Counselor Commentary: Creativity Needed

Erik Wahl Keynote Inspires

Andy CohenAt last week’s ASI Show in Long Beach, CA, the event’s keynote speaker wowed the audience by rapidly painting a picture of U2 lead singer Bono. The whole thing happened in less than four minutes, all in the time it took for the band’s hit song “Beautiful Day” to play in the convention center ballroom.

In no time, Erik Wahl, painter and entrepreneur, had demanded and grabbed the attention of show-goers. And, he did it with this introduction: “Everything you currently know about promotional products and advertising and marketing and business in general, throw it away for the next 30 minutes. Forget all of it.”

A unique beginning to a keynote session, for sure, but Wahl’s message for the audience was about creativity and innovation, and he didn’t want people jaded by what they think success looks like in business. His view? “You can’t be successful today without being creative,” Wahl said. “You have to find ways to differentiate yourself from the competition, and creativity can do that. The companies that are successful right now are the ones that create unique experiences for their customers.”

And, unfortunately, many in the audience then hustled onto the show floor and continued business as usual. Walk a show – any show – and you hear similar conversations between distributors and suppliers about new products and rush orders and price codes and the latest catalog releases. What you don’t hear? In-depth conversations about how distributors can creatively approach their clients. Or, ideas passing between exhibitors and attendees about how end-users can innovatively implement promotional products into their marketing campaigns.

We need more of those types of conversations in this market today, because as Wahl says, it’s innovation that is going to separate this medium from other marketing outlets. Many are changing, including television, especially following’s announcement yesterday that it is launching a streaming set-top box that opens the living room up to the world of the Internet. There are competitors – Google ChromeCast and Roku to name two – but ultimately, this is the shift that will change television viewing for years to come. The medium is different, and the marketers within the medium will have to change, too.

The same is true for every marketing venue today. There are shifts happening, and companies need to adjust. Clients today are looking for promotions that will truly help them engage with their intended audience and help them continue the conversation long after an ad specialty item has been given away. That’s the shift in this market – it’s a shift in expected outcomes. And, everyone needs to adjust by becoming more creative with their offerings.