It’s Never About Talent, it’s About Mindset

Marketing and creativity are not static. Although not always regarded as such — they are interactive mediums that constantly grow and evolve in capabilities, complexity, and potential — due in great part to technology. As a result, the standards and expectations of customers and clients are also constantly evolving. With each passing day, our target audiences are growing more sophisticated, with higher standards and more discerning dispositions…Yikes 

So then, what is the evolving role of marketing in a world of ceaselessly changing requirements?

Hint: It’s not to mindlessly plug metrics into spreadsheets and then pontificate on mild fluctuations. Ready for this one? It’s a mouthful… The role of a good marketer is to facilitate and fulfill the vision, that is, the totality of the experiences that interface with your customer, tell your story, and serves your company’s needs. Than can and will include numbers… but the biggest part is relying on cross-disciplinary participation and collaboration. 

Tighter collaboration produces higher standards and better output. But I mean real collaboration. Think about how can we work more like an sports team — who respect each others’ strengths and weaknesses — and less like the rigid, ego-driven professionals we are?  How can we cultivate an environment of higher standards through mutual respect and transparency? It starts with letting people do their jobs. Assume that specialist is an expert in his or her craft.


“A small team of A+ players can run circles around a giant team of B and C players.”

 — Steve Jobs


In short—the recipe goes something likes this:

1. Assemble a team of rockstars
Hire right, don’t hire cheap. Trust your intuition. Don’t hire “talented” uppity  dicks, hire hungry enthusiasts with potential and something to prove.

2. Encourage them to do their thing.
Empower them. Let them know you respect their expertise and opinion. Give them freedom, don’t micromanage. 

3. BUT— Make it known that only team players make it at your org, and that they will need to leave their egos at the door.
If arguments arise about the best approach, take it to a team meeting where everyone can have a transparent, professional conversation about the merits of both sides and arrive as a group at the best way to proceed. 

4.Encourage collaboration AND competition—they’re not mutually exclusive.
Don’t force it or fake it. This can’t be artificial, so the trending practice of mandating “personal projects” may not be the way to go.  Let it happen organically where it needs to, by encouraging experimentation and asking questions. Recognize and reward voluntary enthusiasm and improvements. A few people will be receptive and “step up.” They’ll go above and beyond to get noticed, and consequently drag everyone else up with them. Others won’t want to be left in the dark or be seen as obsolete. That’s how collaboration AND competition lead to better teams, overall. If they really don’t want to get better, they’ll leave.


Coworkers collaborate on a marketing project

Insert cheesy stock art of generic attractive business people smiling and shaking hands…


“Art is not what you see, but what you make others see.”

—Edgar Degas


What’s the role of creativity and design in all of this?

Creative peeps at their most basic state are problem solvers  and should be leveraged as the architects of new things. Designers should ultimately help determine not just how something looks, but how it works. This is an important distinction all too often overlooked in highly-structured organizations. Designers and creatives aren’t brought in until way too late in the game. By then, the product is already engineered and named some shitty acronym or techno-jargon, the user flow is already mapped to be painfully counter-intuitive, the budget, already determined by arbitrary past requirements, etc., Don’t bring in the creative muscle at a point where preconceptions and restrictions may limit the effectiveness of the creative contribution. The design of anything must also bring continuity, consistency, and rationale through the entire experience—it can’t feel tacked on. Don’t make this mistake. 

Some components every marketing team should consider holistically and tackle as a team:

  • Marketing and messaging concepts/content
  • Demographics
  • Traditional look and feel considerations (branding)
  • Interactivity and functionality
  • Usability: user experience (UX) and user interface (UI)
  • Production best practices
  • Conversion tactics and optimizations

How can you do it?

Nielson Norman Group published a fantastic article on a “Design Thinking” workflow, which further explains the ingredients to some of the themes discussed above. As well as ideas for working them into your routine and processes, to foster better team building and collaboration. I would definitely recommend checking it out here.

What are your thoughts on this? Do you have experience with any of the advantages or pitfalls described above. Sound off in the comments and let me know.

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