Scientific Study Asks, “Are You Creative?”

HomerQuick — do any of these apply to you?

 * Ideational Fluency – Someone gives you a word. The more sentences, ideas, and associations you can match to that word, the more likely it is you’re a “creative type.”

 * Variety and Flexibility – Someone gives you an object, say a garden hose. How many different things can you do with it? The more you can think of, the better.

 * Original Problem Solving – Someone presents you with a puzzle or a problem. Beyond the conventional solution, how many other workable but uncommon solutions can you come up with?

 * Elaboration – How far can you carry an idea? That is, once you have it, can you build on it until you can actually carry it out in application?

 * Problem Sensitivity – When someone presents you with a problem, how many challenges related to that problem can you identify? More importantly, can you zero in on the core or most important challenge?

 * Redefinition – Take a look at the same problem. Can you find a way to look at it in a completely different light?

Say researchers published in Scientific American, while their isn’t really a measurable “Creativity Quotient” (C.Q.) that they can pin to any set standard, it just so happens that a lot of creative people share some or all of the traits I just told you about.

How’d you fare?

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Pixar’s Rules For Storytelling – Business Insider

Former Pixar storyboard artist Emma Coats reveals some behind-the-scenes wisdom.

What makes for a good — no, strike that, great — story?

Nobody knows better than a copywriter how well a well-told story can bust through barriers of resistance. When in doubt on how to start your sales letter, after all, tell a story… right?

 

And if you have young kids — we do — you also know that few have figured out how to tell a story better than the folks over at Pixar. It’s no accident that they’ve got a perfect record with all their releases.

Even their lesser movies (Cars 2, I’m looking at you) were blockbusters.

In this classic post, a Pixar insider reveals the secret. Or, as the case happens to be, secrets — 22 in all.

Check out the original post, over at Business Insider… 

Source: Pixar’s Rules For Storytelling – Business Insider

P.S. You can also pick up an annotated e-book version here.

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9 Ways The Mind Resists Persuasion and How To Sustain or Overcome Them – PsyBlog

Running into resistance, when you set out to make sales?

Maybe that’s because you’re running up against one of these nine big roadblocks to persuasion.

Fortunately, say these psych professionals, all nine of these common obstacles are easily overcome.

See here to find out how…

9 Ways The Mind Resists Persuasion and How To Sustain or Overcome Them – PsyBlog

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What Trump Gets Seriously Wrong…

Nope, I’m not gearing up for a political diatribe. That’s not our beat. But when it comes to productivity, there’s been another topic on my mind…

What’s the one thing that Donald Trump… and Martha Stewart… and talented film and TV hottie Elizabeth Banks… also my wife and sometimes me… oh, and, way too many Americans… get all wrong?

It’s pretty well summed here, in a scathing critique of an epidemic error that, quite possibly, Americans are more inclined to make than most.

Check out the source link below to find out what. (And yes, relax, Cupcake, I did say this has nothing to do with politics)…

Source: Even These Successful People Are Terribly Misguided About This One Important Thing

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We’ll Always Have Paris…

A lot of you guys have asked how we’ve fared here in Paris, after the shootings on Friday the 13th.

I thank you for that. It was thoughtful, considerate… and heartwarming… to hear from so many people. At last count, probably over 350 or so, between Facebook, emails and calls.

We are fine.

Rattled and sad about it all… but fine.

When the shootings happened, we were out to dinner with friends, about a mile from the attacks. We heard the news when our waiter brought our bill. We high-tailed it home, on side streets, to get back to the kids, who were without a sitter. (They’re getting just old enough.)

Everybody we know here is okay too, though some live close — about 100 meters — up the street from on of the deadliest cafe shootings… another lives near the Bataclan… and one more friend, a journalist, was at the stadium covering the game.

Friends of friends weren’t as lucky. It seems like everybody knows somebody who was killed or injured at one of the sites.

We’ve also been asked many times since what we think about the events and what we expect will happen next. I gave an interview about it to a friend, on national radio. But the truth is… I have no idea. Nor does anybody.

Save for outpourings of grief and sympathy, I’ve heard little that seems like a just response.

Not the political solutions, not the podium pounding, not the peripheral paranoia.

And yet, here in Paris… Already, the cafes are full again. So are the streets and busses. We’re back to business as usual. And I think, but can’t be sure, that’s a good thing.

 

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7 Easy Ways to Get More From Writers

whipsmart.pngWhat’s the single best way to make sure you get what
you want out of the writers you’ll hire?

I’ll give you not just one but seven easy ways to guarantee a quality result, in today’s issue.

And by the way, don’t skip this if you’re the writer instead of the client… because this list could make your job infinitely easier too, simply by showing you what to ask for from anybody who hires you.

