Category Archives: Thinking Out Loud

Creative Myths: There’s no Such Thing as the Solo Artist

John Lennon had Yoko. Fitzgerald had Zelda. Picasso had his women. And while these are all romantic connections, sometimes the artist gets inspiration from a friend, like Springsteen and Steven Van Zandt.

Our culture has a tendency to see creative geniuses as solo artists. It may well be the artists who have the name and the driving talent, but they don’t do it in a vacuum. Creativity is a collaboration, whether it is through supportive works or a collaborative spark.

In the corporate world, it’s nearly always a team effort. Creative Directors depend on their designers and writers—and programmers—to put into motion a vision. There is a collaboration in any creative act because there are supporting actors influencing the original idea. The influencers open up creativity and breathe life into it.

David Burkus, the author of The Myths of Creativity: The Truth About How Innovative Companies and People Generate Great Ideas advises the formation of a ‘Creative Anonymous’ support group to help fuel creativity. He points to the Inklings, a group of British writers, which included these two guys you might know: J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis. The group would grab a beer at at pub to discuss their influences, read one another’s work, and just be there to support each other. Sidetone: there’s even a story that C.S. Lewis actually persuaded Tolkien that his manuscript was indeed good enough to be published. That manuscript? Yeah. The Lord of the Rings.

It’s easy to get inside your head with an idea and create a solo dialogue. You can flesh out your novel, song, poem, article idea or marketing plan inside the safe walls of your skull, and the sad and hard truth is it’s probably less brilliant than you think it is. If you share the idea with someone you trust or admire, listen to their response. Even if you disagree with what they say, you may learn something—further inspiration may strike.

Creativity is inside us all. My dogs are creative. No lie. You should see where they bury things in our house–and what they bury. And now that I think about it, they, no doubt, inspire each other.


Let the Top Ten Begin!

Sing it with me, loud and proud: “It’s the most wonderful time of the year . . . ” no, I’m not talking about Christmas. I’m talking about the time of the year that media junkies and culture geeks love. Make that, as Woody Allen would say, Lurve. It’s Top Ten time, people. Attention must be paid.

Yahoo kicked things off today with their Top Ten Searches of 2010. The BP Oil Spill rightfully is in the #1 spot. The World Cup is in #2. Okay I get it, the world loves soccer. But then, the list takes a turn for the strange. Miley Cyrus is number 3, followed by a bevy of mostly bland celebs like Kim Kardashian–though I do get Lady Gaga being there. Anyone who wears meat to a celebratory red carpet event deserves a Yahoo search.

Other than the BP Oil Spill and the iPhone, which made their list, I would have guessed it would look like this:
1. BP Oil Spill.
2. The Saints win the Superbowl (with all due respect to the World Cup). This does not need further explanation. If you do not understand it, please move to Uruguay.
3. Bruce Springsteen puts out “The Promise,” a stunning archival collection of songs he wrote and produced for the “Darkness on the Edge of Town” sessions, proving, conclusively, he is The Boss. Yeah, okay, this is how the list would have looked if I ruled the world, not how I really expected it to be.
5. The iPad. I mean really? It didn’t make the list? I’ve gotten simultaneously ragged on and slobbered over for buying it the first week it came out. It seems that with all the alternative versions of it and subsequent models, and all the talk of it, it would have made the list. Instead, we get Kim Kardashian, who, wait . . . what does she do? Reality Star? Haven’t we learned yet that reality stars are the trailer park sluts of TV?
6. iPhone/Android/All the other smart phones. See above
7. Sarah Palin. Not that I’m a fan, but Christ, for all the talking we all did about her, you’d think her and her show and her dancing daughter would have made the list. Maybe this is a sign of what her critics say, “Why are we still talking about her?” I don’t know. Why am I even talking about her. She is a reality star, now, after all, and, well, see #6 for my comment on them above.
8. Facebook/Twitter. It’s all anyone ever talks about. The social networking terms have invaded our language. I spend all my time on these sites. Maybe Facebook and Twitter don’t need to be in searches because everyone is already on the sites.
9. People who do Internet searches on the likes of Miley Cyrus and Kim Kardashian, etc. Who are these people? Should we keep our eye on them?
10. Funny dog/cat videos. I mean, come on. Every time I open up my email or log onto Facebook, someone has posted a video of a funny dog or cat. I’m even guilty of it. It happens with such a stunningly high occurrence that surely people are doing searches for the next funny fluffy video that makes you wanna go awww.

