Success on the social web? It all boils down to this.

Do you want to look like a genius at your company?  Walk into a meeting and say, “Future Internet Marketing success all boils down to one thing: Creativity.”

If they ask you why, tell them I told you to say this.  Then they will say “Who the hell is that?” and it will probably go downhill from there.

Nevertheless, if you do make this statement, you will be right because something incredible is about to happen. We’ve spent the past few years establishing a technological foundation and distributing smart mobile devices (I am including iPad in this category) and we have now reached critical mass.

At the same time, the cost of developing and distributing content has plummeted. The competitive focus is going to shift. It HAS to. The battlefield will move from selling phones and developing mindless apps for every brand to creating mind-boggling digital concepts that hold customers hostage.

Have you tried this stupid little game called Angry Birds? I got hooked on it a few weeks ago (damn that level 12) and this is the new standard for orgasmic creativity. The game is so stupid that you can’t let it go. You fling birds and blow up green pigs. Now why is it birds? Why not jars of peanut butter? Why isn’t it called Angry Corn Flakes? Why not fling Michelin tires or something?

By the way, this game cost $100,000 to develop and has brought in $10 million in revenue, one 99-cent download at a time.

Creativity has never gone out of fashion, but we are about to see something amazing stir as the perfect storm of consumer access, social simplicity, and technological ubiquity collide.

How do you capitalize on this? If you read one book on creativity, make it Innovation and Entrepreneurship by Peter Drucker. It occupies a permanent place on my office book shelf. I love this book so much because it provides a practical, hands-on guide to actually delivering the goods in a company, scientifically and systematically.

This book was written before the days you could have one idea, surround it with stories, and call it a book. This is a FRAMEWORK.  The thing that blows me away is that more companies haven’t followed this book word-for-word. It’s not easy, even with Professor Drucker behind you.

Officially, this is the first blog in history to feature Angry Birds and Peter Drucker in the same post.

If you think it’s difficult to get noticed on the social web, you ain’t seen nothing yet.  It is going to get much harder.  Exponentially harder. Here are four reasons:

1) China, etc. Are you worried about how your social media strategy is playing in China? India? Egypt? It’s kind of irrelevant right now isn’t it?  That is going to change.The world is joining us.

2) Speed. The rate of change is incredible so there has to be a premium on new ideas, a constant torrent of new concepts.

3) Volume. The volume of the social/mobile/content web is a 10 and it is about to go to an 11. Blogs are noise (Except this one. And yours, of course.) Twitter is a wall of chatter and getting noisier.  People go to Facebook to block out marketers, not embrace them.  How are you going to cut through?

4) Mash-ups. The convergence of content, technology and delivery systems is about to hit hyper-drive. The Internet will be the air. The web will be displayed through your glasses (and everybody will wear glasses – buy stock in Lens Crafter). The heat and rhythm of your body will power jewelry-sized computers and projection screens.

So while most social media strategies start with “listening” and “measuring,” at some point you need to create something … shake it up and do something bold.

What are you going to do stand out in this extreme and ubiquitous sonic wall of content?  Write a blog post?  Start a Twitter account?  Ummm, no.  Start thinking now.  Chief Creativity Officer. Creativity budgets. Extreme creativity. Galactic creativity.

Welcome to the Age of the Idea.  This is gonna be fun! Don’t you agree?

Illustration: Toothpaste for dinner

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  • It’s already fun Mark. And what’s even more fun is that I still don’t consider it highly competitive as you have two camps:

    1. The people that continue to practice interruption marketing and get in front of as many people as they can, hoping that enough come back to make sales (losing)
    2. The people that seek out the high-value relationships and initiate rather than interrupt (winning)

    With the growth of the medium and as you mention the addition of more and more countries (if they lower the firewalls enough to be able to participate, though there are ways around all that too), it’s going to become more and more important to seek rather than interrupt. That takes a shift in mindset that is still, from what I see, quite a bit in coming for many.

    So the question is are people willing to accept the changes already in progress or will they be crushed under those that already have?

  • Mark,

    I think you make a great point. It’s one of those things I think people get really let go of when they’re so caught up in measurements and metrics. The point of your earlier posts we do have to measure things. But people are often so caught in measuring that creativity suffers as a result. I remember you said to me during our interview “experimentation is at the core of the social web.” I thought that was one of the most interesting and true statements I’ve ever heard. I’m going to have to pick up that book while I’m in NYC. And I think this is all going to be a blast :).

