Break Out of Your Creative Marketing Rut (Even in a Boring Industry)
Every year I anxiously wait as the creative marketing minds of organizations around the world roll out some of the most hilarious and inventive corporate April Fools’ pranks.

Some come from organizations such as Google or Amazon, that are busting from the seams with creative minds.

But others (and often some of the best) come from companies you would never expect or often haven’t even heard of.

Companies that communicate in a generally status quo and static manner, deal with difficult topics (funerals, for example), or have small communications departments that are already pushed to the limit with tasks.

Yet all the sudden bring their A-game to April Fools and create some pretty amazing creative marketing campaigns as a prank.

Prank-Free Creative Marketing

It always makes me wonder, where are these creative brains hiding the rest of the year? Why only let them free to be amazing as part of a prank?

Many organizations are afraid to leverage inventive, different, and even “risky” creative marketing strategies in their overall communications plan.

You see this particularly with business-to-business brands, highly regulated industries, or those where creative marketing simply isn’t the norm.

You normally are less likely to get fired from sticking to a non-effective status quo then you if you take a risk.

So, instead of defining themselves as an organization and developing a clear brand voice through their communications strategy, they stick to “accepted” and safe marketing tactics, often devoid of personality and imagination.


Creative marketing tactics are useful and effective in every industry and not just for pranks or holidays.

Use those creative minds that come out full force on April Fools and apply that power to your overall communications strategy.

Break Out of Your Rut

So where do you start?

Often the lack of creative marketing is not just a result of fear from being different, but because it’s easy to fall into patterns and being to believe they represent “the way things need to be.”

Rule one of effective communications: if you ever catch yourself turning away from an idea, or settling for a poor result with the excuse “well, that’s just the way things are,” you need to strap yourself to a tilt-a-whirl and have little children throw glitter at you until you come to your senses.

Ineffective communications strategy and tactics are never “just the way things are.”

  • Those social channels aren’t suffering because of the algorithm.
  • Your content isn’t only being read by your Mom because of content overload.
  • Every email isn’t going on dead ears because inboxes are full.
  • Your competitor isn’t beating you because they have more money or more connections.

You just aren’t being creative and strategic enough.

You’ve allowed yourself be trapped by choices you decided were rules.

We become so accustomed to sharing our organization’s message one way, we lose sight of the fact there are many ways to dress a cat.

Here are a few tactics to help you break out of your rut and see the creative marketing opportunities waiting for your brand.

Creative Marketing through Storytelling

Do you just “use” the word brand storytelling or have you actually planned your communications strategy around it?

It’s always remarkable the interesting, unique, and human stories which lie within ALL organizations—their employees, their customers, their partners, their advocates.

Have no doubt, your organizations have stories to tell, you just have to look for them.

  1. Build your stories. Gini Dietrich provides a five-step process to build your brand stories. And Rob Biesenbach also provides a system to help you work through stories in an organized way.  Sit down with your team and work through both of these.
  2. Read Fiction. We say it often, even Stephen King (who, you know, is one of the greatest storytellers ever to exist) says it. Read fiction. Not only does reading great fiction help you better understand what it takes to build a great story, it also helps you see the world from perspectives outside your own.
  3. Understand your buyer personas. Often the fear of creative marketing comes from a worry that any new and different tactics won’t resonate or be accepted by the consumer. However, if you know your buyer personas, this fear can easily be eliminated.

Flip Perspectives to Show Differentiation

A few weeks ago, I talked about reverse message strategy and used the great example of the #EndPetlessness campaign from Oregon Humane Society.

Reverse messaging is creative marketing.

It allows you to present a message in a different way.

That difference grabs attention, defines you as an organization, and can help your audience break from of their own preconceived notions or perspectives.

Practice flipping perspectives and messages around your brand.

Most likely you view your product or service from only one or two perspectives, but there are likely infinite ways to look at it.

Think of this as if you were a photographer.

You could take a photo from eye level, bird’s eye, underneath,  inside,  far away,  close up, through water or a filtered lens….try to do all of these things with your brand.

Write them down and then look at the opportunities different angles might provide.

Another fun way to do this is to be a time traveler.

Imagine someone throughout time evaluating your organization, product, or service.

How would someone in 1800 look at what you do?

How about the roaring 20s?

Maybe during a certain big event, or cultural shift?

How about people 100 years in the future?

Fiction comes in handy here, too. Even if you don’t tend to like it, force yourself to find some really great sci-fi to read.

Great sci-fi authors are the BEST at turning perspectives upside down and inside out and then using that shift to launch a story from a new vantage point.

Multimedia Magnificence

Have you been presenting most of your messages in the same way? All content? Mostly photos? Similar video clips?

Flip things around and try to talk to your audience through a different medium.

This simple change can show you new ways to communicate and new opportunities to talk to your audience.

Sometimes just saying the same thing in a different way will change the game.

We had a client who made the small change of taking their newsletter content and presenting it as a video. Same content. Same recipients. Different format.

It changed everything.

They went from a newsletter they wondered if anyone read to one that received industry accolades for how useful and inventive it was.

One change. Huge results.

Use the PESO Model

And finally, you knew no article would be complete without this reminder: use the PESO model.

Being creative just for the sake of being creative is pointless.

We aren’t in art school. We are communicators with goals we need to move forward in our organizations.

Creativity must be part of a PESO-model strategy.

Not a substitute for it and not an add-on to it. Part of it.

Strategic creative marketing helps you stand out from the crowd, which can be a scary place if you are used to just fitting in. But where you need to be if you want to be to grow.

How do you encourage and vet creative marketing ideas among your team?

photo credit: LEGO x Coney Island, Brooklyn, NYC via photopin

Laura Petrolino

Laura Petrolino is chief marketing officer for Spin Sucks, an integrated marketing communications firm that provides strategic counsel and professional development for in-house and agency communications teams. She is a weekly contributor for their award-winning blog of the same name. Spin Sucks. Join the Spin Sucks   community.

View all posts by Laura Petrolino