What is creativity?

July 21, 2020

Is creativity simply the ability to create something – anything? Does someone need to have a transcendent artistic vision to be truly ‘creative’? Is creativity related to talent, or is it something more psychological?

What about all the creativity that goes into making great marketing content – where does that fall on the spectrum?

Then there’s the stuff that we use to create. Are paints inherently creative? Is the research an artist does for a piece creative? What about the data and the analytical methods many creatives use to come up with their best stuff?

There’s a lot of gatekeeping around the concept of creativity. Everywhere you go you’ll find purists arguing for the ‘transcendent artistic vision’ thing. But the truth is that creativity is a lot more complicated, and a lot more human than that.

So, what is creativity? And what, specifically, is marketing creativity? Let’s take a look:

Imagination and innovation

Most people would probably agree that creativity is rooted in imagination and innovation. For example, if you print out a picture of a famous painting, that’s not creative. If you paint an original picture using concepts drawn from your own imagination, that is creative.

However, using that printed out picture in innovative ways can also be creative. If you use it as part of a collage, or add certain features in order to make a point, or even place it somewhere where you know it will have an impact – that’s also creative.

Imagination and innovation are both key pillars of creativity. But, even for the most imaginative person alive, ideas don’t arrive out of the blue. There are two more pillars which are vital to creative endeavour – particularly within creative marketing.

Research and inspiration

“What inspires you?” is a question that artists of all kinds get asked a lot. Usually, the answer involves some element of research.

The vast, vast majority of creative works came into being thanks to a huge amount of research. Artists don’t just paint at random – they use models to help them get proportions right, they use stories and concepts to form ideas for pieces, they study the physicality of what they’re depicting very carefully. Writers don’t bring stories out of nowhere – the best writers research every detail to make sure that their words are as accurate and as meaningful as possible.

Without research to underpin and inspire these artists, their creative enthusiasm would soon run out, and the finished product would be very lacklustre. 

Sure, an artist painstakingly measuring the angles of a ruin so they can turn it into an accurate sketch isn’t as romantic an image as that artist painting that ruin in broad, vibrant strokes – but without the measuring, the painting wouldn’t exist.

Marketing creativity also involves a ton of research and inspiration. These days, we use data to do that research. Data helps us to be more creative than ever before, just as new brush techniques enable painters, and the ability to use the internet for research enables writers.

Creativity for a purpose

Sometimes, creative marketers are reluctant to describe themselves as ‘creative’ because they are creating for a transactional purpose. Rather than just making something beautiful and/or profound for the sake of it, they’re making it in order to sell or promote something.

However, creativity has always been attached to transactional purposes.

Great artists like Rubens, Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo and the like did not create their masterpieces purely for the sake of it. They were commissioned to do so by others.

Michelangelo didn’t just wake up one morning and think ‘I’m going to paint the Sistine Chapel!’. He was commissioned to paint that chapel by Pope Sixtus IV. And, before he began work, he and his team spent a lot of time researching exactly the kinds of things the Vatican wanted to see, the style they thought most appropriate, the themes they appreciated, and so on.

Leonardo da Vinci was paid to paint the Mona Lisa, and study of the painting shows that he edited a lot as he went along – almost certainly because the client asked him to change it to suit their tastes.

Shakespeare’s works were all created for very specific audiences, with the aim of making his theatre company money and of raising his status in the eyes of the reigning monarch. MacBeth, for example, was written almost entirely to curry favour with King James I. Shakespeare probably spent a long time researching the king’s fear of witches and his royal Scots ancestry before putting quill to parchment.

It’s only very recently that we’ve started to divorce the concept of creativity from the concepts of promotion and transaction. And, honestly, we shouldn’t have. All the greatest works of art were created for a specific – usually transactional – purpose.

Analysis improves creativity

Just as Michaelangelo analysing the physics of human muscular motion doesn’t sound particularly creative, the idea of data diving to enhance creativity seems odd to many.

The fact is, though, that without that analysis, Michelangelo would not have been able to paint those dynamic, mobile, physically accurate figures on the Sistine Chapel ceiling.

And without having to sell something (in this case, religion), Michelangelo would never have picked up a paintbrush in the first place.

Marketing creativity is very much a valid form of creativity, and it always has been.

What’s more, as marketing creativity is currently at the forefront of research and analysis methods, the fact is that we’re well situated to be producing the best, most creative works around right now.

Here at Datasine, we use Creative Data to bridge the gap between data and creativity. We enhance and enable the work of creative marketers, by helping them to get that all-important inspirational research done faster and more accurately than has ever been possible before.

To find out how we can empower your marketing creativity, book a chat with us today.