But before we jump in…

What to Know Even Before You Pick Up The Phone

First and foremost, one of the BIG reasons some businesses don’t get what they want from copywriters… is because they’re not exactly sure what it is they hope to get, right from the start.

Sure I do, you say.

I want sales.

Isn’t that pretty simple?

Yes. But be careful.

Why?

Because you can boost sales in a number of ways. Some ways are true to your product, some are not.

And a sale that’s followed by a slew of cancellations or refunds is no sale at all.

What’s more, there’s often another subconscious motivator that gets in the way of even the best marketer’s intentions.

And that is, of course, your ego.

How so? If your ego is inflated by selling more of a quality product your customers want, that’s good.

But too often, that’s now how it plays out.

Take, for instance, the jillions blown by “brand” advertisers on things like Superbowl ads.

Are those funny but pointless spots really about selling more product? Or are they more likely self-congratulatory spots set out to appeal to an advertisers sense of importance?

Ads like those let advertisers feel great about themselves, their businesses, and their brand.

They are the echelon of “hip,” the pinnacle of product entries in a pulchritude contest, the bountiful beauty in which those advertisers will bask like buffalo in a basin of… okay, I’m running out of ‘b’ words… but the point is, so-called advertising often does very little to get sales, despite all intentions to the contrary.

Ego that forces a message that offers no substance or promise to your target market is, in a word, a waste.

And finally, you need to be aware that even if you ARE sensibly focused on boosting your bottom line, there are different KINDS of sales you’ll want to make. And different strategies that precede those sales.

For instance, if you’re out to sell a high volume of a low-priced item… to a whole new set of names… that demands one kind of copy. If you’re looking to convert current customers for more sales, that’s something else (almost) entirely.

If you want to raise the price on something you’ve sold before, that’s something else. And if you’re looking to sell something high-end to previously low-end buyers, that’s something different yet again.

“Soft offer” pitches work uniquely… as do time-limited pricing offers… product launches… and even those pitches that create a whole new product category altogether.

Then… you’ve got the pitches that need to combine one or more of the marketing strategies above. And we haven’t even talked about your cost restrictions, list selections, and the rest.

You see what I’m getting at.

Bottom line, and this is important for you to soak up before I take you anywhere else: The MAIN thing you can do to better guarantee you’ll get what you want from the copywriters you hire is to figure out exactly WHAT it is you want to happen, first.

The better you know your strategy in advance, the better you can prep the copywriter before you bring him or her into the equation.

That understood, what comes next?

Now we get into the meat…

Seven Ways To Make Your Writer Write Better

In my experience, on both sides of the copy contract, here are seven easy ways to get more from your writers.

And again, writers, you read these too. Because it can’t hurt to know how good clients think, can it?

Here we go…

1) CHERRY-PICK YOUR WRITER

Let’s face it. Each copywriter, especially a good one, has his niche.

Some work with one kind of product well. Some with others. Some are great at telling stories. Others can work wonders with a track record.

If you’ve been in business any amount of time, you’ll start to know which writers have which talents. And you’ll match them carefully to your products.

Copywriters, there’s a lesson here for us too: Know your strengths and capitalize on them.

Make sure you accept the projects that fit with your talents. Unless you’re up to the challenge, avoid the projects that don’t.

2) HEAP ON THE RESEARCH

The better informed the copywriter, the better — usually — the copy he’ll crank out.

So if you’ve got the material, flaunt it.

You might resent, as I’ve seen some marketers do, the idea of doing footwork for someone you’ve hired to do just that.

But the fact is, even great copywriters will work even better if you arm with material to start the job.

Copywriters, there’s a lesson here too, albeit an obvious one: Writer’s block, fluff-laden copy, empty leads and offers and headlines… they all go away when you throw relevant specificity into your sales pieces.

Insist on asking for as much background material as you can get your hands on, at the very start of the assignment.

3) TALK IT OUT, AT LEAST TWICE

Talk to your copywriter at least twice — in detail — about what you’re hoping for in the first draft.

Talk once at the very start of the assignment and then ask to talk again, just to make sure the writer is on the right track.

And this, with enough lead time to make any changes before he or she turns in the first draft.

Copywriters: Realize that, as much as it’s essential to work alone and to protect undeveloped ideas, it’s also astounding what clarity you can get from a simple half-hour phone call.

If you wait for it to happen, it’s a distraction when it comes. But if you pursue the conversation, you might actually help the marketer clarify in his own mind exactly what he’s looking for.

4) PROVIDE A POINT MAN

I can tell you from personal experience, there’s nothing worse — when you’re working on selling someone’s sales copy — to have to hunt down someone, anyone, who will answer your emails to help you gather the things you need to complete the task.

