Special Report: Training for Marketers: Creativity drives marketing strategies

In This Report-Marketers lack sufficientknowledge about other departments to work as a team, says Weston Stanbridge of KPMG 26-Creativity training can give marketers the winning edge, says Patti Thompson of MICA 27-York Downtown Management Centre offers spectrum of short-term marketing courses...

In This Report

-Marketers lack sufficient

knowledge about other departments to work as a team, says Weston Stanbridge of KPMG 26

-Creativity training can give

marketers the winning edge,

says Patti Thompson of MICA 27

-York Downtown Management Centre offers spectrum of

short-term marketing courses 28

-New focus on practical casework and team exercises, says

Tracy Phillips of the Canadian

Management Centre 29

-Second City improv workshops help marketers think on their feet 30

Patti Thompson is practice leader, corporate innovation and creativity at Toronto’s MICA Management Resources.

The competition today to secure new markets is fierce.

The new global economy of free trade and high technology is forcing marketers to rethink old assumptions.

A business needs a giant leap of imagination to carry it beyond the competition and turn it into a marketplace leader. Learning to be more creative can give organizations that winning edge.

One firm that is living proof that creativity makes a difference is Microsoft.

Many observers consider ‘human imagination’ a key part of Microsoft’s great success story as the world’s leading computer software company.

You might be saying to yourself, ‘I’m already creative enough.’

Not necessarily.

Creative thinking is not just changing how you do something, or taking an old approach and tinkering with it. True creativity pushes thinking beyond the typical course of action into new areas.

Marketers need to be trained to start thinking this way.

Fortunately, creativity is like any skill; it can be learned.

Edward de Bono, creator of Six Thinking Hats and Lateral Thinking tools – frameworks for organizing the way people think – is a firm believer people can be trained to think more creatively.

De Bono emphasizes all businesses can benefit from this approach.

‘It is no longer enough to do the same thing better,’ de Bono says. ‘It is no longer enough just to be efficient.

‘Far more is needed,’ he says. ‘To survive, you need applied creativity both on the strategic level and on the front line.’

For instance, Lateral Thinking is a training method to encourage marketers to come up with creative solutions. It helps people ‘think sideways’ and move out of normal thinking patterns.

De Bono argues too many businesses continue to rely on old methods such as group brainstorming to come up with new concepts.

‘The old idea of brainstorming has held back the development of serious creativity,’ de Bono says.

What is needed is a more deliberate, systematic technique.

Through creative thinking, marketers not only improve current marketing strategies – they can come up with a new way of building their businesses.

Using the Six Thinking Hats technique, for example, participants begin to analyze problems and opportunities from different perspectives.

Those who are unsupportive of a particular proposal, are asked to acknowledge its positive points when wearing a yellow hat, while those who want to steam ahead don a black hat to help them see the negatives.

Other hat colors represent idea generation, background, process, and emotion.

The idea is to get everyone in a group analyzing and discussing a problem or opportunity without their traditional biases.

More and more organizations are training marketing people on how to structure thinking to release creativity. It is now becoming a critical factor to gain a competitive edge.

For instance, Avon Canada is making extensive use of creativity training in its marketing efforts.

Susan Kessler, a business unit leader who oversees the launch of products each year, reports creative thinking is helping Avon come up with concepts for new products.

Lateral thinking tools are now being used to generate names for new products and develop potential marketing campaigns.

Creativity is also being applied to Avon’s existing products. Marketers are looking at current lines to determine what is working and how they can increase market penetration.

Avon, a company that sells more than 1,000 products, has made creativity an integral part of the marketing mix. But Avon is not the only firm.

Several other major Canadian firms are embracing creativity training to help their marketing efforts.

Pepsi-Cola Canada’s marketers and its advertising agency used creativity training while working on a new product campaign.

They were able to generate several ideas related to the marketing campaign for Crystal Pepsi.

Creativity has also been extremely useful to Manitoba Aerospace.

Using creative thinking tools, the industry association has pinpointed a number of sectors that could use its members’ technology.

Saffer Advertising used specific creativity techniques to determine the marketing direction to take on a key client’s account.

By pushing its creative thinking, it was able to develop an effective strategy for the client’s marketing campaign over the next year.

Saffer has also used the technique to come up with breakthrough ideas for pitching new accounts.

All of these firms prove that with proper training and education, marketers can ‘turn on’ creativity when they need it, not only when it strikes them.