5 key principles link creativity to business success

Bloomberg Media Chief Revenue and Client Relationships Officer Paul Caine sent the following memo to staff today:

Dear Colleagues and Clients,

As marketers and ad industry professionals, we all recognize the value of creativity. It’s the lifeblood of our industry, and what keeps us energized every day. But often times it’s difficult to connect creativity to the bottom line. 

So we made it our mission to do just that. Driven by the hypothesis that there is in fact a direct link between creativity and business success, Bloomberg Media COO Jacki Kelley and Bloomberg Intelligence U.S. Head of Research Paul Sweeney formed an interdisciplinary task force to explore and analyze the link. 

Their discoveries were revealed today in a presentation and panel discussion at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Media. Missed it? We’ve got you covered. Read on. 

Using a combination of proprietary data and reputable third-party sources, our expert data technologists and analysts examined creativity from every angle – talent, strategy, data, UX, marketing and more – and then layered in key metrics for business performance, using data from the Bloomberg Professional Service. 

A set of key principles emerged that offer a truly original lens on how business success hinges on creativity. I’m thrilled to share these principles now with you, as well as insights from the panelists who joined Jacki and Paul live this afternoon in Cannes to discuss the Bloomberg group’s exciting work: Y&R CEO David Sable; m:united Managing Director Kevin Nelson; OMD USA CEO Monica Karo; and Samsung Electronics America CMO Marc Mathieu. 

Bloomberg Media COO Jacki Kelley leads a panel discussion on the business of creativity at Cannes Lions. Panelists included OMD USA CEO Monica Karo; Samsung Electronics America CMO Marc Mathieu; Y&R CEO David Sable; and m:united Managing Director Kevin Nelson. 

The first principle: Leadership. It’s essential to risk-taking – and as Jacki, quoting Ariel Investments President Mellody Hobson, reminded us: you can’t be brave without fear. Leadership is how the groups of individuals who make up companies face that creative crucible successfully.  

Paul Sweeney cited Under Armour as an outstanding example of a company that has taken risks to achieve outstanding business return. The company built a brand on innovative fitness apparel, but changed the game and drove to uber success by taking the risk of entering a saturated market – athletic footwear.  

That was a real product risk. It’s done the same in entering the highly competitive women’s apparel market – which now represents 30% of its business and just keeps growing; and with choosing to feature ballerina Misty Copeland, rather than a more mainstream athlete, in its advertising campaigns.

In fact, disruption is central to Under Armour’s culture – which is the second principle. Companies must incubate a culture that gives coherence and direction to both creative efforts and business strategies. 

UA’s brand culture of breaking barriers has resulted in a consistent strategic direction, even as the company has expanded into diversified product lines and target markets. 

Another example comes from MasterCard, which expanded its core, successful “Priceless” campaign with a new Cities/Surprises campaign as well as investing in technology, achieving growth rates for volume and transactions that exceed consumer spending. 

MasterCard has raised that bar by approaching new technologies with curiosity. That’s our third principle. Never stop being open to learning something new – creatively, strategically.  

MasterCard has pioneered the world’s first contactless & mobile payment solutions, incorporating payment options into anything from your refrigerator to robots at Pizza Hut.

The company may have a significant creativity advantage over its closest competitors, especially considering the dramatic rise in smart internet-connected devices. There are about 6 billion connected items worldwide today – and by 2020, there will be more than 20 billion (Gartner).

That means that now, more than ever, companies need to adopt relentlessness – our fourth principle. Whether you’re a startup or a company that’s been around for decades, relentlessly pursuing creative tech-led experiences is vital to business success. 

Taco Bell turns out to have become one of the restaurant world’s most aggressive innovators, in a way that has remade both its menu and its business. It often functions more like a tech company than a fast-food chain, relentlessly rethinking every aspect of its business in an effort to improve its products, its marketing, and the way customers experience the brand. 

The company’s Food Reinvention/Innovation Pipeline, for example, allows it to launch something new every five weeks.  A new “sandbox” designed in partnership with Ideo and Mobiquity encourages users to customize their orders in near-limitless combinations; and Taco Bell’s app and website are also oriented toward personalization. It has seen incredible sales results, exceeding the S&P 500 average return on equity by 74%.

All three of the companies that were highlighted in our presentation today share authenticity at the core of what they do. That’s our final principle that links performance and creativity, and it’s especially important to get right in an era where the ubiquity of social media has opened new channels of communication and connection with customers.

These principles offer guidance for a way forward that we believe is both unique and valuable. Our own core mindset that promoting creativity is a smart business strategy makes this kind of inquiry a natural fit for us. Consider this an invitation to collaborate with us to dig deeper in how we can apply these principles together.


Paul Caine