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John Rose's Blog

Marketing Zombies

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You can find them in all businesses large and small -- including supposedly creative fields like advertising and entertainment. They're the ones who always play it safe, find comfort in repeating and rehashing old ideas, are afraid of bright colors, offbeat design, or anything that will make them or their work stand out in a crowd or, heaven forbid, invite criticism. They survive in the shadows and fear the limelight. I call them Marketing Zombies.

Marketing Zombies aren’t like the zombies you see in the movies. Their bodies aren’t dead…just their imaginations. Not the un-dead...just the un-imaginative. You know who they are.


In order to survive, much like their horror movie equivalents, Marketing Zombies eat brains...figuratively, of course (though I have occasionally felt a gnawing at the back of my head). They feed off the ideas of others and never attempt to do anything that has not been done before. Sometimes they are in management positions where they must approve creative ideas, but never have an original thought of their own. Let's not name names.

Apparently, Marketing Zombies are contagious. That's why you usually see them in packs...the bland leading the bland. Sometimes whole companies can turn into Marketing Zombies. But these businesses are easily spotted: they have to sell their products for the lowest price.

No one sets out to be a Marketing Zombie, of course. We all have rich imaginations as children. Our young minds are programmed to be more prone to make-believe than more sober pursuits. But as we grow older, things change. Some of us keep a bit of the child inside us and retain the ability to let our minds wander to places where anything is possible. But most people leave all that 'silly nonsense' behind to pursue more serious endeavors... never, it seems, to have another creative thought.

If you fear you may be turning into a Marketing Zombie, it may not be too late to change. The hardest step may actually be deciding to be creative...and announcing it to the world. The quick fix? Arrive at work tomorrow with a creative idea and TELL people about it. You have to risk mockery and derision by colleagues and superiors if you ever hope to accomplish something wonderful. Anyone can become creative if they are ready to work at it and are willing to take risks. Like most precious things in life, it requires effort and tenacity.

Marketing Creativity is a combination of knowledge (you have to know the business and product you are promoting along with what has been done before), experience (you have to know how to execute your ideas) and bravery (you have to believe in your idea and have the cojones to sell it). Bravery is perhaps the most important ingredient of all, since without it, ideas never see the light of day.

Early in my career I was once told: if an idea doesn't make your palms sweat, it probably isn't very good. So if you want to be creative, you need sweaty palms and a close eye out for Marketing Zombies.

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