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The role of creativity in CX - could it be key to post-COVID customer engagement?


New research from the DMA suggests we need to change our view of the role and value of creativity - and explore how we can engage our customers’ creativity.

9th Oct 2020
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‘Creativity’. A powerful word in our industry, but one that’s equally difficult to define. What does it mean to the real people that we, as marketers and CX professionals, are trying to engage? That’s the central question that we set out to answer when we started working with the DMA’s Creative Committee on a project to understand how consumers think about creativity, how they address it and the importance it has on their everyday lives.

Understanding creativity in relation to its value to customers can help brands better fit into this picture and engage consumers by becoming part of or enabling creative passions.

The creative consumer

Long-term trend data, from our research partner Foresight Factory, shows that the need for creativity among consumers is stable. A majority of British people in 2019 (51%) felt the need to be more creative in order to fulfil themselves – this figure was 53% in 2013.

DMA creativity chart

In fact, the need for creativity is felt more widely than the need to own more things (27%), to be involved in community (31%) or the need for more excitement (47%). Creativity is clearly a key route to self-expression for many consumers.

When asked whether “I like being creative” is a strong descriptor of themselves, 36% of British consumers agree. Women are more likely than men to agree they enjoy being creative (40% vs 32%), as are Millennials (those aged 20-37) – 42% vs 34% of Baby Boomers (59-74).

It is clear that ‘being creative’ is something that resonates with many consumers. But to understand what creativity means to them, we need to understand what consumers are doing to express their creativity.

Creativity isn’t a static concept and, consequently, it’s hard to pin down with a unique analytical model. Rather than define creativity from the top down, our Creative Committee looked at the wider attitudes, behaviours and interests that are engaging creative-minded consumers now, to help us uncover what matters most to them.

By using consumers who identify themselves as creative (“I like being creative”), we were able to identify the trends within Foresight Factory’s data that they engage with the most. Thanks to this process, we were able to build a framework of trends and uncover four strategic themes underpinning the selected trends brands can use to engage these creative consumers.

The four engagement themes that emerged from the trends we identified as important to creative consumers are:

  • Experience: Brands that create memorable, unique and creative experiences for consumers within their customer engagement campaigns can appeal to creative consumers’ strong desires to experience new things, gain new knowledge and enjoy creativity.
  • Collaboration: Brands that create opportunities for consumers to collaborate with them to shape their brand identity will appeal to creative consumers seeking outlets for their creative ideas and self-expression.
  • Personalisation: Brands are invited to find new avenues to allow customers to tailor their service and product propositions, embedding a level of consumer creativity into their commercial proposition.
  • Authenticity: In an era of digital overload, there will be a significant proportion of people who seek a return to more traditional crafts. Brands can also target the desire to showcase creative talent in more authentic ways by enabling customers to engage these skills to support wider social causes and issues.

Brands can become creative leaders

Customers value innovation from businesses and this can help to stimulate sustainable, loyal relationships. Innovation isn’t just brand driven, however, and responsibility doesn’t have to sit exclusively with the ‘creative department’ – this can be extended throughout the nation to the one in three so-called consumers for whom ‘being creative’ is a strong part of their very identity.

There are multiple examples of Creative Consumers who have collaborated with brands, agencies or even among themselves to create mould-breaking ideas - from the NHS Rainbow to Captain Tom’s 100th Birthday Walk.


Brands can become Creative Leaders, rewarding consumers’ creative insights by invoking positive change. Brands can take the lead and inspire people to their showcase skills, providing them with a platform to collaborate, create and highlight their values. Creative citizens crave making meaningful change in their lives, for their localities, family and friends. Brands need to be a change agent in consumers’ lives and communities.

Organisations that align their values to the consumers will gain a more loyal customer base in return. There is intrinsic value in feeling part of something and consumers can become custodians of the brand’s values. In addition, when consumers feel part of the brand, they are even more forgiving.

Creativity engagement

The value of creativity

Creativity’s value extends to both businesses and consumers. We need to weave it into the fabric of an interconnected society by opening up long-term, two-way communication channels with consumers – making the benefits of doing so clear to them. But first we need to start viewing an extended creative department more like a limitless opportunity, and less of a threat. Embracing the role as a Creative Leader.

We are still coming to terms with both the short- and long-term impacts of the coronavirus on our businesses, personal lives and the world in general – rather than dampening the trends underpinning these themes, we’re seeing the pandemic accelerating many of them.

For instance, the coronavirus has dramatically increased the extent to which we need to entertain ourselves at home. For many, this means a renewed interest in finding creative outlets, from the wealth of bread baking to design projects and many other crafting activities.

Furthermore, as social distancing has funnelled almost all our communications to online mediums, be that personal or work, brands have the opportunity to support or curate moments of authentic creativity with people too.

Moving towards a post-coronavirus period, where creativity will continue to play a key role in effective customer engagement, businesses must develop strategies to satisfy their creative urges and create opportunities for consumers to collaborate with them to shape their brand identity and values.

Creating more value for people, creating more valuable relationships for businesses and creating more value for our economy.

To find out more about the DMA’s research and explore how you can engage your customers’ creativity, visit:

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