Entries in Creativity (5)


Baker’s Blackbelt Course in Marketing Creativity 1.1


Welcome back to Baker’s Black Belt Creativity.

Your first assignment was to find three ads or three (fill in the blank) that resonated with you. That created a wow moment.  That made you so envious that you were ready to quit the business or even more willing to be better.

The first misdirection is this. 

Did you have to search ad books or the Internet to find your wows? 

Too bad. 

The truly great creatives I know have it engraved in their minds; on their office wall, a file called “I’m not worthy" or simply in folder called “inspiration.”

If we were together in an actual class, I would have to write from memory the 10 ads that wowed you.  Then, we would discuss why.  It doesn’t have to be ads; it could be commercials, web sites, or a brochure. (Remember the Peterman Catalog?)

Here are my three.  Starting with the 1960’s.

1.  Volkswagen Lemon.

The sibling of Think Small, I love Lemon more.  Created by Julian Koenig and Helmet Krone over 50 years ago, it still hits me because; I don’t know how they DDB sold it. 

You essentially are saying in a word picture that the Volkswagen is lemon – a car that is bad.  Really bad.

But what makes this ad so special is that it gave permission, as Bob Garfield of Ad Age once wrote, “to surprise, to defy, and to engage in the consumer without bludgeoning him about the face and body.”

The ad acknowledged that consumers weren’t blathering idiots. But rather, they understood that Volkswagen was remarkably fastidious about the cars they made. 




2. Rolling Stone: Perception Reality

Two decades later.

If you were at an ad agency in the 80’s, you simply couldn’t avoid this campaign. 

Fallon McElligott Rice (as it was known at the beginning of the campaign) had a monster of a brief. “Change the perception most advertisers and media decision makers had about the readers of Rolling Stone.”

Launched in June 1985, the campaign included a total of 55 ads and ran for seven years. It became one of the best-known trade campaigns of all time, and New York's One Club for Art & Copy ranked it number 3 of the 12 best advertising campaigns of the 1980s. 

If your core audience is anti-mainstream and your job is to create the “reality” that the readers aren’t so anti-mainstream with the magazine’s street cred at risk, and you pull it off with such memorable creativity, that’s a wow.

 3.  Volvo Safety Pin

I am still wowed by this marriage of simplicity and truth.

Created in 1996 by the creative team of Masakazu Saka and Minoru Kawase at Dentsu Young and Rubicam, the ad needed no headline, no copy – just a logo. Volvo was synonymous with safety.  The safety pin was iconic.  Together, they inspired a wow ad.

Old ads? Yes.  Old ideas? No.  That's the secret. The big idea is that good ideas come from good thinking.

There are tremendous new ads being created everyday.

But unlike the 60's or even 80's , chances are you won't find them in mainstream magazines or TV.   

For example, look through an issue of Time or People or even Rolling Stone and try to find an ad that wows you.  It will be a challenge.  But they are out there and you'll be creating them.

 Assignment #2.

Find at least three ads that have no headlines and preferably no words whatsoever.  Find them and send your favorites to Inotivity@gmail.com

Book Recommendation:

Copywriting:  Successful writing for design, advertising, and marketing.  Mark Shaw.  Hint, it's for art directors and designers too. 

If you misesed Blackbest 1.0: click: 










Compulsion as vocation. Quentin Tarantino and Clay Chapman.

fBack in the days before the mercurial rise and fall of the mega-video chains, my video store was a small store in a small Manhattan Beach strip mall called Video Archives.  The two clerks behind the counter were named Quentin and Jerry.

Quentin, tall and thin was hype-kinetic and literally talked faster than you could hear.  Jerry was shorter, stockier and warmly laconic.  In other words, Quentin's opposite.

I called them the Siskel and Ebert of Video Archives.  If you asked for a movie recommendation, they would argue about the choice.  Quentin’s taste tended toward the oddity – the Kung Fu movie or an action movie that went under the radar. 

