Make Time For Creativity

This column is going to depart a bit from my standard fare on email marketing tips and tricks and focus instead on my other area of passion -- creativity.  Even though I run an email marketing company today, in a past life I wrote a couple of books on the topic and spent quite a bit of my career focused on it.  In this economy, I think it's the companies that figure out how to use creativity in their marketing efforts (and especially in their email marketing efforts) that will reap great returns.

I just returned from the TED Conference in California. For those of you not familiar with it, TED stands for Technology, Entertainment and Design; it's an amazing gathering each year of individuals across those three disciplines (with a few new ones sprinkled in for good measure).  It is also a great catalyst for creative ideas.

The event was established 25 years ago by architect and designer Richard Saul Wurman.   His vision was to create the ultimate dinner party, with invited guests each being given 18 minutes to share on a topic of their choosing.

There are many great things about the conference, but what I have found extremely valuable is twofold. First of all, there's the amazing depth and richness of the topics to which attendees are exposed. Second, there's the incredible opportunity to interact with exciting, intelligent people who are on the leading edge of their discipline, including some of the great thinkers of our time.

Over the years of attending TED, I've come away with several key lessons about the creative process that are applicable to developing either your email program or, for that matter, just about any project you are involved in.

Embrace new ideas

Many of the presenters share new ideas or concept that haven't made it into the mainstream. But what I have found critical is how the audience readily embraces and explores the ideas.  Often they contain huge opportunities. At the first TED conference, there was a presentation on a small computer called the Apple Macintosh. This year it was two exciting technologies: a "sixth sense wearable computer" and a very cool interface called "siftables."  

When it comes to your email program, the key questions to ask are, "Are you embracing the new ideas and technologies that are available in the industry? Are listening to and taking advantage of the tools and techniques your vendors offer? Are you testing and trying that which is innovative in the email space today?"  If you regularly read the posts here, are you trying the ideas the many great columnists suggest?  You have to embrace the new ideas.

Mix it up

Another highlight of the conference are the breaks and gatherings at which conference attendees mingle and chat. The cross-discipline sharing you get by hearing different perspectives about the speakers is incredible.  The same thing applies to a marketing message.  So often in a marketing organization it is easy to become "marketing-myopic." We face deadlines and have to meet quotas, so we stick with those we've become comfortable with and share our common perspective.  We attend those conferences that are in our comfort zone.  Perhaps it's time to visit with the department across the hall and get their input on your e-marketing challenge.  Meet with colleagues in other disciplines to discuss your ideas and learn about theirs.  Some of your best concepts may come from areas where you've not thought of asking for input before.

Be prepared for the Daemon

No matter what aspect of marketing you are involved in, it is a creative endeavor. One of the best presentations at this year's conference was a speech by author Elizabeth Gilbert that is now live on the TED site. Gilbert, who wrote the book "Eat, Pray, Love," talks about the creative process and being ready at the moment an idea flows to capture it -- whether it's having a notebook, a small tape recorder or your iPhone to jot some quick notes. You never know when the inspiration for your next campaign or program will hit. When it does, don't let it slip by -- grab it.

In the space I have available here, these are but a few of the great ideas I've taken away from TED conferences over the years. A few years ago the organizers took a great step and put many of the outstanding presentations (which were always kept confidential) up on their Web site at  If you find yourself with 18 minutes to spare, I encourage you to watch the video of your choosing. I guarantee it will be 18 minutes of time well spent -- and may even help you improve your email program.



2 comments about "Make Time For Creativity".
Check to receive email when comments are posted.
  1. Frank Dobner from The Startup Source, February 18, 2009 at 10:40 a.m.

    Thank you. I have heard of TED many times, but I never knew exactly what it was. Great coverage.


  2. Jordan Ayan from SubscriberMail, LLC, February 18, 2009 at 11:53 a.m.

    Rob Earl - Not sure what you mean when you state "Great value? You're kidding, right? "

Next story loading loading..