Tag Archives: creative

Why claiming creativity is almost irrelevant

I create this blog but don’t consider myself to be particularly creative. Agencies, job hunters, and marketers of varying repute claim to be creative but I wonder if many really are.

Being creative and operating creatively demands a mindset that modern businesses are rarely equipped for. The pressures that the current economic climate brings mean that businesses don’t get a second chance these days. You get one chance to make a killer first impression, to win the pitch, to land the contract, and to deliver it on time and on budget.

So are you going to cultivate an environment that affords opportunity and one which motivates and empowers your people, partners and suppliers? One that challenges them to conceive truly original ideas and to work them through to completion?

Or are you going to water them down in committee and settle for the conservative way things have always done, rather than be brave… and creative?

Understand that you aren’t the adjudicator of your creativity, your stakeholders are. Do you have evidence from them to substantiate your lofty claims? And the work to prove it?

Image: www.professionalartistmag.com

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Why you need to take the initiative and create

My current inspiration is Seth Godin’s latest work Poke the Box, in which he contends that the only way to differentiate in the modern business economy is to deliver. To try something new. Something different. Something challenging. In short, to take the initiative, not wait, and do something.

[As an aside, take a look at the previews and video in the link above, especially if you haven’t come across his work before. It’s illuminating].

This idea of taking initiative is a compelling argument. Initiative drives creation. We all have the capacity to create or be creative. Most of us probably claim to do it, but probably don’t.

It is assumed that creating takes time and resource, and that you need to be in some way artistic. It opens us up to criticism that we don’t want or can’t bear. So we hide, we do the jobs we are assigned, we play safe. We keep our heads below the parapet. And we end up frustrated.

Until recently it didn’t dawn on me that I’m creative. I write a blog. I contribute to other people’s blogs. I’m active in networking groups and engage many interesting people on Twitter. I’m putting myself in front of different groups and presenting them with new, even challenging ideas. I challenge my peers with new ways of working, new opportunities. I’m teaching myself website development, WordPress, design and Photoshop. And I’m developing content for different online platforms, in different formats.

In short, you don’t have to be creative to create. Creating is a mindset, a willingness to look at things differently. And initiative is the fuel, the permission to do it.

The thing is, and as Seth argues, initiative doesn’t need to be bestowed, it comes from you.

So what are you waiting for? What are you going to create today?

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Five ways to think more creatively about your marketing

Whether you are in the creative business, have a team to motivate or customers to provide creative solutions for, thinking creatively is essential.

But a longer than usual holiday period, coupled with short days, miserable weather and clients and customers slow to get off the mark can all contribute to quickly  stagnating creative thinking.

In the constantly switched on world, how can we create time and space for ourselves to think creatively about the challenges we face and break the cycle of thinking inside the box?

Here are five techniques that I use, maybe they will be useful to you.

1. Upset your daily / weekly routine: Once a week take a different route, look out the window. Take the train or bus rather than the car. If you can, walk. Look at the billboards, bus stops and read the local free paper. The objective is to come off ‘autopilot’ and take in the creative stimulus around you.

2. Use your time more efficiently: Take your lunch hour and use it productively. Set up a Google Reader account, sign up for some blogs and news feeds related to your sector, your speciality and your interests. Or join some Linkedin groups and join the discussions. Or scan content on YouTube or Slideshare. The point of these activities are to open yourself up to available free content and influence.

3. Read something new: Is there anything you don’t understand or want to understand in more detail? Learning stimulates the grey matter and can be powerful in equipping you with greater capacity to think more creatively in the future. Hit the Amazon bestseller list – it doesn’t have to be a business or self help book, but they might be a good start. The reason to consider this is to learn from others.

4. Handle meetings differently: Creative brainstorms can actually inhibit creative thinking. Why? Dull, uninspiring boardrooms are not generally conducive to free flowing ideas, time pressures are usually set, and the loudest or most senior people in the room usually dominate the discussion. Break these conventions be setting an agenda, dishing out the brief in advance, relocating the meeting to a coffee shop, park, museum, the client’s offices and encouraging the involvement of all not the will of the chairperson. The reason for going to these lengths is to achieve creative ‘breakthrough’.