Quentin was so passionate about his recommendations that it was hard to refuse the offering.  So, I would walk out with both a Quentin and Jerry choice – a Japanese mob movie and a Harrison Ford tent-pole movie.

Jerry told me one day that Quentin has written a screenplay. Since nearly everyone in LA was writing a screenplay I said, “Oh, no, how bad is it?”  He replied, “actually it’s incredibly good.”  It was called True Romance. The other script Jerry mentioned was called Reservoir Dogs.

As you probably know by now, that clerk was Quentin Tarantino.  Curiously enough, Jerry plays a role in Pulp Fiction – “Big Jerry’s Cab Company”  is Jerry M including a  caricature of Jerry illustrated by himself.  (By the way Jerry, I still have that paperback copy of Jack Schaefer’s Shane you loaned me. Sorry for the delay)

Cut to:

Clay McLeod Chapman.   Clay and I worked together at a Barnes & Noble in Chesterfield, Virginia.  Clay was still in high school but much to my constant amazement, he had what could loosely be called a entourage. 

He was constantly scribbling in a notebook – writing plays and short stories.  The stories he wrote can be described as Edgar Allan Poe as a millennial.

I told Clay the Tarantino story and he scribbled out an autograph for me that said, “hold on to his because one day I will be famous and this will be worth something.”

Well, Clay did become well known.

"If Chapman keeps up with the oddball characters, well-crafted stories, and critical plaudits, that Faulkner guy better watch out," the Village Voice’s Alexis Soloski wrote in a review of Clay McLeod Chapman’s Pumpkin Pie Show.

Author Tom Robbins said of Chapman’s work, “Like a demonic angel on a skateboard, like a resurrected Artaud on methadrine, like a tattletale psychiatrist turned rodeo clown, Clay McLeod Chapman races back and forth along the serrated edges of everyday American madness, objectively recording each whimper of anguish, each whisper of skewed desire. Chapman as well.”

Clay’s first book was a collection of short stories called Rest Area.  He also wrote a novel called Miss Corpus both published by Hyperion books.  

What makes Clay unique is that he created “The Pumpkin Pie Show.”  Clay acts out his short stories accompanied by a small band.  The award-winning show has toured extensively throughout the world – traveling to the Romanian Theatre Festival of Sibiu, the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, the New York International Fringe Festival, Club, and throughout theaters in Manhattan.

Do I think a Tarantino Chapman movie would work?  Definitely.  If not, at the very least it would be provocative.

But the bridge that connects them isn’t me. 

It’s passion.  A passion to create and recreate.  A willingness to be out of their comfort zone. The last time I saw Clay, he talked about his idea of a comfort zone.  He said. “If you’re in your comfort zone, you’re probably not learning anything.”

They both scribbled away long into the night when it would have been easier to sleep. 

You can’t manufacture passion.  Quentin lives and breaths movies.  When he worked at Video Archives and a star or director died, Quentin, Jerry, Roger Avery and a guy I remember as Dan put together a tribute display.  The obituary was placed at the top and below were all the movies that connected the individual to other movies.

It was a prelude to the Kevin Bacon game.  I don’t know if it sold more videos, but it revealed a passion for movies.

And when Clay graduated from Sarah Lawrence, he met an editor in Manhattan who asked if he had any short stories to show her. He had dozens.  It was another version of how fortune favors the prepared mind.

While fame may have been the result of their work, it wasn’t the motivation.

Rather, it was the drive to get ideas on paper. On the stage. Or on film.  Or all three.  It is compulsion as vocation. 

Longfellow said it well, “the talent of success is nothing more than doing what you can do well, and doing well whatever you do without thought of fame. If it comes at all it will come because it is deserved, not because it is sought after.”

The summing up.

Fame is what other people write about you.

Drive is a gift that comes from within.

Success is the marriage of talent and drive. (And the blessings of good timing)

Talent without drive is treading water.

Drive without talent is not knowing yourself.


For more information on Clay Chapman click here: http://www.pumpkinpieshow.com/

For more information on Quentin Tarantino













Creativity and Certainty. An experiment.

