Conjuring Creativity

Creativity in finding elegant solutions to a brand’s marketing problems can feel like magic when you get it right the first time. In the thick of a 2-minute brainstorming session, you pitch a somewhat weird concept, and after cleaning it up, the idea fits perfectly and receives the nod. It can feel magical. 

But if you have been around creative teams for any stretch of time, you can tell that these ‘aha’ moments are not an expected part of a regular day at work. Creativity demands deep thinking, and often looking at the problem from many different angles, to find a solution that works and ticks all the right boxes. To add to this complexity is that sometimes, the marketing team needs to deliver a winning idea within a short period of time. IN such situations, the extra pressure could either produce a strikingly brilliant idea or, on the other end of the spectrum, a poor offering that can hardly be considered a solution.

Creative output is wonderful, and a delight for all who see the end product, but what happens on the back end? How can marketers learn to think about marketing problems, and trick their inner genius into producing brilliant creativity over and over again? What is the secret sauce?

Here are some tips to help you in your next brainstorming session: 

Prepare your mind
Image: iStock Photos

In most other practises, thinking is usually done within the parameters of the practice. Doctors work within parameters of the field, and mathematicians understand that their exploration of the world is based on the fundamental principles and formulas of the discipline. In creative thinking for marketing, the only rule to remember is that there is no rule. As soon as you read and understand the problem statement, free your mind and give it the permission to wander. 

Conduct research

Image: iStock Photos

Once you’ve accepted these parameters, you must identify the variables of the brainstorm, the main ones being a subject matter, the objectives, the target audience. Conducting research on these three main variables including a comprehensive look at the status of competitors or recent similar works should put anyone in a prime position to create magic.

Apply the knowledge

Once you have equipped yourself with the required level of knowledge, it is time to apply the aforementioned formula to the variables to find what we like to call ‘laser-thin lines’ that connect them. Consider precedents but ignore them. Apply common sense but feel free to ignore it too.  Flip any thought that comes to mind backwards, forwards or sideways. Question the status quo, even when you know the answer is impossible. You’ll be surprised at what you might find at the end of that journey.

Creativity, in a lot of ways, can start as a horror show. But by using a formula and then (albeit counter-intuitively) not using a formula, it can end up as an epic fairytale.

Kwabena Oppon-Kusi

Head of Creative Strategy, Pulse Ghana

Pulse People – Kadidja Diallo

In this edition of Pulse People, we’re talking to Kadidja Diallo. Her bubbly, energetic and exciting personality carries over the virtual meeting and infects me, as we talk about her journey through university, changing courses, picking up volunteer work, and then her work within Pulse.

Tell me about your background.

I studied Accounting and Finance. I was studying this for about two years, but by the third year, I just realized that I was kind of passionate about marketing. So I just moved from accounting to marketing, so that I could get a bachelors in marketing instead. At this time, I gained skills in marketing from the volunteering work that I did with different organizations and associations. It was the volunteer work I did in these places that made me discover how much I liked marketing. 

So I had to change school because of the school where I was specialized in accounting and finance. But my mom didn’t want me to, though; she really wanted me to become an accountant. So of course it was a problem at home for some months, but I knew what I wanted. So eventually I changed school and became responsible for my tuition and other personal expenses for a year. Then, I started working with a friend to help pay the bills. 

Eventually, someone I met as part of my volunteering work invited me to work at his new marketing startup, an agency. He would help me promote the business I did with my friend, and in turn, I would help him by working at his marketing agency. So now, I had an office to receive my customers on the business with my friend.

Most of the experience I got in digital marketing came from working in that startup. I worked there for about 1 year, part-time, while also taking other marketing jobs on the side. After a year, I felt like my work was done there, and I started looking for other opportunities. And I found a role in another agency where I was Digital Unit Manager and also head of operations. 

Let’s talk about getting into Pulse

I didn’t leave the last agency I was working for, but they had some problems and they had to close for a while. So I was home and decided to take time to relax. I did not intend to look for any new opportunities for at least two months. But after the first month, I got bored. So Eid (a Muslim celebration) was close, and I told myself I’d start looking for new opportunities after the celebrations. 

Just before the end of Ramadan, I started looking for opportunities. I went on Expat Dakar and saw that an agency was looking for a key account manager. So I sent in my resume. I also sent my resume to other companies, and then I waited. About one week after, the HR team of Pulse called me for our first interview, and after that, there was a second in-person interview. So I came to meet the manager and do the interview. 

It was kind of stressful because I felt like she was asking me too many questions. It was the first time for me in an interview, being asked so many questions. She explained that she needed to know if I had responsibilities at home that would require me to frequently leave early. But it went well. The last thing she asked was about my weaknesses. She said my resume and everything else I’ve described, seemed okay, so she wanted to know about my weaknesses. Lol. So I told her that most of the time, I’m not very punctual. 

