By David Avrin, CSP — Author of: Visibility Marketing 

It’s become fashionable of late to lament the dearth of creative ideas. The reality is that we don’t have a deficiency in creativity — we too often have a pervasive lack of courage! Creative people in business are too-often reluctant to share creative ideas for fear of being shut-down. They’ve been brought up in a corporate culture that pays lip-service to creativity, but rewards the status-quo.

There is an oft-shared scenario where a group of very young school children are asked: “Who can sing and dance?” Virtually all the hands shoot into the air. Then the same question is asked of a group of high schoolers and most avert their eyes and slouch down into their chairs. We are taught at an early age that to put yourself “out there,” is to risk social ostracism. We take risks at times, but they are well-calculated risks.

It’s easy to spot a strong group facilitator. The strong facilitator rewards participation. They knows that when they ask the group members to share their ideas, every suggestion get written on the white board or flip-chart for all to see. It’s validation that the idea has merit. As they say: “The behavior that is recognized and rewarded, is the behavior that is repeated.” If an idea is shared by a participant and not written with the others, then the sharing shuts down quickly. Nobody wants to offer the idea publicly that is deemed unworthy.

The same dynamic has thrown an enormous wet blanket on most business marketing. The most creative, outrageous, out-of-the-box, potentially game-changing ideas are rarely shared. There are certainly super-creative marketing firms that foster an open dialogue, but even in those environments, the most creative ideas are sanitized, or focus-grouped to death before the client ever sees or hears them.

     Here’s the hard truth: While collaboration is often beneficial, consensus kills creativity. It’s the group decision-making process that is responsible for the death of most truly creative marketing ideas. Out-of-the-box ideas are floated, focused-grouped, debated and after everyone is heard, concerns are considered and we are assured that nobody will be offended or their comfort-zone disrupted, the once-bold idea has been sanitized to the lowest common denominator. It may be safe. It may check all the boxes and fit the industry norms, but the mere fact that it feels safe, means it won’t likely stand out. Standing out requires doing something  different and unexpected.

When 81 year-old Clara Pellar famously shouted: “Where’s the beef? in a 1984 Wendy’s TV commercial, a “buzz-worthy” catch-phrase and a star was born. Unexpected, non-traditional and very, very funny.

      K-Mart caused a real stir a few years ago when a television commercial aired featuring people declaring: “I just shipped my pants!” After a quick double take, and a collective “What did he just say?” we realized that he said “shipped.” It may not be to your taste, but it certainly got your attention and was memorable!  I say, Bravo!

Marketing professionals come up with great ideas all the time! Those ideas just rarely make it through the sanitizing gauntlet and see the light of day. I am not talking about shock for the sake of shock, but boldness, and creativity for the sake of conversation, memorability, buzz-worthiness and ultimately, winning!

Companies have struggled for centuries with the elusive challenge of staying top-of-mind with their customers and prospects. Today, billions of dollars are spent (and too-often wasted) in an effort to gain and retain top-of-mind status with clients. Most efforts fall short because the ideas are too safe, to common and blend in. In these hyper-competitive times, it simply takes more to stand out, and few do nearly enough.

Excerpted from the book: Visibility Marketing (2016 Career Press)

 David Avrin, CSP is known as The Visibility Coach. An in-demand business marketing keynote speaker and branding consultant, David helps companies and organizations discover, craft and promote meaningful competitive advantages. He is the author of the popular: It’s Not Who You Know, It’s Who Knows You! (2014, Classified Press) and his latest book: Visibility Marketing (2016 Career Press)

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