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CREATIVITY

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Man goes to the Doctor and says, “Doctor, when I lift my right arm, it really hurts.”

Doctor says, “Well stop doing it then.”

Man goes to the Copywriter and says, “Mychael, when I start writing about myself, I write like someone I hardly even recognise!”

Mychael says, “Well stop doing it then.”

This weird, invisible transition from ‘me’ to ‘posh me’ or ‘professional me’ (whatever that means) when we start writing – is rife in business. It does two things:

  1. Introduces the world to someone that doesn’t actually exist.
  2. Makes you sound like everyone else.

So stop it.

Give me a shout if you want to talk about it.

I know it’s (weirdly) hard.

Whilst doing my Marketing MA (before dropping out after 11 months because the business I was running took over), two notable things happened.

First, I came precisely top of the year in the assignment about Brand Building and Marketing Strategy. How to position and sell. I focussed on the possible, not the probable, and I beat everyone.

Second, I came precisely bottom of the year in the assignment about Statistical Marketing. How to scope the market. I focussed on the possible, and got bored thinking about the probable (again), and everyone beat me.

Dave, the course leader had a one word comment.

“Weird.”

He said.

‘Thank you.”

Said I.

And left.

Anyhow, it’s this part of me – the guttural part of me – that, this week, led to me to answer this question,

“How can you build brand recognition without a large marketing budget?”

Like this:

“It’s more interesting (and valuable) unpacking this question, than it is (directly) answering it. Here goes:

1. It’s implied that you need (it’s better to have) a large marketing budget to better build brand recognition. Such notions breed crap, lazy marketers and crap, lazy marketing. A great idea, excited bravely beats widely communicated blend-in stuff, always.

2. I’ll add that you should look long and hard at what you’re looking to get ‘brand recognition’ for – before spending a penny. Is it just brand awareness? So they know you’re there. Or brand strength? So they know why you are different and better. If it’s the former – it’s not good enough.

Find and answer the questions behind the question – first.”

You see, the problem these days is not that marketers use AI. It’s much worse than that. The problems is that marketers are AI.

Most marketers are robots.

They don’t question questions. They tick the box. Or, worse, look to AI to tick the box for them.

The world of the probable is based on looking at the past.

That’s where all marketing robots live. Even the living breathing ones.

The world of the possible is based on looking at the future.

That’s what brave, driven, interesting businesses need.

And where brave, driven, interesting marketers look.

Choose which you are, or which kind of marketer you appoint.

Your future depends on it.

I was asked to think about how a brand’s social initiatives affect reputation.

Two points.

POINT 1.

Why are we in business at all? I think it should be for the greater good. I think the core business should undeniably ‘be good’. And I think the business should undeniably ‘do good’.

‘Being good’ is creating useful, quality things that last. Or delivering quality services that uplift and enhance lives.

‘Doing good’ is creating solid, well paid jobs. It is treating all people well. And its redistributing profit to effect positive ripples through communities and causes.

But (back to the question) doing this is not to chase reputation. It’s just because it’s the right thing to do. Reputations are built as a consequence of what we do. Reputation follows.

POINT 2.

The second point is an unfortunate truth. You need to remember the difference between motivation (your leading edge proposition) and gratification (trailing edge proposition) with your brand building and communication.

Great, differentiated, distinctive, desirable products and services is leading edge – this is why people buy. Lead with this. This is their motivation to buy from you.

The good you do (doing good) is trailing edge – this is consolidation. This is not the main reason people buy. It is the reason they feel good about having bought. Or it gets them over the buying line at the point of purchase. Or it gives (further) fuel to word of mouth. Don’t lead with this. This is the gratification they feel having bought from you.

If you get things the wrong way round, you’ll sell fewer things. As I say, it is an unfortunate truth.

Nonetheless – it is true.

“How can you use AI to optimise your media budget?” I was asked. Here’s what I said.

Well, if you have (say) 5 things on a list called ‘How To Optimise My Media Budget’ – make sure AI, if it is on the list at all, is at position 5. Beneath:

1. Do we own a unique and valuable brand position in the mind of the consumer?

2. Are our most important Strategic Marketing decisions sufficiently innovative that they really are the very best way for us to sell.

