Brian is a nationally recognized writer, Chief Creative Officer and CEO. His work has helped a who’s who list of companies elevate their message. Brian’s latest endeavour is applying his brand of creative thinking at Garmin.
You’re an agency guy gone product-side for the first time. What advantages are you seeing with that dynamic?
Well, for starters, every time Garmin comes out with a new product it’s like winning a great piece of new business. No more pitches. Ever. There are no timesheets, either. I go where I see the need. I stay as long as is required. I leave when the job is done. But the biggest advantage I see is alignment. I don’t work for an ad agency that does work for a roster of different clients. I work for Garmin. We are all on the same page. I see a direct correlation between the creative we do and the success of the company. That’s a great feeling.
Garmin has every creative resource imaginable. Creative talent, social and digital experts, edit suites, director, music, motion graphics. It’s a veritable creative playhouse. Here, we can do pretty much anything we want on premises. That lends itself to creative experimentation. We can actually make the work and share it to segment leads instead of just showing mood boards.
If you’re not pitching new business, what the heck do you do with your time?
I came to Garmin to raise the creative bar. To do that requires a fundamental shift. Instead of just communicating information about our products we need to get the customer to feel something.
So a lot of my time is spent figuring out how to make that shift. We talk a lot about people and their passions. And how our products help people perform at a higher level. When we find that intersection between passion and product, we find our idea. Less time pitching means more time concepting. The idea is king and we treat it that way.
I walk the halls all the time. In my opinion, the best meetings are the accidental ones. You walk by and see what someone is working on and you start talking and before you know it, there’s some exchange of creative energy.
Garmin also has three ping-pong tables. So there’s that.
Garmin faces steep competition with the likes of Nike and Apple in certain categories. I’m guessing that turns you on more than it scares you.
I’m definitely turned on right now. Oh my.
Garmin isn’t just about automobile navigation devices anymore. They make a wide range of passion products that compete with major brands. Competition makes Garmin better. The products get better, the marketing gets better and the creative gets better. It has to. Larry Bird made Magic Johnson better. Same principle.
So bring on the competition. In the immortal words of Ric Flair, AKA The Nature Boy, semi-retired pro wrestler, “To be the man, you gotta beat the man.” I look around and I see A-level creative talent everywhere. We can compete right here in Kansas City. If I didn’t believe that, I wouldn’t have moved back from Austin.
Here’s a softball: You’ve spoken on the topic of deepening one’s creativity. Can you hit the highlights for us?
Wow, that was a softball. I appreciate that.
You don’t need to have the word “creative” on your business card to live a creative life. It’s easy to sprinkle a little creativity into your day. Make pancakes in the shapes of dinosaurs. Make up a new game with your kids. Do interior design that reflects YOU instead of Dwell magazine.
I also think everybody needs to be open to inspiration. The more you allow yourself to be inspired, the more it will show up in your work. And don’t limit yourself to inspiration in your area of expertise. So if you are a writer, for example, look at photography. Mix it up. Keep filling the creative well.
Finally, do what scares you. That’s the only way to grow. And there’s nothing to really be afraid of anyway.
What is your latest epiphany?
Comedians don’t try to guess what they think will make other people laugh, They write jokes that they think are funny. And then they put them out there.
We need to trust our instincts. We can’t focus group our way into creative success. Somewhere along the way, we need to make the leap.