Ingenuity and proactivity boost marketing

By Nancy Garberson / Guest Column

When I am teaching marketing, I sometimes hear my graduate students say, “I’m not creative, I can’t draw, and I’m not an imaginative writer.” It’s not important whether you can draw a stick figure, a detailed artistic landscape or write a short story – it’s much more important to be ingenious and persistent.

Ingenuity separates average folks from amazing people. Something that few people realize is that the most important aspect in success is our ability to be resourceful. Being ingenious and proactive are incredible skills, and they really separate the extraordinary people from the average.

Coco Channel once said, “Success is most often achieved by those who don’t know that failure is inevitable.” Consider the strategies marketers deem vital when reacting to disruptive deviations across the business landscape. When marketing in your specific industry is disrupted by new and different challenges – like new products or a new pricing matrix – finding your own disruptive tactics are necessary.

When dealing with competitors who have interrupted your marketing space with new techniques, it’s time to either match the demand with copycat techniques, or reshape an existing product or service to meet the demands of customers. When you can be an original, why would you copy the competitors?

There are always new ways of thinking, new ways of looking at a problem and new ways to fix challenges. Here are some companies doing just that:

Airbnb is the world’s biggest community-driven accommodation company with an online marketplace that enables people to list, find and rent vacation homes for a processing fee. It has more than 2 million listings in 34,000 cities and 191 countries.

Snapchat is a fun photo/video messaging app which shares more than 2 billion pictures and videos that disappear daily. Businesses brands such as Kraft Foods, Tiffany, Burger King and Taco Bell are using it in their advertising makeup. Recently, Taco Bell earned 224 million views in a single day.

Both businesses changed the format in their offerings to differentiate themselves from others. They disrupted two markets that many would say were saturated with competitors. How did ingenuity and proactivity make each a success? It’s all about looking at new ways of taking care of customers.

Virgin’s Richard Branson said, “Disruption is all about risk-taking, trusting your intuition, and rejecting the way things are supposed to be.”

There are people we recognize immediately as those who looked at industries in new ways to develop products and services, like Steve Jobs, Sam Walton, Ray Kroc, Henry Ford, the Wright brothers and Arthur Collins, to name a few. These people looked at obtainable ways to improve and then market their ideas.

Do everything you can do to be ingenious for the best chance of achieving your goals, and learn how to engage the assets for focused effectiveness. That’s so much more important than whether that stick figure is recognizable. I’m not saying we don’t need the graphic designers and writers to actually market these disruptive techniques, because we do.

Some marketers believe they focus on the relationships with customers by thinking ahead of their needs. While some of those brands take a more iterative approach, others are not using their ingenuity to look into the future. In this world of on-demand, which is constantly moving toward “live” streaming action, is your organization ready to meet the new demands?

An organization’s culture matters too, because it requires transforming corporate operating models in a number of critical areas in order to be open-minded enough to make changes. Embracing ingenuity and proactivity within your organization as a whole can send signals as a valuable reminder that even in the most flexible organizations, people make all the difference.

Nancy Garberson is the owner of Marketing & Strategic Communication Strategies Inc., in Cedar Rapids, and an adjunct professor at Mt. Mercy University, teaching managerial marketing in its MBA and Master of Strategic Leadership programs.