Science fiction writer Ray Bradbury once said, "Don't think. Thinking is the enemy of creativity. It's self-conscious, and anything self-conscious is lousy. You can't try to do things. You simply must do things."
That's why it's important to be aware of the ideas that come to you throughout the course of your day. Jot down notes, e-mail yourself ideas, remember those informal chats with Jim the sales guy in the elevator. Not only will these ideas help improve your business, but they can also be communicated in your marketing efforts. Because even if a simple idea may not seem like the seed of great social media blog content, it probably is.
You may feel like you're not "creative" in the artistic sense. (We understand: we heard you try to sing "Don't Stop Believing" at karaoke the other night.) But it's important to realize that creativity, particularly when viewed through the lens of creative marketing, is less about painting a stunning watercolor and more about, for example, looking at existing business problems in a new or unique way.
This, of course, is easier said than done; after all, most small businesses have been around the same products, services and processes for years. It's like second nature to them. It can be difficult to extract yourself from the immediacy and familiarity of your comfort zone. So the first step in giving yourself space from the familiar is to redefine the idea of creativity itself.
Inspiration is All Around
Not surprisingly, many of your most creative moments will come on the job, in a meeting, in the office pantry. But also look to real life for hidden seeds of creativity. For example, let's say a friend of yours just brought a car, which he purchased from its previous owner on CraigsList, to the mechanic. Your friend bought a lemon and he's paying dearly. It's the classic example of being a "penny wise and a pound foolish." After all, your friend could have purchased a certified used car or a new car for $1,000 down and a low interest rate and generous financing options. But instead he shelled out $3,000 in cash for his clunker.
If you're an auto dealer, your friend's experience speaks to the long-term financial disadvantages of buying a car on CraigsList. What's worse is that your friend's experience is alarmingly common and the lessons here can be incorporated into your marketing strategy and messaging.
Questions to Spur Creativity
Of course, this isn't to downplay the importance of consistently revisiting your brand and asking critical questions to spark your creativity as well. Reusing your brand and reevaluating, you'll come up with some creative and practical ideas that can inform your marketing approach. In fact, we feel that it's healthy to continually ask yourselves questions like:
- Would I purchase this product? Why or why not?
- Do I really think our product or service delivers value? What's the value?
- If my best friend asked me if he or she should purchase our product, what would I say?
- What about this product, service, or process is complex? How can I simplify things?
- What makes our company unique?
Transitioning towards "Creative Marketing"
Whether your ideas come to you in the shower or through rigorous self-examination, you'll inevitably walk away with some insight, some piece of knowledge that, whether you realize it or not, can be transformed into marketing material.
Take the aforementioned example of your friend with his lemon. You can easily draw up the costs of repairing a used car over its lifetime and compare it with a new vehicle. You can expound on this on your blog, post installments on social media, or create (or attribute) infographics attesting to the cost benefits of resisting the urge to buy a clunker.
Ultimately, we think Ray Brabury has a point. After all, as much as it's fun to romanticize the power of the muse, reality is a bit more boring. Great ideas come to us not by brainstorming or at some swank corporate retreat (not that there's anything wrong with kicking by the pool for a few days) but in the daily grind of your job, by working with clients and experimenting. Doing, not thinking, is the spark of creativity.