Four ways CMOs can spark creativity among their teams

Posted by: jillw in: Media Relations -

The chief marketing officer has traditionally led a company’s brand-building efforts. But has the CMO’s time come to an end? In its “Predictions 2020” report, Forrester highlights the changing purpose of the CMO and how priorities must evolve to keep the role relevant. For one thing, being a storyteller isn’t enough anymore. Now, the CMO needs to be a story-maker. This shift highlights how creativity in marketing is more important than ever. Easier said than done.

I’ve come to believe that creativity is not necessarily about generating new ideas; it’s about the execution. It’s about finding new ways to apply ideas already out there.

Daily, I work with clients across the consumer, technology and financial services industries. Some of the most creative initiatives have come from observing what works in one industry and then applying it to another.

For example, in 2015, my agency had a track record of engaging bloggers to engage and educate audiences on behalf of our consumer clients. Banks hadn’t jumped on that trend yet, but when a bank client needed to educate moms about new digital payment options, we knew what to do. We introduced the bank to an influencer campaign, which was so successful that the bank continues investing in influencer programs to reach and engage customers today.

So how does a CMO – or any business leader – spark new ideas, day after day? Here are four tips to ignite inspiration.


1. Be a curious reader and follower.

Encourage teams to look beyond your industry to get inspiration from marketers, brands and stories outside their familiar world. Set an example by sharing publications and channels you might not normally come across.

Cultivate a diverse set of companies and people to follow on social media. On LinkedIn, customize your feed by following people, companies and hashtags of interest. You will discover new, relevant and inspiring content in the process. Check out the interests of your LinkedIn connections or other individuals on the platform, and add the ones that resonate directly to your profile.


2. Build diverse teams.

Diverse experiences boost performance and enhance innovation. A McKinsey report covering 366 public companies in a variety of countries and industries found that the most ethnically and gender diverse companies had better relative financial performance. Additional studies show a correlation between diversity and innovation.

Exposing yourself and your teams to different opinions, experiences and perspectives enables everyone to question their perceptions and shift their thinking. Often, such differences can spark innovative ideas to address a demanding challenge. Some organizations can help you build more diverse teams. For example, Portland Means Progress has an emerging leaders internship program geared to opportunities for underrepresented youth, while Hiring Our Heroes matches corporations with transitioning service members.


3. Get immersed in your audience’s world.

At the beginning of brainstorming sessions, teams tend to be too focused on the goal – to increase sales – rather than the perceptual or behavioral challenge that needs to be solved first. Take a cue from the theater world and employ audience immersion techniques. Conduct research and collect insights that uncover the emotional and rational motivations of your target audience. What tensions or problems can your product or service solve? This approach can generate ideas that are relevant and more differentiating because you more fully understand your audience.


4. Allow time for idea sharing.

Build in opportunities – structured and unstructured – to share ideas and knowledge throughout the week. For weekly team meetings, dedicate 15 minutes to discussing current events, trends and creative campaigns you’ve observed. Talk about associated impacts or opportunities for your brand.

Creativity emerges in the execution

Don’t let the need for creativity paralyze you. For CMOs and other brand builders, valuable insights can come from exploring unrelated brands, markets and industries. Additionally, involving diverse voices will help challenge preconceived notions and introduce new perspectives. Draw lines between what works and how it can be adjusted and applied to your business. With practice, you can develop a creative mindset to lead your brand to the next level.

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