Creative difference: Why being wrong is right

To live a creative life, we must lose our fear of being wrong.”  – Joseph Chilton Pearce

"Perfection" with red slashed circle over it

Being a copywriter or a designer is a tough job. We have to come up with idea after idea after idea to please different people and to fit different projects. And we think our ideas are damn good—otherwise we wouldn’t present them.

Of course, other people have ideas of their own so we’re used to all sorts of people telling us our ideas aren’t good enough. Even when we know they’re wrong, that can be a tough business to be in—especially if you’re a perfectionist.

What is perfectionism?

Many people think being a perfectionist is a good thing, that it means you only produce quality work. But having high standards and expecting to be perfect every time are different.

Perfectionism is a refusal to let yourself move ahead…To the perfectionist, there is always room for improvement. The perfectionist calls this humility. In reality, it is egotism…Perfectionism is not a quest for the best. It is a pursuit of the worst in ourselves, the part that tells us that nothing we do will ever be good enough. – The Artist’s Way (p. 119-120)

Hi. My name is Coreen, and I’m a recovering perfectionist. Surprisingly (or not), I think a lot of creative people are perfectionists. They’re probably the ones you’ve never heard of—because they refuse to publish until something is perfect.

I was lucky because college helped mellow out my perfectionism. Getting the first D I’d ever gotten on a test, getting hammered on critique day in my writing classes—while disconcerting at first—really helped me distinguish between what was valuable feedback (internal and external) and what was not. Berating myself for not being perfect was not.

My passion to be creative and my quest to produce quality work are still in tact, but I’m okay with work not being perfect because creativity is a work in progress. What’s great about working with other creatives is that good ideas feed off of each other. And at some point, you have to let go…and that’s a good thing.

A perfectionist thinks nothing’s ever good enough. A good copywriter or designer thinks “how can we make this better?”

The perfectionist feels defeated and soon her passion for the work will die. The non-perfectionist remains excited about the possibilities, her passion still alive.

Being wrong gives us the opportunity to learn from someone else. It gives us the chance to make something better that more people will like and be satisfied with.

To break your perfectionist habits:

Give yourself deadlines

A creative mind often needs a trigger, a reason to start creating. Give yourself an hour to work on a project that would normally take three hours. Limit your work to that one hour so your adrenaline and creative juices kick in and your thoughts flow.

Encourage and enjoy teamwork

Watch and listen to how your coworkers develop ideas. Working as a team helps take pressure off and frees you up to learn, to see, to think and to contribute.

Open up to feedback

Ask people you trust what they think about your ideas or your work. Ask people you don’t trust too. Instead of being upset by seemingly negative feedback, be inspired. See this as a challenge for you to think and act differently.

Stop being afraid

Trust yourself most of all. You know what you’re doing. One shame of this economy is that it’s driving people back to perfectionism. People are afraid to lose their jobs, which means they’re also afraid to take risks and express new ideas. It’s time to stop being afraid.

Companies—managers and CEOs—have to step up and stop this cycle. Innovation and leadership come from having the space and the freedom to take creative risks and express all ideas.

Being right often comes after being wrong.


Want to go from perfectionist to creative genius? Read: Your Creative Genius Mindset: The Essential Qualities for “Outside the Box” Thinking

Johnson & Johnson: Nursing its way into hearts and minds

Health insurance companies and pharmaceutical companies are always looking for ways to come across as warm and friendly. Of course, they could try actually being warm and friendly—in policy and in actions—but I digress.

Johnson & Johnson (J&J) has mastered warm and friendly, and even inspiring, for a good cause—the Campaign for Nursing’s Future.

You may have seen the commercial with “Emma,” which is the one that caught my eye.

The man in this commercial is Tom, an actual nurse. Only the patient is an actress. While this spot focuses on pediatric nursing, there are at least two similar spots focusing on emergency room nurses and hospice nurses. Each one is similarly well done.

According to J&J’s Discover Nursing website, there are over 100,000 vacant nursing positions now, and will be up to an estimated 800,000 by 2020. The campaign hopes to change that.

The funny thing is this campaign has been a yearly event since 2002. I don’t recall seeing it before, do you?

Goes to show you what effective advertising can do. These ads stand out. They catch your attention and keep it. Too bad it took them 9 years to get it right, but overall, it’s been an impressive and worthy campaign that gets better with age.

Do you notice the differences between today’s ads and those that aired in 2007?

In the 2007 spot, you hear, “Johnson & Johnson knows…” making the ad more about them than their cause. But in 2011, there’s none of that, just a subtle logo at the end. When companies are doing good deeds for the public’s sake, that’s exactly how it should be. Well done!

Their YouTube channel is also done well. In fact, they respond to comments regularly—whether positive or negative. And the nice thing is that many of the comments are from nurses—appreciative of the fact that these ads give nurses the recognition they deserve.

