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How to Speak Creative

As Sharon Rothstein, the CMO I worked under at Starbucks, often said, “marketing is a team sport.” Sounds like an empty cliche, but look closer: There’s a really important insight in that statement. Nobody in marketing can accomplish anything meaningful by themselves. It takes people with a wide variety of understandings and approaches--analysts, creatives, operators, planners, doers--to produce marketing output that makes a difference to the business.

Originally published

February 24, 2021

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Marketing teams today encompass a wide breadth of functional activities (and the more technology continues to drive specialization, a trend I see no reason to think will reverse itself, the more multivariate marketing teams will become). 

As Sharon Rothstein, the CMO I worked under at Starbucks, often said, “marketing is a team sport.” Sounds like an empty cliche, but look closer: There’s a really important insight in that statement. Nobody in marketing can accomplish anything meaningful by themselves. It takes people with a wide variety of understandings and approaches--analysts, creatives, operators, planners, doers--to produce marketing output that makes a difference to the business. And increasingly, those people speak different languages. This presents a huge challenge. 

And it’s exactly what we’re working on at Jove. Put simply, bringing the data people and the creative people into effective dialog. That means, first and foremost, establishing a common language and shared understanding across the gulf that too often separates marketers who orient themselves around the data and marketers who orient themselves around creativity and brand expression. 

There is a lot to unpack here, so I’ll start with this. Data people, here’s how to talk to your creatives:


Use adjectives. Try it. It’s a magical exercise.


Use emotion words. It feels good--you’ll see.


Use brand language. Adopt the vocabulary your creativity-oriented teammates use in the process of producing, describing, and evaluating the team’s creative output.  


Don't be afraid of conjecture. Facts all by themselves don’t actually work very hard. Connect them to speculations and beliefs to make meaning. Just be honest about your level of certainty.


Speak thematically. Talk about WHY, not just what. Connect related facts to each other through generalizations, then offer challenges to the generalizations by pointing out exceptions and outliers. 


Above all, don't believe the stereotypes about how creative people think or what they do and don't care about. Don’t underestimate their curiosity, commitment to results, or most especially their intelligence.

Everybody I’ve ever worked with has been pretty darn smart and had a lot to contribute. Where marketers struggle, it’s very rarely an individual failure and almost always a failure of the team to communicate effectively across functions. It matters a lot because as Sharon said, no matter what your individual job is, you’re part of a team with shared goals. We're in it together! 💪🏻


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, last updated on

February 24, 2021

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