  • Robert, I am loving the comments you are delivering on {grow}. This is another example of a really visionary approach and I agree with you.

    Think about the intersection of speed with the view you have here. If people can’t change that mindset, they are going to fall behind so quickly!

    Thanks for the superb comment!

  • I got to study under Peter Drucker for three years. He is by far the wisest person I have ever known — and a kind man too. The other day I read an article where he was quoted and his insight was applied to an HR situation today. The quote was from 1965. Amazing.

    I like where you are going with the measurement and metrics. I’ll add “listening” to that category. That is all important, but at some point you also need to create. You cannot create a differentiated marketing strategy simply by listening and measuring. At some point you need to create new customer value. And by the way, how many breakthrough ideas come from listening? Almost none.

    Thanks for sharing your wisdom today Srini!

  • As a person who worked abroad all my professional life (and still am) I was intrigued by your mention of how social strategies pan out in China, Egypt and India.
    How do you see the ‘world joining us’ changing strategies online, which until now have been US centric?

    Granted many people in these countries speak and write English, I still think that language will be a major challenge.

  • In every revolution we have studied in history, we have the benefit of time and distance. It’s easy now to measure the effectiveness of the American forces cracking German intelligence code. Any of us can study the history of Nike and ponder how it wasn’t simple to come up with the swoosh in one meeting. Hindsight is not our friend but it can be our alley for future conquests.

    The chatter will only increase and as many claim it’s not about the numbers, that will become truer with every passing day. If you ask any business owner if they would rather have 100 happy returning customers versus 1,000 tire kickers who buy nothing, their response can be predicted. Sure, you need to meet more than you sell, you need to prospect more than you sign but as the world gets smaller, it will become increasingly more imperative for businesses to create actual products and services that actually do what they claim they will actually do.

    The old adage, if you get good service you will tell someone and if you get bad service you will tell everyone is making a comeback. Spam, scam and scram tactics are for those who are happy with a 1% return on their efforts. That is not what will make a strong economy. And as Seth Godin says, if all you can do is offer it faster and cheaper, customers will always find an alternative to your offering.

    Creativity is not a department and we need to stop treating like it is. It is not a weekly meeting or a quarterly review topic either. It is the essence of what we do every single day and we need to embrace it now.

  • Wow – this is so true. Social media is always changing but it’s nice to see what the “future” of social media is going to look like (according to {grow}) and I wonder how others are viewing the landscape of social media and where it is heading.

    As I pitch our new social media strategy I am going to keep this all in mind. Thank you for the great advice, as always!

    ~Peace, love and happiness are the keys to life~


  • Anonymous

    OK Mark, so I need a cup of coffee and a brain transplant after that post…woweezowie, my head is spinning!

    Your comment, “Creativity has never gone out of fashion”, is spot on, yet so many people insist they are not creative. That’s like saying we don’t breathe. Creativity is in each and every one of us, and those who wake up and shake up that essence and that skill will indeed stand out.

    I’m thinking “Priceless Purveyor of Curious Creativity and Quill Pen Thinking in a Digital World” as a title (although the acronym will be a tad long:). And Mark…it’s ALWAYS fun!

  • Mark W Schaefer

    There are lots of challenges. I think one of the biggest mistakes we can make is assuming that just because it works In the U.S. it will work elsewhere. Time and time again we have seen that is not necessarily the case.

    However I think the allure of global connection will make a difference. We are already seeing explosive growth overseas for Twitter, LinkedIn and YouTube. Facebook faces more cultural hurdles to adoption and blogging has not really caught on like it has here. However we are inching closer toward a global community and certainly the technology exists to wipe out language as a barrier. I’m cautiously optimistic any way. What do you think John?

  • Mark W Schaefer

    Oh gosh that is such an amazing comment Kneale. This is just so perfectly stated. Thanks!

  • Mark W Schaefer

    It’s so nice to hear that this made an impact on you. Hope your efforts go well! Thanks for commenting!

  • Anonymous

    Agree – let the fun begin!

