A brilliant digital campaign. A clever billboard. An unexpected, interesting website interaction. An eye-catching magazine ad. Where do smart, creative marketing ideas come from? At tbk, we make that our business.
Creativity has become one of the top three skills workers need to succeed in today’s job market. That’s because, despite the rise in artificial intelligence, machine learning, and other technological advancements, nothing can master creative thinking quite like people do—at least not yet. That makes creativity hugely valuable. Some sources even say it’s the single most important skill in the world.
“The true sign of intelligence is not knowledge, but imagination.”
– Albert Einstein
The reason creatives are so valued in business is no mystery. They think differently, resulting in unexpected associations, imaginative insights, and unique solutions to problems that previously weren’t considered. This can open new pathways for innovation and growth, driving real revenue. Creativity also helps people be successful at non-traditionally creative work such as technical troubleshooting. It’s just as important for leadership as it is for the employees they manage.
“Creativity involves breaking out of expected patterns in order to look at things in a different way.”
– Edward de Bono
Not all ideas are good ideas. The good news is that they don’t need to be! Generating bad ideas is all part of the creative process. What begins as a bad idea may later develop into a good idea (or vice versa).
Creativity is largely subjective. Some ideas are widely unpopular while others have universal appeal. More often though, ideas work well for certain audiences, but not others.
When considering what constitutes a good idea from a marketing agency perspective, the “best” ideas are the ones that make the most sense for each client. The idea must be attractive for those on client calls, but also their stakeholders and target market. It must align with their brand identity and vision, propelling business development goals.
Good ideas must be simultaneously creative, original, and strategic—no easy feat.
“You can’t use up creativity. The more you use, the more you have.”
– Maya Angelou
What steps does someone take to be creative? How does a marketing team come together to brainstorm new ideas?
There is no singular, foolproof system to evoke creativity because no two creative people think in the same way. That said, there are some common stages that many creative professionals move through.
Here are some steps to encourage creativity within your organization.
Before jumping into a team brainstorming session, brief those who will be involved—ideally a few days prior to meeting. Ideas need time to germinate, so give your team time to digest the deliverables in advance. Prep your team with a creative brief that outlines parameters and goals. Share any research or documentation that will help people understand the scope of the project. You ask creative thought starter questions such as:
Strategy must come before creativity.
Now that your team knows what’s expected of them, let them play! This can be either independently or as part of a group brainstorming session. Remind them that there are no bad ideas at this stage of the game. The focus is instead free-flowing, spontaneous, divergent thinking. 72% of people get their best ideas in the shower when they aren’t actively focusing on solving a problem. During this incubation stage, there’s lots of ideas, but they’re unfinished and disjointed. They need refinement. That’s all part of the process.
“Everyone who’s ever taken a shower has had an idea. It’s the person who gets out of the shower, dries off, and does something about it who makes a difference.”
– Nolan Bushnell
Eureka! It’s time to bring your team’s creative thinking together if you haven’t already. Ideas often create an exciting ripple effect, where one idea will inspire others or move the thinking into a new direction. There are many exercises to spark creativity in a group setting. Ideally, your team can get together in person, but video calls and digital collaboration whiteboards can also work well. Encourage people to stay curious and ask “out of the box” questions to inspire creative thinking as a team.
At this stage, you and your team must evaluate the ideas on the table. Seek and deliver feedback from team members—rather than judgment or unfair criticism. Think back to Step 1 and the goals of the project. What’s working and what’s not? At this stage, the team’s ideas move from abstract, impractical, or ridiculous to something more tangible that could be delivered to the client.
Finally, creatives must verify that the idea works. How was the deliverable received by the client? How was it received by the public? Did it achieve the desired goals such as increasing leads or website traffic? If necessary, creatives must go back to the drawing board. Creativity is a constant cycle of experimentation and refinement.
Creativity is a strange and wonderful thing. It seems to come and go as it pleases. But monetizing creativity is very different than leisure endeavours one may pursue outside of work.
Creative professionals don’t always have the luxury of waiting for inspiration to strike or for our “muse” to show up. There are deadlines to meet and budgets constraints. Even if we feel uninspired, we must still deliver excellent work is part of the job.
“If you want creative workers, give them enough time to play.”
– John Cleese
Developing creative concepts is hard work. The evolution of an idea is rarely linear, and it’s truly a team effort. But it’s one of the things tbk does best—thanks to our commitment to hiring the most creative people. We hope these tips on cultivating creativity help your team ignite their imagination.