March 1st, 2018 | by
7 min read

When an email campaign, new blog, or other marketing activity gets great engagement, the first thought is AWESOME. We did something right.

The second thought is UH OH … This means the next one will have to be even better.

It’s gratifying when other people respond to our creative efforts, and the beauty of digital marketing is that it’s easy to measure and possible to iterate successes.

But all the data, all the keywords, all the planning and promotion in the world, can’t fill the well of creativity. We have to go back to that well everyday – not just because it’s our job, but because creativity is the difference between making art, and selling out.

creativity and ROI growthAnd sales and marketing pros alike want to see the growth curve tilt up and to the right. The steeper, the better. The goal is growth, and that train doesn’t stop.

How can marketers keep generating bigger, better ideas that bring in MQLs, day after day?

I think creative marketing is the result of a change in perspective. Those “AHA!” moments are magic, but they’re also fleeting and hard to quantify. (Creative marketers also know that great ideas are a dime a dozen; great execution … not so much.)

They’re also the direct result of a change in perspective. The realization that happens when we look at something in a new way IS a hard data point, an opportunity to measure and quantify.

So here’s a collection of TED Talks guaranteed to change your perspective and help B2B marketers grow and stay creative, day after day.

1. What makes something go viral? by Dao Nguyen

“What makes something go viral?”

BuzzFeed publisher Dao Nguyen argues that it’s not the “someTHING,” but the “someWHAT.”

Most media companies think about subjects and formats: What is the subject of a blog? Is it a list format? What’s the word count, keyword/s, and target audience? While these metrics are interesting, they don’t always move the needle.

BuzzFeed gets 7 billion views each month from more than 200 million unique visitors. (Remember the Double Rainbow guy, or the Watermelon-Rubber Band explosion?)

BuzzFeed started a system of categorization they call “Cultural Cartogrophy,” which answers the questions, What job is the content doing? How does it affect real life?

Here are some of their content tags:

  • I’m so old
  • WTF
  • I can actually do this
  • Blow your mind
  • You are not alone

As an example, Nguyen offers a BuzzFeed quiz: Pick an Outfit and We’ll Guess Your Exact Age and Height. It got 10 million views, and not because users were particularly interested in an algorithm guessing their age. It turned out that women in their late 50s kept getting the answer that they were younger and taller than they really were. The women’s response was self-empowering – and THAT is what made the post go viral.

The most frequent comment? “I love who I am. Age is just a number.”

TED Talks Renny Gleeson

Another viral hits from BuzzFeed was a recipe for the fudgiest brownie ever. But Nguyen didn’t start by looking for brownie recipes. She started by identifying the desired end result: People getting together (and if they’re family, probably a little competition). From there, “baking,” “challenges,” and “chocolate” flowed naturally.

The brownie recipe was almost an afterthought.

Of course, creative marketing campaigns need great data, or they’ll never get off the ground. DiscoverOrg helps marketers identify the right people at the right companies, building pipeline and generating warm leads – day after day.

2. 404: Page Not Found by Renny Gleeson

Land on a 404: Page Not Found, and you’ve fallen through the cracks of the digital experience. Boo, hiss. Renny Gleeson, who founded an incubator, helped his technology start-up companies figure out that the 404 page – like so many failures and missteps – is really an opportunity to connect with customers.

Errors are a chances to get real. For creative marketers who are always on the hunt for authenticity, errors offer a chance to build a better relationship.

This humorous TED Talk includes some excellent examples of next-level 404 pages.

3. This is broken by Seth Godin

“How can we maximize the number of times people WON’T use our product.” Is that really what we’re going for?

Um, no.

creative marketing ideas

But broken products and processes don’t work, whether we acknowledge the fact for not. (Think about trying to get a live student loan representative on the phone, or redeeming a mail-in rebate.)

Entrepreneur and blogger Seth Godin shows how products and processes fail to deliver on their purpose because they were designed without the perspective of the customer.

