In a nice post yesterday, Ed Poll wrote this (I've edited it a little):
Sometimes, in today's very competitive legal environment, lawyers and law firms must think "outside of the box," beyond the norm . . . Other fields of endeavor often provide us with examples of this type of thinking.
Seriously, though, in his usual elegant, lucid way, Ed is making an incredibly important point. As marketers, our whole job is to innovate. It's my firmly-held belief that a major part of the value I deliver to my clients is creative thinking. Many of them have told me this.
I come by it honestly. I was trained at Arnell/Bickford, a New York advertising agency founded by Peter Arnell, who is a legend. He now runs another agency called the Arnell Group. Peter is one of the most talented, relentlessly creative people I've ever seen. He could be a holy terror -- he was named by Gawker.com as one of the worst bosses in New York, but he was extraordinarily fair to me, and he is unspeakably talented.
He's also passionate about design, and beauty, and it just radiated from him. As one example, he kept scrapbooks, and he was constantly adding images, ideas, anything that he thought was interesting or beautiful or important. He had dozens of them when I worked for him; by now, he must have hundreds. One entire wall of his office -- thirty feet by thirty feet -- was a giant bulletin board, covered with images and ideas. Everything he saw was grist for the mill, and I learned the importance of connecting disparate ideas from him. Here, for example, is his rendition of a goldfish bowl. The concept has a lot of Jeff Koons' work in it, but Arnell's genius here is in applying it somewhere completely new. Peter taught me that it's absolutely essential for marketers to apply creativity in the service of their clients. It's what makes good marketing great. It's also fun.
As a result, I am constantly taking in new ideas from all over the place. I can't help it. It may sound like some kind of "I Am An ARTIST, damn it!" ego trip, but I have been like this as long as I can remember. Nothing gives me the same visceral thrill as a new, cool idea. I also tend to get very enthusiastic and vocal about them. My daughters call this "Daddy's Big Deals" and as an example, here are this week's:
Snow Patrol. I never really knew about this band, but this video is one of the most perfect little musical gems I have ever seen. What's especially impressive is seeing a rock band use a lot of backup singers in a restrained, careful way, to add some accent and sheen to the song without simply overpowering everyone. Take a look. At about 2:20, the backup singers kick in, and it lifts the song to an entirely new, spectacular level.
Alinea Restaurant, Chicago: This is one of the nation's best restaurants. The chef, Grant Achatz, pushes cooking to its limits, and creates food that is art. Literally. Here is how he serves bacon. I have seen something approaching this kind of care and beauty in Japanese cooking, but this is something else entirely.
Why does this matter? It matters because as marketers, we typically have clients who are some of the best people in the world in their fields. One of my clients, for example, has an undergraduate degree from Harvard, a law degree from Stanford, has been an attorney for fifteen years, and is just rocket-scientist smart. Scary smart. Plus, she's a wonderful person.
We are marketing an incredibly high-quality product. The professional equivalent of a Cartier watch, or a BMW, or a Gulfstream jet. Yet, all too often, the marketing these clients receive is more of the Same Old Thing. That's unacceptable. It drives me crazy. As marketers, it's our job to deliver the best possible marketing, which means the most effective, which almost always means, the most innovative, which means creative.