Will Isolation Kill Creativity and Innovation — Or Reinvigorate Us?

As the pandemic continues to isolate many, we have to wonder if this isolation will eat away at our creativity and innovation — the fuel that great marketers live off of. Or, will it reinvigorate us?

Happy Memorial Day 2020. To say the least, I salute our fallen soldiers and sailors. They matter greatly to us. This year, of course, we know of another “frontline” of warriors battling a grave threat. We’re also thinking of them — some of whom have succumbed. We mourn and are humbled by their sacrifice, too. Fighting and dying to protect us. Fighting and dying to preserve our freedoms.

Continued adherence to local public health mandates for social distancing and isolation is perhaps the best way we can honor these heroes. We cannot let down our home guard.

And yet, it’s the unofficial start of summer. And my mind and body are eager for familiar patterns this time of year — in a world that is anything but familiar. Much of what I love about late spring inevitably means 1) making plans to go places — and then going; 2) sharing experiences; and 3) taking “down time” to refresh and reinvigorate.

Every one of these activities feeds our creativity. Every one is a sum greater than its parts. True, like a good book, our immersion in virtual experiences can launch our minds and imaginations in new ways.

Graph Showing American Vacation Plans for 2020 with COVID impacts
Credit: eMarketer, April 2020

Yet, it’s also true that hand-to-hand exchanges, encountering new faces and places, and human contact rev up the creativity meter that much more.

I’m fortunate to be a knowledge worker. I have a job. I am able to work remotely with initiative — and get assignments accomplished, and I’m absolutely thankful to have my life and livelihood. But as the cold weather finally has faded away, we need to start our summer.

A Creativity Pact — Isolation That Inspires

So let’s make a pact. This will be our most creative summer ever, because:

We’re going to challenge ourselves to find the silver lining — sun, rain or in-between. They’re plenty of them: “rediscovering” our family relationships and our immediate neighbors, and appreciating them for their quirks and gifts.

I know this sounds strange, but I’ve spent more time studying my family … and I’m grateful for the time we’ve had on top of each other. It’s as though my office mates — who I sometimes think of as family — just became Zoom mates, and my “real” family recaptured the role they were always meant to have. I’ve been re-grounded in family values.

We’re going to go places. They just likely will be near and nearer. Some believe globalism just died, and that supply chains, politics, networks and communities have been forced into isolationism. Some are even celebrating this fact. Tsk, tsk.

I work in the world of data, and silos are NEVER a good thing. So we must commit ourselves to “Think Global, Act Local” — and let the innovations flow. Balkanizations never produced anything worth emulating. So protect that down time, and use it locally.

Find five area points of interest — a state or national park, a bike or hiking trail, a new neighborhood, a vista, an outdoor venue and go there — anywhere that gives you time to breathe, think and share safe distances to both people and nature watch. Observations produce revelations.

We’re going to find new ways to “share” that stimulates the brain. What might you do on those Google Hangouts to provoke the unexpected? Wear a funny hat. Display an aspirational background. Show some personality. Provoke.

I’m about to engage a summer intern, virtually, for the next 10 weeks. And, with my colleagues, it’s going to take a collective effort to make this new normal one where “remote” learning will be anything but boring. So on each call, there will be at least one external experience — non-work — to share. To exchange an idea is a gift — and we need to be in giving mood.

I’m ready to be invigorated. Aren’t you? This pandemic offers us new opportunities to take our familiar summer themes in whole new directions. Let’s discover them — and be very grateful for our ability to make better this unprecedented time.

 

Make Brand Waves This Summer!

A recent Sperry Top-Sider ad caught my attention. In five sentences, the brand story of Sperry Top-Sider was succinctly and engagingly told. I believe it also unpacks two important lessons for all brand-builders.

A recent Sperry Top-Sider ad caught my attention with this bite-sized story:

A Man – A Boat – A Dog

A True Story

The seas were rough. A man was tossed about trying to steady his sails and struggled to find sure footing. Paul Sperry almost lost his life that day. He was a lifelong sailor and inventor, driven to perfect a non-slip boat shoe. One day after watching his dog dart effortlessly across the ice, he carved grooves—like those on his dog’s paws—into the bottom of a rubber sole. In that moment of inspiration, the legend of Paul Sperry was born.

In five sentences, the brand story of Sperry Top-Sider was succinctly and engagingly told. I believe it also unpacks two important lessons for all brand-builders:

1. What is your brand driven to perfect? A former Sperry Top-Sider ad was headlined with the words: MAKE WAVES. This innovative, problem-solving mindset is part of Sperry’s brand DNA and drives all they do. Their “passion for the sea” infuses their brand with a desire to make life better for those who love being near the ocean. Does your brand provide buzz-worthy, practical and useful solutions for your customers?

2. Where do your brand ambassadors—those creating problem-solving products and services—get their inspiration? How much time is dedicated to “moodling” and looking up and outside your industry for creative solutions? A similar story to Paul Sperry’s can be told about Martin Keen, founder of the KEEN sandals. After he perfected the design of a practical hybrid sandal and grew KEEN into a significant brand in the outdoor sporting world, he found inspiration for his second company in his barn. A rusted metal stool with a tractor seat became the impetus for his ergonomically designed Locus Seat, marketed as the “the perfect balance between sitting and standing.” Rarely is brand inspiration found in a cubicle.

