I know many writers use a prompt to get going. Although I hardly qualify myself as a writer, I always use a prompt, even if it is something as simple as a reaction to something I heard somewhere.
Does coffee count as a prompt?
Lately, I have found that all my writing comes from articles I read and the authors get me to thinking. This is good, right?
So I’ve coined a term for this style of writing: Riffing off. This word accurately describes of how I write. It’s kind of like ripping off, but more than that – I take what someone starts, expound upon it, and maybe make a little headway on furthering the issue.
There is no copyright or legality here. Just like Shakespeare, my made-up words are a gift to the world. Feel free to riff off at will.
I remember picking up a copy of Dave’s “Creative Mischief” a number of years ago but quickly put it back on the shelf. Thumbing through the pages, it looked more like a book of poetry rather than a proper book on advertising. “I won’t get anything out of that” was my first thought. Big mistake.
To me, Dave’s take on subjects is the verbal equivalent to Alan Fletcher’s visual explorations. Little vignettes of oddities from anywhere. The only difference being Trott’s essays end with a valuable lesson for advertising creative folks.
Trott’s writing is good design. It follows the basic principle of design as laid out by Milton Glaser – “Design should inform & delight”. Dave’s essays do that in spades.
Then there’s David. Mr Ogilvy. I’m a big fan of his, too, but for other reasons. He’s all business. Practical. Informative. Earlier this year I reread “Confessions of an Advertising Man”. Although some of the chapters are quite dated, it is surprising how many of the principles are still relevant 50 years after the first run of the book.
So here I have David & Dave. Both I admire. Learned from both, yet in strikingly different ways. It got me to thinking about voice and tone.
Here’s a comparison not meant to offend, but drive the point home: David is like the Old Testament and Dave is like the New Testament. David gives you Commandments to follow, laws to obey, while Dave teaches in parables. Pay attention and you are likely to learn from both. And that’s where the metaphor ends. Although I do have thoughts on Paul’s letters to the Romans being the world’s first PR campaign. For other such interesting thoughts, check out another David’s blog.
Is one better than the other? Not a chance. After all, there would be no Dave without David.
I just finished reading Ryan Holiday’s book The Perennial Seller and I recommend you pick it up. It’s a good read. Some of his examples are a bit of a stretch for me, as I do not work in the publishing or recording industry. Neither are overly applicable to me or what I do. However, in those examples lie numerous nuggets of goodness.
When discussing marketing, Ryan stated (and I’ll paraphrase) whether you like doing it or not, you always have to position, package and pitch. I love this thought. He was sharing it with writers who think that after you have gotten your words into print that your job is over. It’s not. You always have to position, package and pitch. In other words, market your product.
This got me to thinking about the traditional four “P’s” of marketing: Price, Product, Promotion and Place. Holiday’s three P’s mentioned above fall squarely into Promotion and Place. Pitch might be there, too.
From a creative’s perspective, we live mostly in Promotion. What if we had our own set of P’s to compliment the traditional set? I propose (yet another p-word):
This is a tidy way to describe a creative marketer’s process. Let’s add a little more color:
Position: I am a firm believer that getting the positioning right solves lots of problems. Read My Secret Recipe post.
Package: Packaging has historically been undervalued. I’m not just talking about the box your product comes in, but all the design that makes the product desirable. The UX, the aesthetics, the feel, etc. That’s packaging, and in recent times business has finally begun to wake up to the fact that it is of extraordinary value. Many claim design is the last serious competitive advantage. Us designer-types owe Apple some gratitude.
Pitch: My favorite. As a creative marketer, it should be your’s too because this is your time to shine. After the pitch, it isn’t about how good you are or what you brought to the process; it will be about the work. So make the most of this part.
Produce: Production is something I tagged on to the end of the process, because I am a creative professional who markets other people’s stuff for a living. You have to produce what you’ve positioned and packaged, otherwise there’s no chance it will ever be seen.
Production is not always the fun stuff. Although necessary and as important as other steps along the way, it can be less than glamourous. Production might be doing two dozen versions of the same ad to fit in all the various spaces. Not exciting, but often undervalued.
Rethinkng the four P’s: Positioning, Packaging, Pitching and Producing.
The funny thing is that this is a simple process. I’m not big on formulas or “tried and true” methods to solving problems that solve problems every time. Every problem is different. Every answer should be different, too.