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Creativity’s bottom line: How winning companies turn creativity into business value and growth

Source | : By Marc BrodhersonJason HellerJesko Perrey, and David Remley

Most of us can remember a couple of favorite ads. They’re funny, clever, thoughtful. Creativity can delight, even inspire. But does it generate business value?

The short answer is yes. That conclusion came through clearly in McKinsey’s analysis of one widely recognized proxy for creativity. To have a quantitative measure that could be used to examine the linkage between creativity and business performance, we developed the Award Creativity Score (ACS), an index based on the prestigious Cannes Lions awards given annually for advertising and marketing excellence.1

The ACS index weighs three factors: the total number of Lions won by each company between 2001 and 2016, with more points assigned for the most prestigious awards; the breadth of categories represented; and consistency over time, based on the number of years a company has been recognized.

We found that the most creative companies, based on their ACS, did better than peer firms on two key business metrics: financial performance and McKinsey’s Innovation Score. This doesn’t mean there’s a straight-line path between climbing the podium at Cannes and besting market indices or out-innovating competitors. But when we dug more deeply, we found that the most creative companies did certain things differently. Specifically, they exhibited a set of four business practices that we believe drive their marketing creativity, their ability to innovate, and their capacity to translate those virtues into business value.

While measuring creativity remains an inexact science, our analysis provides evidence to support the notion that creativity matters for the bottom line and identifies the practices that differentiate the most creative companies from the rest.

Creativity is associated with superior performance

There are many reasons why companies perform well, such as market position or technology leadership. But it’s also true that creativity is at the heart of business innovation, and innovation is the engine of growth. With an increasing focus on the science of marketing—including performance marketing, marketing AI, and advanced analytics—it’s important not to forget about the art of marketing.

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