Where Creativity and Courage Collide: Innovation in Digital Marketing

“If at first, the idea is not absurd, then there is no hope for it” – Albert Einstein

If other people are already doing it, then can it really count as innovation? Surely innovation is the service, product or method that is new and better than the established systems. Econsultancy listed a number of Innovative Trends for 2012 in a recent blog post. If it’s a trend it cannot be innovative as others have already done it. However a trend can be a catalyst in creating innovation.

Applying creativity to a trend or situation is the spark that’s needed to ignite an idea into an innovation. It may seem easy for the gurus to challenge us to “think outside the box”, but for many the challenge can often be realising just how far inside the box they are. Getting out can be made more difficult when the box is sellotaped with unconcious prejudices and gift wrapped with the false belief that we know it all already.

Releasing creative juices

John Rainford spent a day teaching a group us MBA students how to unlock creative thinking through drawing. We didn’t need to be artists, we simply needed to express an idea or concept through a drawing. Here are some simple steps to try the technique out:

  1. Warm-up by drawing a picture of each of the following words; time, energy and intelligence
  2. Examine the drawings – how would you explain your image to someone else – why did you draw what you did
  3. Now create context for what you are trying to be innovative with – review your vision or strategy – consider your digital marketing tactics
  4. Use this page to generate three random words
  5. Draw a picture for each word and then afterwards list out what you see
  6. Apply these pictures and words against your strategy. Don’t be afraid to be completely left field – abstraction in innovation is the starting point

By drawing random pictures and then applying them to your situation may seem bizarre but it really does make you think in new, creative ways.

Courage: Feel the fear and do it anyway

“Most great people have attained their greatest success just one step beyond their greatest failure.” – Napoleon Hill

An idea is only as good as its execution. Before the iPhone was made, all that existed was an idea in the head of Steve Jobs. An idea that a mobile phone should be better. It should be easy to use, aesthetically pleasing and lightning fast. Getting it into the hands of the customer was the first challenge and they could have taken one of two routes. Route one, build a cheap model and just get it out there, collect feedback and then refine it. Route two; commit yourself to the idea and spare no expense on its development into a physical product. By selecting route two Apple created a consumer electronics device that looked so good and worked so well that people just wanted one. Even in the middle of a global recession, £400 handsets were selling out with queues around the block to get hold of the latest model.

So it’s not easy to be the Digital Marketer who says “let’s put 75% of our PPC budget into building an online customer community”. It takes conviction. A conviction that having a tribe of well supported and engaged customers is a better long-term business model than trying to outbid your competitors for top rank whilst undercutting them on price.

“Products and services succeed one person at a time, as the word slowly spreads. Customers defect one person at a time, as hearts are broken and people are disappointed. Doors open, sure, but not all at once. One at a time.” – Seth Godin

Have you heard the secret about overnight success? It isn’t overnight. Instagram made $1bn overnight but their success took two years to build up to. The iPhone wasn’t the first step, the iPod was, then iTunes, then iTunes for the PC, and then the iPod nano. If it takes courage to propose your idea to the MD, then know that it will take twice as much to see it through when you’re building that groundswell of success.

“The five essential entrepreneurial skills for success are concentration, discrimination, organization, innovation and communication” – Michael Faraday

Inspiration

A lot of inspiration for this article was drawn from some great articles and books. So here’s a selection of what went into the preparation of this post.

David Sealey is a trusted adviser to senior executives on getting the most from their investment in digital and data. David created Storm81 as a place to share his passion for business, digital technologies, multichannel marketing and everything else around these topics.

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