Senior Marketing and Business Development Strategist
CommuniTech’s focus this week is creativity. Just as I began to write my blog on the subject, my iPhone gave me the news. Maurice Sendak had died. (Inspiration comes from all kinds of places, you know?) I didn’t know Mr. Sendak, but his work and what I know about his life sure have been a part of me. You see, ever since I first laid eyes on Where the Wild Things Are (which I did as a young adult, not a child), I knew he was a creative genius. And when I watched Spike Jonze’s HBO documentary, Tell Them Anything You Want: A Portrait of Maurice Sendak, (you can rent this on Netflix) I was smitten. I caught just a glimpse of where his creativity originated. It came from truth. It came not from the sake of being wild or different, but from a “place” far deeper than that.
Integrated marketing communications challenges us to be creative—the get to that “place” every day, carrying the creativity from website to direct mail, from webinar to tradeshow booth. We are challenged to deliver a message about why one company or product is the best fit to solve a problem or provide a service. When I thought about some of the many things that resonated with me about Sendak and his work, five “truths” on creativity came to mind that can be applied to just about any marketing communications project.
- Comfortable is for couches, not creative.
Sendak published books that made some adults uncomfortable, especially for the mid-60s, but children related to them instantly. The fans saw and felt a bit of reality in the gloominess. Copying your competitor’s creative is not going to set you apart. It doesn’t have to be edgy, but it needs to stir real feelings. Creative needs to stand out in a sea of clutter. Comfortable is expected—it keeps you on the couch— and it goes unnoticed. It may feel like it’s the right path, but that what couches are for. Trust me, the status quo is every salesperson’s worst enemy— whether they don’t have anything interesting to say, or the potential client finds it more comfortable not to consider investing in anything new.
- Be who you are.
One of the hardest parts about being creative is determining a starting point, and that starting point begins with the truth. People gather in brainstorming sessions and go all over the map with directions that often lead to indecision. When Sendak created, he put a story around truth. He knew who he was and was honest with himself and with his readers about what that reality was and he masterfully included reality, no matter how harsh, in a creative package. As marketers, we need to understand who a company is and the truth about the strengths and weaknesses of their products, the harsh realities of the customers they serve, and create a story that engages and forms a relationship through a demonstration of understanding.
- Pictures tell you as much if not more than words.
In business-to-business (B2B) marketing, we’re often not selling tangible items that can easily translate into graphics. How do you show consulting? How do you show services without being boring? With YouTube and Vimeo and smartphones and fast Internet access, the ability to create exciting and custom visual content is easier (and less expensive) than ever. Stock art can work, but there is no guarantee that you won’t be staring at a replica of your photos in your competitor’s booth across the aisle. The cost of a photographer (or the time commitment to a contest to get quality photos from your own talented staff) is often well worth putting a unique picture to your brand. A library of original content is very valuable in today’s Internet-driven world. Make your graphics tell a story to which your prospects can relate and which invites personal engagement.
- Your biggest challenge is “I don’t care, Pierre.”
In Sendak’s book, Pierre, the headstrong main character’s response to everything is “I don’t care.” Sound familiar? Salespeople hear it firsthand every day, both directly and indirectly. Creative marketing communications can help overcome this, by creating a message that helps tell people why they should care, why you may be the real thing, and why you just may be the one that understands and can actually solve their problems.
- Don’t forget to be human.
Sometimes our stoic communications plummet a reader’s energy level to where they could fall asleep (yes, sleep is the end result of too time on that couch). After all, communication is about expressing something between people. Sendak’s fictional characters often have strong emotions tied to them (not all of them were pretty) — anger, hate, fear, love, compassion, immortality. Remembering that we are talking to a person can completely change what we say or how we say it. You can find plenty written on appealing to key human emotions and it is good advice. (Fundraising direct marketers are experts at this with their passionate copy and engaging photos.) People make decisions based on feeling first and logic second. Yes, even in B2B. However, in B2B we have to remember that sometimes we have more than one person to worry about in the decision making process and we need to appeal to different people, sometimes simultaneously.
So here’s to creativity! And, most importantly thank you, Maurice Sendak, for the sharing your genius—your truth—with the world. You will be remembered and missed.
How are you creative?
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