Discussing the Creative Curve with Allen Gannett

The DOYO Live Marketing Show featured Allen Gannett. He’s the CEO of TrackMaven, recently published author of a book called the Creative Curve and the 2018 keynote speaker at DOYO Live in Youngstown, Ohio.

We had a few technical difficulties during our interview but we managed to power through. Get to know Allen, learn about the Creative Curve and some other fun facts about marketing and Allen in the interview.


Dennis: I have a super exciting guest with me today on the DOYO Live Marketing Show. I know we’re usually coming to you on Fridays, but we have a special guest, our keynote, CEO of TrackMaven and the recent author of “The Creative Curve,” Mr. Allen Gannett. Allen, thank you so much for dropping by today. I really appreciate it. Hey, we’ve got a little bit of a freeze. Allen. Of course, whenever you go live, there’s always gonna be some interesting thing to present, which is fine. I’m sure Allen will be able to unfreeze here in just a moment. Are we live? Can you see us? Oh, gosh. So, I’m gonna show Allen. Hopefully, the strength of the signal increases and Allen will be able to get on it, and hopefully, we’ll be able to get this Facebook live. And if not, we’re gonna have to record it somehow or other and go from there. Allen.

“You’re on a have a fast WiFi.” Me too. Gosh, I don’t know exactly what’s happening right now. This is not good. So, Allen can’t hear us. This is not going technology, right? Exactly. Allen, I hear you. Allen could hear us. I don’t think… Allen, can you say something maybe we could can hear you? And that’s just not the case right now, and I don’t know exactly how to fix this. I know that he could hear us and I wanna be mindful of everybody’s time. Let’s see here. So, we’re doing the technology dance and Allen’s in there live. Oh, gosh. I’m moving him around the screen a little bit and can’t quite figure out why. I think he’s gonna drop off and drop back in. And there we go, Allen?

Allen: Hey. We’re connecting. Did that work?

Dennis: It works perfectly now, brother. Thank you so much.

Allen: Oh, my God. I literally… All I did was I hit stop and start. That’s all I did.

Dennis: Yeah. No worries, man. So, I’m super pumped that you’re in and it’s actually it gives our people a few minutes to get in. But in any case, thanks for dropping by today. What I wanna talk about, a couple of things. First of all, how’s the office reconstruction coming?

Allen: Oh, it’s like a whole…it’s like real life legos. It’s so fun. It’s like a very self-actualizing experience as an entrepreneur to like, “Oh, this should go there and there.” And then everyone was like, “Please stop talking. You’re crazy.” I’m like, “Yes, it’s true.”

Dennis: Well, I saw that yesterday on Instagram stories. So, that’s great. We’ll look forward to continuing to see that. Best of luck along the way.

Allen: By the way, you couldn’t hear me though when you first did your introduction. I said that you are by far like, I’m usually the bubbly one on video and you are like, I feel like you’re on a whole new level. Like, I need to get on your level.

Dennis: No. You’re being very humble right now because #AllenAsks has a huge following on LinkedIn. And obviously, you’ve moved over to the Facebook platform. So, that’s something I really wanna tackle with you today. Let’s build a little context. Let’s talk about your background for a second and get people introduced in the DOYO Live community, to you, and in your career, in the progression, in marketing, in entrepreneurialism more importantly, and then obviously what you’re doing with TrackMaven and in the book.

