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How to Be Creative

From Travis’ Point Of View

People usually assume that we’re very creative. We’re accused of being creative before we open our mouths in many cases.

I think we are pretty creative by nature but I don’t think we exercise it as frequently as people thing. Creativity is a costly and time consuming that is often best left in a dimly lit coffee house.

Having said that, we do employ a process of semi-creativity quite frequently. I define this process of semi-creativity as a hybrid where good ideas dreamt up by other people are applied to my or my client’s business. In other words, we rarely start from scratch. Why bother?

Indeed, even more valuable a skill than creativity is the ability to find seemingly unrelated ideas and mold them to fit your situation.

So I’ve outlined 3 methods we use to perform this hybrid-method of creative thinking. Feel free to try them yourself!

Current events/pop culture:

When I need a creative idea for a headline, a promotion, a whole ad, a funny line, or anything of the sort I frequently turn toward the media. The evening headlines or the weekend movie are a virtual treasure trove of good ideas.

The best part is that you’re riding the wave created by highly paid opinion leaders. By tying into current events and movies or TV shows you can be sure to come up with ideas that are relevant to what people are thinking right now.

I’m not personally a very trendy person. So I can’t necessarily gauge what’s in and what’s out on my own (it’s kind of like matching clothes). So rather than rely on my assessment of what’s cool, I just copy what’s on the screen.

It’s like buying a store-made cake from the grocery store and adding some sprinkles. They’re much better bakers anyway.

Similar businesses in different categories or markets:

This is a big one. If you read a lot (which you should) this can make your job of running a business a lot easier. Many business owners are close-minded when it comes to learning from example or case study. They believe they should only pay attention to their own industry. But if you never look up from the pages of your own trade journal, you’ll probably never hear anything but recycled and tired old ideas.

Instead read trade magazines from other (unrelated) industries. Read books that relay case studies from other industries. Study these.

Most of your competitors aren’t doing this. So you can come out of the gate with seemingly brilliant and fresh ideas. But in actuality you dusted off an idea that you found in a back issue of a pest control magazine.
Bottom line is that all businesses are trying to get people to spend money. Pay attention to and learn from the ways others find to do it effectively.

Other advertising:

This is super easy. Start paying attention to your junk mail, commercials on TV, newspaper ads, etc. Everyday you are presented with thousands of dollars of creative ideas—for free—right in your mail box or on your TV.
Need a new idea? Take a look at your junk mail you were about to throw away. Anything in there worth re-purposing? Probably.

In the end, the thing to remember is that great, creative ideas are all around you every day. Learning to apply these ideas to your business is a far more valuable use of your time than trying to be creative yourself.

From Jimmy’s Point Of View

When I worked as creative director at a very large advertising agency I was constantly charged with having to come up with creative ideas. Ten new commercial concepts in a day, an angle for a press release, and a headline for a print ad could all happen in a typical day.

To many of you, coming up with even one creative idea may seem like an impossible task. I’ve often been asked, “How do you come up with all those creative ideas so quickly?”

Well, I’m going to reveal my secret to you in this very article. I have to warn you though, once I tell you how I consistently bang out tons of “creative” ideas you won’t find me very impressive. It’s actually quite easy and once you learn the formula you can do it too. All day long–every day.

You see, I thought that being creative was challenging at first too…but then through observation I realized something very interesting about the creative process…it wasn’t very creative at all.

Here is the formula I learned by observing creative people that I still use today.

When faced with a creative challenge follow these steps.

  • Reuse old ideas that worked and repurpose them for your new project
  • Steal other people’s creative ideas and repurpose them for your own industry and project
  • Come up with new stuff

See, only at the very last resort do I ever come up with brand new, hot-off-the-press creative ideas. You don’t have to. In fact many times it’s not as effective as something that has already been proven to work.

This is a HUGE secret! Most people get afraid of having to be creative because they can’t think of any creative ideas. Well, the truth is you don’t have to be creative at all. You just have to be a good observer, a good collector of ideas and a good thief.

It’s not really stealing. You don’t rip the ideas off verbatim and use them in the same product category. You take the theme and main idea and you twist it around your product, service or campaign. You create a new idea out of an existing idea but the bulk of the work, the hard part, has been done for you.

WARNING: Make sure you only steal good ideas that have worked. No sense in taking an idea that was a loser. Most often you can bring them back from the dead.

In the rest of our time together here this month I am going to give you a few ideas on where you can find creative marketing ideas you can rip-off and use for your own business.

Don’t throw away your mail. Tons of great creative marketing ideas come in the mail. The stuff you sort over the trash can is a graduate level marketing education being handed to you. If you get the same mail piece several times in a row that means it’s probably working and you should keep it, study it and put it in your swipe file.

Go to your swipe file. A swipe file is a collection of marketing ideas that you gather in your research. If you keep a good swipe file, when you need a good marketing piece to copy or rip off you have it handy. It’s a tool you must have if you plan to be a proficient marketer and a success.

Watch TV and listen to the radio. Watch for current events and things happening in the news. Use these as creative launch pads for your marketing. If it’s current and it’s on your customer’s mind you can use it as a marketing edge. Watch the news teasers, intros and trailers. They usually have good copy that make you want to hang in for more.

Look for the big successes in other product categories and get a hold of their marketing. Be careful here. Some big companies are successful despite themselves and their marketing is terrible. So be cautious.

Use your personal experiences. You think you’re not creative but you are. Just be yourself. It’s compelling and real. Most people can’t do that. They are embarrassed to inject their personality into their marketing. You are at the core of your creativity. Just be open and free with your customers and you can be more creative then you ever imagined.