What Next-Gen Businesses Need From Creative

The present is the least interesting time to live.

You could also say it’s the least advantageous place for a brand to live — settled into the complacency of today. It’s not good for business — and it’s not good for people.

Yet most brand creative is all about shaping how you see today, instead of showing us a vision for how we can live tomorrow.

One of the most pressing needs in our time is a boost in the public imagination. As it is, the future can look a bit bleak. But maybe that’s because we’re not thinking about it in the right way.

The creative need that we see — and actively pursue — is proactive and driven by optimism and imagination. It’s creativity that inspires a new way of being. Not creative that reinforces the way things are.

Creativity, at its best, can shape the future. We believe that the future is a response to the problems of the present. To get to tomorrow, you need to have the imagination to see the way things should be.

This perspective shift is a massive driver in what we're calling Next-Generation Business.

If traditional creative is about shaping a message that fits comfortably within the status quo, Next-Gen creative is about shaping a new world. And by creating a world based on your convictions, you forge a deep identity — a brand that truly means something to people.

In order to get to tomorrow, you have to break up with today.

Five years ago, it was clear that the nature of weed branding would change.

Not only was it increasingly legal — opening up a nascent marketplace — but people were using hemp and weed products in a new way — a way that its “far out, man” image didn’t reflect. And it wasn’t just that pot’s image didn’t reflect how people felt about themselves; it didn’t get at why people were using it, either. All that, coupled with increasing social acceptance of the drug, signaled a tidal change in the cultural meaning of “weed,” the idea.

Fast-forward to 2019, and some of the most interesting branding is happening in the hemp and marijuana product space. Suddenly, pot doesn’t just exist in the realm of back-room tokers, but is instead a hugely interesting and evolving lifestyle category that fits a large range of audiences.

To us, this example perfectly illustrates a need for a different type of creativity in business. The historical precedent for brand “creative” is that it’s hemmed in by reality. But Next-Gen creative does away with your expectations and preconceptions. It paints a new view entirely, and shows a new way.

So, what goes into Next-Gen Creative?

We start by looking at culture: What cultural problem or pain point are you truly solving? In many ways, our creative is rooted in design thinking. How are we serving people?

Then, what should we do about it? How are you backing up your perspective about how the world should be? What are you doing to give people a new way to live? And how are you executing it in a way that feels fresh? To shape this creative, you need artistry and humanity—what do people respond to on a deep, emotional level?

As we build brands, we always have one key question in mind: How is it that people should live in the future?

And the winner is progress.

A good creative idea is not just about emotion or capturing the cultural zeitgeist — it’s about movement. It should address a cultural pain point, and then show people a path past it. A vision for how they can live better.

And if you look at industry creative now, it doesn’t do that.

But the brands that mean the most to people do. They don’t just exist as products — they express their conviction and give people a path to something better. They use their creativity to shape a brand that makes this a reality for people.

There are some huge players using cultural ideas as brand fuel very well. These are brands with products that solve a problem and make us feel differently about ourselves. One of the most impressive is Airbnb, which is powered by the idea that you shouldn’t just go somewhere — you should live there. This could have just been a shallow tagline, but the service is built to pay it off. Just look at the success they’ve had in besting a platform with similarly functionality — VRBO — all because the latter lacks cultural positioning.

The companies that are inventing the future aren’t just driven by a neat set of functional benefits — they’re powered by big ideas that show us a new way forward. They make strides to increase the public imagination. And they find new ways to serve people — always with optimism and imagination at the forefront.