Creativity Hell: What The 2012 Oscars Taught Us About Bold Ideas And Branding

The Oscars remind us that, when it comes to branding, bold creativity–not committees or safe plays–wins the day. Brand identity expert David Brier and cartoonist Tom Fishburne break down what businesses can learn from Hollywood.


I got together with Tom Fishburne to explore the vital component of creativity and what businesses could take away from this year’s Oscars. Here’s what we unearthed.

Pardon My French
This year, we had breakthroughs such as The Artist, a silent movie filmed entirely in Los Angeles, winning Best Picture, and its (French) leading man taking Best Actor. It is the first silent film since 1929’s Wings to take home Best Picture. And that was just one of its five wins, acknowledging and rewarding its creativity and daringly bold move as a movie in this day of ever-increasing 3D, special effects and more.

As stated in Bloomberg Businessweek, “The mostly silent film, judged the best picture, won Michel Hazanavicius the award for best director. Jean Dujardin was honored as best actor for playing George Valentin, an aging film star unable to make it in the talkies, making the 39-year-old the first French actor to win the award. The movie ‘seduced the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences with its ingenuity and grace,’ French President Nicolas Sarkozy said in a statement. The awards are a tribute to the ‘extraordinary vitality’ of the country’s film industry.”


The Artist was bold (with an naive innocence), challenging the norm and breaking the mold. But therein lies the risk and the courageous quality that can signify genius.

Reducing Risk: Taking a Chance
As everyone knows, I don’t advocate committees. Cross-verifying data and brainstorming the wonderful vista of “What if?” I advocate. That’s time well spent. But sitting in a room full of accounting, cover-your-ass types who simply wish to debate based on obscure criteria isn’t efficiency, that’s useless banter.

Yet, unless one asks the status quo-challenging questions “What if?” or “Why not?”, one is left doing the same mindless middle-ground output. And in this day of information overload, we don’t need more noise but more thought-provoking content (is it just serendipity that the word “king” is found within the word “provoking”?).


Escaping Creativity Hell
The Oscars, if nothing else, celebrate how the good idea can somehow survive the battleground of day-to-day business. In the normal business climate, we sometimes need to be reminded of how vitally important innovation and creativity are to business survival and that it’s not merely a “creative exercise.”

An event like the Oscars shows the power of creative achievement and collaboration. The spotlight is on all of the players who cumulatively make a creative concept work, from actors, to directors, to camera operators, to set designers. Creativity happens at every stage in the creation of a film.

When it comes to branding, fact is: we are in the storytelling business. Something mere bean counters never quite grasp.


Yet, sometimes during this process of creation, ideas get diluted, get compromised, get “vanilla-ized” only to become smaller in the process of bringing them to life. Sometimes smaller is better. And other times, size does matter.


Creativity and the Quality of Life
When we were kids, we were so open to the possibilities, only to to
approach potentials later in life with the “tried-that-once,
still-emotionally-scarred…” mentality. But the Oscars remind us that
cautious approach rarely wins audiences let alone awards, which is how
an iPad app, The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore, could
win an Oscar for Best Animated Short Movie as well as the accolades of The New York Times, Wired and more.

What Oscar Taught Us
Cautiousness is great if you’re working for the TSA but when it comes to inspiring allegiance, enthusiasm and passion for your company and brand, let your imagination run wild and see what magic springs from that base of openness. Be bold. Living and branding will take on new dimensions with this approach.



Thanks to Tom Fishburne,
founder and CEO of Marketoonist, a content marketing agency that
develops cartoon campaigns for businesses such as Unilever, O2, Kronos,
and the Wall Street Journal. He was previously a VP at Method, the
innovative home care brand, and led brands at Nestle and General Mills.
He learned how to draw cartoons at Harvard Business School. Sign up for
his weekly marketoons at

–This is the fourth in a series of posts on HELL
and escaping its grasp. Stay tuned for upcoming installments
including, How to Escape Innovation Hell, How to Escape Social Media
Hell, and How to Escape Logo Hell. 


“If you’re using clichés, you’re promoting your category, not your business.” David Brier

David Brier is a brand identity specialist, package designer and branding expert. His firm’s work can be regularly found in blogs, publications and award annuals. David is also the author of Defying Gravity and Rising Above the Noise. David’s series of videos shed new light on real branding in these short TV interviews. His YouTube channel routinely provides inspired and thought-provoking videos which you can see here


Request your own free copy of David’s eBook, “The Lucky Brand” here.


About the author

Brand identity expert, veteran designer, author, speaker and Fast Company expert blogger. Shark Tank investor and CEO of fashion brand Fubu, Daymond John states, "David Brier is brilliant with branding." He’s been written about in, INC and Fortune Small Business. In addition to being a branding specialist and a Fast Company expert blogger, David's Slideshare presentations on branding have exceeded the 500,000 view milestone (a founding member of Slideshare's Half-a-Million Views Club) and is the 1st place winner in the 2013 Shorty Awards (known industry-wide as “The Oscars for Social Media”) for branding


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