sees us.
The labels people use
When I help creative agencies to improve their output, I start by asking them why they insist on labelling themselves as a creative agency.
Think about it: If a creative agency is truly creative, surely it wouldn’t copy a dull, generic term to describe what it does. It wouldn’t limit itself like that.
That kind of labelling works fine for some other businesses, because those businesses are generic.
For example, restaurants provide an identical core service: You eat and drink and then pay the bill. This is true, whether you go to a fast food restaurant or the most expensive restaurant in town. All that changes between restaurants is the food, the experience and the cost.
Conversely, creative agencies are supposed to think without limitations. The nature of what they do, is to think differently. Unlike restaurants, very few creative agencies, if any, should offer an identical service.
Benjamin Zephaniah is more than a poet
The best creative professionals, like all artists, are exceptions to the labelling rule. Is Benjamin Zephaniah a poet? Yes, but he’s so much more, so he’s never labelled simply as a poet. I’ve followed Benjamin’s work for decades and he’s usually introduced with any or all of the following statements:
- He’s a social commentator.
- He’s a recording artist.
- He’s an activist.
- He’s a master story teller.
- He’s a trouble maker.
- He’s an educator.
- He’s a progressive thinker.
- He’s a catalyst for change.
- And he’s a poet… a really good poet.
Benjamin Zephaniah defies a simple label. The same was true of Andy Warhol. Warhol wasn’t a studio artist, he invented his own artistic niche with Pop Art.
My point here, is that creative professionals who embrace the creative agency label are, at best, causing people to think of them within a narrow, limiting box. At worst, it will restrict what the agency team do, as they start to conform to what they think ‘the typical agency’ does.
Neither of those are great outcomes. In fact, they’re common to every struggling agency I have ever helped.
A creative alternative?
Lose the label. Create your own niche. Do your own unique brand of work. Set yourself apart. Be meaningfully different.
When you lose that uncreative label, you get to define what you do.
This isn’t the 1990’s and you don’t need to be listed in business directories, under an idiot-proof label or category. Today, you can put your creativity out there and attract the attention of those interested in your unique, creative approach.
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