The day after, She called my previous managers to ask about my competencies, and she got the same responses. A few days later, HR emailed me to let me know I was successful. And that’s how I was hired as Key Account Manager and Head of Operations. When I came in, Caroline (Managing Director, Pulse Senegal) had a talk with me and told me that if I wanted to really lead the team, I had to be on time. So I accepted it as a challenge and started. 

Do you still come late sometimes?

(Laughter) It was not a challenge at the beginning, because that was when we were going into lockdown, so I resumed at home. But when we started coming to the office I did not really have the choice as she was very watchful about it.  I noticed the difference between Pulse and the agency I had worked with, almost immediately. At first, I told myself that there were many meetings for me to join, and also I was a bit surprised by how organized everything was. I knew that if I wanted to fit, I just had to put more effort into being organized. 

I will never forget my first days at Pulse because I resumed on a Wednesday, and by Friday, at the moment we were having a meeting, I got a call that I had lost my dad. It was a very hard time for me. I didn’t know if I should quit the job to be with my family, or if I should keep working. 

I told myself that these people trusted me and gave me this opportunity, but on the other hand, my family also needed me, and I needed them too. Then I remembered The last conversation I had with my dad, he was so happy when I told him that I had a new job and did a lot of prayers for me. So, I decided to keep that job, and also because if I didn’t work, I would get bored, and get even sadder. 

Tell me about your current role

I started at Pulse as Key Account Manager & Head of Operations, and after 6 months or something like that, we realized that it was difficult to combine the two roles, and we had to decide if I was going to be Key Account Manager or Head of Operations. At that time, what we really needed was a strong account manager. So I worked as the Key Account Manager. By May 21, I came back to the role of Head of Operations. 

Actually, my main role is to manage the operations team and make sure that project KPIs and timelines are going as planned. I coordinate the team individually and collectively by reviewing their work (Social Media Managers, Graphic Designers, Web developers). I pilot the standup meetings, the Ops calls, the international calls, and also work directly with the MD to keep her updated about what we are doing, what problems we are facing on each project, and how we’re solving them. Also, if there is a problem with a client, concerning a project, I set a plan with the Account Manager to solve it. Sometimes, I can do a call or meet the client to accelerate realisations. I also work with the Sales team most of the time to upsell or cross-sell to existing clients where it is relevant.


What’s the schedule at the office?

We come into the office from 8:30 am to 5:30 pm, Monday to Friday. In the past days, due to Covid, we’re used to coming once or twice a week, depending on the need. But every Monday, everyone was at the office. Actually, everyone is here, as we have new members, and I want them to get well integrated.  

What’s a typical day like for you? 

A normal day always starts with the standup meeting with the Ops team, and then, I specify the urgent tasks and deliverables. After if there are specific conversations I need to have with someone, I can have them after the standup.  I always support the account manager, just remind him of pending tasks and so forth. If needed, I speak to the MD about the ongoing projects and give feedback to her. Then I review and approve documents and deliverables before they go out. 

Before the end of the day, I check things like the turnaround time for deliverables, and to see if things were delivered on time. Also, if something is urgent, and following the normal process will take time, I do more coordination with the designer or whoever is on it, to make sure that it is delivered on time.

How do you stay inspired?

Three things keep me inspired. The first thing is the challenge. I’m someone who is easily bored, so mostly I like taking on new challenges. When everything is okay, I’m like, that’s not normal. 

The second is the satisfaction of the client. When we do great work and we get a testimonial from them or even just a thank you email, it’s just so satisfying, and it’s something that drives me a lot. 

And then finally, the team is a great inspiration. It’s a very great team. They are very brave and ready to take on any challenge at any time. Sometimes, when I’m tired, I just look at them, putting in all that effort to get targets met and so forth, and that inspires me again. And when I say the team, it’s not just my team (the Ops team). I’m talking about the whole Pulse team.

What do you do when you’re not working?

So mostly, when I just go back home and I have nothing to do, I just watch movies on Netflix. I prefer watching a series because it’s more interesting for me. I also make time to go out with friends. We just plan an outing, where we want to go, and when. We all have full schedules, so it’s not always easy, but when we can, we go out together and have a good time. I also go out with my husband sometimes to not say most of the time. Lol 🙂

Finally, I love travelling a lot. I have this goal to discover one new country per year. I could not do this in 2020 and last year too, due to COVID restrictions, but I’ve been doing it since 2015 or something like that. Travelling with someone is more interesting (if your travelling partner is actually interested in doing stuff together, and not sleeping all the way, lol), but even when you’re travelling alone, it’s still interesting for me.