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Creative Courage: Stop Playing It Safe


When was the last time you worked on something ordinary and thought, “wow, this is what I love to do?" It’s likely the bigger and bolder ideas that fuel your personal passions, inspires your team, and magnetically attract your best customers. So why do we often opt for the safety of a tried and true option?

Short answer: It’s easier and less scary. Longer answer: Read on.

When we lean into an ambitious idea, we can uncover something big that sparks entirely new thoughts and ignites hearts.

At Animus, we call this creative courage.

Safe is Good, But It’s Rarely Great

As humans, we often navigate toward the safe choice. It can be scary to stick our necks out with a unique idea. The fear of making the wrong decision pushed us to make the easier choice. There’s nothing wrong with safety. Every brand needs straightforward content that connects with its audience.

Safety doesn’t alienate your audiences, but it also doesn’t often bring a brand to life. Instead, it leaves your message feeling soft and unmemorable. There’s a time and place to opt for a safe approach. We’d elaborate, but let’s move on to the real challenge.

Creative Courage Ignites Hearts

If you’ve been in marketing (or storytelling, or branding, or have ever had an idea), you know this feeling: overwhelming excitement around an idea that feels big, important, and fun. You go to sleep thinking about it. You wake up thinking about it. You mention it to your team, and they get fired up.

That’s the foundation of creative courage.

It’s the type of thinking that fuels us. It rallies the team. It brings people together for a bigger mission.

Time for Creative Courage

Some campaigns demand safety. They don’t need creative courage.

But for your big initiatives — a brand refresh, a new offering, a fresh idea, a recruiting challenge — you need to dig deep. You don’t need messaging that wades through the shallow water unexcitedly hoping others will join. You need a cannonball. Some will run. But the real audience will love it and start jumping off the diving board.

Not into analogies?

Some campaigns simply require you to share something that is uniquely your brand. Something that only you can own.

Doing this is very hard. It’s hard because most brands don’t know how to differentiate themselves and are afraid to alienate any possible audience. But the best marketing isn’t afraid to stand for something. To be different. To align to the true target audience. Choose your biggest opportunities to be your truest self. This is the time to deploy creative courage.

Unlocking Creative Courage

We’ve all drawn a horribly bad picture that embarrassed us (that’s what Pictionary is for).

Unlocking creative courage doesn't need to be much more complicated than that. It’s about letting go of perfection and leaning into the freedom to fail.

Here are a few fundamental considerations:

  • A creative brief that embraces the unknown is a great starting point.

  • Acknowledge that the goal of this is different from other campaigns and that wild ideas are encouraged to bloom.

  • Broaden the team, pull in different perspectives, and give them equal opportunity to speak.

  • Give people space to let the brief sink in and independently think.

  • Treat your kickoff meeting as a longer event (or party). Include mini workshop sessions, various prompts, and brainstorming. You have to give fire to get fire.

  • Encourage a ‘yes, and’ mindset. It’s too easy to shut bad ideas down before they’re able to be bent into something beautiful.

  • Don’t try to solve it during the first (or second) meeting. Create a space where ideas grow and ping-pong. Give space for people to build for a week. Then, regroup, cut ties with some ideas, and focus on the strongest.

Protecting Creative Courage

Hopefully you’ll find that it isn’t too hard to think up something magical that has your team feeling energized. Now, here is the hard part — standing up for the creative idea. When push comes to shove, it’s easy to fall back into the comfort of safety. It’s hard to confidently pitch something different because it feels uncomfortable. But where’s the growth if we’re always comfortable?

Here’s a few tips for making it easier to try something different and defending your creative:

  • Have a simple safe alternative. When it comes to video, sometimes we find easy-to-execute safe ideas that can be captured while we’re filming the bold idea. If you can avoid this, go all in. No half measures. Take the leap.

  • Do your homework and research to show your due diligence in considering the creative idea. Being bold should turn heads in a good way.

  • A-B test the two concepts and see what clicks, but don’t let instant results sway you too much. The right creative can build on your brand over time, not just in the moment. Speak to the value this adds to your brand.

Want to jumpstart your next creative meeting? Watch our Find Your Fascinating Video with pencils ready.