How original is that, really?


Group-think is rampant in marketing. Every few days someone publishes a renamed or rebranded version of something that someone else said that they got from some guru in the marketing world. Dieting, fashion, sports—name the industry, it’s been done. They polish it with a clever title, call it theirs. Either original thinking is scarce or it’s not getting any clicks.

Maybe both.

I was part of that world for a while, trying to figure out best practices and hacks. Thinking, “Wow, this will be the thing that launches me into marketing superstardom.” I’ll follow this blueprint or that process and my result will be exactly the same as theirs.

Except it doesn’t work that way (at least for me).

In marketing, which copywriting falls into, the original stuff has longevity. Think about Seinfeld (believed doomed to fail—read about it in Adam Grant’s “Originals”) and Juliana Bicycles (the first women’s brand of mountain bikes, one of which sits on my patio right now). It’s also, in my opinion, more fun. It takes the job from systematic process of plugging in your customer’s problem + your value proposition = headline to art. And art, as anyone who’s ever finger-painted or played with a Polaroid knows, is more fun. More enriching. Makes the world feel like a better place.

Remixing is cool. It’s connecting dots. It’s breakbeat. It’s not stealing someone else’s song, renaming it, changing a few lines in the first verse, and calling it yours. It’s mixed media art, pop culture graffiti, upcycling, custom builds, patchwork, journalism.

The weird thing about the internet and content marketing is that because it’s so easy to publish now, everyone does it. Every day, we read these group-think articles by people who desperately want to be seen but are probably still figuring it out. They’re doing what they think they should be doing. We’re watching their creative process unfold. It’s a little awkward.

While it’s crazy to say we need permission to express our originality, I think that’s part of the problem. Original Thinkers are outsiders by nature. But I think we all have original thoughts that don’t get expressed simply because it’s uncomfortable, and because we haven’t sat long enough with these thoughts to understand them. The muse is dangling them above us, just out of reach.

But they’re there. And we need more of them. Marketing needs more of them.