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SPARK: How to Generate Ideas Worth Spreading
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SPARK: How to Generate Ideas Worth Spreading



What's your "Idea Worth Spreading?" Steve McKee, President of McKee Wallwork Cleveland and author of When Growth Stalls, calls it "SPARK". Some brands go from no-name to big-time almost overnight. ...

What's your "Idea Worth Spreading?" Steve McKee, President of McKee Wallwork Cleveland and author of When Growth Stalls, calls it "SPARK". Some brands go from no-name to big-time almost overnight. Some seem to catch fire out of nowhere. Yet while some hot brands are the result of random chance, others are, in fact, strategically sparked. McKee reveals how much in common physical sparks have with metaphorical sparks--in world history and in marketing history. He then outlines the conditions necessary for ideas to catch fire, and offer principles anyone can use to make their own ideas catch fire.



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  • Spark- how to generate ideas worth spreading. That’s what it’s all about these days, isn’t it? If I had a nickel for everytime somebody said “hey, let’s create a viral video!” I’d be rich, and so would you. But it’s not that simple. And it’s not as if a video—even if it does go viral—will be the answer. Truly creative ideas must be as strategic as they are attention getting. They’re the lifeblood of the marketing and advertising industry, and any industry for that matter. What I hope to do today is to stimulate your thinking; to provide a “spark”, if you will, that will help you to fan the flames of your own creativity in a strategic way. What I’m going to share with you is quite simple, really, but most things of value are. I hope you’ll walk away from the few minutes we’re going to spend together not only with a new perspective on how to solve creative problems, but with some concrete starting places you can use to strike your match, as it were.
  • But first, just a bit about me…I am president and cofounder of MWC, a 16 year old integrated marketing agency. We specialize in working with brands that don’t have it all together, or as we’re fond of saying are either stalled—going backwards in terms of revenue--, stuck—facing a unique and not easily addressable business or marketing challenge--, or stale—in need of reinvention or revitalization. Our focus stems from and is shaped by nearly a decade of research among struggling companies and the resulting book I wrote called When Growth Stalls—How it happens, why you’re stuck, and what to do about it. I won’t bore you with the details but it basically deals with the destructive internal dynamics that get—and keep—companies down while they’re preoccupied with externals like the economy, competition and changing industry dynamics. It’s available on Amazon and I highly recommend it . Today’s presentation, in fact, originally stemmed from an assignment we had from a struggling company that needed a “spark” to get things going. I am pleased to share with you that they tell me this thinking has significantly informed them since and they’ve used it to good effect. I also commend our blog to you, which as you can see is www.StalledStuckorStale.com. If you like what you hear today, there’s more of it there.
  • I’d really like to encourage active participation. Given that this is a webinar and you likely found out about it through social media, you all are familiar with hashtags and I encourage you to feel free to tweet away using these hashtags throughout the presentation—no I won’t be checking—and after. Also, if you’re not already I encourage you to follow both BrightTalk and me on Twitter. Given the nature of this presentation, I’d prefer if you make note of your questions and even feel free to post them when they arise, but let’s plan on discussing them at the end so as not to derail anyone’s busy schedule. Also, throughout the presentation I’m going to refer to “sparks” in advertising history, and links to those can be found in the attachments section if you want to check them out when we’re done. Finally, I would love your feedback and to get or keep in touch as we move on. Ours is a small community, and the more and better we can know one another, the better. Now on to the show.
  • Sparks have been with us since the dawn of time, and we use the term so often metaphorically that it’s hard to remember that they are literal, physical things. Remember in seventh grade when you first made eye contact with that cute guy or gal across the room. That was the spark of young love, and love is often talked about in terms of a spark.
  • As is the opposite effect, as in “sparks will fly”. Have you ever said something wrong that it sparked an argument? Or done something wrong that it sparked a fistfight (like realizing that the boyfriend of that cute girl in seventh grade saw what was going on)?
  • Sparks are so old and such powerful ideas that there’s even a biblical reference to them, in Job 5:7: “man is born unto trouble, As the sparks fly upward”. Indeed we are—especially in the marketing business.
