Take a moment and try to identify a company, any company, that isn't under intense competitive pressure. New technologies, shifting consumer behavior, and an assault of substitute products has made growing any business extremely difficult.

To win, marketers are using new tools, optimized processes and structured experimentation. These are table stakes for a company to be successful. But in the brave new world, that's necessary but wildly inefficient. Every day, we humans make more than 100 billion Google searches, send a half-billion tweets, and more than 55 million Facebook status updates.

The antidote for a cluttered and confusing marketplace is creativity.

To break through, brands must present ideas that are unexpected and then must participate. All marketers, both large and small, are realizing creativity should be a core capability not relegated to an external agency intern working in the proverbial basement. By creativity, I don't mean creating an Internet meme of singing goats or animated gif of dogs farting. Procter & Gamble's Global Marketing Officer Mark Prichard summarizes it well. He asks all of his marketers to

1.) start with a human insight, something that really connects with people
2.) consider why anyone would "give a crap" about your idea and
3) present creative that is relevant, transparent, and authentic.

The great news is marketers do not need P&G sized-budgets to break through. Here are three companies that applied these principals to grow mindshare which inevitably led to, you guessed it, market share.

1. Start a movement

Jennie Price, CEO of Sport England, reviewed data and found that two million fewer women were participating in sports or exercise than men, despite that fact that 75% of women ages 14--40 said they would like to do more. The main culprit? Fear of judgment. "Any woman will tell you about the internal dialogue that goes on in her head, particularly when she thinks about sport, exercise and getting fit," Price said at the launch of This Girl Can.

Ad Director Kim Gehrig created this video to stop the public shaming. With no airbrushing, good lighting, or flattering editing, this video gets the point across. To wit, 8 million women (and counting) have responded by watching and getting in better shape.

2. Spark a conversation (About periods? Yes? Yes!)

Next time you want to bring a lively cocktail conversation to a grinding halt, start talking about your period. If you really want your guests to exit the building as if a fire broke out in the kitchen, start talking about your teenage daughter's period.

Naama Bloom, founder of HelloFlo, is doing just that. HelloFlo is a monthly tampon subscription service that also offers a period starter kid for young females. The idea was a good one, but a common problem was holding back Bloom's business--a lack of sales. She only had 40 subscriptions. But HelloFlo released two videos; the second, "First Moon Party" was an Internet sensation with over 30 million video views to date.

The success of her video has not only helped Bloom's sales skyrocket, but it also helped to spark a conversation. The hilarious take on girls and their periods has helped to spark a dialogue that traditional tampon commercials can't.

3. Start a road to a new career path (at age 7)

Next time you're shopping for the elementary school set, you may want to check out Debbie Sterling's company. Sterling, a Stanford-educated engineer by training, was "floored" by the dearth of basic engineering-oriented toys for little girls. Referring to the options presented to girls as the "pink aisle", Sterling created a toy that combined the best of two worlds--reading and building. She poured her life's savings into developing a prototype and launched a successful Kickstarter campaign. But it was her video on YouTube that helped usher her product into the consumer consciousness. GoldieBlox is now available in Toys R Us, is a top-100 toy on Amazon.com, and even has been featured on The Today Show, The New York Times and Good Morning America. "Just because it doesn't exist didn't mean there was demand there," wrote tech reporter Lauren Orsini.

In the end, creativity, not technology, may be the ultimate secret weapon to winning in the marketplace.

Published on: Jul 17, 2015