Sometimes Good Ideas Just Need a Little Boost: On WDS 2014

World Domination Summit

Image via Armosa Studio

At the professional conferences I’ve attended, there’s often a sense that everyone’s leaving with a few key ideas written down, tweeted, and held onto for inspiration coming home. At the World Domination Summit (WDS), I got the impression that every person was leaving there with a unique personal goal or idea top of mind.

The thing is, while attendance at WDS can offer some distinct professional benefits, it’s not a conference about work. It’s a conference about ideas. That means the takeaways for different people who attend are all over the map; whether that’s a more defined commitment to writing more often, an excitement to get started creating a course for digital nomads or the kick in the butt you’ve been needing to actually create that business plan and start your own business.

The result of attending WDS is that you really think about whatever it is in life that you want or need the most, and you leave with the inspiration required to start doing it.

Since this blog is about marketing and copywriting, it took me a little while to think of how best to tie in what I learned at WDS with the kind of topics I cover here. When it comes down to it, I realized one of the big lessons of my time in Portland could be applied as easily to content marketing or blogging as it can to a wide array of other tasks, professions, or goals: sometimes your ideas just need a little boost.

This guy hiked in a dress for charity. Image via Armosa Studios

Somewhere in the back of your head you probably know just what your life <ahem>, I mean marketing plan, needs, but you aren’t ready to put in the work or time or take the risk you’ve been considering. Ideas can have a lot of power, we just have to do something with them.

If you have an awesome idea…and then stop there, you won’t get much out of it. If you have an idea that sounds crazy like hiking in dresses for charity, building a tiny house (with no previous building experience), or walking everywhere you go for several years (all ideas turned into action by WDS attendees), sometimes you’ll get more out of it than you’d ever imagined. But only if you actually do it.

The Content Marketing Institute recently wrote about a new commitment their team is trying out: putting 10% of their time and resources toward brainstorming and tackling ideas that seem a little out there – either because they’re risky, untested, or just seem too big to accomplish. This isn’t a new idea, it was inspired by a policy at Google that was also employed by Jonathan Mildenhall in the marketing department at Coca Cola.

It might be tempting to say, “well sure, huge businesses like Coca Cola and Google can take creative risks, but we have a budget to stick to,” but that’s an easy excuse. The individuals at WDS get out there and take crazy risks on much smaller budgets than your average business marketing department has access to. You just have to be willing to give that good idea a boost, instead of getting mired in the all the excuses not to do it.

WDS gave many of its attendees that boost, but you can find your own. Think right now: “what’s the thing I’d really like to do next, but keep stopping myself from diving into?”

Now, just decide to do it. Good luck.

Norman Bel Geddes: Advertising Idea Man

When Norman Bel Geddes was asked to design an advertising campaign for a new type of gasoline for Shell Oil, he designed a futuristic city. Why just sell people gas if you can make them dream about a future with more cars, but less traffic?

His “City of Tomorrow” campaign managed to make cars and driving an essential component in an exciting idea for the future. It accomplished the company’s marketing interests, while also going a step beyond to inspire an interest in innovation for many who viewed the advertisement.

The 1930’s campaign imagined cities of the 1960’s with highway systems and skyscrapers – cities designed with the efficiency to house more people and make it easier for them to get around. It showed cities that seemed like a distant dream to people of the time, but mostly look kind of familiar to us now.

Bel Geddes took his ideas even further at the famous “Futurama” exhibit at the 1939 New York World Fair. This is the creation that Bel Geddes is most remembered for. His sizable dioarama of another proposed city of the future, attracted huge crowds and was the talk of the town. Funded by and representing General Motors this time, it was another example of Bel Geddes going far beyond the needs of the brand and supplying his client with a piece of advertising that would far outlive most in its cultural influence and memory.

Shell and General Motors benefited from the ideas of Bel Geddes, but the influence of those ideas went far beyond the companies and made an impact on how cities were conceived and designed moving forward. Not all of Bel Geddes’ suggestions for better cities have been widely incorporated, but enough have to make his influence on how our cities look today undeniable.

The best marketing comes from ideas that aren’t just about selling a product. They give the audience something to think about, care about, or provide something of tangible value. Bel Geddes’ idea hit the jackpot, appealing to all three of these. The man was inventive and innovative on a level few people can reach. Even without access to that level of creative genius, there’s an easy to achieve marketing lesson to take away from his work.

Don’t just sell when you can inspire, make people think, or equip them with information of value to them. Go beyond making a case for why your product’s good and think of ways its uses can be tied to information or stories that will educate, entertain, or otherwise satisfy a need or desire that your target audience has.

What Bel Geddes did was content marketing long before the term became common in marketing circles. It’s just one more way he was ahead of his time.

*Images and a more thorough article on the “City of Tomorrow” campaign here.