How creativity can save the world

Why we have to transform from concept creatives to behavioural designers.

I was recently asked about the future of creativity in marketing. My simple response was: the future is bright. These are unbelievably interesting times in which creative problem solving has not only become more exciting but also more necessary than ever before. Creativity and marketing can play a crucial role in solving social and behavioural problems. Not only giving creativity the power to change the world but providing marketing with a new lifeline. Our best is yet to come. We just have to make one shift: we have to transform from concept creatives to behavioural designers.

Helping people make better decisions

Don’t get me wrong: we don’t necessarily have to save dolphins or hug trees to build a business. But becoming more meaningful is inevitable and incredibly exciting at the same time. What is meaningful then? I think you are meaningful if you want to help people make better decisions; even if it takes you to change your perspective or rethink existing paradigms.
“I think you are meaningful if you are willing to help people make the choices that will benefit them today or will benefit their future.”
And I think being meaningful is not an option, but should be mandatory. We are all in the post-information age, meaning we all have access to knowledge and technologies acquired during the technical and scientific-information revolution[1]. Not using the knowledge and tools to improve the lives of people, to me is the same as still stimulating a teenager to start smoking a package of cigarettes a day while being aware he will end up with lung cancer. We are not in the fifties anymore. We know things. Better still, as Ray Kurzweil states we are in an era of accelerating intelligence[2]. The rate in which we require new insights and technologies makes ignorance or apathy inexcusable.

Creative problem-solving in behavioural and social problems

So, where do marketing and creativity come in? As I see it the world of marketing primarily revolves around the relationship between people and products. However, over the past few decades, our piece of accelerating intelligence has occurred within the field of human psychology and human decision-making. Enabling us to gain a deeper understanding of people between people relationships.

“This in-depth know-how about how people choose enables us to broaden our creative problem solving to behavioural and social problems.”

Just think about what would happen if we would start-off our creative thinking in lowering psychological barriers? We would come up with ideas making it easier and more interesting for people to save money, eat healthily, get educated, travel with public transport, donate money, read books, use sunscreen or get insured. We would come up with services, products and propositions that actually help people. Putting marketing and creativity in a rewarding position to change the world.

Why the creative industry should own this

And it makes sense us doing so. Like no other industry, we have years and years of experience in working with values; in creating something out of nothing; in simplifying problems, in coming up with new solutions and in making something irresistibly attractive. If we put this to work beyond advertising, magic can happen. Like no other we can make science become relevant and beneficiary on a daily basis. Which is the key to creating meaningful business. But don’t get me wrong:
“We would still have people spend money, but we would help them make better and more rewarding choices in spending that money. Giving business and marketing a new lifeline.”
But apart from the business logic behind it, I personally find it very exciting that taking behaviour as a starting point opens up a myriad of additional possibilities to inject my creativity. And I think it is very rewarding to use my creative thinking to change the world without having to turn into Mother Theresa and become all Dalai Lama about my material possessions or making money. God knows we already have enough problems to solve. If our creative capabilities can make the world or even the life of someone even just a little bit better, easier, happier or healthier and in hindsight, we are designated as the people who were part of a human-centred revolution that connected behaviour with economics, I can feel pride in what I am doing.

Transformation from a concept creative to a behavioural designer

All it took for me is the willingness to change my perspective and make the shift to becoming a behavioural designer instead of a campaign creative. Leaving me with a thrilling task to re-invent me as creative director, redirect creative output, re-shape the creative culture and redefine the creative process. But, that’s OK. Sometimes you also have to influence your own decision making by jumping across some barriers. After all, we are saving the world.

Want to see how we brought this behavioural design thinking into practice? Our recent First World Problem Pills case for the Dutch Aids Foundation is filled with behavioural design elements.


[1] For all the fact addicts (like me), this is which revolutions have taken place. Thank you Wikipedia!
1. (1600 - 1740) Financial-agricultural revolution
2. (1780 – 1840) Industrial revolution
3. (1880 - 1920) Technical revolution (or Second Industrial Revolution)
4. (1940 - 1970) Scientific-technical revolution
5. (1985 - 2000) Information and telecommunications revolution
After 2000 the idea became popular that the sequence of technological revolutions is not over and in the forthcoming future we will witness the dawn of a new universal technological revolution. The main innovations should develop in the fields of nanotechnologies, alternative fuel and energy systems, biotechnologies, genetic engineering, new materials technologies etc.
[2] If you are in the middle of a midlife crisis or want to postpone it, it can be very healing to watch Ray Kurzweils documentary The singularity is near. It’s absolute nerdiness galore, but an incredibly intriguing insight in the way science and intelligence are progressing. Including biogenetic science.


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