WHERE DO IDEAS COME FROM?
Most digital marketing involves left brain thinking–strategy, coding, data, web development, algorithms, SEO and a variety of other tools known by an alphabet soup of acronyms. But the best moments in digital marketing often come from the marriage between left and right brain thinking. Creativity is key in the advertising industry, and digital marketing is no exception. Figuring out how to successfully use that new social media channel to your brand’s advantage, how to make the next viral hit, or how to improve your customer’s experience on mobile requires a degree of innovation that cannot be achieved solely through left brain thinking.
So how do you bring creativity into your digital marketing strategy?
LEFT BRAIN RIGHT BRAIN
Just as many successful companies know the value in hiring both left and right brain thinkers, many good ideas are the result of two seemingly unrelated entities coming together to create one crazy, brilliant thought. As blogger Seth Godin puts it, “Ideas occur when dissimilar universes collide.” Taking an interdisciplinary approach to your creative process is notoriously successful in helping thinkers come up with the “big” ideas. Thomas Edison’s famous kinetoscope, a machine for viewing motion pictures, was derived through this process. So was a little thing called the World Wide Web.
Popular science author Steven Johnson agrees: “Breakthrough ideas almost never come in a moment of great insight in a sudden stroke of inspiration. Most important ideas take a long time to evolve and they spend a long time dormant in the background. It isn’t until the idea has had two or three years, sometimes 10 or 20 years to mature, that it suddenly becomes successful to you and useful to you in a certain way. And this is partly because good ideas normally come from the collision between smaller hunches so that they form something bigger than themselves.”
We’ve all them. Maybe it’s because showers are free from distraction. Or maybe it’s the clean warm water rushing from the showerhead over your brain. Either way, shower thoughts are a thing and have the potential to be powerful ones. There’s even a Buzzfeed article about them (“Your stomach thinks all potato is mashed,” and “When you drink alcohol you’re just borrowing happiness from tomorrow”).
Sometimes ideas do come in a similar eureka moment like Archimedes had in his bathtub. Keith Richards woke up in the middle of the night with the main riff from “Satisfaction” fully formed in his head. Willie Nelson wrote three of his biggest hits in one week. Some ideas come in spurts, and when they do, you’re very lucky. The reality is, most “breakthroughs” are the product of hard work and thoughtful concentration. It’s the daily grind of writing, reading, practicing, struggling and working through the mediocre ideas. Sometimes, if you come up with enough bad ideas, you’ll get a good one. No matter what, good ideas take patience.
Thomas Jefferson once said, “I’m a great believer in luck, and I find the harder I work the more I have of it.” It’s one thing to have a good idea, but if you are unable or unprepared to recognize it’s existence, it will escape you. Useful ideas come from being awake and alert enough to actually take notice, grab it, and not let it get away.
Often the best preparation you can do is to pay attention to the world around you, whether it be your immediate surroundings or reading about news, digital trends, and new research. Scientists will have ideas about science, not poetry – unless they have also practiced poetry as a craft (and visa versa). Those who haven’t prepared themselves to be creative rarely are.
Curiosity goes beyond just paying attention. It comes from the drive to ask questions (even the stupid ones), to understand more, and to take things apart, literally or figuratively. It stems from the desire to know “what if…” and then to following that question until it gets somewhere interesting. Godin writes, “Ideas fear experts, but they adore beginner’s mind. A little awareness is a good thing.”
Curiosity requires proactivity. If you come across a snippet of something interesting, chase it down. Don’t walk the same way to work every day. Don’t sit in the same seat in the conference room each time there’s a meeting. Try out a new app or social media channel. Spend a day paying particular attention to smells around you. Teach yourself about a new and foreign topic. Mediocre ideas enjoy copying what happens to be working right this minute. When you actively practice creativity, you’re more likely to gain different perspectives, which can be the spark that ignites two leftfield thoughts into that elusive, tantalizing idea you’ve been searching for.
Whether it’s in the shower, at your desk, or in your car driving to the gym, ideas can spring in your head without any regard to where you are and what you’re doing. However, there are certain environments that ideas generally do not thrive in. Ideas hate spaces where there is a history of criticism, personal attacks, or boredom. Sometimes they do well in routine, while other times they require a completely different schedule. Sometimes they need ego–other times they need generosity and selflessness. Most of all, they respond to fear, either positively or negatively. Learn how to harness these thought patterns and make them work in your favor.
Despite all your efforts in preparation, curiosity, and showering in search of that big idea, occasionally it will only come through serendipity. If and when you happen to be in the “right place at the right time,” stay open to making connections between unrelated things or events. You just might find what you were looking for.
Want to spice up the creativity in your digital marketing strategy? Get in touch with our team and we’ll toss some ideas around. While you’re at it, we’d love to hear your own thoughts on the creative process and how it relates to digital marketing. Don’t be afraid to share!