The Importance of Being Creative

Creativity was not an inherent talent in Neanderthal man. It was, fortunately, part of our makeup by the time homo sapiens came into being. People may not think they have the capacity to be creative, but Michael Ray, a Stanford University professor who teaches a course on this subject, disagrees. He contends that creativity exists within everyone, including guerrilla affiliates.

Professor Ray believes that when people can’t tap into their creativity, that doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. Instead, it means that the creativity is being suppressed by what he calls the voice of judgment – what I call the inner censor. That’s what gets the blame for destroying self-esteem and slowing down sales by affiliates.

According to Ray, there are five qualities of creativity: intuition, will, joy, strength and compassion. Four tools stimulate those qualities: faith in your own creativity, absence of judgment, precise observation and penetrating questions. He and I agree wholeheartedly that creativity is not one great eureka moment that produces a brilliant idea. Instead, it is a way of life.

That’s the way it ought to be with every guerrilla affiliate. Almost every creative professional knows very well that true creativity is not the result of inspiration, but instead comes from hard work and focus. I’ve authored or coauthored 44 books, and not one of them has come from a moment of inspiration.

If I waited for that flash of inspiration, I’d still be laboring over page one of my first book. The idea is to be able to create by reaching deep into yourself and not to wait for a bright light to flash inside your head. If you do opt for that bright light, you’re in for a long, dark wait.

Memes and Marketing

Your job as a guerrilla affiliate is to come up with a winning meme – a symbol that conveys an idea, such as international traffic symbols do. Unlike a logo, your meme should be one that not only identifies your business and communicates something about the quality that you offer, but expresses it in terms that suggest a benefit.

If you’re looking for creativity heaven, you’ll find it right inside of yourself. And you’ll see that your meme will not only be the result of your creativity, it will also serve as the nucleus of creativity for all your future marketing.

Would the great artists, musicians, dancers and writers throughout history have been creative guerrilla marketers? My guess is that they would have – because they did not wait for inspiration, but instead knew where to find it inside of themselves.

A powerful meme is of extreme value to a company that markets online because it conveys at a glance what that company is about. In addition, it can be used on a website and as part of a link. But many online marketers are so wrapped up in technology that they are accustomed to finding their inspiration outside of themselves rather than within. After all, it’s outside of themselves that technology has always resided.

But the rules are different for creativity with true guerrilla affiliates. It resides inside of them – if only they’d look long and hard enough.

The Making of a Meme

In the mid-80s, the telecommunications wars were being waged with ferocity and nonstop telemarketing. All the phone companies had been striving for a point of difference. My guess is that some copywriter in some ad agency was one of many working to give his or her client an edge.

Research showed that one of the benefits that could be offered by a phone company was clarity of sound. Said copywriter most likely pondered this concept and then tried to recall how people refer to clear sound. “So quiet, you could hear a pin drop” came to mind. That spurred the birth of Sprint’s meme, a graphic depiction of a pin dropping next to a telephone, which immediately suggested sound quality.

Since that time, Sprint has been using its meme wisely and consistently, in true guerrilla fashion. Even when the company merged with Nextel, the pin-drop meme was blended into part of the new logo. Ideally, Sprint will be able to stay with that meme for a long time, or at least until research shows that clear sound is taken for granted. Unlike Y2K, which was a short-lived meme, the pin dropping can be a meme with longevity – the best and most powerful kind.

The tale of Sprint is one of creativity in action. It should serve as inspiration to you as an affiliate. That copywriter was probably not aiming to win awards or accolades. Instead, the motivation was to communicate a meaningful benefit to consumers, something instantly conveyed by the visual of a pin dropping. In just a flash, viewers and readers got the point – no pun intended. This kind of creativity is rare. But it’s the kind you’ll need in our increasingly competitive marketing environment.

The Meaning of Creativity

Because creativity is so misunderstood in marketing circles, astonishing sums of money are wasted. Truly creative marketing does not have to be attractive, but should come on strong to key prospects, attractiveness aside. It takes into consideration the lifetime value of a customer rather than the instant gratification of a quick sale.

My advice to you as a guerrilla affiliate is to trust the creativity that you already have and use it to communicate with your prospects and your current clients. Don’t think that it is not in your possession, because it definitely is – and if you use it, you’ll have an enormous edge over those people who think they are not creative.

Remember that for an affiliate, the true measure of creativity is profitability. If your communication efforts garner compliments, earn sales and win awards, but don’t generate profits, they are not creative. If your communication efforts result in pats on your back and high fives, but don’t generate profits, again, they are not creative.

Creativity for affiliates is proven when the bottom line gains beauty. All of your creativity must be directed toward accomplishing this – and it is not easy. I have had many clients enjoy record-breaking numbers of responses to their offers, record-breaking sales figures and record-breaking traffic to their sites, but they were losing money as those things happened. That is not creativity. That is not guerrilla marketing.

These people took their eyes off of the bottom line and focused on the wrong criteria. I hope you will always maintain your bottom-line focus and realize that it is that very line that is the lifeblood of your business. It is the reason you are in business in the first place.

As an affiliate, true creativity is your shining light toward increasing your revenue. Let it shine. And let those revenues reflect it.

JAY CONRAD LEVINSON is the acknowledged father of guerrilla marketing with more than 14 million books sold in his Guerrilla Marketing series, now in 41 languages. His website is www.guerrillamarketingassociation.com.