“All Marketers Are Liars” is a Lie: Ask Seth

I need to get this off my chest. Marketing is not lying. Lying is lying and marketing is, in its simplest form, promoting a real event, product or service. There is a lot more that goes into that promotion, like blood, sweat and tears, but lying is not part of the mix. In fact, just ask any college marketing professor to name the entire marketing mix for you. Lying is not part of it.

Why am I ranting about this? Over time, I have deleted a few people from my Facebook profile page due to a simple little fact: they are telling lies, especially lies about their career all in the name of marketing and PR, to make them seem more successful. I love a good lie, don’t get me wrong. Tell me I look 21 and I will a) think you are lying and b) love you. No, I will worship you. Anyway, I noticed that as social media grew, so did the unfortunate side-effect of some people lying, and, worse, it was done under the guise of marketing. Normally, I would let sleeping dogs lie, literally, but when people start lying and then justify it by saying, “It’s just marketing,” then I have an issue, people. I’m a marketer, not a liar (unless you are going to bust me on age issues again).

Don’t believe me? Fine. Ask Seth Godin, who as any marketer knows (but liars may not) wrote “All Marketers are Liars.” See, he didn’t really mean it, because of this quote from the book: “When you are busy telling stories to people who want to hear them, you’ll be tempted to tell stories that just don’t hold up. Lies. Deceptions.”

I was reminded of this quote when I recently saw a friend who asked about a mutual friend. “It seems like things are going well, judging by the Facebook updates,” he said. Before I could even answer, he added, “Of course, if you can believe all that.” I told him that based on what I knew, he was right; this friend was doing a little fabricating. “How’s that working out?” he asked dryly, waiting a beat, then said, “Oh, I guess it’s not.”

More than an admonishment on lying, my message here is that the lies don’t hold up if you don’t have proof of the product, or the business, or the experience. People see through it, or worse, they believe you, then ask an innocent question following up on your Facebook update, and realize, “Huh, that was a lie.” People don’t like to be duped. A sucker is born every minute; a person scorned is reborn every second. And scorned consumers are the ones spending money on the competitor’s product or service. Not the liars.

Lost in the cosmos

Good-bye “Lost.” I’ll miss you. Two days after your finale, I’m still pondering what it all meant and asking myself all the same tired questions fans like me have been asking for six years, “Who is the smoke monster?” Why is Hurley still fat?” and, of late, “How come Claire’s hair is more messed up than the others?” By the “others” I mean everyone else on the Island, not the “Others,” though while we’re at it, what was up with them?

I loved the writing on the show, and I love the constant flow of reckless creativity pouring out of the writers. J.J. Abrams, I don’t even know what to say about you. You’re like the Bruce Springsteen of TV shows, and I want to be you in my next life.

Sigh. I miss Desmond.

Name That Annoying Tune

Please remove the automatic song that comes on when we log onto your web site. It is not cool. It is not great marketing. It is annoying, and we do not want it.

The sound comes on and is usually jolting because our audio is already turned up from watching bad bootlegs of concerts on You Tube. It’s great that you have a company jingle. Use it for your on-hold messages on your phone, or even put a button on your website that reads, “Listen to our Song,” or “We’re Playing Sweet Music.” Be corny. I don’t care. I only care that I hate it when I go to your site and music start playing automatically. You are assuming I want to hear music. You are assuming I want to hear that music in particular.

For the record, the same goes for annoying videos that start automatically, with spokespersons saying (loudly) “HI!”

I have talked about this over the years with many people. Everyone says the same thing. “It’s annoying.”

It makes us not want to visit your site ever again. In fact, I personally will not. Now I ask you: did you put the music or pop-up video on your site to attract visitors or keep them away?

I thought so. Keep it simple, please.