Give your copywriter a gift up front — a handshake and introduction to a trusted person on the inside who will take calls and emails and attend to them promptly, as if completing the sales copy actually meant something to the organization doing the hiring.

And copywriters, don’t leave the scene of a first meeting without the name of this person.

Any client who can’t provide one, avoid working with more than once. They don’t take their marketing seriously.

5) LEARN HOW TO GIVE FEEDBACK

Patton’s quote at the start of today’s issue notwithstanding, sometimes you’re going to need a lot more in the way of first-draft feedback than, “doesn’t quite work” or “needs more” scribbled in the margins.

When I review copy, I famously almost double the original document length with my suggestions and comments. Nothing gets left to interpretation. Tell them more rather than less.

When something works, tell them that — absolutely. And when it doesn’t, tell them that too.

But tell them why.

If the writer is worth his salt, he’ll have a much better idea of how to make things right.

Copywriters, you need to push for this kind of feedback too. You’re not out to bait for praise or battle critiques. The whole process of review is to delve deeper into what your client wants — needs — from you to get the job done.

6) COME CLEAN ON DEADLINES

It might feel like courtesy to give your creative team lots of breathing room.

But, really, you’re much better off coming clean about your deadlines right up front.

Tell them what you need and when.

Some especially busy copywriters might have to turn you down. But if the time is available to work within those parameters, the pros will appreciate your clarity and efficiency.

Copywriters, this of course applies to us too.

Half of us are in this business because we like the freedom of setting our own schedules.

But to make that work, you have to… well… set them. That means making sure you know up front what’s being asked of you.

Insist on establishing this early in the game.

7) CUT THE FAIREST DEAL

The best businessmen I know don’t mess around trying to gain an upper hand. Nor do they give away the store.

They focus instead on the middle ground, making sure both sides benefit when a strategy pans out.

Between client and copywriter, that often means a royalty on sales. The better a piece performs, the more you both make.

Sure, some of the best copywriters do flat-fee only. But those fees are high… along with the quality of the copy they’ve earned a reputation for producing.

Copywriters, heed this: You’ll generally do your best work if your biggest payoff is performance-based.

Client or copywriter, I hope all that came in handy!

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The Transubstantiation of a Cheeseburger

bigmacSometime back, I read the book “Fast Food Nation.”

In many places, the book is the anti-junk diatribe I expected. And it also takes pain to reveal secret histories of two American icons, McDonald’s and Disney, that are none too flattering.

However, the part where we learn how both Walt Disney and Ray Kroc found their footing in the American mindset actually left me a little more impressed than it did disgusted.

Why?

 For one thing, both never went to college. Both served in the same ambulance corps during World War II. Both could have prickly personalities. And both could be ruthless in business. But even the author of the book had to admit, both had built something out of nothing. And they did it in ways you and I could learn from.

For instance, Kroc famously got his ideas for the McDonald’s franchise while selling milkshake machines to local restaurants. And Disney got his idea for Mickey Mouse while using a garage for an art studio, since he couldn’t afford to rent a real one.

 Lots of us have ideas. Some that could set the world on fire. What’s rare is making the ideas into reality. And what’s even more rare is taking the small ideas and making them into something very large. 

 One way Disney pulled it off was by virtually inventing product placement in movies and around his theme parks. Nobody else had thought to do that until Walt suggested it. Now it’s common practice.

Something else Walt did was figure out how to build a groundswell anticipation for the “magic” of Disneyland. He even turned the building of the park into a weekly show that broadcast progress updates on how the park was coming together.

 By the time he was done, Mickey and Donald and Goofy — formerly just ink on animation cells — had taken shape in people’s minds as living, breathing characters. With a home of their own, in Disneyland. A place you could visit yourself. You could become part of the fantasy.

 All from a little idea. 

McDonald’s tried to do something similar. He wasn’t just another guy with a shop that made hamburgers. He tried to give his product personality, first with “Speedy the Cheeseburger” which then became “Archie McDonald” and, finally, the “Ronald McDonald” we know today (who, by the way, was originally a character invented by and played by famous weatherman Willard Scott, then deemed “too fat” to continue in the role).

Ronald McDonald, for better or worse, is more recognizable worldwide today than images of Jesus Christ. So say the marketing studies. And more than 90% of children in the U.S. can recognize the ‘golden arches’ before they can recognize their own names written on a page. (Certainly, our children can… and we try not to go there too often.)

Did McDonald’s commercials target kids? They did, alas. But at least they knew how to hit the audience… with tales of “McDonaldland,” a magical place where presumably cholesterol isn’t an issue and french fries don’t make you fat, and which prospered under the able and benevolent dictatorship of “Mayor McCheese.”

