3 Building Blocks of Marketing – Part 1: Creative

Woo-hoo! My first-ever blog post! So let’s see, where to begin?

Ah, yes! Concerning: Hobbits Marketing Students

As a 4th year marketing student, a lot of people have asked me what my personal statement means: “Creative. Strategic. Curious.” Is it just another fancy phrase to add to the long list of advertising slogans we all know and (sometimes) despise? Maybe. I’m looking at you, Wal-Mart.

To me, however, these three words form the basis of my personal brand mantra. That is, these are the three building blocks that I live and stand for. These three words best represent who I am and, together, they are the foundations for my passion in marketing.

Over the course of the next three posts, I’ll be talking about how and why I personally believe each of these three elements is important to have for any budding marketing student:

1. Creativity

“Mom, I want to go into marketing because it’s creative,” said every first year marketing student. Like many other budding marketing first years, I knew that I wanted to go into this stream purely for the creativity. I thought marketing was the “fun” part of business where you get to design posters, film commercials, and come up with catchy slogans. Well, at least, that was the early definition of “creativity” for me.

Over the years, of course, I learned that this way of thinking was limited: just one page in our $(overpriced).99 hardcover marketing textbooks. That’s not to say that it isn’t true – I mean, just talk to any copywriter working on their latest copy deck for the new Volkswagen print ad or any art director finishing up their latest set of feedback for Coca Cola’s latest YouTube sensation. Creative sparks will always be flying. And don’t get me wrong, I love fiddling around with Photoshop and editing videos on FCP. But here’s what I really learned about creativity…

True creativity is about re-framing and solving a problem in a new way: creative problem-solving.


To illustrate my point, here’s a perfect example of one of my favorite campaigns from IKEA (developed by Leo Burnett):

The Problem: IKEA was opening a store in Richmond Hill and needed to attract 10,000 people to come on its opening day. The problem was that opening day was on a Wednesday morning. So how do you get people to show up to a store on a Wednesday morning?

The Generic Problem-Solver says this: “Let’s tell them about how they can get 60% off on all furniture only on that day. Let’s promote this through newspapers and bus shelters. That ought to get ’em coming.”

The Creative Problem-Solver says this: “Well why would someone want to pay attention to this opening? What’s in it for them? *5 hours and 3 coffees later* … hmm, people like coupons, right? Well, why does the coupon have to be paper? Why can’t the people be coupons? Let’s call them ‘Human Coupons’: just by bringing yourself to the store on opening day, you can get 60% off on all furniture. Could this work?”

Exact same solution. Radically different approach. Check out the awesome campaign here:

… and this, folks, is exactly why I love the “creative problem-solving” side of marketing. Not only was the creative amazing (e.g. the poster design, the aesthetics), but the solution itself was absolutely brilliant.


Again, going back to my personal brand mantra, I believe that a passion in marketing requires a passion for creative problem-solving. Whether it’s low brand awareness, stagnating sales, declining market share: how are you going to take your problem and look at it in a new way?

Here’s what I learned, based on my experience and from what I’ve learned from others…

The key to creativity is to ask a lot of questions. Ask questions that go beyond the surface-level. Dig for the root of the problem. Keep asking the golden question: “why?” Why is this happening? Why should I care about this? Why should I even pay attention? Ask lots of “what if” question. What if the real problem is actually this? What if the reason why Consumer X isn’t responding is because of Factor Y? … Y U NO ASK QUESTIONS?

Anyways, my point is that asking these questions will you able to think outside the box and come up with truly bold and new solutions: true creativity.

Stay tuned for Part 2 and Part 3!

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3 thoughts on “3 Building Blocks of Marketing – Part 1: Creative

  1. Pingback: 3 Building Blocks of Marketing – Part 3: Curious | Matthew Sison

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