May the 4th is a wonderful avenue to spark creative conversations. As a child, I rewound the tape of the 1984 CBS broadcast of Star Wars about 3,720 times (or about the same as the odds of surviving an asteroid field). I spent countless hours running in my hallway and hiding in doorways reenacting the opening scene of Star Wars. So, yeah, Star Wars means something to me.
But there’s one quote in particular from the countless quotes from the series, that I feel resonates with my profession in the Creative industry:
“Fear is the path to the dark side.”
In other words, Fear can ruin any creative concept. The dark side equates to videos that simply take up space on the internet. They exist but don’t get views. Videos that do nothing.
That’s because differences are made in this world by overcoming Fear. Fortune favors the Bold.
When it comes to Marketing, standing out and making a difference is extremely difficult. It’s literally the Holy Grail that we all seek as creatives – the campaign that catches fire, or the video that goes viral. Yet, no matter the stakes of the situation – whether it’s a simple post or a million-dollar ad campaign, Fear inhibits Creativity. We’re afraid to put ourselves out there because… what if things go wrong?
Too often we ignore our gut, and go with what’s safe because there’s certainty in Safe. We won’t be on the hook for making the wrong choice. We’ll keep our job for another day.
But safe creates Mediocrity
and Mediocracy doesn’t move needles or inspire anyone to take action. Safe treads water.
We didn’t get into this profession to play things safe, or to be average. We got into this profession because we want to make a difference. Make an impact. And Marketing gives us so many incredible opportunities to do so.
Early in my career, I made bold decisions. Put myself out there. And fell flat on my face. A lot. No, I won’t get into what those were at the moment… that’s for future postings. What I will say though, is that looking back, I realize that I fell flat because I often lacked the knowledge and insight to know how to do bold things the right way. I had passion, but lacked experience.
To me – this is where the Dark Side of Creative exists. The temptation for us to learn the wrong lesson from failure. The notion that we can take those failures and instead of learning how we can make Bold better, Fear takes over, and we step back from being Bold… and start playing things safe. Because we learn that Safe won’t hurt us.
But as we grow, we learn. A lot. We gain the experience we lacked when we were full of passion and full of Bold. We learn how the marketing industry really works. We learn how marketing teams function. We learn about the complexities in making decisions and how they impact a brand. The irony is – by the time we attain the wisdom to make Bold better, it can often come too late. We can lose that edge. There’s a temptation from the Dark Side to convince ourselves that Safe works because that’s the easier path. Safe can be good enough. Safe doesn’t ruffle feathers. It keeps us off the hook.
The problem is,
that effective marketing doesn’t favor Safe. If you play things safe, your message gets lost, overlooked, or scrolled by. Safe gets a few eyeballs, a few attendees, a few purchases. In Marketing, Safe might meet expectations. But it prevents us from reaching our true potential. It’s a path that we can easily walk down, and many of us take, because it makes our lives easier.
But even if you go down that path, there’s still… good… inside you. Every now and again, that urge to do something bold boils up inside. Like Darth Vader, that flame hasn’t quite burned out. We come up with an idea that can be great. An idea that can make a difference.
And the Dark Side is waiting there. Fear keeps us back. We question whether or not an idea would really work. What if we say the wrong thing, make the wrong statement or use the wrong talent?
Occasionally, we get caught in decision paralysis – when we feel that a bold direction should be taken… yet we don’t have the data to support it or we can’t get our team to buy into an idea that we know can be special. In those cases, Fear takes over, and we start rationalizing to ourselves all of the reasons why an idea won’t work. “My manager will never approve this.” or, “The client won’t go for this,” or “We’ve never done anything like this before.” So… we do nothing.
But how do we overcome Fear in Creative? How do we overcome these perceived barriers to create something special?
In my opinion, Fear is overcome by Trust. Whether that’s trust in yourself, or Trust in another individual or Trust in your team… You can’t overcome Fear if you do not believe in yourself. You cannot overcome Fear without the support of your colleagues or your team. Trust gives you the strength to overcome Fear. Trust in yourself that even if your idea fails, you’ll learn from it, grow from it, and incorporate that into your next bold idea. Trust enables you to move forward and take the necessary risks to be Bold and truly make an impact for your brand.
You simply cannot be afraid to be creative.