3. Is our creative and messaging distinctive enough. So they actually know it’s us.

4. Are the things at 1 to 3 aligned to the overall measurable objectives and ambition of the business.

Then, and only then, should you even be entertaining the idea of twatting about with AI.

Do the grown up work – first.

LinkedIn asked me what are some innovative strategies for creating new categories for your brand?

As a general rule, there’s only one. And it’s not that innovative.

First, don’t consider extending your brand into any new category until you are preeminent in the one you’re in now… ‘Here’.

Then, only pick a new category where the exact thing your brand is famous and valued for in the first category, resonates just as strongly in the new one… ‘There’.

That’s about it.

I wrote a short story in 2019, on my 50odd blog, about alcohol.

The story was a wry-smile. I talked about how alcohol cleverly wheedles its way into my life. Seducing. My words danced as they smilingly narrated my thoughts.

But here’s the thing…

Right now, in 2023, 1,200 stories in on the 50odd blog, the most affecting writing on the entire blog is not by me at all.

It’s by Mark.

Mark commented on my story about alcohol. You should read his comment. It takes seconds.

Because even though its hard to read. And even though I can smell and taste it as I read it. The comment showed me that my understanding of alcoholism was, and still is, zero.

And it also reminded me that the most powerful writing of all is raw, unguarded and real.

Mark’s comment is at the bottom of the page: https://www.50odd.co.uk/alcohol/.

Here’s how brands function as brands – but keep a ‘human’ element, too.

(In other words, this is how businesses maintain a consistent brand experience across all touch points, aligned to Brand and Messaging Frameworks, without becoming stale or robotic).

It’s just a nice way of putting it:

“When you have a brand, there is no room for maverick interpretation. And yet individual acts of heroism are always welcome.”

What this means is that instinct and intuition play a part too. As well as brand leadership and control.

Frameworks… yes.

But the brand leader’s instincts and intuition, and the instincts and intuition of her or his wider team – how much everyone really, really, really gives a shit about the brand and the change it is dedicated to making, and how everybody cares about how every individual that come into contact with the brand actually feels – are just as important.

Here’s how I blurtily answered the question, ‘What makes a great marketer?’ (I quite like blurty. It’s raw).

Read.

Then read some more.

Form your own unique ideas and opinions and have the confidence to run with them.

(Keep reading, though).

Understand that your job is to engage and persuade, in all the right ways.

Ungimmicky.

Sincere.

True.

Understand that distinctiveness and differentiation are two different things.

Optimise both.

Marketing is a responsibility.

It is a privilege to be engaged as a marketer.

So it is not OK for marketers to smirkingly suggest that marketing is a dark art.

This is not true.

This is where bad marketers hide.

Marketing is not a dark art.

Marketing is control, understanding and management.

It is straight forwardness.

Imagination.

Bravery.

Clarity.

Consistency.

Creativity.

Marketing is an owned story – uniquely told.

I was asked this question this week:

How can you build brand equity in the fashion industry?

Here’s what I said.

I think that, first, we need to remember this. The world does not need another clothing brand. Not one.

So first, forget clothing completely. Identify the change you want to make as a business person. Something good. Then create something wonderful that is an unambiguous expression of that change. And if that happens to be clothing – so be it. It’s as simple as that at base level.

I built and ran a fashion brand for 7 years. Always Wear Red. (As an Associate Brand Director, it’s good to test yourself by building your own brands).

It’s hard though. Conceptualising a unique and expressive brand, then making and selling it. But I’m glad I did. And the messaging around why I did what I did was solid.

But as I say, if you want to tread the same path, you really do need to remember this. The world does not need another clothing brand. Not one.

So first, forget clothing completely. Identify the change you want to make as a business person. Something good. Then create something wonderful that is an unambiguous expression of that change. And if that happens to be clothing – so be it.

I talk in pictures. Mostly.

That’s why I describe investing in design, when your messaging is rubbish, is like respraying your car with a view to making it go faster or further.

Daft as this sounds, it happens a lot. New websites or brochures with the same godawful same-as-everybody-else messaging. It’s just silly.

If you want to increase how you’re noticed, remembered and chosen, the start point is almost never changing how you look, and almost always changing what you say.