This summer, why not give your brand the gift of spaciousness and see what waves you might make?

Putting Pinterest to Work for Your Brand

Pinterest is the new hot property. Overnight this visual curation powerhouse has generated more traffic to websites than Twitter, Google+, Linkedin and YouTube combined. Its clean and simple design, including pleasing graphics and neat organization, allows users to quickly and easily gain access to the content that matters to them. Marketers have taken notice and are asking themselves, “How can Pinterest help me form a deeper relationship with my customers and prospects?”

Pinterest is the new hot property. Overnight this visual curation powerhouse has generated more traffic to websites than Twitter, Google+, Linkedin and YouTube combined. Its clean and simple design, including pleasing graphics and neat organization, allows users to quickly and easily gain access to the content that matters to them. Not surprisingly, both unique visitors and time spent on site have steadily increased. Marketers have taken notice and are asking themselves, “How can Pinterest help me form a deeper relationship with my customers and prospects?”

The answer often starts with building a connection around a shared passion aligned to your brand, be it music, sports, travel, fashion, cars, food/cooking, interior design, gardening, technology, etc. For Real Simple magazine that meant creating more than 58 boards and 2,312 pins focused on giving followers practical, creative and inspiring ideas to make life easier, which is central to the brand’s core mission. Specific boards include “Organization Inspiration,” “Weeknight Meals,” “Spring Cleaning” and more. For more inspiration, check out the 10 most followed brands as well as some of the power users with huge followings (provided by Mashable):

10 Most Followed Brands: 1. The Perfect Palette 2. Real Simple 3. The Beauty Department 4. HGTV 5. Apartment Therapy 6. Kate Spade New York 7. Better Homes and Garden 8. Whole Foods 9. West Elm 10. Mashable.

And here are some power users with huge followings: Jane Wang, Christine Martinez, Jennifer Chong, Joy Cho, Maia McDonald, Caitlin Cawley, Mike D, Daniel Bear Hunley.

Once your brand’s Pinterest mission and vision has been determined, attention turns to growth and engagement. Leverage your existing communities to grow awareness for your Pinterest presence and stress the unique value and content that can be found there. For example, Lowe’s saw a 32 percent increase in followers to its Pinterest page after it integrated a Pinterest tab into its Facebook community. In fact, some Lowe’s boards saw as much as a 60 percent increase. Additionally, Pinterest referrals back to Lowe’s Facebook page increased 57 percent, demonstrating the importance of using each community for its inherent strengths, be it breaking news, discussions or photos. More recently commerce powerhouses Amazon and eBay have added tiny Pinterest buttons to their deck of social media sharing options on individual product pages.

Next, build on this awareness by thinking creatively and forming programs that engage and accelerate growth. Apparel brand Guess used the inherent strengths of Pinterest’s visual platform to ask consumers to create inspiration boards around four spring colors and title their boards “Guess my color inspiration.” The four “favorites,” as selected by Guess’ noted style bloggers, received a pair of color-coated denim from the Guess Spring Collection.

Other retailers such as Lands’ End created a “Pin It to Win It” contest designed to encourage consumers to pin items from the retailer’s website for a chance to win Lands’ End gift cards, while Barneys asked consumers to create a Valentine’s Day wish list using at least five items sourced from Barneys’ website. In each case the brands leveraged the strengths of Pinterest’s visual platform to engage followers by encouraging them to create their own inspiration boards associated closely with the brand and its products, thus increasing buzz, visibility and followers.

While it’s important to experiment and have fun as you grow your following, you also want to gather critical insights and learnings along the way. Treat your Pinterest promotion or program just as you would any other digital marketing program. Set up goals, objectives and appropriate key performance indicators, and be sure to communicate those metrics to all involved to properly gather learnings and the overall impact and success of the effort.

For consumer product goods brand Kotex, it was all about honoring women and leveraging the power of Pinterest to reward the women who inspired it. The program included finding 50 “inspiring” women to see what they were pinning. Based on those pins, the women were sent a virtual gift. If they pinned the virtual gift, they got a real gift in the mail based on something they pinned. The result: 100 percent of the women posted something about the gift across multiple social networks (Pinterest, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc.), resulting in greater reach and visibility than was initially anticipated.

In addition, more than 2,284 interactions occurred overall and Kotex’s program generated more than 694,864 impressions around the 50 gifts. Lastly, the YouTube video summarizing the program has been viewed nearly 18,000 times, indicating the program has been a source of interest and inspiration to other brands and marketers alike.

Don’t forget to leverage Pinterest’s API to collect data, including activity, in order to build insights as well as preference and intent as expressed by your audience.

With meteoric-like growth, Pinterest now finds itself among the top 30 websites in the U.S. and shows no signs of slowing down. The social media platform not only offers brands an opportunity to curate and visually organize information for consumers in an appealing way, but it creates a community of real enthusiasts and advocates for your brand and shared topic of interest. Happy Pinning!