 The point: Love or hate what these two businesses have become, you can’t help but soak up the lesson: Both Kroc and Disney intuitively realized that the bigger the aura they could give their product, the bigger the space it could claim in the minds and hearts of the customers.

In other words, sometimes a cheeseburger — or a mouse or anything else — can be more than just that.

 

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How to Write Faster

Regardless of what kind of writing you do, says a study from the National Writing Project of Louisiana, three key components seemed to have the biggest influence on how creatively productive you’ll be.  What are those components?

1) A More Consistent Working Environment:

Almost all of the writers in the study had a designated ‘place’ where they did all their best writing.  Simply being there gave them focus. I concur.  I can write almost anywhere — but I prefer dark, quiet spaces.  I travel a lot, but have a designated spot in each of the five spaces I typically find myself in during a given year.

I also need certain “supplies” to get going.  A long yellow legal pad or a tab of French graph paper.  Black Bic pens.  My ever-present Macbook Pro.

Environment includes sound, of course.  Personally, I work best with dead quiet.  Or sometimes, music.  But anything with lyrics is poison.  I know other many other writers –including copywriters — who agree.

Classical or jazz.  Bach Cello Suites or the Goldberg Variations.  Chopin Etudes.  Beethoven’s piano sonatas.  “Kind of Blue” or “Some Day My Prince Will Come” by Miles Davis.  Old Coltrane (but not the crazier, more recent stuff).

(Caveat: I know at least one brilliant copywriter who keeps the TV droning on in the background!  I couldn’t do it.  But it works for him.)

2) A Set Time For Working:

If you’re a freelancer, working outside of an office environment, this might be a hard truth to face. Yet, almost all the writers in the study said they wrote better if they did so at a certain time, the same time, every single day.

And best of all, if you write in the morning. I know, I know. I sympathize with anyone who says they prefer to work at night. I used to be one myself. But having young kids, who don’t understand why Dad won’t come away from the computer, has changed that. And for the better.

Not only am I much more productive when I get good work done early, but I’m happier too. And yes, all the best copywriters I know also get started early.  And not just early, but make sure the first thing you do is start working on your largest project, too.  No e-mails.  No phone calls.  Writing first, trivial stuff later.

(Remember when there was no email? Could you imagine wasting two hours a day sending and receiving faxes with your buddies? Of course you couldn’t. Just because email is more automatic doesn’t mean it’s any better for you.)

And then there’s the intelligent use of deadlines, as long as we’re talking about time for writing. Even daily deadlines. It’s the pressure — the end goal — that makes you move more quickly. Consider the famous Eugene Schwarz story. Everyday, to get himself started, he’d set his egg timer to 33.33 minutes. Then he sat down to write, even if it just meant staring at the blank page until beads of blood formed on his forehead.

3) Last, Rituals that Boost Confidence

This last component — writer’s behavior rituals — was the broadest category of observed creativity patterns.

It’s critical to how productive you are.  Unfortunately, it’s the most ambiguous.

For instance, some of the rituals writers had in the Louisiana study didn’t seem to have anything to do with writing at all.

Sharpening pencils.  Wearing lucky sweaters.  Using a certain coffee mug.  The theory was that the consistency of the rituals bred confidence, and helped melt away potential “writer’s block” anxiety.

That may be true.  What seems just as true is that some rituals manage to mildly distract your senses so your subconscious can get to work.

Walking, for example, seems to work for writers. The next time you’re feeling around for an idea, fast track it by filling up your mind with information about what you hope to sell… and then stepping outside for a stroll.

If not that, then a drive.  Or a shower.

4) Bonus Tip:

You say you’ve tried all that and you’re still stuck?

Try re-working your diet.  The January 19 issue of “Science” reports a single protein in the brain – SCN – that controls your entire ‘master clock,’ allowing you to feel awake or tired, hot or cold, bleary or focused, etc.

Just two days of tinkering with eating schedules in lab rats threw off the SCN balance in the brain.

Eating a light, protein-centric breakfast can help you stay focused on anything.  Lunch, on the other hand, should be light or even skipped. A lot of people claim they can think better on an empty stomach (yours truly included).

I hope all those ideas help.

Okay, some more last minute ways to get jumpstarted — most of them, a rehash of ideas we’ve talked about in past issues.  Ready? Write out ideas on index cards.  Talk ideas into a tape recorder. Sketch out the pages of your promo, even before writing a single word.  Copy a strong lead paragraph two or three times. Go to bed early tonight.  Study the outline behind your last great promo.  Start re-reading your pile of research from top to bottom. Good luck!

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