by: David Armano
Caution: if this post sounds like a call to action—it probably is. But with INside Innovation from Businessweek being launched this past week, timing is everything. The light bulb went off for me in late 2000 regarding how I viewed creativity. After years of being conditioned to think that the only way my work would be validated was by awards, I found myself working on a series of projects for i-shop agency.com which were focused not so much on accolades as much as using creativity to solve real world business challenges. Our focus wasn’t all about a single “big idea”—it was about a series of “little-big ideas” all inspired by customer research combined with an “interactive product design approach” highlighting customer-centricity.
Fast forward to 2006. Businessweek is celebrating it’s first edition of INside Innovation. My advice to Adver-Marketers everywhere? Do yourself a favor and ditch Adweek for Businessweek. Or at the very least—add B-week to your list of reading material. Why am I so adamant about this? Because in my opinion, the Adver-Marketing industry needs to incorporate a “creativity culture” as part of their whiz-bang “big idea” culture. And again—let me clarify:
When I say creativity, I’m talking about a HYBRID MENTALITY that thinks about data, business, customers, aesthetics, language, ideas, brand and execution—all at the same time.
Back to 2000—once I became enlightened in the ways of this “New Creative Mindset” a strange thing happened. I stopped going to advertising and marketing conferences. The one conference I made it a point to attend was IIT’s Strategy series. The first one I attended wasn’t even called that—it was called HITS (Human Interaction Technology Strategy) Download HITS_03.pps. I think I was probably one of the only “marketers” to attend this conference. The most recent one I attended is finally showing some signs of integration. Clement Mok of Sapient dedicated his presentation to talking about marketing. He’s raising awareness to the group of attendees composed mostly of designers, creative problem solvers, businesspeople and design thinkers. Inspired by Mok’s approach—I’m taking on a crusade to do the same on the flipside.
Adver-Marketing needs a BIG FAT SLAP in the face. People are REJECTING rhetoric and EMBRACING excellent experiences.
Not only do we need to be weaned off of the 30 second spot mentality (see Jaffe), but we need to unlearn many of our practices. We need to stop asking people what they want—and start observing them in natural settings. We need to avoid stereotyping “marketing segments” and start immersing ourselves in the lives of our customers. I penned an article saying that Mok used the dirty “A word” in front of this group (Advertising) so I’m going to use the dirty D-word for my Adver-Marketing comrades who read this blog. Design.
Offended? Sorry, didn’t mean to offend. But understand that I’m not talking pretty colors here. Nor am I talking pretty Websites. I’m talking about adopting an approach that allows time for immersion, for prototyping, for testing, for more testing, and for authentic messy collaboration. Not the “pretend” collaboration that we see in the boardroom—the headnodding and yessing. That’s corporate America. I’m talking about the kind of stuff that you see on American Chopper. The "F-you because we’re going to create something amazing" type of collaboration. The kind that blends art and science. So let’s think about trading in Corporate America for American Chopper.
Why am I picking on Adver-Marketing? Because corporate America is kicking our butts. Key executives at companies like Nike, Apple, P&G, BMW, Target, Harley-Davidson are actively adopting much of the thinking you’ll see in this week’s INside Innovation edition—and I rarely hear people talking about this kind of stuff in Adver-Marketing.
We’re all to busy looking for that next trend—not unlike a JUNKIE looking for that next HIGH.
Adver-Marketers need to think like Designers. The new breed of Designers. The kind Businessweek is talking about. We need to re-think our approaches. We need to re-think our creativity. We need to re-think how we approach consumers. Scratch that. We need to think about how we approach PEOPLE and what kinds of experiences we provide them. We need to value the “new creativity” as much as we value the brilliant marketing guru or Creative Director. We need to combine big ideas with creative problem solving. We need a healthy dose of Change-O-vation, as much as Business needs innovation. It’s a flat word for us too.
So here’s how I’ll end this. Start by picking up the INside Innovation edition of Businessweek. Read it from cover to cover. Then consider the people INside your organization who think and work this way. We exist. Find us. Talk to us. Ask us about our thoughts on the impact of Design Thinking in both Adver-marketing as well as business. Just listen. In addition to all things 2.0—Adver-Marketing needs to understand that there is an evolving type of individual that is living and working among us. We see things a little differently—and that’s not always a bad thing.
For an excellent collection of related links, please see Functioning Form (Defining Design Thinking).