"All you need is ignorance and confidence and the success is sure." Mark Twain

I loved this quotation so much that put it beneath my photo in my high school year book.  It was a companion to another favorite quotation of Twain's:  "It ain't what you don't know that gets you into trouble.  It's what you know for sure that just ain't so."

We are witnessing an epidemic of certainty. The politicians and pundits on the Sunday news shows artfully display certainty.  One of the great contributions of John Stewart and The Daily Show is the inevitable montage of contradictory statements from a single individual over time.  

Which is why the book, On Being Certain by neurologist Robert Burton is a welcome antidote to blustery surety.  

Dr. Burton's book isn't a philosophical argument on what what we know or don't know, but a biological one. The heart of the book he says is: "Despite how certainty feels, it is neither a conscious choice nor even a thought process.  Certainty and similar states of "knowing what we know" arise out of involuntary brain mechanisms that, like love or anger, function independently of reason."

Early in his book, Burton has an intriguing experiment about what he calls "the feeling of knowing."  When asked a question, you feel strongly that you know the answer even it you can't immediately recall it. Like a mental Rolodex, you know it's there, but isn't spinning into view.  A complementary feeling is "aha."  It's a notification from a subterranean portion of our mind, an involuntary all-clear signal that we have grasped the heart o fthe problem.  

This feeling of knowing is "commonly recognized by its absence. Most of us are all too familiar with the frustration of being able to operate a computer without having any 'sense' of how the computer really works."

Here's the experiment quoted directly from his book: (Copyright 2008, Dr. Robert A. Burton.) St. Martin's Press.

"Please read the following paragraph.  Don't skim, give up halfway through, or skip to the explanation. Because this experience can't be duplicated once you know the explanation.  Take a moment to reflect on what you've read and after reading the clarifying word and reread the paragraph, pay close attention to the the shifts in your mental state.  

"A newspaper is better than a magazine.  A seashore is better than the street.  At first, it is better to run than to walk.  You may have to try several times.  It takes some skill, but is easy to learn.  Even young children can enjoy it.  Once successful, complications are minimal.  Birds seldom get too close.  Rain, however, soaks in very fast.  Too many people doing the same thing can also cause problems. One needs lots of room.  If there are no complications, it can be very peaceful. A rock will serve as an anchor.  If things break lose from it, you will not get a second chance."

Is this paragraph comprehensible or meaningless?  Feel your mind sort through potential explanations.  Now watch what happens with the presentation of a single word:  


As you reread the paragraph, feel the the prior discomfort or something amiss sifting to a pleasing sense of rightness.  Everything fits; every sentence works and has meaning. "The paragraph,:" reveals Burton, "has been irreversibly infused with the feeling of knowing."

Once imbedded in your mind that the above paragraph refers to a kite, the feeling of correctness cannot be consciously dislodged or diminished. We can consciously input new contrary information; but only the hidden layer of the neural networks can re-weight the values.  

Burton adds, "The studies of blindsight demonstrate that knowledge and awareness of that knowledge arise from separate regions of the brain."

The lesson here is that we must learn (and teach our children) to tolerate the unpleasantness of uncertainty.  We cannot afford the catastrophes born out of belief in certainty.  

Of course, Dr. Burton could be wrong.


The Unusual Suspects: The Art of Collaborative Innovation with Saul Kaplan

A Conversation with Saul Kaplan of the Business Innovation Factory

Mention the word Prozac and you’re bound to get a smile from Saul Kaplan.

It has nothing to do with the medicinal effects of the popular drug, but rather Saul’s eight-year tenure with Eli Lily and Company – the makers of Prozac. As a Marketing Plans Manager, Kaplan helped guide the launch strategy and successful introduction of Prozac into the U.S. market in 1987.

These days, Kaplan is marketing a much different product– collaborative innovation. As Founder and Chief Catalyst of the Business Innovation Factory in Providence, Rhode Island, his new mission is to create a non-profit, real-world laboratory for innovators to explore and test new business models and system level solutions in such critical areas health care, education, energy independence and quality of life.

