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What Creatives & Marketers Can Learn From Leonardo da Vinci

June 11, 2019

Take Leonardo da Vinci. Yup, the guy who painted the Mona Lisa and The Last Supper.blank vertical space, 16 pixels high

He was curious about everything. And very observant. And he wasn’t afraid to let his imagination run wild.blank vertical space, 16 pixels high

Mark Armstrong illustration Leonardo da Vinci staring at dragonfly on finger getting idea for Vitruvian Man dragonfly mimicking pose in thought balloon

blank vertical space, 16 pixels highHow do you suppose he got the idea for Vitruvian Man??blank vertical space, 16 pixels highblank vertical space, 32 pixels high

Leonardo da Vinci's famous sketch of Vitruvian Man

blank vertical space, 32 pixels highblank vertical space, 16 pixels highOK, I’m speculating there, but he succeeded because he thought outside the box.blank vertical space, 16 pixels high

He was curious, observant, and imaginative.blank vertical space, 16 pixels high

Here’s the good news, courtesy of Leonardo biographer Walter Isaacson: we can all cultivate those same traits. It requires effort, but we can choose to be curious, observant, and imaginative.blank vertical space, 24 pixels high

Creatives and marketers share the same challenge: how to come up with ideas and create work that gets people’s attention and prompts them to take action: to read, buy, subscribe, hire, commission, etc.blank vertical space, 16 pixels high

If you sell a product or service, you need to market yourself. One way to demonstrate your expertise is to write a blog.blank vertical space, 16 pixels high

But how do you come up with ideas?blank vertical space, 16 pixels high

You do what Leonardo did:blank vertical space, 24 pixels high

Stay curious: be open to learning new things.blank vertical space, 16 pixels high

Be observant: we miss things that are right under our nose.blank vertical space, 16 pixels high

Be imaginative: ask yourself how you can use something in a new way.blank vertical space, 32 pixels highTo come up with ideas stay curious be observant be imaginative Leonardo da Vinci via Walter Isaacson

blank vertical space, 32 pixels highI called a local garden center recently. I needed to buy some dirt to level out a spot in my backyard.blank vertical space, 16 pixels high

I asked if they knew where I could get some. Turns out they sold dirt. (No mention of it on their website– I checked before calling.)blank vertical space, 16 pixels high

They explained the difference between loam and compost, and how you could mix them in different ratios.blank vertical space, 16 pixels high

I learned a lot. I thought: it’s a perfect blog topic: interesting in itself, and it would clearly demonstrate expertise.blank vertical space, 16 pixels high

But they took it all for granted, and just assumed people knew they sold it.blank vertical space, 24 pixels high

Brands hit it big when they come up with something that gets people talking and creates word-of-mouth.blank vertical space, 16 pixels high

Marketing expert Jay Baer calls them talk triggers: something unexpected that happens to every customer, and prompts them to become volunteer marketers.blank vertical space, 32 pixels hightalk trigger is unexpected experience that turns customers into volunteer marketers needs to happen to every customer Jay Baer

blank vertical space, 32 pixels highIn one of his podcasts, he talks about how CVS Pharmacy created a talk trigger using something most of us throw away: receipts.blank vertical space, 16 pixels high

We’re used to getting store receipts with some coupons attached. But if you belong to CVS’ Extra Care Membership Club, you get a mile-long receipt no matter what you buy– even if it’s just a pack of gum.blank vertical space, 16 pixels high

And people love it. They tweet about their receipts, and post stories, photos, and videos on social media. It’s word-of-mouth advertising that keeps on giving.blank vertical space, 24 pixels high

I love Jay’s good-humored delivery. He knows entertainment and learning are natural allies. You can watch the entire podcast below.blank vertical space, 32 pixels high

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You might argue: CVS is a huge company. They’ve got a lot more resources than I do. But that doesn’t apply here.blank vertical space, 16 pixels high

They were curious: what undiscovered possibilities are there?blank vertical space, 16 pixels high

They were observant: what happens during the in-store customer journey?blank vertical space, 16 pixels high

They were imaginative: can we somehow tweak the lowly receipt?blank vertical space, 16 pixels high

In other words, they channeled Leonardo– and you can, too.blank vertical space, 24 pixels high

Closing thoughts:blank vertical space, 16 pixels high

In his biography of Leonardo, Mr. Isaacson makes the following points:blank vertical space, 24 pixels high

1. Being curious, observant, and imaginative doesn’t just happen– it requires effort.

2. Leonardo made lists of subjects he wanted to explore: write stuff down.

3. Observation is more than looking; you need to process your observations, think them through.

4. Imaginative leaps don’t just happen; you have to allow facts and ideas to simmer.

5. Leonardo kept notebooks; observations need to be recorded: don’t trust them to memory.

6. Indulge fantasy; let your imagination roam free (think about that mile-long CVS receipt).blank vertical space, 24 pixels high

Finally: Mr. Isaacson gives us this wonderful line:blank vertical space, 24 pixels high

The best reason to learn from Leonardo is not to get a better job, but to live a better life.blank vertical space, 24 pixels high

Absolutely true– but it can also help you generate ideas, create better content, and do a better job of marketing your brand.blank vertical space, 16 pixels high

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About Mark: I’m an illustrator specializing in humor, branding, social media, and content marketing. My images are different, like your brand needs to be.blank vertical space, 16 pixels high

You can view my portfolio, and connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.blank vertical space, 16 pixels high

Questions? Send me an email.blank vertical space, 40 pixels highRecommendation testimonial for Mark Armstrong Illustration from Chuck Reese, President, Smartpress.com

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