Sir John Hegarty curates Craft

Sir John Hegarty
Sir John Hegarty

BBH founder Sir John Hegarty explores the value of creativity in an age when growth for brands is uncertain, while on the following pages we showcase the best in creativity this month

In a recent article in the Financial Times, Martin Wolf asked: "Is the age of unlimited growth over?" The basis of the article refers to research by Robert Gordon of Northwestern University in the US. In it, he says the major drivers of growth have been the exploitation of specific technologies. Electricity, the internal combustion engine, domestic running water, sewerage, radio and the telephone, chemicals and petroleum constituted the second industrial revolution (the first being the age of steam).

We're now living in the third industrial revolution: the age of information, driven by the computer, semiconductor and the internet. Gordon persuasively argues this will not result in the rates of growth the second revolution heralded.

If this is true, companies relying on natural growth rates to buoy their businesses might be in for a shock.

One way out of this conundrum is to be more creative.

One could say that creativity is "taking a number of known assets and rearranging them in a way that sparks the imagination". The iPhone is a great example of this. It had nothing in it that was new when it launched; what Apple did was brilliantly rethink what a mobile device was for. Nokia was focused on making smaller phones. The iPhone was bigger, but it reassessed what we wanted. This was a classic piece of creativity.

So much of what we do in advertising and design is to reframe our point of view - enhance the value of a product or service and create a competitive edge. Our work for Lynx/Axe does exactly that; a functional deodorant is transformed into a must-have accessory for the purpose of seduction. Over the past 15 years, the brand's value has grown exponentially.

With a dancing Shetland pony, mobile network Three has embraced engagement with a witty, thoughtful idea about making room in life for the silly stuff. It gets me to think differently about its service and the way it behaves as a company. I love it.

Pepsi has looked at reawakening brand preference through its bottle shape and application of a new logo and graphics. The courage to change must always be applauded. Of course, the danger here is that while Pepsi may think it's radical, a 16-year-old clubber may be completely uninterested.

Naturally, Pepsi is hoping to make arch-rival Coke look dated. Let's hope for its sake that it's right.

Australian pillow-maker Tontine, fighting own-label and commoditisation, found that the answer was to remind people that old pillows are full of nasty things such as dead skin and bacteria - pillows have a life cycle. Since putting an expiry date on its product, Tontine claims that sales have increased by more than 300%. The only innovation here was the idea.

Finally, the release of David Bowie's new album is a timely reminder that rock stars are brands that constantly need rejuvenating. Not everyone can be the Rolling Stones. Bowie is a past master at this. An exhibition at the V&A is a brilliant lesson in brand management.

So is the age of unlimited growth over? I'm not sure. What I do know is, if you don't embrace creativity, it certainly will be for your brand.

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