I met Saul last year at BIF, the Business Innovation Factory’s annual Collaborative Innovation Summit. The summit has become the innovation party of the year with a growing national reputation for being more conversation than conference.

In his book “Organizing Genius: The Secrets of Creative Collaboration,” Warren Bennis writes a prescient thought “Despite the rhetoric of collaboration, we continue to advocate it in a culture in which people strive to distinguish themselves as individuals.”

One of Kaplan’s favorite terms is “The Unusual Suspects,” an homage to the movie Casablanca. It’s bringing diverse people together to co-mingle ideas and collaborate on ideas. Last week, we talked with Saul about the art of collaboration, innovation, the group versus individuals, and tinkering with business models.

“An active BIF member once suggested that BIF’s t-shirts should proclaim “BIF: The Anti-Silo,” says Kaplan. “I think one of most enduring lessons I learned at Lily in the late 80’s was their “anti-silo” mind set. They encouraged collaboration and executives would change responsibilities to get a more 3600 view of the organization.”

“My new passion is about R&D for new business models,” adds Kaplan. “Just exploring your own industry for best practices is limiting.New sources of competitive advantage are far more likely to come from observing and adopting best practices in completely unrelated industries.I believe that leaders should spend more discretionary time outside of their industry, discipline, and sector.”

“Most CEOs today have only had to lead their organizations based on a single business model throughout their careers. The half-life of a company’s business model is getting shorter. Look at business model of Blockbuster, Netflix and newer industry players like Hulu.”

“Many of the companies we have worked with have recognized the value of looking outside of their industry for practices that might provide a source of competitive advantage. Going beyond the limits of your current business model requires a network-enabled capability to do R&D for new business models.

Kaplan adds, “As Clay Christensen famously said, ‘companies don’t disrupt themselves’,” and I think that’s the toughest challenge facing executives. “It is easy to sketch out business model innovation scenarios on the white board. It is far more difficult to take the idea off the white board for a spin in the real world.We need safe and manageable platforms for real world experimentation of new business models and systems. That’s really the heart and focus of our organization.

“Through BIF, organizations have access to a ‘safe haven’ for experimenting with new business models – particularly networked models that cut across organizations, industries, and public and private sector.”

The kudos for BIF keep on coming. Recently, Mashable (one of top ten blogs in the world) named  the BIF conference among the nation's best places to connect with great minds

Over the past few years, Kaplan and BIF have walked the talk, collaborating across silos and the public and private sectors to explore new solutions for health care. Partnering with Tockwotton Home, Quality Partners of Rhode Island and MIT AgeLab, the Nursing Home of the Future Project is a real-world laboratory for developing and testing new solutions, products and models for improving elderly care.


And now this year, BIF and a wide range of collaborators are taking on the two other big elephants  in the room– energy and education.

“You really have to have very thick skin to span silos and foster collaboration.” Kaplan continues “Everyone loves the idea of innovation until it impacts them. I used to think that we could create more innovators by teaching but that doesn’t get past the buzzwords and what passes for innovation in many companies.”

“I now believe in exploring the world to identify the innovators across every imaginable discipline, then finding ways to connect them in purposeful ways.”

I asked Saul about “innovation fatigue – the proliferation of innovation articles over the past few years. “I’ve spent a lot of my career proselytizing about innovation and value of collaboration, but I think that many companies internalize it to mean that everyone has to be innovative, says Kaplan.

“Like virtually everything in business, some people are better at it than others. I believe there are some individuals that are simply hot-wired for innovation. The models that appear to work best are a mix of a core team focused on innovation with open collaboration with both internal and external resources.”

I asked Saul a parting question. What about the transformation of his own business model? “We all know the story about the cobbler's shoes. If BIF is about business model and system innovation we must commit ourselves to ongoing experimentation and change. Our model is changing in two visible ways right now:

 1) The "DO" part of our operating model is taking shape. BIF's experience labs are where the action is. Our Elder and Student Experience labs are up and running and bringing our innovation network together in purposeful ways.