Allen: Yeah, of course. So, I’ve been doing entrepreneurship stuff for a very long time. So, you know, my first sort of digital business was in 4th-grade. I started a school like media company as I’ve always been sort of doing my own thing. And then in 2012, I started TrackMaven after sort of bouncing around a few different roles as I start a performance marketing company, a CMO of a startup. And what I realized was that as marketers, we’re sort of going through this interesting moment where we, you know, really still wanna be creative, we wanna tell stories, we wanna do all this stuff. On the other side, we’re also realizing that data is so important and there’s so much out there that we can tap into if we really are able to glean the patterns from the data. And so, all I did for TrackMaven was let us hire the data geeks and build a tech platform, and you can focus on being creative, and we’ll be your data people. And so, we have our own tech platform, we’re sucking lots and lots of marketing data worked with a lot of big brands. You know, we’ve worked with NBA, Marriott, GE, like a lot of big sort of iconic brands. And I like to think that we’re like a data therapist or a data coach helping you understand like, what’s important, what’s not important. And then starting about, you know, the company is about 5 1/2 years old now…

Dennis: Allen, we lost you again there for a moment and don’t know. Let’s see here. We lost you here for just a second. So hopefully, we’ll catch up on our end. I’m gonna ping one of our viewers and see how they show. Allen, can you hear me?

Allen: Yes. Can you hear me?

Dennis: Yeah. Absolutely. I don’t know why we froze for just a moment. So, we lost you with data geeks and…

Allen: So, it’s what I’m saying. So, you know, we work as data geeks for all of these big brands and the thing that we realized was that…the thing we realized was that you know, we’re talking to these brands, and about a few years ago, they started telling me that, “Hey, you know, I don’t actually think I’m that creative.” And this to me was shocking, you know, these people who are literally some of them, like, some of the biggest brands in the world are like, “Well, like, I’m not sure if I’m really that creative.” And I started, you know, digging into this, and I realized there’s a sort of very discouraged base of creatives in marketing where people just, you know, felt like, “Hey.” Like, “I wasn’t born Mozart, Pablo Picasso, I wasn’t born Elon Musk. That’s not me, and I’m not gonna be that person.” And so, I started talking about at marketing conferences that when you look at the stories of creative geniuses what you actually find is that there’s a huge amount of hard work, there’s a huge amount of intentionality and thoughtfulness. In fact, it’s quite hard.

And that story really resonates with marketers. And so, I started working on a book proposal which eventually morphed into more broadly all creatives. And the book became much, you know, more scientific actually. And the whole book is basically this idea that science tells us that creativity can be learned, and I wanna figure out how. And so, I interviewed about 25 living creative geniuses and these are billionaires, Oscar winners, like, these are big people. And I figured out what are the things they all did to enhance their creativity. And I break down the four things and I explained the science of why they work. So, it’s meant to be a very sort of actionable, but yet fun book. Did I lose you?

Dennis: So Allen, in that vein, has the LinkedIn effort been something that came out of the book or did LinkedIn spawned the idea for doing the book?

Allen: No. The book has been going on for years, right? LinkedIn is just this last summer. And so, you know, well, what’s interesting though was in doing the book, one thing that I talk about in the book is how important timing is and how you need to be able to create things that are new and novel, but also familiar. And so, when LinkedIn launched video, I sort of recognized that okay, like, there’s gonna be a lot of opportunities. What are some things that people like on other platforms and we work well with LinkedIn. And so, for me doing short interviews seemed like a really good fit for the platform. And so, I started doing that last summer and it was really early in LinkedIn’s process. And they weren’t, you know, there wasn’t ton of creators yet. And so, there’s a lot of white space. And that concept around timing is a really important part that I learned about in the book which is that your creativity is not just about the skill of creating. Because if you create a replica of the “Mona Lisa” today, we wouldn’t say that’s creative. We would say that’s skillful, but it’s not creative. And so, being viewed as created is actually really important as you develop the right idea at the right time. And that second part is really, really important.

Dennis: So, and we just cut out then for just a brief moment. But can you still hear me, Allen?

Allen: Yeah. I can hear you great. Can you hear me?

Dennis: Yeah. You’re fine. So, in elaborating on “The Creative Curve” then it’s more than just…it’s obviously creating a business process as well as the, you know, coming up with the next great idea, but it’s the execution of that idea too, right?

