Come On Down, Everyone Is Welcome At The Altar of Creativity

Media is powerful. In fact, just one potent article in a trusted magazine or newspaper has the power to inspire us, shape us and lead us to new places. Take “The Brand Called You” by Tom Peters. The article first appeared in Fast Company on August 31, 1997.

Regardless of age, regardless of position, regardless of the business we happen to be in, all of us need to understand the importance of branding. We are CEOs of our own companies: Me Inc. To be in business today, our most important job is to be head marketer for the brand called You.

How many believers has Peters reached in the last 16 years? Millions. For the author pours a particularly seductive nectar into Fast Company’s crystal glass.

Naturally, there is truth in Peters words, but how much truth?

I read a great rebuttal this morning to the mountain of bullshit sometimes known as the literature of creativity. Let’s listen to wonderfully critical Thomas Frank on the topic:

Consider, then, the narrative daisy chain that makes up the literature of creativity. It is the story of brilliant people, often in the arts or humanities, who are studied by other brilliant people, often in the sciences, finance, or marketing. The readership is made up of us — members of the professional-managerial class — each of whom harbors a powerful suspicion that he or she is pretty brilliant as well… And what this complacent literature purrs into their ears is that creativity is their property, their competitive advantage, their class virtue. Creativity is what they bring to the national economic effort, these books reassure them — and it’s also the benevolent doctrine under which they rightly rule the world.

Are you familiar with the self-satisfied “creative people” Frank describes? If you work in advertising, you are. Our profession is full of people who mindlessly spew their recipes for brand success, but sadly most of what the poseurs say (and do) is total garbage.

I’m not just pointing fingers here. If I were to open a deck of my own making from a few years ago, I would likely be appalled at the tortured logic and language of my arguments.

The reality is marketing isn’t all that complex. Are you creating compelling brand experiences for prospects and customers? Yes or no? This is how simple MarCom is at its core. The hard part for most practitioners is coming to this conclusion and then choosing to live by it. We want so badly to believe our ideas separate us from the pack. That our ideas above all else are the real difference maker. Yet, I think the evidence points to execution. The ability to make mundane things like advertising into something artful (that also builds the brand and moves product) — that’s the difference maker.



About David Burn

I wrote my first ad for a political candidate when I was 17 years old. She won her race and I felt the seductive power of advertising for the first time. Today—after working for seven agencies in five states—I am head of brand strategy and creative at Bonehook in Portland, Oregon.