02/12/2010

When you buy marketing services, you will probably work with creatives — marketing people, designers and ad guys. They may not always appear to talk the same language but, says Mark Rollinson, All About Brands' Creative Director, they’re always willing! Stick to our top tips and you’ll have them working for you and not against you!

We have all had to deal with them. I’m sure you know the type. They’re those art directors, designers, writers and marketing consultants who have their own ideas about how everything should be done. Think child genius with a petulant streak and you’re not far off the mark. They call themselves creatives, and you have the job of bringing the best out of them.

Oh, sure, they listen to you, but you can tell they secretly think you’re an idiot. If you insist on them doing things your way, they get upset and pout to the point you want to throw them out of the window.

Creative people are also experts in the art of time wasting. They are curious by nature and are easily distracted from the task in hand. In my experience this is something you have to live with. Trying to manage creatives like you manage other members of your team will just not work.

Over the years, I’ve worked with a whole range of talented creative people and I’ve learned how to work with them rather than against them. If you get it right it can actually be an enjoyable experience.

1. Work with the cleverest people

If you’re putting together a team, don’t be afraid to be the dumbest person in the room. I have regularly been the dumbest person in the room and actually felt completely undaunted. Great creatives aren’t just good at coming up with brilliant ideas. They’re good at explaining them, debating them, and also seeing other people’s points of view.

The creatives who give you the most headaches tend to be the ones with limited talent who can’t string a sentence together to back up their thinking. They tend to sulk at the slightest challenge to their creative genius. My advice, shoot them!

There is also another advantage to being the dumbest person in the room and that is I usually find smart people don’t have as much common sense as me. Sure they are coming up with great ideas and can debate the brilliance of their ideas for hours but at some stage you are going to need to create a practical plan and suddenly you will find all eyes turning to you for direction.

So the trick is to let them exhaust themselves of ideas and burn themselves out in debate. This is the stage when become compliant and obedient and you can easily bend them to your will.

2. No such thing as a bad idea

Rule Number One of brainstorming is, “there is no such thing as a bad idea”. No notion should be too far out, and no idea too crazy. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve participated in brainstorming sessions where someone blurted out a crazy idea, and someone else followed the thread until it led to the idea we all decided to implement.

Occasionally getting the dumb ideas out of the way serves to clear our minds so that a really great idea can come bursting forth. And sometimes one stupid notion becomes the inspiration for an innovative, groundbreaking plan.

This kind of thinking can only happen in an environment where all ideas are welcome. Bear in mind that ideas are fragile at birth, so let them breathe a while and avoid shooting them down when they are first born, no matter how outrageous they sound.

3. Work as a team not individuals

If you’ve handled the brainstorming right, you end up with a long list of concepts to explore. Some are hopeless, but others may be diamonds in the rough. It may be tempting to decide on your own which concepts to develop. Don’t do it.

The trick is to let the whole group decide what’s useable and what’s not. It will take a bit more time and there may even be some heated arguments, but commit to coming to a consensus, you will always be better off. Your end product will be stronger because of the range of ideas you’ve brought together and most importantly your creative teams egos will still be intact and they will feel valued and respected.

4. Look for the positives

This is sometimes harder than it sounds. You’re looking at the creative output that the team has placed in front of you. Allegedly it’s based on the brainstorm you were part of. Try as you might you don’t recognize it. At this point it is quite easy to lose your temper and throw your toys out of the pram. Don’t do it.

Search for something positive you can say at first, even if it’s the colour, the typeface chosen or even the paper. You need just one small positive comment and then you can really lay into the rest of the concept. This small crumb of comfort is key to preventing your creative team, from either punching you or bursting into tears. It’s sometimes useful to repeat the positive at the end of the meeting, “I love the paper you used to draw that on”.

5. Stroke them

It’s important for creative types to feel wanted and valued. You will find you have to praise them more than you scold them. Creatives don’t really like being told off. They like a nice secure and stable environment. The only chaos they like is in their own heads. Make sure they feel valued and make sure no matter how small a role they may play, they feel like they have contributed and that their contribution is valued.

Follow these rules and you may find that mad world of the creative helps you and your business thrive.


All About Brands (AAB) is a group of international companies collectively dedicated to building business value for clients through the effective development and management of their brands. To find out more visit www.aabplc.com


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