Every creative has come up against a project that’s felt a little one-sided:
- Please make an interesting ad for us.
- It’s going to be a 30-second TV spot.
Kid in a candy store.
- Promoting our “new” interest rate.
Stale gummies on display?
- Using this local athlete with no experience in front of a camera.
But off-brand chocolates don’t taste as good.
- And don’t forget the 12 seconds of legal disclaimers.
And the store closes early.
Brand standards — working within a very tight box
Larger companies oftentimes have very specific guidelines for how their ad and marketing materials should be formatted, written and presented. To be fair, there’s good reason for that. In big business, consistency is key. Everybody instantly recognizes a McDonald’s from the highway because the arches are always the same proportions, font and color.
Any sort of deviance from this golden brand standard muddles the strong associations the consumers have with the company’s products and services. And that, of course, might be disastrous for business.
At first brush, strict brand standards might feel oppressive for a creative accustomed to having free reign over creative direction. I know I felt that way. How could it be possible to advance an engaging idea when many projects feel predetermined or templated?
Lessons from an inquisitive philosophy professor
For those who think philosophy is just an expensive prerequisite for the job title “barista,” you might not be wrong. Nevertheless, the occasional course in Aesthetics or Epistemology poses noteworthy questions like this one (don’t forget to whimsically stroke your beard):
“Who is more creative, an engineer who must design a new component of a smaller engine design, working under a mind-numbing number of conditionals, restrictions and physical laws, or an artist with a blank canvas?”
Sometimes profoundly vexing and particular problems demand dramatically innovative thinking to find solutions. The power of the pressure cooker is to make you squirm a little — and then yield amazing, unlikely ideas.
Autonomy is all about perspective
The rules imposed upon you by brand standards will naturally push you around and frustrate you. But in those moments, you have a very important choice to make. Are you going to view those parameters as barriers to your creativity or opportunities to attain a new level of ingenuity?
I sincerely hope the latter, because this perspective shift will provide you with newfound enthusiasm for every new project — even that monthly mailer you’ve done 12 or 13 times already. The tighter the box, the tighter the challenge.
In this way, you will become your most creative self, empowered by the brand standards you’re immersed in. Always remember, even in the smallest, most mundane component of that new V-8 you hear on the street, there was space for something greater.