The Arrogance of Creation

Graffiti of Creation
Is creation the pinnacle of achievement?

The success and failure of industry is based on this idea. Think about all that it takes to build something: an idea, a plan, people and resources to execute and the budget/organization to make sure it all happens. Once you have created said product you would either put it to use or sell it at a profit. Rinse. Repeat.

(You can see why most people go into software after you factor in the additional complexities of a brick and mortar.)

Seems simple enough, right? So why is it then that so many of our creations fail to succeed? It comes down to a basic understanding of what creation is and isn’t.

Creation isn’t static. It’s a living, breathing organism that requires constant attention, care and love to succeed. Creativity is social.

The Seed

What are you actually creating? Are you creating a momentary distraction/interruption or something that has the potential to inspire?

We’d all like to inspire. The problem is most of us can’t. That’s why it’s imperative to create something truly extraordinary to spur your marketing forward. Great content begets great reach.


Crowdsourcing is going to be baked into every single creative push going forward. How could it not be? It’s cheap, sustainable and can build on and increase the power of your initial idea. The key is being able to effectively influence, understand and direct the creation of the product/marketing materials.

The new task for creation is simple but requires a fundamental paradigm shift: move to inspiring and inciting for activation instead of pure creation. The more customization and ability to tweak your content? The stickier the content will become.

Come up with a great idea. Create a model/demo.  Allow the crowd to execute and riff off of it. This is the future of the creative model. ~ The Creative Seed


Therefore, what level of social creativity are you building into your marketing? Social creativity is based on your original content’s ability to inspire new content produced by your audience. Ideally, this user-generated content would serve to augment and strengthen the original creative concept.

Perennial or Annual?

Campaigns usually fall into one of two categories: a value prop (offer) or an introduction (branding). The difference between the two is not just in construction but also has to do with the sustainability of each.

Annual campaigns are limited and often used to increase the volume of sales in the short-term (usually unsustainable).

Example: Groupon, Launched in November 2008, Groupon features a daily deal on the best stuff to do, see, eat, and buy in a variety of cities across the United States. We have about 180 wonderful people working in our Chicago office (a handful of whom you can see to your right), along with a smattering of people in Groupon’s other cities.

A perennial campaign is usually based on a pre-established concept meant to strengthen the overall structure and sustainability of the business. It reinforces core concepts and strengthens your brand.

Example: Staples’ “Wow!” guy: Check out our newest commercial! When prices are this low, some people simply can’t contain themselves.

The Fertilizer

Behavioral hooks are essential for any marketing. They ensure that your creation will be understood, appreciated and serve a purpose. Creating utility should be the first goal of product design but the second should be finding the behavior that cues the consumer to engage with said product.

Based on the above, wouldn’t behavioral hooks essential for creativity? Behavior merely acts as an entrance into the psyche of the consumer who will be buying your product. It should be at the forefront of your mind when conceptualizing and designing content for your audience. Use psychology and behavior to craft your content in a way that is beneficial to your marketing. Try and make the choice to engage impulsive.

The Power of Perception

Let’s say you’re lying on a beach on a hot day. For the last hour you’ve been thinking about how much you want a nice cold bottle of your favorite beer. Your friend gets up to make a phone call and says,

“Hey, want a beer?”

The only place nearby where beer is sold is a run-down grocery store. How much money would you give your friend for the beer?

Remember how much you gave him and reread the question. This time around, replace “run-down grocery store” with “fancy hotel.” How much money would you give your friend now? Would it be more than before?

Most people say yes. During a research experiment, the behavior economist Richard Thaler discovered that the fancy resort’s median price was 71% higher than the run-down store’s price .

Amazing, right? You were willing to pay two drastically different prices for the same bottle of beer because your perception influenced your price limit. ~ Derek Halpern, Social Triggers

The Gardener

Who’s curating and tending to your creation? Conversation strategy is just as important as creation. Without the proper influence and insight into which buttons to press and levers to pull content will fail.

Identifying and understanding the strengths and weaknesses of your influencers can determine the success or failure of a campaign. Thus, entrusting your content to the wrong voice will ensure its failure.

What to do? Identify your channels of distribution and your target influencers around the dialogue you will be using. Size, location and personality don’t matter; context does. Use common sense.


“Wieden+Kennedy’s Coraline campaign is a textbook example of how to build buzz around a product using many different types of outreach.