The only question left is does this campaign work? According to a 2007 press release, 24 percent of those who have discussed going into a nursing career said the commercials were a factor in their consideration.

Somehow, given the high number of jobless people and the impact of these new ads, I think this year’s response may be even better.


Another part to this campaign includes spotlights on nurses. One in particular that was inspiring was A Day in the Life – Laurie. It shows a woman who went to nursing school at age 45. Thought you might enjoy this story.

Nike: Trying to be the Chosen one in action sports

Nike photo of ad with Paul Rodriguez skating down steps

Movies get shot in two years, not commercials, yet Nike took its time in what may be one of its boldest campaigns yet—Nike “Chosen.”

Chosen targets the Gen-Y audience hard, focusing on extreme or “action” sports. But this isn’t just a shot in the dark. It’s obviously a move that took quite a bit of planning. Successful integration often does.

Before we look at what Nike is doing, let’s go over a few things. Extreme sports came into favor mainly because of three factors:

  1. Attitude – These sports were originally seen as anti-establishment and anti-brand—a huge draw for a young audience.
  2. Connection – The athletes were regular teenagers and young adults who liked connecting with their audience and did so regularly—sometimes even in the midst of competing.
  3. Excitement – Our standard sports didn’t bring near the risk or excitement that these sports brought.

Knowing this background, hopefully you can see that the possibility of failure or backlash was big if Nike came in acting like a big brand in charge.

Instead, they inched in with Nike SB (skateboard) and then into the Winter Dew Tour as Nike 6.0 with a multiyear deal they took very seriously.  Their goal wasn’t just to sponsor and represent athletes. They got more involved with athletes to help showcase their sport and their talents and show their relationship was a two-way street.

The Chosen campaign sets a new mark for other brands to follow. Go to the Nike Chosen website and you’ll see what I mean.

  • Integration – Commercials were released on Facebook and YouTube first and then went to TV.
  • Interaction – Nike is not just sending out videos and hoping audiences like them. They want the audience to participate and send in their own videos—for what they’re calling “the ultimate prize.”
  • Segmentation – Action sports have many different arms, and Nike chose four to focus on—snow, BMX, surf, and skateboard.

They decided to highlight the athletes on their turf, not some fake set, and they included men and women. Involving fans is crucial for this audience, so the video contest was a terrific choice.

All of their choices show that Nike put the time and research in to really understand this audience. Check out the Chosen commercial and see what you think:

Even the music was chosen carefully. Listen to the lyrics in the song leading this commercial:

I’ve got a thing
You’ve got a thing
Everybody’s got a thing

Translation? That’s Nike saying, “We respect what you do. We’re not coming into your world to change you.”

They even allow each athlete to still wear and showcase their other sponsors. (Notice the RedBull helmet in the video and Monster gear in the contest and behind-the-scenes videos.)

Of course, Nike’s “Just do it” slogan appears at the end of the commercial, but given the thought, time, and preparation that went into this campaign, a more accurate message is “Just do it right.” Nike is definitely leading the way.

New Age Business Management: Lessons Learned from the Way Gen Y Shops

If your business caters to Gen-Y customers, you probably already know how important speed and convenience are. The tech-savvy Gen-Y shopper wants to go through the purchase process as quickly and easily as possible. And they’re not the only ones.

Most people these days want what they want in a hurry. And if you’re slow to move or slow to adopt new technologies, you’re going to be losing customers FAST!

How do small businesses keep up?

If you spend your money on marketing, you won’t have enough money for technology upgrades. If you spend your money on keeping up with technology, you won’t have enough money for marketing. Right?


Your solution to this dilemma actually lies in technology.

Social media

Social media is a terrific way to connect with your community and get the word out about your business for free. Well, kind of free. It can be a time drain, but as long as you choose your social media channels wisely (Read how to do this here),  you may not need to invest much in other sources of advertising.

Mobile payment optionsPicture of credit card reader attached to mobile phone

New ways to make paying easier are popping up like dandelions—from Google Checkout and Google Wallet to Intuit’s and Square’s solutions for small businesses. Take Square, for example. You get a credit card reader you can attach to your mobile phone or iPad. Security, convenience and low cost! The customer is happy, and guess what? You’re happy too. Your credit card reader is free, and you simply pay 2.75% per transaction. That’s it.

And this is just the start. Mobile and online technologies are only going to get better and more relevant from here on.

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What’s the point?

Okay, I know there aren’t a ton of details here, but the point is that all of us can go online to find the details that we need to run our businesses effectively and efficiently. The point is that instead of figuring out what kind of marketing to do, we should first be figuring out what our target audience responds to. What technologies are they using? Why do they choose to do business at certain places but not others?

And guess where you can find those answers, even for free? In social media! So get started, if you haven’t already, and explore all the options available to you. I’m not going to tell you it’s easy, but it is easier than you think.