Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Gettin' Dirty

Something occurred to me today -- creativity is a messy job.

Kids are considered the most creative, free-spirited creatures around. And they're filthy. I know, I have 3 of them. Their creativity comes through, not because they aren't afraid to break the rules, but because they don't even know the rules...yet. They try. They fail. They try something else. The shrug it off. They get elbow deep. They take risks they don't even know they're taking.

Adults don't like to get dirty. Most of us are taught that messy is bad. We like to be safe. We like rules and structure. We like nice, clean, squeaky solutions that work the first time. We don't like failure or mistakes. Or even letting other people make mistakes.

But safe stinks. It's boring, bland, not memorable, not compelling and it doesn't sell. If you can recall a TV ad or book, it's because it stood out above all the other noise, and somehow grabbed you. How may takes, versions, revisions - mistakes - did it likely take to get to that finished product? What a dull world this would be if we only accepted our very first effort.

The only way to truly be creative, though, is to be willing to try new things, take amazing risks, and fail gloriously. We have to be willing to dive deep into an issue and get dirty, often looking stupid or awkward.

Aside from being creative, there's another role we all play: letting others be creative. Do people around you feel comfortable trying new things? Or looking for new processes, new technologies and new ideas? And what's your reaction if it blows up?

You have to try new things, and let others do it as well. And, unless you're really good, and incredibly lucky, most of those new things will fail and be messy. Be proud of your messiness.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

What Drives You

Yesterday, I touched on the notion of being genuine. Let's go a little further.
Who do you trust? Think of your mentor, your favorite teacher growing up, a coach, a trusted accountant/attorney/doctor...a parent. What makes you trust them?
They all tell you what you need to hear, not what you want to hear. They are experts in specific areas. And they stick to what they know.
Apply this to your marketing. What drives it?
  • Trying to appeal to everyone.
  • Or sticking to what you know.
In the first, you don't own your messages. You're just spewing what you think people want to hear. Guess what, it's not genuine. Too many companies take this tact. One's easier. And the result is corporate speak.
Instead, find what you do or know best, and dog it. Own the messages. Find that group of people who care. And make them trust you, need you, HAVE to use you. Simply put, be genuine. Be authentic. Say what you do in simple terms, then deliver.
I've been thinking about the lack of genuineness lately. And I'm not the only one; check this out (thanks to my coworker Jessica for pointing it out); and this.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Being genuine

The mail came. My bank is 'merging' with another bank; third time in 18 months. They sent me a beautiful packet of information. A 5-graph cover letter states "we promise very little change in the way you bank with us." Here's the catch: it's attached to an 8-page, text-intense glossy brochure that explains the hundreds of "differences" I'll notice beginning this month.
Why do companies do this? It's daily moves like these that lead people to not trust business. I've been a customer of this bank for less than a day now, and already I question their ethics and honesty.
This sound like a familiar formula?
1. Tell the customer upfront what we think they want to hear.
2. Dazzle them with packaging and words you'd read in a Hallmark card.
3. Plow along business as usual.
4. Repeat.
Here's the thing. Surely this bank must have something to offer. They must have happy customers somewhere. What makes them happy? Why is this bank better than the other 35 I pass on my way to work? Tell me that stuff. Tell me what makes you, you. Then let me choose if you're right for me. Be genuine.
How does your company communicate change? Does it insist it's business as usual, while an episode of Extreme Corporate Makeover churns backstage? At a time when trust and loyalty are at a premium, and skepticism has become a commodity, how and what you communicate can set you apart.
I suppose it's sad that telling the truth can be a differentiator...then again, it's also an easily attainable opportunity. There shouldn't be anything easier than being genuine.