How to Become a Creative Genius

In an earlier post we republished  Michael Michalko’s The Difference between the way the average person thinks and a creative genius thinks” As Michael Michalko noticed that an average person focusses his attention on a specific information and excluding all … Continue reading

Creative Marketing – Thinkibility Boost


Classical marketing campaigns are mostly massive in nature, like the Napoleonic Wars. By using brute force and heavenly leaning on resources (people, money, gun power, logistics, management skills) they ty to win. Basically, both parties are in the same game, each trying to use better but more-of-the-same tactics.

An alternative for the not so powerful is to turn to guerrilla warfare. Poor but highly dedicated small teams use asymmetric tactics to surprise and confuse the enemy, thereby using maximal creativity.

But what is creative marketing?

Creative thinking is not doing more-of-the-same

(in the example: applying straight lines), but breaking away from that, for instance by using curved or broken lines.

Thinking patterns
However, it is not easy to break away from standard patterns.
Also, any time we break a standard way of thinking, a behaviour or new idea, bystanders will react with a rejection: this is impossible, it can’t work, it is too costly, complex, difficult or risky. Every time a negative is used, the thinking stops.
Creative marketing is escaping from the standard approaches that are used by big companies. But how to get new ideas?

Normally we think with the speed of light to the first satisfying idea

By that, we miss interesting alternatives along the way
With a Provocative Operation we break away from mainstream thinking. The Provocative Operation (moving outside the mainstream to the green spot) is a attempt to escape standard thinking in order to arrive at an original idea.

For instance: Apple sells our (paper)notebook together with their notebooks.

We will discuss four creative thinking techniques to escape standard thinking:

  • Taken for Granted
  • The Provocation
  • Use Resources
  • Focus

Taken for Granted

Make a list of taken for granted things of a product, at least 15. That is what is normal, assumed to be, standard, generally accepted or obvious. Then we escape by abandon it or modify it.

It is taken for granted that a restaurant has a venue and that the guests are dressed.

A restaurant does not have a venue. That could lead to the idea to set up a picnic service for romantic people.

Guests are naked. That could lead to the idea of a nudist restaurant.

To get creative marketing ideas about for instance an Eco bottle. What is obvious of a bottle (form, materials, filling, getting it, getting rid of it, etc.). Then modify (remove, amplify, change, combine, etc).

The Provocation

Try to escape negatives by redefining criticism by “this is interesting” and “under what circumstances might this have value”, or “could we create value out of this?”. The aim of the Provocation is to move forward the thinking towards an idea that works.

Sandwiches will make themselves

Senor citizens, refugees and children donate by age for using supporting services.

Use Resources

We tend to solve problems by using known and standard solutions. For instance: for attaching something to the ceiling we automatically think of a ladder. But only after we give ourselves the explicit thinking order to use what is at hand, we come up with alternatives: using tables, making a tower of bodies, using the walls, making a long pole.

This creativity technique is also called: think inside the box, meaning no adding additional resources

Make a list of props (things) and persons in your immediate surroundings. Think up in what ways they could contribute or add value.

Integrated Values

A petrol company wanted to create more brand loyalty. That is not simple, for most drivers petrol is just petrol. One of the company’s resources is the car driver. By getting under the skin of the driver, they discovered that getting a parking place in town is an important value for the customer. So they set up a cooperation with parking garages. For the drivers, the petrol company and the parking garage a win-win situation. Together they delivered an integrated value.

Could we design integrated values for the customers of a fruit selling shop?


Defining the thinking task before beginning an idea generation session is one of the most neglected stages.

Most starting questions are far too broad defined. For instance. In What Ways Might We (IWWMW) get more clients.

However, it is more helpful to break it down into smaller topics, as “IWWMW add more value to our product”,“IWWMW get more clients with help of our existing clients”, “IWWMW use other product to sell ours. Redefine at least 15 IWWMW’s in order to escape from the obvious ones and get a really creative challenge.

Avoid formulating IWWMW’s becoming too small. In that case, the IWWMW will just be a concrete solution and will not give you any direction for further searching new ideas.

Then make the challenge less boring and sexier. That is: make them more imaginative, outreaching, challenging, interesting. For instance: sex up “IWWMW get more clients by using our existing clients”.“Our clients collect so much organic waste that we have to export it”.

Then add a constraint: people, money, time, channels.

