What makes an expression creative?

20 Jun 2022

Writing the perfect expression, be it for a slogan or a title, advertisement or caption, movie dialog or a poem lyric, a simple blog headline or email campaign subject, a presentation title or product wrapper, is not easy.

The common person’s view of creativity is anything that stands out, is remembered, and is different or new! Anything that makes people think, listen, or act is creativity.

When you explore deep, creativity is the interplay of the impact of the message in the mind, body, heart, and soul of the ultimate recipient (living forms). And by the way, creativity is not creativity for creativity’s sake, just like an explosion is not explosion for explosion's sake. (The only exception is love for love's sake, but that’s not today’s topic).

In this article, I will cover the common best practices that make an expression creative, and when you really think about it, these are also the common rules that make any communication creative and impactful.

Heart of communication

Communication is all about the user, the listener, the viewer, the reader, the doer, or in a nutshell the audience. From a user perspective, start answering these simple questions while donning their shoes and also their socks. User’s shoes are what you see and understand, user’s socks are what you need to decipher, understand and connect.

Mind of Communication

The mind of communication is in establishing relevance and bringing impact in the least possible words while appealing to the user’s context. If the heart of communication is preparation, the mind is communication. Here are a few tips for the creative writer while creating amazing creatives.

Soul of Communication

The soul of communication lies in building an insta-connect with the audience while ensuring the brand is not compromised, and the product or service or message you wanna highlight stays the hero. A few tips here:

  • Be empathetic: Ensure your message has respect for common global and cultural values. Do not cause or sponsor separatism or glorification of the part as opposed to the whole.
  • Play to make the creative timeless: Write and rewrite your creative till it becomes easy to remember and memorable. Keep asking yourself are you able to sell the unique selling proposition of your product or idea in the user’s shoes and socks. This will ensure your creative maps to your target market.
  • Differentiate from the competition: A few more write and rewrites to make it different from the competition and ensure it is unique, classy, and shareable.
  • Others add value: Show it around, get feedback, if possible do A/B testing or surveys, and finally select the amazing.

Blending it all

A creative expression is as good as its packaging. Based on your final intent you need to package it well. Common scenarios may include creating a social media post, blog, white paper heading, product wrapper, tagline, trademarks, and the most important of them all advertisement. The list doesn’t end there, it could be a movie title, Youtube video, book title, or even an election slogan, maybe an annual report opening section, an email heading, a campaign hero text, or what all visual designers love ‘Lorem Ipsum Filler” replaced with the actual text.

So, whatever be your need, you need to blend the creative message with multi-sensory inputs, the most important are visual, audio, and sometimes touch.

Let’s evaluate the most important use case - the blending of text and visuals. Here are a few tips:

  • Nature of visual: Is the visual a photo (original, selfie, stock) or a template, an illustration, or abstract. Or, is it a video with some or all these elements.
  • Visual theme: Compliment, contrast, or abstract. Pick the theme that helps you bring symmetry, rhythm or surprise, or mysticism to the narrative.
  • Text placement: Seems simple as a democracy but is not. The placement of text, its font, size, and location matter the most in a visual. How you define the font and colors will determine whether the text is a caption, heading, subheading, or an image in the larger narrative. Even more, it defines what wins - the text, the message, or the visual.
  • Hero line and bylines: Do you have only one hero text or a byline, and how are other text details presented. For example, look at the classic tagline “From the moment they met it was murder” in the movie Double Indemnity. It seems the byline is Double Indemnity and the hero text is “From the moment they met it was murder”.
  • When do you strike: Does your hero text come at the start or is it a buildup, progressive disclosure.
  • Reinforcement: Will you be subtle, highlight, or loud? For example, in multi-sensory inputs text-visual-and-audio, will you speak the text, display the text, or both!
  • Embedding the dream in the audience: After seeing the creative, when you close your eyes, do you gather a picture of the same. Ideally, the text itself should have its own picture, and this when complemented with any accompanying picture should have the entire scene in your mind. The best is all users see the same thing, and feel the near same thing, but in a million different ways in their minds. That’s impact. That’s applause.

In a follow-up blog, I will pick examples for social media, advertisement, and blogging.

10 Creatives Expressions That I like

If I were to summarize some of the above lessons in real life and pick 10 creative expressions from different genres. Maybe, you will like some of them and feel many are missed, and that it would be. But still trying.

  1. “How to win friends and influence people” by Dale Carnegie [A simple title that launched the self-help and organized networking revolution]
  2. “Much Ado About Nothing by William Shakespeare” [When you have to discuss everything or at least many things and equate it with nothing…]
  3. “If you can fill the unforgiving minute with sixty seconds’ worth of distance run” by Rudyard Kipling [the magic of focus, concentration, and possibilities]
  4. This is in Hindi. “Gham aur khushi mein fark na mehsoos ho jahan, main dil ko us makaam pe lata chala gaya” part of a Hindi song Lyric by Majrooh Sultanpuri [This is a twist from the previous quote where the child’s energy is about to make her a wo[man]. Here, it’s about the reality of the middle path where even the best endeavor may not fetch the best results and yet the journey in the endeavor is the reward, a journey where neither sorrow or happiness impacts life’s onward experience.]
  5. “It was gravity which pulled us down and destiny which broke us apart.” by Bob Dylan [The trials and tribulations of fatal attractions and consequent heartbreaks in relationship]
  6. “Love is a rotation and being loved is revolutionby Go2Words [The search of love moves on one axis and the feeling of love moves on another axis and the conflict of chasing and being chased till final acceptance dawns. If you didn’t like this, forgive me, it’s one of my own expressions.]
  7. “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade” by Elbert Hubbard [Life is hard, why not enjoy it to the core]
  8. “Got Milk?” by advertising agency Goodby Silverstein & Partners [and suddenly a commodity became sexy, attractive, and wanted!]
  9. “A house divided against itself cannot stand” by Abraham Lincoln [with these simple words a giant personality galvanized a divided nation and ethos into an era-defining progressiveness.]
  10. I am thinking of a hundred candidates to list here, but I realize thousands more creative expressions can be debated, and justified in this list. Why don’t you, my dear friend, add your fav here! Come, unleash the creative storm!

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