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Sun Tzu's Art of War states, "Therefore, when I have won a victory I do not repeat my tactics but respond to circumstances in an infinite variety of ways." This quote aptly points out the need to be creative when developing strategies and tactics.
One example of creativity was that of Wheaties. During Superbowl XXXI in 1997 the Wheaties marketing team carried two boxes of Wheaties to the game; one representing the New England Patriots winning and the other the Green Bay Packers being victorious. As the game progressed, it became clear that the Green Bay Packers would beat the Patriots. With this in mind the Wheaties team went up to the broadcast booth, taking their box with Packer star quarterback Brett Favre's picture on it. The announcers, thinking it would be a great prop, took the box and showed it to the huge worldwide audience. By doing so they gave Wheaties millions of dollars of free advertising.
The major pharmaceutical company Johnson & Johnson has also displayed great creativity in marketing. Knowing that most people would not be drawn to their web site to learn about their medicines on a regular basis, J&J decided that perhaps events could help them create awareness for their products. With this thinking J&J runs banner ads for their headache reliever on e-broker sites whenever the markets drop significantly. Thus they reach consumers when those people are most interested in their products.
Consultants often point to the Gillette razor business model as an example of creativity. What most people don't know is how long ago that business model was developed and what the catalyst was behind it. All the way back in 1895 King Camp Gillette (yes, that was his real name) took his inspiration from a former employee who had made millions selling disposable bottle-tops. Using the idea that disposable razor heads, like disposable bottle-tops, were something that would need constant replacement, Gillette received a patent for his invention in 1901 and had sold 12 million blades by 1903. That same business model still works a century later.
Creativity is not something that belongs only to a few people who are born with it. John Kao, a well-known author of books on creativity (such as "Jamming") supports this view, stating, "Creativity must go beyond generation of new ideas; it must become an ongoing process." Roger von Oech, author of "A Whack on the Side of the Head" and many other books on creativity provides many exercises one can do foster it. Examples include being illogical, breaking the rules, and dealing with ambiguity. With these and other exercises one can be more creative and thus be more competitive.
As Sun Tzu said, "The flavors are only five in number but their blends are so various one cannot taste them all."
Mark McNeilly brings Sun Tzu's strategic principles to life as the author of Sun Tzu and the Art of Business; with TV and radio interviews and with seminar presentations. For more information visit www.suntzu1.com
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