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The roar from Cannes Lions: Is necessity the mother of change?

We at Ingenuity recently organised an event chaired by Lions Festivals CEO Philip Thomas (operator of Cannes Lions Festival). He spoke to an array of global brands about the power of creativity in marketing – here are the key takeaways.
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Weaving together real life case studies and inspiring Cannes Lions stories, Phillip posited that creative marketing has a direct impact on a brand’s bottom line and ROI.

Over the course of the hour, our audience of 50 top senior marketing executives wrestled with various topics and debated the inconsistencies that arise in creative marketing across different sectors.

Philip posed an interesting and thought provoking question: why has an industry like banking largely failed to evoke creative emotion in their marketing campaigns, while previously stale sectors like retail have skyrocketed to global relevance with engaging and culturally immersive campaigns?

It’s a question with many facets, but, for the sake of brevity, we will situate the idea within the past ten to fifteen years.

The shifting retail landscape

In the early and mid-2000s the retail industry began to shift, as digital-based challengers emerged from the woodwork to throw the global retail arena into disarray. Traditional bricks-and-mortar retailers like John Lewis, Sainsbury’s and ASDA now had to contend with fierce, burgeoning competitors like Amazon, Asos and Net-A-Porter.

With the proliferation of PCs, laptops and the rapid adoption of smartphones and tablets, digital transformation swept across the sector faster than many established brands could keep up with.

Faced with the stark truth that retail was undergoing a global upheaval, traditional brands were forced to reinvent and rethink existing marketing strategies. The alternative was akin to failure; the truth laid bare for all to see: adapt and evolve or become a living fossil in a changing world.

In response to these rapid changes, the retail industry evolved alongside changing consumer demand. Creative campaigns needed to stand out and reflect the seismic shifts occurring across the sector.

Retail’s big budget productions in last year’s run up to Christmas support this claim. John Lewis’ Man on the Moon is creeping up on 25m YouTube views, while Sainsbury’s Mog the Cat has soared past the 30m mark. These ads, similar to immersive stories, intend to enchant and charm a consumer base that responds well to emotive marketing.

Collectively, the industry responded to these challenges with new campaigns that pushed the boundaries of creative, emotional and artistic marketing.

The challenges of being a new kid on the block in the age-old retail industry

Banking on change

These changes within retail were born from a primal need to adapt and survive. It’s not surprising that, when digitally native vendors began to emerge, retailers suddenly decided to increase marketing budgets and enhance creative portfolios.

When surveying an arena like finance and banking, we find stand-out creative thought sporadic if not altogether ephemeral. That’s not to say that banks aren’t delivering on their marketing strategies or meeting objectives, but when benchmarked against other, more audacious industries, it’s markedly apparent that bold risks are rarely taken.

We must admit that the nature of the industry itself casts a pervasive shadow on any flickering beams of creativity that occasionally splinter through the cracks. As a sector, new challenger banks are either eaten up or unable to make their mark. Consider this: before 2010, not a single new bank opened on the UK high street in more than 100 years.

Perhaps, then, we are less accustomed to innovative marketing in the banking sector because these global giants have yet to face a pervasive threat to the extent that retailers experienced some fifteen years ago. With digital gushing into the finance world at an unprecedented rate, is that all about to change?

Atom, the UK’s first digital-only bank, is sparking a wave of competition within the financial world, as digital devices open up the potential for new and more efficient means of banking.

Early adopters are already praising the ease and simplicity of this ‘bank-in-a-pocket.’ Atom isn’t the only challenger either. Tandem, Mondo, Starling and Masthaven are all vying to stake their claim in the rich new soils that populate the changing landscape of banking.

Consider what economic secretary to the Treasury, Harriet Baldwin, had to say: “Incentivising new banks to come to market is a key part of the government’s drive to increase competition. We want to ensure that the UK financial services sector remains the best and most diverse in the world.”

Why Citibank has teamed with Uber and MasterCard to “change the world” with fintech

The case for necessity

With change abound, it’s logical that this new influx of challenger banks could pose a real, tangible threat to established bricks-and-mortar banks. Though these historic banks all retain a digital presence (whether online or via an app), it seems there’s a rustle in the wind, as new competitors emerge looking to re-write the script for banking in the 21st century.

Will these challengers effect a similar change to the one we witnessed in retail some fifteen years ago? If so, will creative, bold marketing strategies form a new norm in the financial world?

Only time will tell. Don’t be surprised, though, if we begin to see banks loosen the reins on their marketing and advertising strategies. If history tells us one thing, it’s that necessity is the mother of all change.

Shaun Varga is chairman and creative director at Ingenuity

Speaking of change, Instagram pulled an Uber and introduced a new look and logo – what do you think of it?

Image: Shutterstock

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