Finally construct a propelling question, a question that drives forward the effort for creative thinking by using a bold ambition and a significant restriction. For instance: “let’s get 50 more clients by firing all account managers”.

Again, the technique of the creative focus is to force oneself outside common thinking. The technique on the focus can be applied to all of the four of the marketing mix:

  • functionality, packing and service of the Product
  • policies about paying and Price
  • sales, advertisements, Publicity
  • and Promotion logistics, storage, inventory and selling channels

Creative Marketing is all about standing out of your competitors, being perceived as a Blue Fish, at no costs.


See also:


Trends in Innovation – Think Inside The Box!

Trends in Innovation

In an interesting article in the Harvard Business Review, “Reversing the Decline in Big Ideas” Max Marmer argues;

“The number of teams working on transformational ideas in Silicon Valley seems to be declining and homogeneity of founding teams is one of biggest reasons why. We started with the dynamic duo of the businessman and the engineer. Recently we added the designer. Now if want to continue to create products that scale into billion dollar companies, create thousands of jobs and transform society, we need to add domain experts to the founding DNA of Technology Companies.”  

As I interpret Max Marmer we are leaving the era of technological breakthroughs which drove an enormously technology push. As competition grew, the suppliers of the new goods tried to differentiate by adding  more gadgets and finally they turned to industrial designers. The aesthetics, ergonomics, and usability of a product, but also the brand development and sales were introduced to gain competitive advantages.

Design for Value: More teams with expert knowledge

Max Marmer asks himself why the world is full of brilliant domain experts and full of people who are great at building software, but who rarely speak to each other or work together. It is inconceivable that, for example, there is no software for performing opportunity audits, or for systematic value creation in product and service design.

The next big idea may therefore come from teams of  engineers, businessperson, designers or domain experts. From technology push to demand pull, or from providing tools to designing value.

We may see a trend towards advantages for manufacturers who are able to think intelligently and creatively about interesting values for consumers. As Tim Brown says,

“Now, however, rather than asking designers to make an already developed idea more attractive to consumers, companies are asking them to create ideas that better meet consumers’ needs and desires. The former role is tactical, and results in limited value creation; the latter is strategic, and leads to dramatic new forms of value.”

However, due to the economic crisis, things in at least the Western world have dramatically changed. Citizens and governments have become increasingly frugal, while the growing affluence of consumers in emerging economies will place an increasingly heavy burden on already strained supplies of energy, water, and other resources.

Frugal innovation – More value for less cost for more people

Navi Radjou, Jaideep Prabhu, and Simone Ahuja from HBR Blog Network believe that this new age of scarcity in the face of ever more demanding consumers will require a new strategy for disruptive innovation and growth that they call More for Less for More (M4L4M): a strategy that places an emphasis on

delivering more experimental value to customers while simultaneously reducing the cost and delivering that value to a greater number of people. M4L4M offers firms a new way to reconcile multiple, seemingly contradictory financial equations”.

However, Western product developers are spoiled with an overabundance of resources. Most products are over-engineered, engineering problems are often solved by adding more resources or by compromising, and if resources are not enough, the project is abandoned. It is well known that former USSR software developers were far more creative than their US counterparts, who had easily access to much more hardware. Carlos Ghosn, Chairman and CEO of the Renault-Nissan Alliance, famously coined the term “frugal engineering” in 2006. He was impressed by Indian engineers’ ability to innovate cost-effectively and quickly under severe resource constraints.  Here some notable examples of Frugal Engineering.


Frugal engineering is close to TRIZ. In TRIZ, it is known as “ideality”, and the approach was introduced by Altshuller  more than 60 years ago, was focused on achieving the needed result by using existing resources as much as possible. ARIZ, for instance, forces a user to use resources available within a system to change the system to obtain a result required. Another TRIZ tool, “Trimming” focuses on trimming system components as much as possible while preserving functionality, quality, and performance. The advantage of TRIZ is that it provides specific tools in a systematic approach. 

More Thinking Inside the Box 

However, it is more about changing mentality of engineers. So, the next time when there is a demand for more resources, say:”No, adding resources is allowed. Use available resources. We are in a closed world, and in that world we have to find a solution”. As you will notice, this thinking instruction will almost automatically lead to creative alternatives for adding for example more energy, time and money.

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Innovation – The Blue Economy Approach 

Photo: “Gift Box With Ribbon” by metrue