Marketing passionista, collector and raconteur of interesting stories. Lucky to have worked with some of the best brands and brains and happy to share experiences with fellow travellers. Enjoy solving business problems and working with bright, positive people. Interested in sustainability business, women in leadership and all things digital. Running is my meditative escape and humour my go-to defence. Enjoy travelling and food experiments with my family.
Having your notebook full of ideas that can spark something you could borrow from at work
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Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up.
That quote by Picasso is perhaps truest for marketers. We have thought of strategy and creative as separate watertight compartments. Strategy comes higher in the pecking order of course and the creative process is outsourced to specialists. We even call them “creative”. Just as a plumber unclogs drains, the mechanic fixes the car, the creative creates ads and posters as we sit in judgement and pay them to solve our business problem.
For the most part, that division of labour has served its purpose. Setting strategic direction remains the core of what a good marketer does.
Make no mistake, creativity was always essential to success in business.
What’s changed now is the warm blanket that came in the shape of the advertising agency is getting patchier. Today, a brand manager has a minimum of five agencies that work for her at any point and none of them know the consumer as well as the brand manager. The jigsaw puzzle bits need to be put together by her. Her hands can’t stay spotless anymore - they must be stained by the various shades of creativity.
The curious reluctance marketers display in embracing their creativity pops up when they preface their idea with an apologetic “I’m not creative, but here’s what I think”. As keepers of the “innovation pipeline” they love to be seen as innovative. But they still shy away from owning the close cousin of innovation - creativity.
So, how can marketers or indeed anybody get in touch with and improve their creativity?
1. Lead more interesting lives. Yes, you need to get out into the real world more often so that you can bring some of it along to your tiny space in your open plan office. Creativity comes from taking what you’ve seen or learnt and applying it to a seemingly unrelated problem. Travel, movies, sports, art, comedy, adventure and of course reading are essential experiences to understand people and the world around you. The most creative people I know are sponges - continuously soaking up what life throws at them.
2. Carry a moleskin notebook Ideas can strike you anywhere and inspiration often arrives unannounced. Richard Branson credits his habit of noting things in a notebook for a lot of his business success. While we are now in the habit of taking notes on our phones, nothing beats having your notebook full of ideas that can spark something you could borrow from at work.
3. Use data to point you to the right problems The data vs creativity debate will continue to rage for some time. Data is your friend if you want to solve problems for your consumers. It will tell you which ones to focus on and whether your efforts are working the way you intended. Get help in extracting the story from the data and march on.
4. Have a “safe” place designated for creative thinking in office. Places have character. We react to our environment. I have seen even the most inflexible and uptight marketer lower their guard and open up to ideas when away from their desks. Bonus points if it can look and feel fun and easy. Einstein said that creativity was intelligence having fun. Well, not all workplaces are fun all the time, so carve out designated creative spaces.
5. Prototype and co-create Something magical happens when a group of focussed people apply themselves to solving a problem together. Sketching out ideas and making quick prototypes works as great stimulus to building on each other’s thoughts. And it saves so much time that is spent in review meetings later.
6. Seek out the masters If you believe that creativity is a skill and not a personality trait, it frees you to learn from the masters in your line. Take an online course, approach people on social media and even in real life. Observe the film director at your next film shoot. Notice the different ways people tell stories. Seek out these people. Buy them lunch and find the answers you need.
Remember, you will build creatively confidence with time. Be kind to yourself. Make sure to have the right team around you - while some agencies have held on tight to the creative process, elevating it to something as mysterious as the FB newsfeed algorithm, others welcome marketers to join in. So, what will you create today?