An agency exec makes the case for artists in the boardroom

Ron Tite offers CMOs a perfect roadmap for organizational creativity

Every time I ask a marketer how it’s going, I get that look. You know the one. The facial expression that says, “I’m being asked to do way too much with way too little and just when I think I’m getting to the surface, my teenager shows me a new platform that I’ll have to monetize before its Best Before date. I don’t just need a vacation, I need a sabbatical.”

“Not bad” would have been good enough, but I get the picture. You’re now expected to be a left-brain metrics prophet who knows the best cloud service for retrieving data from the field while simultaneously being a right-brain creative brand champion who can easily hang out with the 23 year old Art Director assigned to your business.

The worst part is that your brand isn’t even competing against the category anymore. You’re engaged in a battle for attention and you’re competing against “Happy Chewbacca”. Worse? Chewie’s winning. Consumers creating content don’t have to go to legal, they don’t have to sell it up the food chain, and they don’t have waste their time explaining the cultural significance of poutine to their counterparts down in HQ. Consumers are cranking out compelling and authentic work while some Canadian marketers are overseeing a post-production process that changes “.com” to “.ca”.

If there ever was a time for creativity, this is it.

Your organization needs it and you need it.

Of course, marketers used to buy creativity from their agency, who sent the requests down the line to a group literally called “the creative department”. Thankfully, those days are over. Creativity isn’t just a campaign idea and it certainly isn’t exclusive to agencies. It’s a requirement of every department in every organization. Check out the disruptors in most categories. They’re not threatening the establishment just because they hire talented agencies. Uber, Airbnb, Warby Parker, Square, Tesla, Dollar Shave Club, and others have infused creative thinking throughout their entire organizations.

Now, saying one should be more creative is pretty easy. Doing it is entirely different. In our recently published book, Everyone’s an Artist (or at least they should be), we discovered the perfect roadmap for organizational creativity isn’t consultants.

It’s artists.

Successful artists live and die by their ability to connect through expression. You want creativity. That is their product. You may not want their lifestyle (or their compensation) but you should want their approach.

Reinvent yourself. 

Great artists are constantly exploring, challenging, and reinventing themselves. Check out Steve Martin’s career. He’s gone from a standup comedian and “wild and craaaaazy guy” and to a novelist, screenwriter, host, playwright, serious banjo player, and most recently, art curator. Always changing. Always trying. Always experimenting. Artists who don’t reinvent themselves become one-hit wonders (you can blame it on the rain, Milli Vanilli). The ones that do, can have long and successful careers. Who would you rather be: Lady Gaga, David Bowie or Sting or that guy that sang Gangnam Style? Tech start-ups live by their pivot. Marketers need to seek theirs out, too.

Realize that you are your only competition. 

At an art event in Toronto, I asked some painters why they were so supportive of other artists who were essentially their competition. Each one had the same response:

“I have no competition.”

Great artists know that when they benchmark or copy someone’s work to chase the sale, they not only lose their differentiation, they lose their soul. Before long, they’re a commodity and that initiates a race to the bottom. Stop trying to keep up with the corporate Joneses. Relentlessly pursue and re-enforce your brand’s unique character and embrace your own imperfections to be your authentic self. The easiest way to stand out from the crowd is to not join it in the first place.

Flip the Flop. 

Let’s face it, we all have our Ishtars – those skeletons in our professional closets that simply didn’t go as planned. You’re not alone. I have a couple that regularly visit in my nightmares. If we could do them all over again, we wouldn’t. But our past failures can’t undermine our confidence to take risks today. You don’t think Louis CK wants a re-do on the movie PootieTang? Great artists ice the bruises, get back up, and keep creating.

Luckily, there’s never been a better time to fail. Production costs are ridiculously low, you can test before you invest, and in a lot of cases, a failure simply means no one saw it. Try more, fail more, and somewhere in there, you’ll find the brilliance.

Ron Tite is CEO of The Tite Group and author (along with Scott Kavanagh and Christopher Novais) of Everyone’s an Artist (or at least they should be) recently published by HarperCollins.

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