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The purpose of creative innovation, by Tales & Heads’ Lisa King

To mark the United Nation’s World Creativity and Innovation Day, Lisa King, co-founder at independent agency Tales & Heads, looks at how the creative economy and purpose-driven brands are crucial to the sustainable development agenda.

Creativity has the power to change lives. By connecting life experiences and imagining ‘what if?’, humans have the incredible ability to create new ideas that solve real problems.  And we have a long history of innovating to turn those great ideas into reality. Today we celebrate that human ingenuity on the United Nation’s World Creativity and Innovation Day.   A day designed to recognise the contribution of the creative economy to the UN’s Agenda for Sustainable Development and its 17 goals.

The creative economy has long had the ability to drive major change in the world economy.  Perhaps never more so than in the aftermath of the pandemic, where its ability to power innovation and diversification and support entrepreneurship has never been more important.

Earlier this month, Dubai launched its own Creative Economy strategy to double companies and jobs in the creative sector by 2025 and increase its GDP contribution to the wider economy. In a city that prides itself on innovating for the future, making the Emirate more appealing to the creative industries is no doubt a smart move. For this is a sector that creates jobs, expands opportunities and drives change to aid human development. What could be more important than that?

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Creativity can also provide solutions to some of the world’s biggest challenges. And now, more than ever before, we all need to play our part. Brands are at the forefront of this shift from ‘me’ to ‘we’ and are increasingly expected to use their creative prowess to not simply promote products and services but drive meaningful societal change. In a recent global survey of nearly 30,000 people, Accenture found that 62 per cent want companies to take a stand on issues like sustainability, transparency, or fair employment practices. What’s more, their trust and loyalty depend on it.

Defining a purpose, the reason a brand exists beyond simply its offer is more crucial than ever before.  And the good news, according to Deloitte, is that purpose-driven brands report 30 per cent higher levels of innovation. With a clear direction, creative ideas can come to fruition and make a tangible difference. A difference that is also proven to build deeper connections and benefit the bottom line.

So which brands are knocking it out of the park and what can we learn from them as we celebrate creativity across the globe?

Many of us will know how Patagonia walks the talk in its single-minded quest to save our home planet. What is so powerful about their brand is that its purpose is intrinsic to absolutely everything they do and a driver for creativity. Who would expect a retailer to put out an ad saying, ‘Don’t buy this jacket’ and encourage customers to repair, share and recycle to reduce consumption? This wasn’t just reverse psychology at its very best but a creative way of demonstrating not only what the brand stands for but what action it’s taking to make a change. Their ‘Worn wear’ resale platforms were said to have sold over 120,000 pieces of used gear in 2019.

We also need to be open to the idea that with a clear purpose, creativity can come from anywhere. Not simply cascaded down from global HQ. Equally, finding the right brands or partners to collaborate with can also be very powerful. IKEA is a great example of this.  Their ‘ThisAbles’ project in Israel was entirely in keeping with the brand’s purpose to create better everyday lives by addressing the issue of regular furniture for people with disabilities.  With their agency McCann and in collaboration with two NGO’s, IKEA created smart hacks to make some of their most popular furniture accessible for all.  What’s more, they showcased the products in the first accessible living spaces in their stores and made these hacks available for 3D printing anywhere in the world.

Creativity & Innovation can also be used as a vehicle to disrupt the market and provoke others to take action. In the US, Mischief at No Fixed Address and gelo, an eco-friendly, reusable hand soap company, hijacked discarded competitor soap bottles and created bottle salvage boxes complete with soap pods and a gelo label to stick over the top of their rivals’ branding. A great way to highlight the issue of excessive packaging as well as reducing the brand’s own plastic production.

And the innovation goes on, from startups founded to instigate change through to global brands with the impetus and know-how to really make a difference.  Our human ability to innovate is truly astounding and as a brand, if you haven’t already, it’s time to put your creativity to work. To solve problems, to support your wider communities, to make the world a better place. Be bold, do things differently, invest in the things you believe in.  It’s time to stand up and make a change, you’ll be more valued in return.

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