The Maddening Truth Behind the Creative Process

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Mad Men’s final season kicks off Sunday, April 5th. We’re counting down the days with mixed emotions in our office—excited that it’s back, but sad that it’s coming to a close.

You might think a team of people who spend their days dreaming up creative solutions for their clients might not want to watch a TV show that’s essentially based on the very work they do day in and day out.

You couldn’t be more wrong. We are obsessed with Mad Men (and maybe a little obsessed with our work, too).

While the 1960s styling and unpredictable personal drama make the show infinitely watchable, we’re the nerds who sit up a little taller when the creative team at Sterling Cooper & Partners gathers to brainstorm the night before a big pitch.

When Peggy and the boys burn the midnight oil in search of that creative spark, we can’t help but resonate with the glorious agony of being a creative professional! I’ll let you in on a little industry secret—creative people love playing the martyr role! We moan and groan about waiting for inspiration to strike. We act as if what we do is so completely unique that it can’t possibly be constrained to the fluorescent lights and tiny cubicles of the cruel corporate machine!

In a past job—I’m not too proud to admit—I got into a heated argument with a writer who owed copy to our client at noon, but was sitting in the window at 10 a.m. watching her spirit animal and waiting on her muse to strike. Her spirit animal was a buzzard by the way, which conveniently urges you to take your time and make decisions slowly. I’m pretty sure we missed that deadline.

While creativity certainly requires a fair share of free association and daydreaming, it also benefits strongly from a balanced approach that leverages a little logic. There is undoubtedly a degree of magic that makes what we do exciting and elusive. But we often fail to embrace the more practical aspects of the creative process that actually give our magic a strong foothold in the hearts and minds of our peeps.

Yes, we tattoo ourselves with sharpies in meetings. We take “creativity walks” in the middle of the afternoon. We play with toys at our desk.

But we also set goals. We write creative briefs exploring our audiences’ deepest desires. We field test our designs and see how they stack up in the real world. We survey target markets.

This quote from Don Draper sums up the creative process pretty well, ” … just think about it. Deeply. Then forget it. And an idea will jump up in your face.”

Creative people LIKE being shrouded in mystery. But make no mistake about it—the best ideas come from thinking “deeply” as Don Draper says. It’s that deep thinking—setting goals, writing creative briefs, and field-testing—that gives your creative daydreams a real hook in the hearts and minds of your best-fit clients.


 

Want to explore how you can pair your inner muse with logic and strategy to transform your brand? Then check out Lab Monkey Brand Academy. Registration closes April 26th. Class is limited to 20 participants. Click the button below to learn more!

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