The good folks at Biogen Idec asked me to speak at a gathering of international marketing folks this week. Admittedly I know little or nothing about bio-tech or pharmaceuticals. So rather than faking it, I talked about something I do know about. Creativity: having ideas, inspiring ideas, dissecting ideas.
It was only a few years ago when creative was a word used to describe the art and theater students who kept to themselves in high school. Or people who had no money and lived in lofts, before the real estate speculators showed up, making art. Or the writers and art directors in ad agencies who thought up wacky ideas that account types and clients didn’t think they could think up themselves.
But today creative is money. Survey after survey declares it is the most sought after management trait. Academic research suggests techniques for getting more creative. The topic dominates conferences from TED to SxSW. Startups now need a designer among the founders. Creativity is no longer relegated to the wings. It’s center stage.
My talk, of course, is rooted in marketing and communications. But perhaps there are elements applicable beyond advertising, PR and social media.
It covers four chapters, if you will.
1. Creativity matters more than ever
There are plenty of reasons why, but to marketers, perhaps the most obvious is this: the scarcity of attention. Note that in 2000, the average person could concentrate on a task without being distracted for a full 12 seconds. While that is may not seem very long, by 2013, that number had dropped to eight seconds. Goldfish are better at concentrating than we are. Attracting attention, inspiring involvement, being remembered is harder than it’s ever been. And creativity, in the form of a good idea, usually works better than a budget increase.
2. There’s no such thing as an original idea
Shit, I stole that fact from Mark Twain, who insisted it’s not possible. “We simply take a lot of old ideas and put them into a sort of mental kaleidoscope. We give them a turn and they make new and curious combinations. We keep on turning and making new combinations indefinitely; but they are the same old pieces of colored glass that have been in use through all the ages.” Yeah, what he said. But we know it’s true. Check out the Mercedes Benz stability ad and its inspiration if you need proof.
3. We have to master stealing and remixing
It worked for Oscar Wilde, Pablo Picasso and Steve Jobs. So why not you and me? It simply calls for us to gather content, specific and general, and try combining things in different ways. Years ago Jerry Della Femina told us to go to the movies, visit museums and take the bus. Still works. There’s stuff to steal in every experience we ever have if we remember to do so. Then we simply grab different items from the stash we’ve pilfered and try new combinations. In advertising we mixed words and pictures to create seemingly fresh messages. In the age of digital and social, we may have to remix more than two elements, but it’s still the way we’ll create fresh, interesting ideas.
4. Learn to dissect good ideas and repurpose the formulas
We don’t want to plagiarize. Or rip off executions and ideas literally. But every time something works, there’s probably a formula we can extract. Even as something as simple as Oreo’s dunk in the dark had a formula that’s could be, and has been, replicated. Just ask Tide or Century 21, among others.
- Find a relevant cultural or media event
- Go where the fans are; what are they interested in?
- Take inspiration from the (event’s) content
- Connect your product to it
The deck has some examples for social media, user-generated content, inspiring action, and new ways of telling stories. And, of course, you can always find and dissect your own.
Take a look. Let me know what you think. And if you have ideas that can make this better, let me know.
Oh, and feel free to steal the presentation yourself. It’s on Slideshare as you know.