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April 21, 2008
10 Marketing Lessons From Inventors

Inventors aren’t like you and me. They think about things that don’t exist; that aren’t there. They operate on a different frequency.

They iterate, incubate, massage, manipulate and relentlessly test ideas. They seek to fix things and fill voids that you and I aren’t conscious of. Some ideas are radical, some incremental, some innovative, some ingenious, some simple, some complex, some inventive, some derivative, some sequential and some inexplicable. Some turn into real things. Others are just fantasies. Some become prototypes and some, though far fewer, become viable products.

Attending the 36th Annual Salons Internationale des Inventions in Geneva reminded me how small the box, I try to think outside of, really is. Being in the company of engineers, mechanics, grease monkeys, practical thinkers, fantasists, futurists, gear heads, wizards and nudniks has brought on a full marketing gestalt reminding me of fundamentals that too often are taken for granted and reinforcing he ruthlessness and competitiveness that characterize the marketplace for products and ideas.

Inventing is a supreme act of optimism. An inventor rejects the status quo in favor of what might be. An inventor assumes there’s something different and better yet to come. Inventors articulate the revolutionary impulse that drives our civilization.

Here are ten lessons these guys have taught me or put me back in touch with:

  1. Feelings Matter Most. How we feel determines what we want and what we do. The feelings are the drivers not the rational arguments or the features and benefits. Marketers have to communicate or stimulate feelings to move the needle.
  2. There Are No Fresh or Free Experiences. Everything is filtered by language, culture, experience, media and context. Every choice – words, color, image, music, tone, face etc – hits pre-set buttons which condition the response. We all bring a huge bag of pre-judgments to every experience and every message and we be conscious of what they are and how they might impact our audiences.
  3. Be Open to the Other. Other people really do think and process differently. Their brains work differently. Their neural pathways are different. Be open to inflections, interpretations and new inventions. Allow yourself to be surprised or to stand in wonder or in awe of something new or different. Accept alternative points of view.
  4. Accept Good Enough. Reject the impulse to perfect things. Nothing is really ever perfect and yet the demand perfection precludes the articulation and implementation of things that are truly good and useful. Don’t wait for utopia. Accept and advocate incremental change for the incremental value it adds to ideas and to our lives.
  5. Anticipate Predictable Reactions. People respond to change in predictable ways.  You can see the mental gears grinding as people sort, filter, file and compare something new with their stored database of information and experiences. By understanding the spectrum of predictable reactions, marketers can better shape initial presentations and follow-up messages.
  6. Vet Every Word and Image. Framing a single idea and communicating it to a room full of people who come from different places, think differently, use words differently and hear differently is a challenge. There are no common definitions for words, no common understandings about what is funny, cool, sad or ironic. It increases the challenge of copywriting and creative thinking by a full magnitude.
  7. Differentiate or Die. What’s new, what’s different, what’s better and why should I care are the inventors’ and the marketers’ benchmarks. If it isn’t different or different enough it dies. Marketers must exert maximum effort and creativity into positioning and framing the differences. Without one; you’re just another “me too” brand.
  8. Simple Trumps Complex. The simple idea is the most easily understood. Often complex mechanics or technology is required to bring the simplest idea to life. If in doubt, default to the simpler choice.
  9. Don’t Fear the Unknown. Open yourself up to new possibilities. See stuff others don’t. Ask for things that don’t yet exist. Demand new ways of doing things. Change your altitude, your attitude and your perspective. Shift your lens and your focal length to illuminate stuff that’s been there all along that you never noticed before.
  10. Fight for Your Ideas. If it’s good enough to propose and put forward; it’s good enough to fight for. Don’t let others trample your ideas or modify them out of existence. Marshall your arguments and your data and leverage your intuition. Marketing is as much an art as a science and those who seriously practice need to have conviction, backbone and the willingness to fight for a good idea.

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Danny Flamberg, EVP Managing Director of Digital Strategy and CRM at Publicis based in New York, has been building brands and building businesses for more than 30 years.Prior to joining Publicis, he led a successful global consulting group called Booster Rocket, as Managing Partner. Before becoming a consultant, he was Vice President of Global Marketing at SAP, SVP and Managing Director at Digitas in New York and Europe and President of Relationship Marketing at Amiratti Puris Lintas and Lowe Worldwide.
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