It’s easy to get stuck in a rut with cookie cutter marketing strategies. How do you tap into the creative genius inside? Do you ever wonder if you even have a creative genius inside? I believe that while many creative geniuses are born, others can be made with deliberate effort.
According to Psychology Today, there really isn’t any research that says that people can’t be taught to be creative. Researchers also say that there is plenty of evidence to suggest that history has shown us that there are some habits that we all can follow that have yielded some creative outcomes for those deemed the most creative.
I recently spoke at a town hall for professional communicators and revealed some of my tips. After more than two decades in integrated marketing and communications as well as facilitating dozens and dozens of brainstorms that led to great programs, I’ve amassed some ideas that help even the most creativity-averse people tap into their creative genius.
Here are seven keys to creativity that can get anyone off and moving in a new, smart, and strategic way of thinking that can lead to award-winning work.
1. It takes strong insights.
Let’s level-set. Creativity isn’t only a right-brain sport. The right brain is typically hailed as the more creative side of your headspace. It requires some left brain activity to truly ground your creativity in solid strategy. Left brain activity is usually said to be a bit more analytical in nature. This means that you need solid data. I like to begin with research findings. From those findings, you can develop keen insights that can be leveraged to yield some pretty creative outcomes that not only have context but will resonate with your target audience with very little guesswork.
2. It takes trends.
Insight alone will not guarantee creative outcomes, but view them through the lens of what is current, popular, or being talked about, and you may be well on your way to a creative marketing program. You may want to begin by taking a look at what conversations are trending on social media. Besides the fact that I call social media “culture soup,” there probably isn’t a more up-to-the-minute pulse on what is happening in the country and the world. I also like to turn to trends in pop culture, whether it is music, fashion, beauty, or sports for cues that will resonate with my target.
3. It takes a group.
You really shouldn’t go at it alone. It takes more than one brain to develop some of the best ideas. You could, but why limit yourself to your singular point of view. Gather as many people with diverse points of views and background as possible. This is where the theory of inclusion marketing really shines. That is the idea that the best marketing content comes from teams that are inclusive of people of varying backgrounds and perspectives and that they have a real voice at the table. There are no wrong answers in the creative process. Bringing a group together to bat around ideas will only make your program stronger.
4. It takes structure.
Have you ever been involved in a brainstorm where people come into a conference room and just start talking? It is a formula for conversations that spin in circles, or for the strongest personality in the room to dominate the conversation. It is also a great way to end a meeting with no real actionable outcomes. Some of the top global agencies have perfected the results-oriented brainstorm, and they are structured. They engage some pretty fun and goal-oriented activities that will yield outcomes that will inform the planning process. One of my favorites is “be the brand,” where smaller teams within the room are challenged to consider the marketing problem through lens of the brand personified. That really means that each group takes on the characteristics of the brand and through that conversation, “sparks” happen. Sparks are triggered when you walk through structured activities like these, and solid, and many times creative, ideas are born. For some other ideas for structured activities, check out 20 Brainstorming Activities to Get Your Creative Juices Flowing.
5. It takes whitespace.
If you’ve ever felt like you are too busy to be creative, you are right. Truly inspired thinking happens when you have time to do it. It means that you must make time. I learned from the Executive Leadership Council’s Strategic Pathways course during their annual Leadership Week in Miami last year, that it is imperative as a leader to carve out time to think. The coaches called it whitespace. This means that you should take at least one hour out of your busy week to simply think. And you’ll want to think about those “big picture” items that will help you to solve a problem for your company that will deliver real impact; work on that business plan that will take your business to the next level, build your board of directors , conceptualize that multiyear initiative, or consider your next career move. White space is for the big-ticket items in your life. You will be amazed at how creative you can be if you just make the time to clear your mental palate and make it happen.
6. It takes time.
You need time to create whitespace. You also need it to really massage a great idea. Time allows you to work through the details of your idea or concept. It also allows you to socialize it with others who are experts in the area. It is true that some truly genius ideas can come to you in a dream, but it is rare. Most, you will find, took time to develop before they truly turn into a viable plan.
7. It takes money…but not always.
This is likely the No. 1 reason why many marketers with smaller budgets shy away from the creative process. After all, if you think big, you probably need big bucks to make your idea a reality. That is true in many cases, but for many, often budgets are limited, so creativity typically means that the best idea is the smartest. The smartest idea is the one that typically will not require the most manpower, media buys, or other resources. You can take cues from the lean startup model, where the fast-fail method is important to cost savings.