Marketing: Get Creative Contributors on Your Team - dummies

Marketing: Get Creative Contributors on Your Team

By Alexander Hiam

If you feel like creativity in marketing could be a bit of a blind spot for your organization, give yourself an A+ for honesty and then give some thought to assembling a special team or panel (they could be volunteers) to help you develop creative ideas.

Most businesses don’t have strong creative blood in their veins, so they fail to harness the full power of creativity. But many managers and marketers fail to recognize that they’re lacking in this key dimension of success. Or even if you are quite creative, it can help to draw in other creative ideas to supplement your own.

To find out where you (or your organization) fall on the creative scale, ask yourself questions like the following.

Are you really a creative genius?

An April 2012 survey of 5,000 people funded by Adobe (maker of software used in many creative endeavors) revealed that 50 percent of U.S. respondents describe themselves as creative, a higher percentage than in other countries surveyed.

Either Americans are (as usual) grossly overconfident in their abilities, or the sample was biased toward Abobe software users because most studies peg the incidence of highly creative personalities at far lower rates. People who have done idea-generating and creativity training with teams from hundreds of U.S. workplaces over the past 20 years claim an incidence of 1 in 20 (5 percent) highly creatives is a generous estimate.

But that’s a different kind of statistic because it’s based on observations of people attempting to do creative work, which may be quite different from individuals’ self-assessment of their ability. From these two data points, you could say that about half of Americans feel like they could and should be creative, but less than 1 in 20 apply creativity to work often enough for it to be a fluid, easy process for them.

Openness to experience is distributed on a bell curve, with less than 10 percent of people scoring in the top fifth of the scale. These outliers are likely to be innovative marketers or entrepreneurs, but most people won’t be as naturally inclined toward seeing market opportunities or bringing creative energy to their marketing communications.

Some traits that mark an open, creative personality include inventive, curious, quick to understand new ideas, unconventional, and a tendency to become deeply absorbed in a creative task. Ask yourself whether your friends and family would naturally apply these descriptors to you. If so, you probably rate as exceptionally open and creative. If not, pull together a panel of people who sound more like those descriptors.

How do you tap into those creatives when you need them?

Some marketers practice idea-generating techniques and strengthen their creative muscles so they can tap into their inner creative genius when needed. Others find it easier to outsource creativity. Because breakthrough marketing demands a much larger-than-average dose of creativity, you must flex yourself and think much more creatively than usual by adopting creative methods.

Or you need to reach out to those whacky rarities who really are creative and open-minded to a fault. However, business-school professors don’t even cover the topic of creativity when they teach marketing or write textbooks; instead, these professors have personalities that measure closer to normal on the openness scale, making creativity a bit of a blind spot for them.

Don’t let it be a blind spot for you! Ad agencies seek out creative personalities, and often have “creative departments” to serve your needs. Or seek artists, inventors, and other people whose résumés demonstrate a high level of creativity, and ask them to consult or spend a day in a brainstorming session with you.