  • Mark W Schaefer

    One of the things I love about the Drucker book is that he explains innovation as a continuous process. The big ideas from the wild-eyed scientist rarely work. Too complex, too expensive. It is the incremental improvements that lead to a process of evolution and eventual radical change. He is so right, yet few companies approach it that way. Thanks for your comment Kaarina!

  • Two main thoughts here:

    1. I think the ones who will really be successful will be the ones who realize the loud broadcasts are out and creative networking is in.

    2. The big companies will put out the really cool toys, like the HUD in our glasses. It will be up to us to create the really cool “hey-why-didn’t-I-think-of-that” uses for them. Although, I’m not a fan of the inevitable pop up ad .5 inches from my retina. Ms. Kerley was very right when she was talking about augmented realities being much closer than we realize.

    I do remember a prototype for a gaming platform 2 yrs ago. The games would be viewed through contact lenses which were bluetoothed to a hand held controller. Not to mention Pranav Mistry’s Sixth Sense Technology. There really are some amazing things being done. Science fiction is quickly becoming science possible.

  • Well said. I like this perspective very much. Let the big companies work on the breakthroughs and then we surround ’em with apps. Probably has never been a time in history we could make so much money off the innovation of others. Hurray for open API’s huh? I think there is a blog post in this for you Brian !! : )

  • Mark, its an interesting debate. US model or not?

    I have been following the ongoing one here about Startups in France. Michelle Chmielewski wrote a great post about how culture can morph and in some cases rejects US ideas. Should international startups aim to re-locate to SV or not?

    The language shouldn’t be a barrier you are right. The US Army is now using handheld translators, phone apps, there is only a step to get this technology on social media platforms.

    In any case, if someone wants to be heard in today’s world, she needs to speak english. Period.

    Yes we are inching towards a global community, 60% of Twitter users are outside the US and if the language barrier isn’t really one what is left? Culture.

    A culture which promotes individual ideas over the happiness of the tribe is something which is quite hard to find outside the US and the West.

    Ideas – yep this is what it boils down to and so far the US has been pretty good at attracting and/or producing those with the most innovative ones.

  • Mark W Schaefer

    The Michelle post you reference (for readers it is here: ) is a very good starting point for the debate and a perfect illustration of the cultural issue.

    I am doing som charity work with some young people and I am inspired by their longing to connect to people in other countries and cultures. We are at a hinge of history. Today they really can connect as more and more people have access to free, global, instantaneous communication.

    I’m heartened by that. I believe these connections will enable a better and more connected world.

  • Anonymous

    LOVE this blog post. Assuming that a smart strategy and good execution is the cost of entry, the best ideas win. It’s a good and timely reminder!

  • There are approx 2.7 billion people online at the moment. Our total world population is somewhere around 7 billion. Over the next 2 years, the number of people that will inhabit these online waters will double thnx to technological expansions in Africa, Middle East and South America.

    Thats close to 6 billion people online in only a short amount of time. And if we tink its difficult to be heard now, just you wait.

    So I absolutely agree. Creativity will play a HUGE role in this. At the same time, the disruptive voices may get squashed in the noise..only time will tell. In either case, it will be fun to see how it unfolds.

  • Agree, totally agree with you Mark that creativity is where our current enrepreneurship is heading. I am delighted and excited being involved with all who care to grow and join those of us who grab and hold on…

  • Mark W Schaefer

    Thanks Rhonda. Nice to hear from you!

  • Mark W Schaefer

    And you know what is most awesome? A lot of that innovation is coming from the Third World! Why? Because they have to. Money is the bane of creativity.

  • Mark W Schaefer

    I can’t wait to see what happens next! : )

  • Amen to that brother Mark. Whenever someone brings up the importance of copyright and argues that big-money is needed to invent things, I have to remind them that no one sponsored the invention of the wheel.

    Sorry to go off on a tangent, but you started it 🙂 Besides, its all connected, isnt it? 🙂

  • Another great book I need to get on my bookshelf..if I can cram another in!

    I’ve been M.I.A. for a while, creating a social networking site just for bloggers to help them get out there and get noticed.

    I am trying to find ways to make being a member fun & beneficial…blog hops, contests, featured members and the possibility of being on my radio show.

    I think bloggers are going to have really get out there and spread the word…..

    “I have a blog too! Come look!”

