Inspiring creativity in advertising

The guest column highlights creativity as a dynamic process grounded in timeless principles. Through case studies, Tapas Gupta demonstrates how lateral thinking and analogical techniques can effectively solve complex problems across diverse fields.

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Creativity is like a rotating wheel, never constant, never static. Trends change, ideas constantly evolve, and execution styles are often refined, more so with the continuous advancement of sophisticated software and technology, including AI. But the age-old principles & foundation of creative thinking never change. There are no algorithms yet that can help germinate great ideas in the human brain, but the proliferation and widespread reach of information technology helps enormously in catalysing the creative thinking process.  

Creative solutions are not just restricted to developing ideas to crack advertising problems but need to be viewed in a far larger context –– as problem solvers in our lives. In all walks of life, we often face problems and the first thing we do is to apply linear solutions. When we say we are doing things creatively, it means doing things differently, off the beaten track, to arrive at the desired solution often inspired by analogies, methodologies and tactics borrowed from completely unrelated spheres.

I firmly believe Creativity is a process, not an end by itself. It is manifested overtly or subtly in a creatively inclined mind, which has the innate talent to think laterally and take leaps within the framework of the defined problem one is expected to solve. It is necessary to immerse deep into the problem and set your thinking in motion to come to a solution. Let me give you a basic structure to this thinking-in-motion process to make it simple to understand.

A real-life case study on lateral thinking

Nando’s, a QSR leader from South Africa in flame-grilled peri-peri chicken, entered the Indian market a few years back. They were relatively unknown compared to the big boys like KFC, Dominos, and Pizza Hut all of whom had entry-level pricing below Rs.100 to attract the first footfall. Being makers of authentic flame-grilled chicken, Nando’s pricing was a barrier. And this soon became such an overwhelming perception that even when they introduced menus sub Rs. 100, prospects didn’t even notice. The single-minded task in communication was to break this current perception & present Nando’s as a pocket-friendly QSR option, without compromising on its core DNA of being a specialist in flame-grilled chicken.  

A task force was set up at BEI Confluence that followed the classical route of the brainstorming process to encourage disruptive ideas. The process was set in motion.

  • Problem Narration: Be Structured and succinct 
    • Nando’s offerings are perceived as expensive. 
    • The task was to break this perception & present Nando’s as pocket-friendly for everyone 
  • Assimilation: Understanding of the problem & the issues 
    • All QSR leaders focused on entry pricing to attract footfall. Our job was to cut the clutter in communicating the same message differently.
  • Incubation: Sleeping on the problem by parking the brief in sub-conscious
    • The team was encouraged to sleep over the problem, think disruptively, and come up with ideas two days later 
  • Illumination & Ideation: The Eureka Moment of Idea Generation
    • An ideas session through brain-storming was conducted  and teams were encouraged to freely narrate the wildest ideas that would ‘shake & jerk’ the TG (upmarket  Millennial & GenZ)
    • About 20 lateral ideas were discussed, and the ‘Hitch-Hiking’ approach was used by the moderator to arrive at the best five ‘out-of-the-box’ ideas to build on further. (‘Hitch-hiking’ approach is defined as someone else building on another person’s idea, without criticizing it).  
  • Verification, Modification, Refinement: Review & Sharpening Ideas
    • Five ideas were then presented to a group of 4 senior professionals  to review
    • They were outlined the problem, the task was defined and were asked to choose the two most striking ideas, that are relevant but disruptive to the problem’s solution
    • A further round of hitch-hiking was done and the group finally arrived at the most striking idea streams    
  • Fructification of the Idea: Honing down to two ideas & review the execution
    • A team of 4 creative persons in 2 groups were tasked to develop KVs & film scripts based on the two shortlisted ideas 

The final idea selected was based on the thinking that while Nando’s grilled the chicken, why can’t the customer ‘Grill the Bill’? In other words, the bill is so pocket-friendly that the customer actually gets a ‘grilled bill’ along with the grilled chicken.  

Marketing & advertising is only a small part of the canvas where creative thinking is used for problem-solving, and its greater application comes from vast areas such as science & technology, geology, aeronautics, shipbuilding, economics, defence, medical science, health care, IT, business and commerce where innovative out-of-the-box solutions are critical for inventions & innovations. 

Analogical references drawn from the animal world, planetary systems, nature, and biological and anatomical systems are often great inspirations for creatively solving problems by drawing analogies and adapting these to arrive at the solutions we are seeking. The submarine’s original inspiration was the whale which scientist William Bourne had drawn out in 1578 and in 1620 Cornelis Drebbel, the Dutch inventor tested the prototype successfully. 

In the area of science & technology, a more advanced technique known as “Synectics” (Dictionary meaning: A problem-solving technique to promote creative thinking, typically amongst small groups of people of diverse expertise) by creating psychological strain leading to original solutions primarily through analogical matrix. 

There are numerous examples from the parallel world of nature, human anatomy, and planetary systems (used extensively in Space technology) leading to inventions and innovations that have revolutionised our lives. Many of these have been the result of advanced Synectics techniques using the Analogical Matrix 

I have brought these techniques & examples in focus to inspire creativity in advertising by thinking through analogically often by drawing parallels from unrelated  ‘worlds’ to provide clutter-breaking ideas that can stick like glue in the TG’s mind. The most famous example of lateral & analogical thinking in Indian advertising is definitely the original Fevicol campaign many years back which still sticks in our mind. What it did for the brand is history. 

The article is penned by Tapas Gupta, Chairman & Managing Director, BEI Confluence Communication Ltd. 

Disclaimer: The article features the opinion of the author and does not necessarily reflect the stance of the publication.

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