10 Inspiring Marketing Talks To Help You Kick-Start 2014

Growth Hacker Inspiration

Well, look at that – the yearly wrap-ups and unwrappings are over and, somehow, it’s January already!

Before we know it, marketers, we’ll be knee-deep in execution mode. Just before we get there, it’s time to ring in the New Year by wringing out a few inspirational favorites from the fabric of the internet.

In no particular order (because ideas don’t pull rank), here are 10 awesome talks from around the web to kick-start some big thinking for the bright, shiny, blank slate of possibility that comes from a slightly new number to remember to use when we sign things. Not all of them are about marketing per se, but they all pack plenty of inspiring insights and actionable lessons for marketers:

1. Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Action – Simon Sinek

You may have seen this already because it’s a classic TEDx talk and a great digital success story. Five years ago, author Simon Sinek single-handedly brought hitherto unheard of levels of cool to the lowly flipchart easel when his simple but powerful presentation took the sharescape by storm – even though it was only delivered to a small crowd. If you’re like me, every viewing still gets your cortical and limbic brains fired up for some serious ideation because “Why?” is still the best place to start.

2. Your Elusive Creative Genius – Elizabeth Gilbert

Stop psyching yourself out of creating by learning the difference between being and having a genius. Elizabeth Gilbert, author of a certain best-selling book openly chronicles her anxiety in the wake of the book’s success that future projects will be doomed to comparative mediocrity. She posits that borrowing from the Greco-Romans to change our perspective on genius might just save our artists from the perceived trappings of their crafts, and make creativity more accessible to all.

3. Creativity – John Cleese

Armed with more light bulb jokes than you can shake a stick at, Pythonite John Cleese waxed philosophical on creativity way back in 1991 when TED wasn’t yet something your gran was telling you about over Christmas dinner and asking if you’d heard of it. Cleese argues that creativity is a mode of thinking, not a talent, and something we can all train to improve. He effortlessly presents over 36 minutes of thought-provoking insight without a single visual aid, showing us all that you don’t need slides to rock it.

4. Friction in the Age of Persuasion – Terry O’Reilly

Canadian adman Terry O’Reilly explains why, paradoxically, making things harder can sometimes help them take off. Turns out increasing difficulty can build legitimacy and credibility to innovations like instant cake mix, or guide you to choices you may otherwise have overlooked like clever suggested donation amounts. Along the way he extolls the virtues of the humble checklist and makes us look a little closer at Yin and Yang. Check out his excellent radio show and podcast Under the Influence (formerly The Age of Persuasion).

5. The Greatest TED Talk Ever Sold – Morgan Spurlock

You don’t get much more transparent than Morgan Spurlock and his TED journey through the making of The Greatest Movie Ever Sold. The brand-sponsored talk pitches the film, which was funded entirely by product placement. Call it the Inception of plugs. Oddly comforting to both those who never sell out and those who do so for breakfast, this talk brings a Ban™ level of freshness to the murky, misunderstood waters of embedded marketing.

6. Winning the Story Wars – Jonah Sachs

Mythopoeia proponent Jonah Sachs argues that “inadequacy marketing” is just not gonna cut it in our post-broadcast era. He uses archetypal narratives such as The Hero’s Journey to showcase how, from Nike to Apple, the very best marketers are modern-day myth-makers.

7. Storytelling in the Age of Big Data – Julie Steele

Visualization expert Julie Steele takes us on a compelling jaunt across space and time as she connects stories, storytellers, and data in all its guises to show how important narratives are. Just for fun, she includes a little perspective on the history of the earth and our interpretations of time. It should make 2014 fly by rather quickly.

8. What Would You Do with Your Own Google? – Steve Yegge

Steadfast Googler Steve Yegge looks cat pictures dead in the eye then takes himself, and all of us, to task to tackle title-case Important Problems like capital-C Cancer. This call to Big Data arms was infamously billed as him quitting Google onstage, but apparently that was all in our heads. See also Yegge’s masterclass on delivering your presentation despite your slides disappearing down the rabbit hole of technical problems.

9. Women Entrepreneurs: Example, Not Exception – Gayle Tzemach Lemmon

Journalist Gayle Tzemach Lemmon speaks passionately about how supporting female entrepreneurship around the world will unlock a better economic future for all of us. Her overview of the resilience of women starting and running businesses in developing, war-torn and post-conflict areas will inspire you, regardless of which chromosomes you’re packing. It’s humbling to remember that getting your Silicon Valley startup off the ground may be hard, but it’s probably not as hard as launching in Genocide-era Rwanda or post-Communist Russia.

10. Fail Safe – Debbie Millman

In her wistful and insightful commencement address from May 2013 at San Jose State University, big brand designer Debbie Millman sees our New Year’s resolutions and raises us total tabular rasa rebirth. Paraphrasing Robert Frost, she asks us to start with a “lump in our throats and run” with an urgency fuelled by the whispered self-taunts of regret. Unfortunately, there’s no video available of the talk but it’s well worth a listen.

So what awesome talks are you revisiting as you gear up for 2014? Here’s to a brilliant year for marketers and marketing!

— Liesl Barrell

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About Liesl Barrell
Liesl Barrell is the co-founder and CEO of Third Wunder, a digital agency specializing in marketing for brands looking to change and disrupt how we do business around the world. In her spare time Liesl is a seasoned public speaker, writer and passionate community leader for women in technology. You can connect with her on LinkedIn, Twitter or in real life (if there is such a thing).
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