2) The "Connect" part of BIF's operating model is also coming together. We are taking an open innovation approach to both capability building and experiments in BIF's Experience Labs.

If none of us is as smart as all of us, Saul Kaplan has rounded up the unusual suspects to evolve  a new model for collaboration.  






The World's Oldest Profession Revisited

The world's oldest profession.

It has the word vice in it, but it's not what you think.

It's advice.  Ever since that snake whispered a few words of advice into Eve's ear, everything changed.  In fact, people have been reeling from that bit of advice for thousands of years.

Advice. Counsel. Wisdom.  No matter what you call it, it's the oldest form of persuasion and still the newest.  It's why investors and brokers log onto Bloomberg. It's why Dr. Phil is still rolling along smoothly after 6 years.  And it's why the Bible is the #1 best-selling book of all time. 

I'm an avowed advice junkie. I love getting it. I love sharing it.  Some of the best advice I've read recently is from Harry Beckwith, author of Selling the Invisible and What Clients Love. Harry would call it "firm conclusions" and would probably cast doubt on his use of t he adjective "firm."  The advice is on what motivates customers. here is a culling of that advice into 25 easy to digest bites.  The bold and italics are from Creativity Central.

1.   Your biggest competitor is not a competitor; it’s your prospect’s indifference.  What truly motivates them?  Keep asking, keep watching.

2. Your second-biggest competitor is not a competitor; it’s your prospect’s distrust.  How do you build trust?  

3. Your biggest obstacle is whatever stereotype your prospect has formed about you and your industry.

4. Prospects decide in the first five seconds.  If that.

5. Prospects don’t try to make the best choice. They try to make the most comfortable choice.  Why are you competing in a arena that has too many choices? Read Blue Ocean Strategy.

6. At heart, every prospect is risk-averse, and risks are always more vivid than rewards.  How do you help make their decision less risky?

7. Certainty is a trick your mind plays on you; keep yours open.  Certainty and confidence are often a clever disguise for fear.

8. Don’t create something that everyone likes; create something that many people love.

9. Never take seriously what people say they think, because people are never sure. Trust only action. 

10. Your most valuable salesperson is the person who answers your phones.  So why is it considered entry level?

11. People don’t care how good you are. They care how good you can make them.  

12. The best companies don’t make the fewest mistakes; they make the best corrections. 

13. You cannot convince someone you have a superior product at a low price. Make up your mind. Most marketers in my experience are afraid to make up their mind.

14. “Value” is not a compelling message or tenable marketing position, because every product that survives in a market has demonstrated it gives value for the price it commands.

15. Despite all the warnings, all people judge books by their covers. Read research on why taller people get hired and earn more -- even if they are underperforming.

15. People hear what they see; you must communicate visually.  It's why I love art directors, filmmakers and kids with crayons.

16. The more complex our society becomes, the more valuable your brand becomes.

17. When in doubt — which is almost always — people choose what feels familiar. Familiarity breeds content.

18. Brands do not just attract buyers; they improve customers’ satisfaction. Brands have placebo effects.

19. No intelligent person should be influenced by advertising, but every intelligent person is.

20. Simplify everything: your name, your message, your design. Strip away everything until only the essence remains.

21. If it takes 50 words to make your pitch, I will buy from the person who can do it in 20.

22. Communicate one important message and people will think three good things about you; communicate three messages and they will think nothing.

23. Ordinary names, ordinary words, and ordinary images warn us that you must be ordinary, too. Why do so many marketers rely on the ordinary.  Look through mass market magazines, then look through an advertising award annual like the One Show. See how many ads are in both. Not many.

24. Lincoln didn’t have slides at Gettysburg. 

25. The ultimate test of a communication: Does it make people stop what they are doing?

Thanks for the advice Harry.

For the full 40, just email me at inotivity@gmail.com.  Put the word "Advice" in Subject Line.