The response of ineffective marketers falls into 7 categories:

  • Not my job
  • Selfish jerk
  • The world changed
  • I don’t know
  • I’m not a fish (You’ll have to watch the video)
  • Contradictions
  • Broken on purpose

Godin doesn’t talk about bad data, but it would fall under “I don’t know” or “the world has changed.” Many companies spend tens of thousands of dollars on outdated, garbage data that definitely isn’t customer-centric.

4. The surprising habits of original thinkers by Adam Grant

We hear a lot about “failing fast.” But according to Adam Grant, it’s not the “fast” that’s important; it’s the “failing.”

Lots of failing.

That’s because failure and success is a numbers game.

“The greatest originals are the ones who fail the most, because they’re the ones who try the most,” Grant says. “You need a lot of bad ideas in order to get a few good ones.”

Another habit of original thinkers is procrastination. Grant’s research shows that when given a task, people who procrastinate are actually take timing to think about divergent ideas and consider all the different ways to execute the task. The ideas of procrastinators are rated as being more creative than those who immediately begin work on a task.

Grant notes that great originals are often quick to start and slow to finish. They’re also often full of “idea doubt” (not to be confused with “self doubt”) – which prompts a consideration of fresh, new alternatives.

This TED Talk is inspiring because it celebrates qualities that many creative marketers see in themselves.

5. The First Secret of Design is … Noticing by Tony Fadell

Tony Fadell refers to a favorite request of Steve Jobs: “Stay beginners.” That is to say, fight habituation.

For creativity-minded marketers, this is another way of looking through the eyes of the customer, who is new, who doesn’t know (and probably doesn’t care).

As human beings, we get used to “the way things are” really fast. But for creators, designers, and makers, “the way things are” is an opportunity to improve: Could things be better? How?

Fadell, the of the originator of the iPod and the Nest thermostat, shares three tips for noticing change – and driving change:

  • Look broader: Look at the steps that lead up to, and follow, the problem
  • Look closer: The tiny details can make or break the customer experience
  • Think younger: If you ask a question, and the answer is “That’s just the way it is” – There’s an opportunity for a better answer. Why aren’t there flying cars? Why can’t mailboxes talk? Why isn’t this website designed so I can find what I’m looking for?

Well, why not?

6. Choice, happiness, and spaghetti sauce by Malcome Gladwell

Author Malcolm Gladwell takes the example of Prego’s epic pursuit of the perfect spaghetti sauce in the 1970s, and makes a larger argument for diversity and human happiness.

In the 1970s, Howard Moskowitz, a market researcher and psychophysicist, was hired by Prego to figure out what kind of spaghetti sauce Americans really wanted. The results from their focus groups had them losing market share to Ragu.

It turns out, people are not very good at explaining what they want. After creating every possible version of spaghetti sauce and testing it with thousands of people, Moskowitz discovered that a significant percentage of people like chunky spaghetti sauce – which wasn’t on the menu in the 1970s.

The point is, when offered a range of options, people choose one. But when naming options was in their hands, consumers’ choices told a different story. People don’t know what they don’t know.

Gladwell offers three takeaways:

  1. We can not always explain what we want.
  2. Market segmentation should be first horizontal, then vertical.
  3. Understanding variability is more effective than searching for universals.

Life would be so much easier for marketers, of course, if people were universal first and varied second: Then our carefully crafted Ideal Customer Profiles might take on a life of their own, and we’d know just exactly what they liked, and how to sell to them.

In our hearts, we already know that Gladwell is right: We’re as varied as the stars. And we change our minds constantly.

So when the emails are sent, the blog is published, the campaign is over, and it’s time to brainstorm for the Next Great Marketing Success – put yourself in the shoes of an individual customer – with all her quirks, fears, and opinions – and walk a mile.

Does the world look different? 

DiscoverOrg is for marketers. See how we can help you generate pipeline, clean and enrich your data, and execute Account-Based Marketing – so your most creative ideas find success.

Charity Heller
About the author

Charity Heller

Content Strategist, DiscoverOrg

Charity Heller is DiscoverOrg's content strategy manager. She has 15+ years' experience developing and creating content in range of B2B, B2C, and creative industries; previously she founded and operated a book editing company. Charity earned a B.A. in English, Project Management certification, and Professional Editing Certification from U.C. Berkeley.