Published originally on by Michael Frohlich.

Creativity takes many forms in the way companies communicate today. It can be in the way a business turns a reputational challenge on its head with a promotion so inventive in its simplicity; in a social media post that uses a surprising word play to generate shares and likes; or in a crisis response with the leverage of a digital platform to disseminate information in a novel way.

Every forward-thinking business today sees creativity as a high-valued currency. According to Forrester Consulting’s The Creative Dividend Study, companies that cultivate this attribute are 3.5 times more likely to achieve revenue growth of 10% or more than their peers. And yet despite the perceived benefits of creativity, 61% of senior managers interviewed for the study said they did not view their companies as creative.

Who tops rankings as most creative and most innovative? Relatively newer companies such as Amazon, Netflix and Uber that have disrupted and upended established sectors through “the use of imagination or original ideas” – the dictionary’s explanation of creativity. (Fast Company, for example, had all the aforementioned companies on the top 10 of its Most Innovative Companies list for 2016.

Their very business models have been founded on the principle. And their use of it extends to not only marcomms but also product development and design, organizational structure and leadership, and even community outreach and philanthropy.

Legacy companies typically rank lower on lists of most creative and most innovative. This is starting to change. Companies used to doing the tried and true realize their very future success depends on their use of creativity.

Integrating Communications

This realization comes as companies manage the significant challenges around integrating all their communications functions. They are finding solutions to the integration of their digital touchpoints – mobile and the web, social media, content marketing, digital marketing and so on, so that everything is in alignment to an underlying core message. And they are bringing together research and analytics, digital and creative, CRM and corporate communications.

At Ogilvy, we’ve been helping clients adopt an integrated model and maximize the benefits it provides. It is something we’ve gone through first-hand. One of the most significant movements we’ve made at the agency over the past few years has been towards a “one team for one CMO”. Fortunately, integration and collaboration are in the very DNA of Ogilvy, and so we’ve fully embraced the challenge.

Now, we’re also helping clients think about what creativity should look like in that integrated model. Often we like to start by explaining what it isn’t: “a really great image on Instagram,” “a really funny slogan,” “an unusual microsite.” In an integrated model, creativity should not just be a characteristic but a mindset. In other words, a great slogan should be the by-product of a communications function that has creativity built into its very fabric. Company X is so creative. They are so smart. It shouldn’t just be an adjective tossed around to describe the odd marcomm element.

Creativity is what separates us – and has been separating today’s corporate innovators – from the competition.

It is an important distinction companies need to recognize. Because creativity in marketing isn’t just about getting eyeballs and awareness and media coverage. Rather, it is also a powerful and indispensable tool by which companies can reinforce and advance their businesses and brands amid pretty significant and continuing shifts in consumer behaviour. Creativity is the ultimate conduit to change.