Lessons from Pixar and Moment: Creative Marketing
Today’s digital workplace requires marketers to be a hybrid of copywriters, designers, and photographers, along with their normal marketing responsibilities.
As business roles continue to shift and overlap, responsibilities will only continue to increase. This demands a lot from marketers and their teams. This blog overviews a few things marketers can implement to channel the constant creative energy that is demanded of them.
What is Pixar’s Secret?
Creativity, Inc. by Ed Catmull, President of Pixar Animation and Disney Animation, is the Aragon Research book club pick for this month. One of the most striking things detailed in the book – and evidenced by Pixar’s financial and critical successes – is the company’s incredible consistency. When the Pixar team sets out on a 2 day offsite, they return with the fleshed-out outline for Toy Story 3.
While it’s a given that Pixar has an incredibly talented team of writers, directors, and producers, the question remains: can you really manufacture creativity? Can you channel creativity on-demand? And if so, how can you apply this to the requirements of the workplace?
The Pressure Is On for Marketers to Multi-task
The challenge for marketers is to multi-task and to do it well.
Unlike more analytical processes, such as evaluating marketing metrics and data gathered from a marketing automation suite, creative processes, such as designing and writing content or re-working a comprehensive marketing plan or product launch, don’t happen in a straight-forward or automatic manner.
When a marketer is required to be constantly ‘creative’ – to be able to come up with new ideas, designs, and stories to tell – while also juggling their non-creative tasks, creative energy can be exhausted very quickly.
Case Study: Moment
Moment, a company that produces lenses and cases for the iPhone, was recently asked by Apple to sell their products in Apple Stores, an experience detailed in-depth by Co.Design. This project required Moment to face a couple of huge challenges. One included time constraints:
-8 weeks total from Apple asking about the product to expecting to have the product in its stores
-2 weeks to actually get to work after design and planning
The time constraints for this project were severe. Moment pulled 4 employees from other projects and had them focus exclusively on the Apple project. The second challenge Moment had to face when it came to re-packaging their product had to do with Apple’s design requirements:
-Strict color requirements: majority of package must be white
-The product had to be the main focus of the packaging
Yet what these two challenges created for Moment were constraints, constraints that allowed Moment “to create a better product, quickly,” than if they had not had these constraints.
The Formula For Creativity: Constraints
While creativity can’t be churned out by a machine, it can certainly be forced into constraints. When possibilities are endless, too much time is spent exploring too many ideas; details that ultimately don’t matter can be debated ad nauseum. This becomes an even larger problem when applied to not only one person, but to an entire team. Teams can easily get bogged down by “what if’s?” and “but what abouts?” – we’ve all seen this happen during team meetings. Boundaries are essential for fueling creative thought. They help to nurture creativity because they eliminate possibilities, which in turn produces a dedicated, laser-focus.
Like Moment, Pixar often has what some would view as debilitating time constraints, and they use them to their advantage to help focus their team. Once a director generates an idea, pitches it, and gets it approved, the development team moves forward. There’s no time to worry about what could have been a better idea – no idea starts out as perfect. The team spends their energies refining as they continue to drive momentum. When a challenge arises, they receive constructive criticism to help them identify the problem and figure out a solution. While the development team has a skeleton plan, their plan isn’t rigid; they’re open to evolving as they continue building out the project.
Next Steps for Marketers
Marketers can draw inspiration from Moment and Pixar and apply the formula for creativity to any instance that requires them to generate something new, or innovate on an existing piece of content or process. By implementing some of these general steps into creative processes, marketers can increase their consistency when it comes to churning out successful creative content:
- Remember that ideas come from people, says Ed Catmull. Allow all team members to candidly share their ideas – even the interns. Creativity operates best when it’s not in a vacuum.
- The faster you choose an idea, the faster you can get started. No idea starts out as perfect. Ed Catmull maintains that a great team can take a mediocre idea and fix it, or come up with something better.
- Set hard deadlines (design, approval, peer review, etc. should all have set due dates) and don’t deviate from them.
- Prioritize. Which project is most important? Creativity is greedy and works best when it’s not spread too thin. Like Moment, have your team dedicate the majority of their energy to the most important project.
Creativity is an art, but with a little fine tuning, the creative process can be streamlined to be more like a science. Marketers who employ the use of constraints when it comes to developing creative content or campaigns will not only waste less time, they will be more likely to generate a better product.