  • But as I mentioned, sparks are, in reality, part of our physical universe. And sparks are amazing—remember your reaction as a kid to a sparkler? Part rapture, part terror. Wanted to run away, wanted to hold it – unpack—those who don’t understand it shy away, those who do embrace. It’s interesting that the Latin root is to strew or scatter, given the context that we’re talking about today. And there are two kinds of sparks. One is what we normally think of, the thing that comes off of a sparkler or a match brought about by the friction between two hard surfaces. The other is the kind of spark that happens in a spark plug or lightning burst, when that brief bit of fire fills the gap between two points.
  • And there is actually a third definition of spark, interestingly enough, which is the basis of our thesis today. Anything that serves to animate, kindle or excite. When we’re trying to generate ideas that stick, ideas that spread, we’re looking to create a spark that will inflame a forest of fire in the public consciousness. So how do we do that? Well, first it’s helpful to look at how that third definition applies to events in history. And actually, we can look at it in relation to the first two definitions.
  • For shorthand’s sake, lets call the first definition a “friction spark”—something that arises out of friction, otherwise known as conflict, or a challenge or a threat. And let’s call the second kind a “gap spark”, which uses imagination or excitement or personality to close a gap in people’s minds. And let’s remember that while the two types of sparks are different—in fact, somewhat opposite when you consider that one is based on the friction of close proximity and the other based on the space between things—either one can ignite the fire we seek.
  • So let’s begin with friction sparks in history. See if you can guess what each of these are
  • October 31st, 1517 Luther posts his 95 Theses at Wittenberg
  • December 16th, 1775 Boston tea party
  • June 28th, 1914 Archduke Ferdinand assassinated in Sarajevo, leading to World War I
  • October 29th, 1929 Stock Market Crash
  • December 7th, 1941 Japan attacks Pearl Harbor
  • October 4th, 1957 Sputnik
  • June 10th, 1837 The electric telegraph is patented
  • May 21st, 1927 Lindbergh’s solo crossing of the Atlantic
  • Elvis Presley was on The Ed Sullivan Show, and the kids did not understand what the fuss was about. If they had even heard of Elvis (“Elvis Pretzel singing ‘Heartburn Hotel,’” some of them thought the deejay said on their little plastic radios), they knew he was a singer whose voice attracted them. They had never heard anything like it. Now, seeing him for the first time playfully blub blub blubbing his way through ­“Don’t Be Cruel,” they saw he was grown-­up, sort of, but a kid like them, too. They could tell by the way he looked at them—he knew them, knew what they were thinking. Elvis . . . Elvis. They said his name and felt the first stirrings of love. He knew what was in their hearts and spoke directly to them.      The adults saw Presley and thought, What the hell was that? If they were particularly threatened, they might shoo the kids back away from the television set, as if he were contagious and could somehow teach them about sex through the fuzzy black-­and-­white image. But since this was 1956, Dad probably just cleared his throat and left the room shaking his head, These crazy kids . . .      Elvis was the first. Before the Beatles, before the Rolling Stones, before U2, before Eminem, there was Elvis. The original Slim Shady, he was black and white, rhythm and country, hot and cool. His appearance on Ed Sullivan ripped the 1950s in half, and America was never the same. He could not have seen what was coming—the Colonel, who wanted to make him into sort of a hip Perry Como (if such a thing can be imagined) certainly did not. And for himself, his wildest dream, the one beyond imagining, was to be in the movies like Tony Curtis. But whatever happened, he was game.
  • May 9th, 1960 The Pill
  • August 6th, 1991 The world’s first website
  • LBJ Daisy?
  • Apple 1984?
  • Coke Hilltop
  • We’ve always had it….Jay Leno, interviewing Tom Cruise on the Tonight Show for his new movie “Knight and Day.”
  • Left Center: American Idol Judges (left to right) Simon Cowell, Ellen DeGeneres, Karen DioGuardi, Randy JacksonTop Right: Adam Lambert, 2010 American Idol Runner-up. Lampert is now a successful solo-artst.Bottom Right: Kris Allen, 2010 American Idol Winner. Picture of Self-titled album.