    And then work even harder to keep them there……

  • Mark W Schaefer

    I need to blog about this. I’m really passionate about it. Thanks for the jolt. You have a way of doing that.

  • ooh…lets make it a debate style. Point/counterpoint type of thing. I can argue either side.

  • Hi Mark- Have been reading your posts for a few months now. You often get a good smile from me. This one got a big enough smile to send me through for my first comment. While many will get excited about the uses of creating games in contact lenses, I also offer that the creativity and accessibility of these incredible new platforms is nothing less than pure opportunity for humanity. How can we use these tools to shelter and GROW connection, wellness, access and dare I say it…..LOVE. We face infinite creative possibility. Is our level of consciousness up to the opportunity? I say it is. What do you say?

  • Once again, Mark, you are finding insight in unexpected comparisons! However, it looks like you can’t quite claim first place in yoking (or yolking?) angry birds together with Peter Drucker. Back on April 1 (no fooling), The Drucker Exchange wrote in their blog that “Peter Drucker liked to call himself a ‘social ecologist,’ so perhaps he’d have been intrigued by the research now being conducted into a flock of angry birds.” See

  • Heidi Lorenzen

    Totally agree. The “big idea” is back! Marketing as a function has gone through a very necessary phase of being laser-focused on metrics and trying to quantify the ROI of all our marketing goodness. Now that metrics are (sort of) figured out, we have the opportunity to get back to what actually DRIVES great metrics: powerful, creative ideas!

  • Sooooooo … what’s the link to the new site? Sounds cool.

  • Welcome, welcome, welcome. Always nice when somebody comes in from the cold. See, now we have a chance to know each other. So thanks for giving us this chance. I hope you’ll come back often.

    Now, about this love thing. Absolutely. Two weeks ago I hosted this awesome event in Knoxville called Social Slam. Most people think it was a place to learn and network but it was really an excuse for my blog community friends to get together and have a party. And let me tell you something, I love these people. In most cases, I met my friends for the first time at this event and yes, I had tears of joy in my eyes … a lot. Certainly social media is more than “what I had for breakfast.” It can be an interpersonal revolution.

    You might enjoy this post I wrote a few months ago. It’s one of my favorites: The Spirituality of Social Media

  • It’s

    Actually, if you have Firefox, I would be interested to see if it looks ok. A few blog buttons and the new members and such are supposed to be along the top. In Firefox (at least on my computer)they aren’t anymore- in fact the whole navigation is on the left instead of top. It’s fine in Google….I upgraded my firefox and it’s still not right.

    I thought I goofed the site up at first. Talk about a heart attack!

    Check it out- join the fun!

  • Dammit.

    My one claim to fame up in smoke. Or birds. I thought I had that one cornered.

    Oh well I will have to try harder next time. Perhaps I will pair Sylvester Stallone with Hello Kitty or Just Bieber with a small pebble on a beach in Northern France.

    Well done John. That is an impressive amount of recall on your part! And I’ll have to look up that Drucker Exchange. I was not aware if it. Peter Drucker was actually my teacher for three years in grad school and my hero!

  • The thing that excited me is that there is SO MUCH to work with! We are entering a magical era. Thanks so much fo commenting Heidi!

  • Anonymous

    Thanks for the mention, John, Mark knows I’m a diehard fan of this blog 😀 and I LOVE THIS POST. I’m currently reading Wikinomics which, although dated 2006, has a LOT to teach about the speed at which .. everything.. is changing and old models are being kicked in the gut by faster, more agile companies and countries that used to be thought of as “developing” but are innovating in ways that America never would have thought of.
    The authors make a great point that if you aren’t thinking globally (note : not “multinationally”), there are some serious roadbumps ahead.

    Thanks for always keeping it interesting, Mark. And for believing in a connected world

  • Mark, I’m getting ready to run into a meeting and only have a second to say that this was one of the most forward-thinking and enjoyable pieces of yours I’ve ever read. Your passion and vision are contagious and palpable. Thanks for this and have a tremendous weekend my friend.

    To the future!


  • Preetam Kaushik

    Creativity has no bound and idea is no fad. If one believes in this, they will surely get there presence felt on the social web. These days our mind has become an idea-generating machine. And why not? We are living in the social era. There are always chances of getting noticed and fighting the anonymity. But success has its own conventional wisdom and it holds true irrespective of time, culture, language and technology. However, one cannot deny the power social media has but the current information overload is a major concern now. The idea now is to cross the information overload barriers first, make the organic more semantic and somehow take advantage of your own social-competition which values cultural and locational inputs.

