One of the biggest challenges chief marketing officers face is ensuring that their teams continue to deliver fresh thinking for their brand. Though many brands lean heavily on agency partners to produce great creative output, this skill should never be entirely outsourced.
Even if the extent of the creative skill you want your brand manager to exhibit consists simply of recognizing great creative when it presents itself, this individual may be ill equipped to do so if he or she doesn’t regularly flex those muscles.
Depending on the size of your team or company culture, one or more of the strategies described below could help shake things up at your company and set your team on a path to greater creative thinking.
1. Encourage ‘inspiration missions.’
Doing the same thing day in, day out can breed complacency and stale ideas. Encourage team members to take time away from desks and screens with what I’ll call “inspiration missions.” Each mission should have a purpose, and what’s learned should be shared out, either formally or informally.
These communications can happen individually or in a group setting and include anything from taking in a new art exhibit, to attending the launch of a pop-up store, to visiting a maker’s studio. Just taking an hour to walk the streets of a new city during a business trip may inspire new ideas. Cultivate curiosity and a “seeker mentality” by embedding the continual search for inspiration into your team’s culture, and commit the time and resources to ensure the team knows these missions are a priority.
2. Disrupt patterns.
Some of the best ideas may spark when our bodies are in motion, allowing our minds to wander more freely. Weather and space permitting, grabbing a pad of stickies and heading outside can break groups out of a rut. Even going to a different part of the building or another conference room may help shift thought patterns.
If none of those options are available, at the very least encourage team members to resist the urge to sit in their typical seats. This is something humans are prone to do (for evidence, check out any yoga or fitness class). Encourage them to take in “a different view.”
Change up the order of how things happen, as well. If the same person always leads, encourage another team member to step forward. Or have team members initially come at a new challenge from a different angle, perhaps starting with the retail experience first (if that is not the norm), and then expanding out to the other brand touch points.
Regardless, the goal is to help your team members disrupt their current pattern. Give them ownership of ways to do that, so everyone is bought in.
3. Invest in the new.
Lifelong learning for the brain is like exercise for the body, keeping it fit and flexible, which is essential for creativity. Curiosity begets curiosity and helps to shift perspective, allowing us to be more open to possibilities. Consider providing each team member with a personal growth fund, with the only string attached being that that fund must be used to learn something new.
Photography. Improv. Wine tasting. Italian. Encourage team members to share these experiences with one another, either one at a time or at an off-site activity where everyone can put his or her new skill into play.
4. Engage all six senses.
Human beings are highly visual, and sight is often the de facto sense we rely on when generating new ideas. But what if we started withsound instead? Composers are hired to score movies for reasons beyond the mere addition of a soundtrack. They are setting a mood, and that can be every bit as important as the visual on the screen (if you’re skeptical about the impact of sound, watch — with the sound muted — the infamous shower scene from Psycho).
What about scent or touch? Each of our senses can trigger different emotional responses. Sometimes starting there and letting the visuals follow can open up a completely different approach.
While you’re at it, don’t let team members neglect their sixth sense — the one they should bring to every creative endeavor — which entails that “gut instinct” which unfailingly tells you when you’re on to something good.
Gabrey Means and Cassie Hughes are the co-founders of Grow Marketing, an experiential marketing agency headquartered in San Francisco. Means serves as the creative director and Hughes is the strategy director. Follow @GrowMarketing