Artists & Plumbers

How do you describe yourself?  Are you an artist or a plumber?

Before answering, let me clarify.  In this context, particularly for marketers, artistry refers to the creative idea generation process.

Marketing is about big ideas.  You need ideas to generate attention and interest for whatever it is you’re selling.  Landing on a big idea is extremely fun.  Big ideas work.    They build communities and fans.  They grow businesses.  They make careers.  Great marketers are always in pursuit of big ideas.

In business we tend to place a higher value on the artistry.  I’ve worked with plenty of really smart, creative, talented people who describe themselves as being “all about ideas.”  More often than not they aren’t very productive.  Their ideas sound great but go nowhere because they overlook the plumbing.

Plumbing refers to the execution process:  moving an idea from concept to reality by effectively managing a complex series of processes and tasks, often involving multiple stakeholders with conflicting or competing interests.  An idea, no matter how big, that can’t be executed successfully isn’t much of an idea. 

Depending on the size of your organization and scope of the idea, the ability to navigate the plumbing can be incredibly complex for marketers.  If you have experience implementing ideas at big companies like I do, you know the list of stakeholders can be overwhelming:  agencies, product teams, various marketing functions, operations, finance, legal, sales, and that’s all before going to corporate to get approval.

The lesson for marketers is make sure you’re versatile.  Getting better at both the artistry and the plumbing is an essential career survival skill today.  And if you’re leading a team, make sure the culture values both equally.  In either case, your success depends on it.






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