Unleash Creative Possibilities with Bob Thacker

Unleash Creative Possibilities with Bob ThackerBob Thacker, Chief Cubist at Cubit Consulting, closed out the Business Marketing Association conference with a presentation on “Unleash Your Creativity.” Thacker’s creativity comments were a fitting and fun (and by fun, I mean both “strategic” and “enjoyable”) close for the BMA Unleash conference. Here are three themes on creative possibilities I took away to apply to my own creative pursuits:

Challenges Unleash Creative Possibilities

For those who expect perfect conditions to be in place to trigger creativity, history is full of contra-examples where hard times have sent people looking for creative escape and hope:

  • Half of the world’s population died from the plague in the 15th century, yet it also yielded incredible thinkers and artists in the Renaissance.
  • Shakespeare’s artistry emerged from a religious bloodbath in England during the 16th century.
  • The economic failure of The Great Depression was the genesis for many prominent brands which shaped business and culture.

Creative Impact: Don’t look for smooth conditions as a prerequisite for creativity; look for sandpaper to rough things up.

Push for Big Creative Possibilities

As much as anything, Bob Thacker’s presentation was a greatest hits of creative projects he’s spearheaded while in senior marketing roles at Target and OfficeMax, including:

  • Wrapping the Washington Monument during its restoration to turn industrial scaffolding into art.
  • The Penny Prank campaign where pennies (lots of pennies) were offered as payment for restaurant meals to diamond rings (80mm online impressions, $2.8 million in ad value from online videos)
  • Incorporating the world’s largest rubber band ball into an OfficeMax branding campaign (although I’m not sure why the music is “Bust a Move” instead of “Rubberband Man” by The Spinners)
  • Elf Yourself, the quintessential viral campaign, where an initial $1.2 million investment to make OfficeMax a holiday destination led to 20 websites. The JibJab-powered elf website exploded with people spending 6000 years of time on the website and elf-related product sales turning a profit.

Creative Impact: These are all really smart strategic and creative efforts. How to be comparably successful strategically and creatively? Reading between the lines, asking questions such as, “What is this like?”, “What could this be like?”, and “How can we make this more extreme?” provide an underpinning to all of these Thacker-led efforts.

Creative Thackerisms You Can Use

Bob Thacker’s presentation included a variety of creative witticisms:

  • “If you don’t have a big budget, you have to have big ideas.”
  • “Serendipity can be a strategy, if your antennae are up.”
  • “Look before you leap, but then leap!”
  • “‘It can’t be done really means, ‘It hasn’t been done YET.’”
  • “Creativity is a group practice. Ideas need to be generated in a playful, fear-free environment.”
  • “Why just run a commercial when you can own the whole show?”
  • “Don’t make ads; make news!”
  • “If you can find a holiday tradition to create, do it.”

Creative Impact: A vital part of any creative team is having the instigator and cheerleader for others to fully exploit their creativity. The key creative action can be green lighting those on the team who have the most creative ideas.


Hope this provides some sense of the creative possibilities shared during Bob Thacker’s presentation. He packed so many ideas into the hour, providing a real creative treat to those BMA attendees sticking around for such a strong conference finish.

Want one last Thackerism to consider every time you start contemplating a marketing effort?

“If you’re going to crash the party (via your marketing) you’d better bring a bottle of wine (a tremendously rich audience experience).”

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Mike BrownMike Brown is an award-winning innovator in strategy, communications, and experience marketing. He authors the BrainzoomingTM blog, and serves as the company’s chief Catalyst. He wrote the ebook “Taking the NO Out of InNOvation” and is a frequent keynote presenter.

Mike Brown




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