Paul Gauguin: the great writer.
Evelyn Waugh: the great painter.
Hold on a moment … is that correct? Wasn’t Gauguin a painter and Waugh a writer?
The answer is ‘yes’ and ‘yes’.
Because when you open Paul Gauguin’s Tahiti notebook, Noa Noa, you’ll see he was a writer with no small amount of genius.
If you enjoy feasting your eyes on a Gauguin canvas you’ll love running them over a page written by the painter.
Had he chosen to, Gauguin might have achieved as much with his pen as he did with his brush.
Evelyn Waugh is said to be the 20th century’s finest writer in the English language. What confirms his brilliance in books like Brideshead Revisited is his ability as a portraitist.
With an amazing economy of words you get a picture of a character or a place that is uncannily vibrant and lifelike.
But Waugh wanted first and foremost to be painter, which explains his ability to see with a sharper eye.
Applied to business, the multi-talent approach could be a strong way forward for product companies and ad agencies.
CEOs are already working in this way across many areas of their businesses from finance to logistics. But how about a heavy up for marketing?
Certainly there’s a feeling today, echoed by Bill Hewlett of Hewlett Packard, that marketing and communications are too important to be left just to the marketing department.
After all, public perception and your presence online are continually shaping a your brand and ultimately your stock price.
So, like many CEOs you may already be slipping into meetings with your marketers.
But if you’re out to make your sales curve look like a mountaineering success, be sure to know as much as they do. Be equally effective.
For starters get up to speed on social media and understand how it integrates with your marketing plan.
Books like Enchantment, The Art of Changing Hearts, Minds and Actions by Guy Kawasaki can help.
There’s also the Shiv Singh book, Social Media Marketing for Dummies.
Equally, you can page through award books like Communication Arts to gain a better view of messaging through the digital lens and develop greater insight into the rich relationship between brands and customers today.
Award books are more than an ego boost for creatives. You’ll see ideas that drive differentiation and work that displays the most important qualities of content … surprise value and the ability to go against the flow to change minds.
Your agency is another source of marketing commonsense.
Talk to the social media people about what your brand feels like to those who encounter it in daily life and online. Get to know how well-judged content can change market behavior to your advantage.
Look for trends and try to ride them. On that subject, the French cheese, La Vache Qui Rit, was approved by the hip South Beach Diet. Accordingly, sales jumped 250%.
Spend time with your account director to review product opportunities and competitive activity. Resist the temptation to evaluate KPIs on assumed knowledge and go for meaningful analytics.
Introduce yourself to your agency’s creative people and become familiar with how they’re trained to push boundaries with fresh thinking that can continually present your brand anew.
Find out how art directors and writers turn can logic into the kind of emotion that works for the moment someone buys. Get to know how the tech people think about message delivery and while you’re at it, ask about the future of mobile.
A strong integrated agency team — creatives plus tech people — can help you avoid commercial autism and content that’s the marketing equivalent of dog-paddle.
You might well agree, there’s far too much iffy work out there.
A CEO’s involvement should also contribute to a better brief for your agency. When your agency’s creative people know more, they can do more.
Combining your C-level management skills with strong marketing abilities will also serve you well when you’re sitting on a committee to evaluate new strategies and content.
On that point, if you feel uneasy about a campaign because you’ve never seen anything like it before, smile broadly. Your creative team could well be on track for success.
Breakthrough work never makes people feel cozy. After all, when they were first shown in Paris, Gauguin’s paintings prompted unease and doubt from the experts.
But then what did those blinkered critics know?