Phase one was designed to activate online communities that have a reason to be passionate about this film in order to build a groundswell of support. Phase two was to create intrigue on a mass scale — introduce mysterious elements of the film that drive people to [the Coraline] website to learn more. Phase three was to create mass awareness for the film and it’s launch date.

In addition, W+K identified a guiding creative light for the campaign that “everything [they] do should reflect the unique, cool, handmade nature of this film. [They] believed that the more you knew about what went into it, the more you’d get out of it.” Though there are many aspects of the campaign that could be highlighted as examples of how to best do an outreach campaign, I’m going to focus specifically on their blogger outreach for this post.” ~ Coraline Raises The Bar For Influencer Outreach; The Future of Ads



One of the more interesting innovations in the serendipity game is a service called Plancast. Pay close attention the genius of serendipity in this service’s intended purpose:

Plancast is a website where people post their plans. Plans to attend a conference, plans to go to a party, perhaps plans to get a haircut. “We have the same ‘who wants to share that?’ issue as Twitter,” Hendrickson told us today, “the standard ‘I dont use Twitter because i don’t care you’re eating a sandwich.’ What we’ve learned though is that semi-mundane stuff is actually interesting. So, perhaps we wont have a lot of the ‘getting a haircut’ stuff because that’s indeed quite mundane, but we will get ‘getting drinks tonight downtown’ or ‘heading to Palo Alto for the day’ type stuff. Which actually leads to very cool serendipity.”

Now that Twitter is such an unqualified success in all but monetization, it’s cool to say you’ve got the same problems Twitter had.

Mash up all those plans from friends and you get an interesting stream of forthcoming events.

The site is simple, if smart, today. The little company has big plans for the future, though. “We want to host and distribute all content that pertains to what individuals, organizations and businesses have planned for the future,” Hendrickson says. “If you break the idea of an ‘event’ down into its basic units (what’s going to happen, when, and where), there’s a ton of relevant social content through the long tail. We’re designed to host a superset of all this event data.” ~ Marshall Kirkpatrick; ReadWriteWeb. The Future as Platform: Mark Hendrickson’s Vision for Plancast

Seeding never works 100% of the time. The best success rate that you can hope for is something with a 60% (I’m being generous) chance of gaining notoriety. Now factor in sales success based off of your launch/distribution strategy and you are left with a figure in the 33% range. Needless to say? It’s a tough egg to crack.

The Harvest

Now that you’ve succeeded in bringing your campaign to fruition, what are its results? Have you been successful with your mission? More importantly, did the process deem itself worthy of repetition?

Learning and improved success comes from the measurement and dissection of a campaign. Always revisit your work to tweak, change or insert more creative horse power. After all marketing is a process.

Marketing doesn’t stop at creation. It starts there.

Image Source: Romany WG

11 thoughts on “The Arrogance of Creation

  • Fantastic.

    Love your definition of social creativity:

    “Social creativity is based on your original content's ability to inspire new content produced by your audience. Ideally, this user generated content would serve to augment and strengthen the original creative concept.”

    For advertisers and marketers alike, one of the many challenges lies in being able to inspire social creativity with mundane or uninteresting products.

    Cottonelle's most recent “roll over” campaign illustrates that something as everyday as toilet paper can inspire at the very least debate, so who's to say an effective toilet paper campaign can't inspire social creativity?

    Here's to social creativity! Thanks Stuart.

  • Uninteresting products aren't uninteresting if you figure out the social hook that they act upon (every product has one).

    It's just a matter of pulling the right levers :).

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  • Very interesting and beautifully deconstructed. Thanks for that.

    Particularly liked the gardeners part, who would entrust something painstakingly nurtured from nothing into something viable and then scatter it willy nilly. Guessing by how many truly awesome things go social and how many unfairly fizzle is not many. So thanks. : )

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  • Very interesting and beautifully deconstructed. Thanks for that.

    Particularly liked the gardeners part, who would entrust something painstakingly nurtured from nothing into something viable and then scatter it willy nilly. Guessing by how many truly awesome things go social and how many unfairly fizzle is not many. So thanks. : )

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  • ‘Try and make the choice to engage impulsive’ ~ Great point. Focusing on utility can seem like the only factor in creating something amazing, but if a person isn’t inclined to engage, they will never experience its use. I will definitely change part of my focus to creating this impulsiveness.

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