5. Look at brands you like and learn from them: Who is to say that b2b packaging companies, food service or building product manufacturers can’t learn from high profile b2b, b2c or fmtg brands? That professional services businesses can’t learn from coffee chains? What do the brands you trust do well? How do they treat you, how do they communicate, how do they encourage you to engage further and deeper?

Which ever way you view it, creativity is a key differentiator, and the ability to quickly and decisively tackle complicated communications challenges demands creative thinking.

What do you think?

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Why b2b marketing is so boring…

Found this great Slideshare from the team at b2b technology agency, Velocity, outlining the challenges and limited thinking that often (and needlessly takes place). Just wish I’d beaten them to it!

Learning from Unilever’s creativity in numbers

A recent article in the UK’s Marketing magazine (28 April 2010) reported on how Unilever is experimenting on a global level with crowd sourced creative after successfully trialing smaller campaigns in 2009 with Peperami and Lipton Tea.

The brief which is available from partner MOFILMs website is asking for content based on 13 of its most famous global brands including Ben & Jerry’s, Dove deodorant (Real Women campaign pictured), Knorr, Sure, Sunsilk and Vaseline.

At first glance, it seems preposterous that one of the world’s largest advertisers should commit to paying out a modest £70,000 in receipt for a raft of creative ideas whilst risking significant brand damage and upsetting its roster of global brand partners.

There are undoubted economic and creative opportunities for Unilever as a client in running such a scheme.

For one, it heralds a shift in the subsidization of fat cat agencies, their bloated structures and network models. Rather than paying for 24:7 access and the staffing of agency offices across the globe that arguably spend more time biccuring internally over Unilever P&L, Unilever are paying solely for ideas generation within the crowd sourced model.

Secondly, there is an empowering injection of work into the global creative industry at a more micro level. It affords creatives previously shut out with an opportunity to work with Unilever brands. This alone should stimulate some fascinating creative content.

Thirdly, in a recessionary economy, Unilever’s decision to review their marketing spend and in some respects ‘work smarter’ is natural and is likely to have a positive effect on margins. In time could it perhaps even equate to lower consumer prices at the till?

Critics argue that these schemes don’t take into account strategic planning or implementation, areas which do clearly require further consideration. Perhaps though, that is and should always be the remit of the in-house marketer? What we can be assured of is crowd sourced content is here to stay.

What can we take from this? That crowdsourcing only works when you have the brand equity to support it to start with? No, I think most brands could utilise this approach to generate some additional ideas – think about running a graduate program through your local college / university. It gives the students some valuable real life experience, and it provides you some fresh creative perspective and regional kudos!

B2B Marketing Principles 7: Poor creative

B2B marketing is often epitomised by lazy and tired creative. I’m not talking about high end bespoke photography or clever five word slogans, I’m talking about the basics.

But if we assume that there hasn’t been the attention to details like targeting, the specifier or an effective value proposition, it’s not a surprise.

Like adverts aimed at equipment buyers in the oil & gas sector with – you guessed it – an oil rig in the background and a product shot in the foreground!  Flick through whichever sector specific trade magazine you like (I recommend Oil & Gas Engineer) and you’ll find at least ten clichéd advertisements.

Or like brochures that rely on over-used stock photography like this I talked about in a previous blog.

Or the use of flamboyant, over the top and ultimately undeliverable benefits.

What do they have in common? They were probably designed in isolation with little consideration of the environment in which they would be seen, with little appreciation of the requirements of the customer or an understanding of the competition and how they are positioning themselves.

To their credit, IAS B2B produced a great piece of direct mail in 2008 when they created 101 B2B Cliches. If you missed it, check the site out here.

And if you’re sick of lightbulbs, targets and handshakes representing what you do, challenge yourself to look at what everyone else is doing and do the opposite.

Image from Flickr