What is a Creativity Agency?
I’ve had bosses who abhor the term “advertising” and prefer the term “marketing,” and friends who hear that and think, “junk mail on my windshield.”
“Business strategy” has an intimidating gravity, and “branding,” feels like a proprietary process for transforming an ancient mandala into a logo for mushroom-infused tea.
Some prefer the term “consulting,” and others think it sounds like Mitt Romney liquidating KB Toys. “Demand gen” and “lead gen” are routinely mixed up, and feel a bit like advertising’s cold calling brothers. “Agile processes” has a glitz and West Coast glamor to it, and “design thinking” feels free of preservatives and artificial flavors.
So where to center those crucial words that describe what you do?
For Superhuman, writing a sentence like, “we are a blank blank agency” can feel like game of Twister. Every term you center on feels like it may be diminishing something else you do, but you also don’t want a wordy kitchen sink approach.
This isn’t a problem unique to advertising / branding / marketing firms (see??). For many of our clients, the simple task of explaining precisely what industry they’re in is next to impossible. “We’re kind of in asset management, kind of in data monitoring, kind of in cloud consulting.”
Finding a term to build your business on is tricky, and one of the main reasons why companies hire outside firms to build their strategy and write their mission statement.
This is the reason why we’ve started adding “category description” as an output of our strategy process. A typical strategy will cover (at the minimum) a company’s core belief, purpose and pillar statements, which goes far in building the core components of a mission statement. But as a writer, I often found myself spending a lot of the messaging portion of work aligning with clients on a category description.
If your purpose is “change the world by opening minds,” for example, you have a powerful central statement. But it’s hard to sell that through to a broad range of teams and clients without something that grounds it in your industry. “Change the world of consumer finance by opening minds” often ends up being the final product. But landing on that “consumer finance” category description takes a lot of work.
Finding this term is an art and a science. Oftentimes, it is helpful to have some data to back up a decision. In some cases, we use SEO search data to find what terms people are Googling in connection with your website. This gives us a quantitative look at what term feels most intuitive to a customer.
But writing a category description can takes some creativity. One of our copywriters set off to create alternatives for the term “low-code” and brainstormed 40+ terms that could later become category descriptions. Other times, you’re trying to condense five words into two or three. “Workplace HR hiring, tracking and retention software platform” could become “workplace technology,” for example.
At Superhuman, we very much enjoy performing this type of word surgery for our clients. One of the biggest metrics of success we’ve seen in landing on a category description is seeing competitors copycat it, or news outlets pick it up during a big moment like an IPO.
We don’t see a category description as being owned by one company in particular. It’s an attempt to plant a flag in a new category, and copycats are the highest metric of success. Sometimes we’ll recommend clients center their description in an intuitive but already existing category rather than create a new new one.
Returning to Superhuman, we went through a lot of analysis on when agencies use terms like “strategy and creative agency,” and when they say “branding and consulting,” etc. etc. Ultimately, we ended up opting for a tweak on a common term, inspired by our Strategy Director, Lee Cerier. “Creativity Agency” is a wrinkle on “creative agency,” focusing less on the output, and more on the practice of creativity.
But every time you come up with a new term, it takes work to give it meaning. We hope to use our new website to continue to define what a creativity agency is. So stay tuned as we turn our own soul searching into some useful ideas in the world.
Artwork by Ashley Zimiga