I'll Have a Partial Lobotomy With a Twist

Consumer-Generated Ideas Are Great, but Nothing to Lose Your Mind Over

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Bart Cleveland Bart Cleveland
Recently several members of our agency attended a one-day seminar called "The Do-It-Yourself Lobotomy." I've been through this creativity seminar given by Tom Monahan three times and I always leave invigorated.

The idea of "lobotomizing," of course, insinuates disabling your mind, but quite the opposite happens when Monahan does it. His lobotomy removes the obstacles we humans can place between our ingenuity and ourselves. If you haven't experienced one of Tom's sessions I highly recommend them.

An important thing that sessions like this can do for your agency is build a team attitude. The other day, one of our media planners came by my office to share her opinion about a concept she had seen that was being developed. She was nervous but she said she didn't like it very much and thought we could do better. I was really happy she had the courage to share her view with me because it was proof that our agency is acting like a team. Anyone that wants to push work to a higher level is an asset to the company, and if he or she doesn't happen to be in "creative" so much the better.

What if someone in your media department had a really good idea for a radio spot? If you were the creative director would you reject it to keep people in their place, or would you use it? I've heard many people in our business say that a great idea can come from anyone, but I wonder if we really listen if it's not coming from our own kind? Thinking fresh for a client isn't easy. We need to be a bit rebellious in our attitude when developing ideas. We need to gather inspiration from unlikely places. We need to encourage those who do not think of themselves as creative to create.

Lately there has been a lot of consumer-generated work being done. Consumer-generated work should be pure. By that I mean the consumer did it independent of marketing experts. Consumer marketing signifies a brand is truly embraced by the customer, yet much of it isn't that at all. And a lot more of it is the equivalent of people selling snake oil. When the Mac came out in the mid '80s everyone thought they could produce ads. When the web came, web developers told ad agencies they would be gone in a few years (I heard that with my own ears). None of that lasted long -- and neither will the idea of consumer-generated branding.

But let's not throw the baby out with the bathwater. Remember, we should be open to an idea coming from anywhere. Even people who aren't fans can be helpful. T-Pain benefited from "Cute with Chris," a Canadian blogger who recites pop, hip-hop and R&B (among other things) as if it were poetry. Chris' parody was even featured on T-Pain's website.

Consumer-generated branding is not something I would recommend as a branding platform anymore than I would tell someone to hire me to perform brain surgery. The consumer shouldn't be involved in every step of marketing creation, especially the actual creation of the idea. But what is behind true consumer-generated branding is the same attitude that we should all have in this industry: We need to be open to ideas from anyone. Without a doubt it will help us freshen up our own thinking.
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