Mark Palmer: Magpie; Critical Thinker; Creative Maverick; and Unrelenting Planner

Location: a nondescript pub somewhere in West. Three Guinness in at the bar, and a miraculous happening occurred. I was the recipient of my first ever business card — and one from a double-denim-wearing seasoned creative. This was a particularly exciting moment and indeed fortuitous.

Mark Palmer, expert strategist in brands, marketing and communication, and founder of Maverick Planet, spoke earlier that day about the ritual exchange of business cards. And how the handful of ‘weird shit’ that he encountered has forever made a mark on his memory. 

The importance of selling yourself and how to make a lasting impression with quirky/personally-inflected business cards was not the only thing that I took away from his 4hr masterclass marathon. Nor was it the class’s astute observations on the similarities between a fridge and a cat: 

  1. they both purr; 2) have owners and 3) — my favourite response — “they both have a front and back.”

I digress.

In all seriousness, Mark’s talk on the 7 DOs when tackling a creative brief, was incredibly informative, insightful and inspiring. It introduced us to a bullet-proof set of techniques that make the creative process more seamless and efficient. Never has the open stretch from insight, to idea and output, looked so hospitable with their help.

First, Mark made us confront some of the inherent human pitfalls that get in the way of making great work. We are subject to making assumptions that are riddled with biases of all kinds; often see problems/solutions in black and white, and lazily stick to the comforts of habit and the recognisable.

To avoid this inert and tunnel-vision way of thinking, and respond to a creative brief in a fresh and unique way, Mark taught us to: (1) think in terms of alternatives; (2) question/challenge the brief; (3) be observant to the world; (4) embrace PLAY; (5) be open-minded; (6) make and scamp; and (7) be brave. 

One of the strategies that I particularly enjoyed was learning how to let loose and be more care-free with the help of facilitation techniques and the 4 Rs. These include: embracing ambiguity; listing connections between dissonant images and words; and making shifts in perspective through the frameworks of ‘Revolution’, ‘Re-Expression’, ‘Related Worlds’ and ‘Random’. Each technique — which we tested out during the class — allowed us to let go of our egos, think divergently and let our brain dump flow onto the page without any hang-ups. They are also a really fun way to warm up the brain and unleash one’s inner child. Ultimately, we have been steered in the direction of making better and more original creative work.

Maintaining a diet of popular culture was another key takeaway. The meeting point between advertising and popular culture is rife with creative possibilities and is especially lucrative. So, getting out into the world, observing it and taking notes are extremely important. Apart from that, it is pretty exciting to get the green light to go to gigs, art exhibitions, the theatre and comedy shows — all in the name of advertising. I will definitely be taking this advice on board over the half-term break. 

A huge thanks to Mark for his truly inspiring talk. Now, on to the pub and another round — and hopefully some more business card swapping. 

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