  • Best is to find an enemy everybody has (Apple, Nike) not an enemy some have (Benetton, Abercrombie, Fox News)
  • Dove Evolution
  • Dove Evolution
  • Southwest Bags Fly Free
  • The innovative, elf-laden site allowed users to upload faces of themselves, their friends and their family members and put them on cheerful dancing holiday elves to create customized ecards. A toll-free number even let users record a personalized elfin’ greeting.The results were shocking. Users forwarded the cards to their loves ones, posted links on their blogs and social networking profiles; footage was recorded to YouTube; and during its rise as the quintessential holiday ecard, Elf Yourself was featured on morning, talk, news and sports shows across the country, resulting in 193 million visits and the elfamorphosis of over 123 million faces. OfficeMax saw a 190% increase to it’s web-traffic and a sustained a steady increase in online and walk-in sales.
  • Nike If You Let Me Play

SPARK: How to Generate Ideas Worth Spreading SPARK: How to Generate Ideas Worth Spreading Presentation Transcript

  • About Me• Steve McKee• President, McKee Wallwork & Company• Author, When Growth Stalls• @SteveMcKee | smckee@mwcmail.com• www.StalledStuckorStale.comSPARK: How Brands Catch Fire (#spark) | Steve McKee (@SteveMcKee)
  • Active Participation• #MarketingSummit | #spark• @BrightTALK | @SteveMcKee• Questions during/answers at end• Check out attachments• Would love your feedback• Let’s stay in touch!SPARK: How Brands Catch Fire (#spark) | Steve McKee (@SteveMcKee)
  • SparksSPARK: How Brands Catch Fire (#spark) | Steve McKee (@SteveMcKee)
  • SparksSPARK: How Brands Catch Fire (#spark) | Steve McKee (@SteveMcKee)
  • SparksSPARK: How Brands Catch Fire (#spark) | Steve McKee (@SteveMcKee)
  • What is a spark?spark/spärk/(n)From the Latin, spargere, to strew or scatter1. A fiery particle thrown out or left by burning material orcaused by the friction of two hard surfaces;2. A momentary flash of light accompanied by a sharpcrackling noise, produced by a sudden electrical dischargethrough the air or some other insulating medium betweentwo points.SPARK: How Brands Catch Fire (#spark) | Steve McKee (@SteveMcKee)
  • What is a spark?spark/spärk/(n)From the Latin, spargere, to strew or scatter3. Anything that serves to animate, kindle or exciteSPARK: How Brands Catch Fire (#spark) | Steve McKee (@SteveMcKee)
  • Two Kinds of Sparks1. Friction Spark– Conflict, challenge, threat2. Gap Spark– Imagination, excitement, personalityOpposite Approaches  Either Can IgniteSPARK: How Brands Catch Fire (#spark) | Steve McKee (@SteveMcKee)
  • Friction Sparks in HistorySPARK: How Brands Catch Fire (#spark) | Steve McKee (@SteveMcKee)
  • October 31, 1517SPARK: How Brands Catch Fire (#spark) | Steve McKee (@SteveMcKee)
  • December 16, 1775SPARK: How Brands Catch Fire (#spark) | Steve McKee (@SteveMcKee)
  • June 28, 1914SPARK: How Brands Catch Fire (#spark) | Steve McKee (@SteveMcKee)
  • October 29, 1929SPARK: How Brands Catch Fire (#spark) | Steve McKee (@SteveMcKee)
  • December 7, 1941SPARK: How Brands Catch Fire (#spark) | Steve McKee (@SteveMcKee)
  • October 4, 1957SPARK: How Brands Catch Fire (#spark) | Steve McKee (@SteveMcKee)
  • Gap Sparks in HistorySPARK: How Brands Catch Fire (#spark) | Steve McKee (@SteveMcKee)
  • June 10, 1837SPARK: How Brands Catch Fire (#spark) | Steve McKee (@SteveMcKee)
  • May 21, 1927SPARK: How Brands Catch Fire (#spark) | Steve McKee (@SteveMcKee)
  • September 9, 1956SPARK: How Brands Catch Fire (#spark) | Steve McKee (@SteveMcKee)
  • May 9, 1960SPARK: How Brands Catch Fire (#spark) | Steve McKee (@SteveMcKee)
  • August 6, 1991SPARK: How Brands Catch Fire (#spark) | Steve McKee (@SteveMcKee)
  • Friction Sparks inAdvertising HistorySPARK: How Brands Catch Fire (#spark) | Steve McKee (@SteveMcKee)
  • 1964SPARK: How Brands Catch Fire (#spark) | Steve McKee (@SteveMcKee)“These are the stakes.To make a world inwhich all of God’schildren can live, or togo into the dark. Wemust either love eachother, or we must die.”Vote for PresidentJohnson on November3. The stakes are toohigh for you to stayhome.
