We’ve moved past an inflection point of exponential change in advertising from where we were just five years ago. It was a point where advancement in technology and a sea change in culture have facilitated incredible leaps of innovation and creativity in marketing and, as advertisers, it’s forced us to look at everything in the world as a potential opportunity to build consumer engagement.
It’s made us pivot our marketing methods from more conventional means, which are no longer adequate, to areas of open collaboration, brand partnership, content creation and tech-oriented ideas. We’ve gone from talking about reach and impressions, CTRs and interaction rates, to that of dwell time and attention, debate and advocacy. With all of this change, however, it’s become exceedingly more difficult to land that “never-been-done-before” crown jewel we all so often strive for, stemming from, perhaps, a more ferocious competitive environment of savvier marketers and a greater fragmentation of people’s time.
This abundance of competition and consumer choice have not only made our jobs more difficult but require more creative and clever ways to outdo other brands vying for share of time and share of mind.
So what does this mean for us? In a marketing and advertising economy, your critical advantage comes down to talent—creative, tech, data, or other— which propel companies forward to not just keep up with the Joneses but find new ways of exceeding the Joneses.
This puts us in an Age of Experience where there is a changing standard for companies (creative/media/brand/etc.) to cultivate talent by building additional layers of experience-based knowledge on top of current areas of expertise. There’s generally no classification on a candidate’s resume for this additional merit but it’s becoming more apparent in the world of marketing and communications how vital a candidate’s extra-curricular experience and involvement in culture is.
In theory, the more diverse your repertoire of experiences is, the greater the ability to stimulate and connect those points of understanding in fueling thinking. It’s also much easier to pull inspiration from a larger toolbox of memories and cross-pollinate ideas in richer and more imaginative ways.
To spark a higher level of creativity and find unique territories of opportunity there are some useful ways in building the experience points and perspectives that could give you that added advantage. Here is a handful.
Be curious and be annoying
Open your imagination and explore reasons behind things (e.g. the rationale behind certain mergers & acquisitions, how to produce in VR, the fascination behind Serial podcast). When you have access to the right minds, take that as an opportunity to ask questions and learn from different vantage points. Believe it or not, it’ll allow you to pull from these experiences and help formulate new perspectives in ways that could surprise you. Again, the effort you put into learning is your competitive advantage—use it.
Immerse yourself in culture
The first step to building ideas and experiences that resonate with audiences is, naturally, understanding what piques the interest of different groups and why. It comes from what’s around you—music festivals, Meetup.com communities, tech events, Saturdays at the Whitney. Force yourself to explore different pockets of culture and micro-culture by jumping in and seeing where it takes you.
Start Passion Projects
I’m a huge proponent of this. I’ve produced musicians in the past, developed TV show pilots and work on a digital service in my spare time that can hopefully one day change the world. It’s not just about these projects acting as creative and entrepreneurial outlets for me outside of work but it’s actually had a huge benefit on what I do as a marketer too. Some of these endeavors have resulted in incredible introductions that have expanded my network (which I’ve also leveraged for clients). It’s also forced me to learn things that I wouldn’t ordinarily learn in my day-to-day—legal, production, coding, etc. Whatever it is that compels you, dive in allow it to expand your knowledge.
Keep experimenting with technology
It’s one thing to know about something but another to actually understand it by using and testing it. VR is the rage right now but unless you’re using it and learning about its features and underlying capability, it’s extremely difficult to create a quality experience. Using technology and consuming media over time will provide better understanding and ability to pave new ground in marketing.
International travel will inspire
Learning about how people live outside the four corners of your city may help you view the “human condition” in entirely new ways. It may even reframe the way you look at traditional advertising and spark ideas around corporate responsibility and social goodwill (e.g. addressing literacy and education).
As I mentioned before, in the world of marketing today we view everything as a potential opportunity to connect with consumers. In your daily routines, make mental notes of things that might seem commonplace but could be an opportunity to connect a brand and an audience. Look at companies and products as ways to create unique brand partnerships. See the challenges that people undergo and figure out ways in which improvements could be made. Don’t pass up on learning from the seemingly mundane and everyday.