  • Preetam Kaushik

    It’s their* not there oops:)

  • So nice of you to say, Marcus. Thanks!

  • My pleasure Michelle. Great job on your post!

  • Thanks very much for your insight, Preetam and for caring enough to comment!

  • Ah, you beautiful man. I could relate to your Social Slam story because in the week you posted that I got to meet two of my Twitter “friends”, and yep, 140 ch over time does allow friendship. Which I would have said “bollocks” to only 6 months ago. Thank you. Here’s the last sentence of your Spirituality of Social Media post. “Look through the silliness, cut through the drivel, ignore the hate. There is a core light of hope streaming above it all with the potential to unite us, heal us, and inspire us no matter who or where we are.” Amen, Brother.

  • Hi Mark

    yes it is fun. But also hard work (work of course is fun most of the times too).

    So far I can say after half a year of blogging (unfortunatly in German, which reduces the potential readers), it is worth it.

    You are absolutly right!

    Kind regards from Germany


  • Preetam Kaushik

    Thanks Mark! I am not sure what does this mean? But of course, I love your blog and your insights in the social world. I have been following your blog for the last 5 months, but never commented. But I have started doing it. Better late than never :). I am still a sophomore (you can say) and enjoying this medium of learning..:)

  • So glad you decided to comment. It is an excellent way to connect and meet new people on the blog.

  • I think your on to something here, although not quite sure what.We should be able to think about the customer we would like to connect with, and the machine shows us that persons profile. End of game.

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  • Excellent article. Couldn’t agree more.

    I’ve noticed over the past few years that people I talk to are spending much more time reading business journals and visiting sites about science, innovation and new technologies. The obvious question is, why? Are people becoming more curious? More fascinated? I don’t have the answer but it sure is exciting.

  • Mark, as is often the case with this blog post, its elegance lies in the simplicity of the idea (as it turns out, also one of your points). Your post does raise an important question: how do we help people to better ground themselves in a central organizing idea (around which a nexus of creativity can thrive) versus the seemingly prevalent tendency these days of being attracted to every shiny new object? Like you, I suspect that the most creative businesses and ideas of the future will be those that stay relatively focused on one transformative idea — and foster creativity and collaboration in that particular space. The Creativity Officer will tread quite the tightrope…straddling the lines of innovation and open flow of ideas, while also playing traffic cop on business scope!

    Incidentally, I think that some companies are already “holding people hostage” quite well – these are the Evernotes and the Pandoras of the world – that have built freemium models enabling access through multiple channels….and, more importantly, offer services that become more and more valuable with each use. (Here again, the simple ideas seem to win.)

  • This is an important point Allyn. Is innovation creating the next shiny object or something more? What happens when the rate of change is so fast you have no choice but to develop the latest fad. A critical point.

    Thomas Edison’s light bulb was a successful innovation for decades. Now products last months. Big implications for investments, strategy and careers!

  • Love, love, love this line of thinking. I’ve been very frustrated lately with the pace at which folks in my area are not just embracing social media, but moving along in business. I attended an entrepreneur conference that had me wanting to poke my eye out with the discarded dessert fork left on the table. Had I not been a sponsor that needed to remain until the bitter end, I would have headed out early. The lack of innovation, creativity and ‘awareness of new’ in the overall mood of the room was astounding. Certainly, Social Slam set the bar high, but I was expecting a little more from this ‘innovative’ affair and all I got was frustrated! Personally, it’s frustrating to compete for business in that environment, especially when the status quo is A-Ok and innovation is scary.

    What you’re saying about just setting up the Twitter account and calling it done is about where these folks are that I refer to and that drives me batty. The trick, make sure you (me) bring the folks stuck in mediocrity up to speed before anyone else does. Thanks for the post, Mark…my wheels are spinning!

  • Hang in there! It does take time!

  • OK! Spinning wheels! My job is done here. : )

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  • “This book was written before the days you could have one idea, surround it with stories, and call it a book. This is a FRAMEWORK.” I rub your entire post up against my cheek.

  • Woot. I’ll take it!

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