  • 1984SPARK: How Brands Catch Fire (#spark) | Steve McKee (@SteveMcKee)
  • Gap Sparks inAdvertising History
  • 1960
  • 1971
  • Spark Principles• Sparks can bedangerous, interruptive, random anddestructive• Sparks can be intentional, creative andhighly productive• Noun vs. Verb: “A” spark vs. “TO” spark
  • Generating Sparks1. Understand your environment
  • Convergence• Journalism• Entertainment• Advertising
  • Generating Sparks1. Understand your environment2. Stack your kindling
  • An Idea“There is nothing wrong with complicated ideas, but if youwant to convey a complicated thought to a mass audience,you have to first condense it into something digestible andbelievable. Once you grab someone’s attention, you canpour in the details.”--Thomas FriedmanNew York Times ColumnistAuthor, The World is Flat
  • A Car is Functionality1,598 cc 1.6 liters in-line 4 front engine77.0 mm bore, 85.8 mm stroke11.0 compression ratioDouble overhead camVariable valve timing/camshaftMulti-point injection fuel systemFour-wheel ABS-Brake assist systemElectronic traction controlStrut front suspension independent with stabilizer bar and coil springsMulti-link rear suspension independent with stabilizer bar and coil springsFront headroom (inches): 38.8, rear headroom (inches): 37.6
  • A Car is FeaturesFully electric throttlePerformance suspension6-speed transmissionAudio system with AM/FM and CD player MP3 and clockComputer with average speed/fuel consumption and range for remaining fuelFront seats and rear seats cup holders fixedDriver front airbag with multi-stage deploymentPassenger front airbag with occupant sensors and multi-stage deploymentBucket driver and passenger seat with height adjustmentRemote power locks includes trunk/hatchVehicle speed proportional power steeringFront power windows with two one-touchFront reading lightsSix speakersLeather covered steering wheel with tilt adjustment and telescopic adjustment
  • A Car is an IdeaFUN
  • A Car is an IdeaBMWVolvoHondaToyotaMercedesMiniPriusVWHummerPerformanceSafetyPracticalityDependabilityEngineeringFunResponsibilityIndependenceConquest
  • An IdeaHappiness
  • An IdeaMotivation
  • An IdeaInnovation
  • Generating Sparks1. Understand your environment2. Stack your kindling3. Leverage friction or a gap
  • FrictionWho/what is the enemy?
  • 1997
  • 2006
  • 2006
  • 2010
  • GapCulture, trend or technology
  • 2006
  • 1995
  • 2012
  • 2012
  • 2012
  • Generating Sparks1. Understand your environment2. Stack your kindling3. Leverage friction or a gap4. Fear not
  • Spark Reminders• Sparks make you nervous (and should)• It may take multiple sparks to start a fire• Not all fires can be seen from outer space• You can’t test a spark (once it flashes, it’s gone)
  • Thank You@SteveMcKeesmckee@mwcmail.comwww.StalledStuckorStale.comSPARK: How Brands Catch Fire (#spark) | Steve McKee (@SteveMcKee)