Inspiration, as the cliché says, can spring from anywhere. However, how often do we vacate our usual books, blogs, and bits of pop culture to discover what inspirations lie beyond our sphere of influence?
As creatives, it is important that we act as sponges of the world, soaking up knowledge so that we may better reflect and interpret it. With that said, we should be a little adventurous in finding inspiration in order to refresh our thinking. Not only does researching and participating in something new provide sources of inspiration, but it improves our cognitive thinking by causing us to break our usual patterns.
Finding a new source of inspiration doesn’t have to be a chore, either. Just take little things in your life and use your imagination to come up with ways to skew the experience. Try reading a book from the children’s section of a book store while actually sitting in a chair in the children’s section. Be a fly on the wall at an elderly singles function. Maybe take a class in medieval cuisine or advance geo physics. Or, just take the time to do something you haven’t found the time to actually do. Whatever the case, opening yourself to new habits and experiences can only lead you to greater inspirations.
When many companies first think of social media, they think only of what they can do directly through channels like Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter. But the truth is that while you can do some amazing things directly through any of these sites, the inspiration that your fans are looking for (that will get them to actually engage with you), often comes from elsewhere first.
Such is the case with Dos Equis' Most Interesting Man in the World campaign. Sure, Dos Equis posts an update once every week or two on Facebook, and yeah, they have a treasure hunt competition going on. But, rest assured, neither of those are the reason they have 773,000 of some of the most active fans on Facebook.
The real and obvious reason is the tv commercials. Go ahead and check out their fan page. Every fan post (and there are a lot of them) is some play on the tag lines of the commercials. For example:
The line "stay thirsty my friends" has even generated it's own shorthand on the fan page: STMF.
This doesn't mean that you just have to be using TV, but that your social media campaign doesn't have to be driven by frequent status updates; the driving force behind it can come from elsewhere. Do something interesting offline, in a different medium, or on social media and you'll generate word of mouth. So, get to it! That hilarious, bold, edgy idea you've been sitting on is probably the key to your success on the social web.
A generation ago, my family were farmers. Farming can be a hard life, and my grandfather is the definition of tough. Not in a Clint Eastwood way; there were no mean looks or quick quips, instead my grandfather had what I refer to as "grit". He had the backbone and quiet fortitude to stick it out in tough times. He'd wake up at 4:00 am, even when he didn't feel like it.
Stephen Pressfield, in the book "The War of Art," referred to this as being a professional. He said the difference between an amateur and a professional is that the professional does his job even when he doesn't feel like it. Artists, like farmers, know the key to success is pushing through the difficult times even when it's the last thing in the world you want to do.
When it feels like the world is on your shoulders and you're at the breaking point. Just remember to keep it in perspective. Don't let being "busy" stress you out. Stay calm, keep your head down and work through it. During harvest season, you work the fields until you're done.
The Anna Karenina principle was popularized by Jared Diamond. It comes from a line in the book Anna Karenina.
"Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own unique way."
This principle states that evolutionary success doesn't occur because of some particular positive trait, it is instead the absence of any serious negative traits that leads a species to thrive. If you were to apply this idea to business, it means a deficiency in any one core element will doom a company to extinction. However, a successful company somehow avoids each and every one of these potential failures as it grows and thrives.
The bigger question then becomes, what are the core traits that lead to business failure? In the case of domesticated animals, these traits are easy to identify (dietary needs, captive breeding, disposition, panic tendency, and social structure).
I propose the following, sure to be incomplete, list of positive traits required for a sustainable business:
- Ability To Identify A Competitive Niche
- Flexibility In Adopting Internal & External Innovation
- Capability To Repeatedly Identify & Recruit Talent At Market Value
- Ability To Sustain Periods of Frugality
- Commitment To Organizational Learning
So what do you think? Did I leave anything off the list?
When creating a brand, design, or campaign strategy, it's crucial to step out of your own head and remember: you are not your target audience.
It's easy to think, well, this is how I use Facebook and Google; it must be the way other people do, too. It's easy to create an entire business model based off of your values, and not your customers'. It's easy to think that everyone will love the new logo, because you think it's the greatest thing since sliced bread.
But your customers have different aspirations, circumstances, and passions than you do. They don't notice the inconsistencies in the Love's truck stop logo. They don't know what a Twitter hashtag is or have the slightest concept of link bait. When they think advertising, they think Mad Men.
Now, these examples may be quite specific to us at the office, but the point holds true across industries. Plain and simple, if you're working in a marketing department or on a marketing project, your target audience is rarely, if ever, you.