Five minutes with Steve Aldridge
Steve Aldridge is the chief creative officer of Wunderman Thomson UK. He discusses creativity and brand innovation
How can brands keep being relevant? What is the key to innovation?
The key to being relevant is first and foremost to know and understand your customers. You need to recognise your audience’s needs and understand who they are. Innovation plays into that. You can understand what kind of product or service you can create that brings real value to your customers. This is the key for innovation to feel quite natural. Any brand today which is alienating or losing touch with its customer base risks death or, worse, irrelevance.
What is the relationship between brand development and culture?
Sometimes we are obligated to stimulate the conversation ourselves. As creatives, part of our role is to help propel culture forward. Innovation works better when you can actually drive ideas and thoughts into the culture. In our Unscripted campaign for BT Sport, the language we used relates to something you would not expect. The campaign idea is part of the cultural conversation, part of football culture, but tries to inject it with something unexpected – the debate on machine learning and algorithms. Creativity in branding is not just about looking into culture and seeing what’s happening; there is a degree of that, but innovation is also linked to maintaining relevance by being part of your customers’ world.
How do you stimulate creativity in a team?
As you create the appropriate work culture, creativity becomes like a self-fulfilling prophecy. You stimulate people by providing an environment that feels creative, surrounded by other people who challenge the environment with more creativity. You draw inspiration from the world around you – and that’s why some of the best art in the world exists in big cities such as London and New York. You sort of feel connected to a big creative ecosystem, which encourages people to make the most of the place they live in by sharing their experiences and bringing that creativity into the office. We often encourage people to bring their own projects in the office, pulling in their own photography and creative works. Standards are usually exceptional. You encourage creativity not by telling people they are creative, but by encouraging creative things.
What is a challenge you’re facing in branding right now?
The diversity of channels. There are so many ways to get your message, product or service in front of potential customers. Digital media, social platforms, traditional advertising platforms, it’s increasingly difficult to navigate through that. How do you create ideas that travel across all of those platforms? Of course you need to find ideas that engage socially and can become part of a conversation, even if you are on a smaller budget.