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 change in capabilities, complexity, and potential, due in great part to evolving technology. As a result, the standards and expectations of customers are also constantly evolving. With each passing day, our target audiences are growing more sophisticated, with higher standards and more discerning dispositions…Yikes. How can we keep up? In short, more collaboration.

What is the evolving role of marketing in a world of ceaselessly changing standards and requirements?

Hint: It’s not to mindlessly plug metrics into spreadsheets and then pontificate on mild fluctuations in traffic. The role of a good marketer should be facilitate and fulfill the vision—that is—the totality of the experiences that interface with your customer and lead them to your solution. Than can and will include numbers… but the biggest part is relying on cross-disciplinary participation and collaboration to get the job done right. 

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 rigid, ego-driven professionals out to prove our own value?  How can we cultivate an environment of higher standards through mutual respect and transparency? It starts with letting other 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  jerks who aren’t practitioners. Hire hungry enthusiasts with a bias towards action 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. Set high-level goals and allow the experts to devise the tactics. Pull in outside help when needed. It’s often faster and cheaper to higher an expert than to become one.

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.

Make recognition personal, not programmatic. 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. 

Coworkers collaborate on a marketing project

“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 the most basic level are problem solvers and should be leveraged as the architects of new things. Remember, Design is problem solving, not art. 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.

Typically, Visual Designers aren’t brought into the Marketing conversation until way too late in the game. Don’t bring in the creative muscle at a point where preconceptions and restrictions may limit the effectiveness of their contribution. By then, the problem may be already defined, the target audience presupposed, the budget already determined by arbitrary past requirements, etc. Creative platforms for marketing campaigns must ring true to the entire customer experience by bringing continuity, consistency, and rationale, i.e., the concepts can’t feel tacked on to a predefined problem or goal. Don’t make this mistake. Visual design teams should be brought in early and have creative latitude to consider the entirety of the marketing challenge and contribute to the conversation accordingly. 

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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