3 Lessons About the Power of Creativity, Innovation and Insights from Cannes Lions & McKinsey


The Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity is a place where reputations are made and legendary parties rage. But it’s more than just that, according to consulting firm McKinsey & Company. McKinsey kicked off the 2017 festival reporting on 16 years’ worth of data on how creativity—as measured by the number of Cannes Lions won—is linked to financial return. They also delved into the characteristics of companies that won more awards.

Their work reveals three important lessons:

  1. Creativity pays financial dividends;
  2. Creative companies are innovative;
  3. Innovation and creativity are fueled by research and insights.

McKinsey’s approach to identifying creative companies

McKinsey used the number of Cannes Lions won as a proxy for measuring a firm’s creativity. They reported “we developed the Award Creativity Score (ACS), an index based on the prestigious Cannes Lions awards given annually for advertising and marketing excellence. 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.”

1. Creativity pays financial dividends

The research revealed that companies that scored higher on their creativity index tended to outperform other organizations on a number of key financial metrics. Specifically they found that, amongst the firms in the top quartile of their creativity index:

  • 67% had above-average organic revenue growth;
  • 70% had above-average total return to shareholders (TRS);
  • 74% had above-average net enterprise value or NEV/forward EBITDA.

2. Creative companies are more innovative

The most creative companies also tended to score higher on measures of innovation. They found that senior managers in these firms made innovation and creativity an everyday priority and were more likely to feel personally responsible for fostering innovation and creativity.

Moreover, the more creative companies were more likely to:

  • Discuss creativity and innovation at their board meetings;
  • View marketing spend as an investment rather than an expense;
  • Prioritize marketing spend relative to other budget categories;
  • Spend more on marketing.

3. Innovation and creativity are fueled by research and insights

McKinsey’s research also reveals that research is fuel for the creative fire. One of the key findings of their work was that “companies at the top of the ACS rankings have a near-fanatical devotion to understanding their customers.”

Key characteristics of the most award-winning firms are a tendency to focus on “customer orientation, use of multiple lenses to generate insights, and development of differentiated value propositions based on those insights.”

By engaging in ongoing dialogues with their customers, these creative companies put the customer at the center of their business. We pioneered the insight community almost 20 years ago to help clients gain a real-time window into their customers’ needs and motivations. Communities make an ongoing conversation quick, easy and effective by connecting companies with well profiled customers who have a stake in helping your brand succeed.

The “use of multiple lenses to generate insights” is something we have also encouraged for years, whether it be through the use of iterative learning streams, innovative online qualitative research, virtual environments, or behavioral science approaches. Looking at a problem from multiple perspectives always reveals additional connections and provides a more holistic understanding not only of your customers, but also what your product is doing for them.

McKinsey also reported that the most creative companies “understand the problems customers are seeking to solve through use of their products and services.” This approach, sometimes called “Jobs to be Done”, provides a useful perspective for innovation.

Three key lessons

Sometimes research identifies exciting opportunities for innovation, and other times it simply confirms important truths. In this work McKinsey reveals three important truths for everyone involved in marketing and research:

  1. Creativity pays financial dividends;
  2. Creative companies are innovative;
  3. Innovation and creativity are fueled by research and insights.

To learn more about how Maru/Matchbox can help you with research and insights contact us. To learn more about how we can specifically help Agencies harness the power of insights, download our e-book In the Pursuit—a survival guide to owning insights.

next post thumbnail