Allen: Yes. The execution is important, but I think we overweight it. So, I think when we talk about creativity, we often talk about like, “Oh, this painter is really talented.” Right? But what’s interesting is when you look at the studies around, what makes someone viewed as creative over time, over their career actually things like self-promotion and marketing are actually hugely important for that. It actually drives a huge amount of whether or not we view people as creative. So, think about Andy Warhol. Andy Warhol had tons and tons of assistance who would actually create the art. He would often like call in the factories that would produce screen prints from him and sort of like, describe vaguely what he wanted like, “Let’s get like, you know, a dollar bill painted in purple.” And these things are things that we wouldn’t necessarily say are like, tons and tons of skills that he’s applying. But they’re certainly creative. And so, the actual execution and the actual perception of creativity are actually two different things. And that’s really fascinating. That tells us a lot as marketers. That’s not just about, you know, what we create, but it’s also about how we distribute it.

Dennis: So, as far as from a conference perspective goes, have you been out now? I think I’ve seen you present about a week or so ago at another conference. Have you started to expand that now horizon from a presentation perspective with the advent of the book? Obviously, it’s very [inaudible 00:12:13] by the way. I need to go back to that. A book creates…it takes a ton of discipline to sit down and go through the research, and sit down, and write every day to produce a book. So, that’s a huge compliment, to produce that. But what has the conference circuit looked like for you up to this point?

Allen: Yes. I started doing the book talk recently, and it’s, like, super fun, because it’s a topic where I literally spent, you know, three years on. And so, like, I just, like, have absorbed a lot of knowledge on it. And so, it’s really fun to hear people’s questions, you know, hear what people, like, really respond to, react to. And I think it’s fun because the talk is very actionable. And so, it’s sort of, you know, in 30 minutes you can get a bunch of actual takeaways for how to improve your creativity without having to read, you know, a 10 or 20-page book, which is always great. And so, it’s been super fulfilling and exciting. And it’s a lot of fun also like meeting different types of creatives and seeing how broadly applicable the concepts in the book are.

Dennis: So, we get a little bit of a pause or lag. Allen, so I guess the other question that I have… Let’s see if we’ll bring you back in. Hopefully, you can hear me still. Have you ever been to Youngstown, Ohio?

Allen: No. I wanna go to Youngstown, Ohio. I’m excited.

Dennis: Yeah. You know, it’s interesting. I moved back to the area about five years ago we have and I know that you’ve got a background of a tech incubator. We’ve got a B2B software tech incubator in Youngstown, Ohio that’s been around for about 15 years and the largest concentration of 3D printing equipment in R&D in the United States is mainly in our manufacturing history. So, you know, it’s a little more progressive I think and obviously, DOYO Live is helping to try to serve that purpose to evolve. And your book actually is on pre-order right now at Amazon. And Dr. Mike Sevilla, another break out session later at DOYO has posted that in the notes. But is that right? So, your book comes out in June officially?

Allen: June 12th and there’s also some good information at thecreativecurve.com. You can read the preface, watch the book trailer, read some early reviews. And so, yeah, June 12th. It’s almost here.

Dennis: That is awesome and we are still looking for you coming to Youngstown, Ohio on August 1st and 2nd for DOYO Live. It’s a real honor to have you. I know that you are on this meteoric rise in the world of marketing and very well known. And we appreciate you taking the time to do this today. And obviously, we have a little bit of a technical difficulty. But we always end the DOYO Live Marketing Show with at least 10 rapid-fire questions and I think we got at least 7 good once.

Allen: Love it.

Dennis: What’s on your desk?

Allen: Right now, there’s my wallet, a microphone, EarPods, and that’s it. It’s pretty clean.

Dennis: Are you an iPhone or Android user?

Allen: iPhone, of course.

Dennis: And what’s on your home screen on your phone?

Allen: My dog.

Dennis: What kind of dog you got?

Allen: A Corgi. He’s very cute. It’s all on Twitter, @MavenTheCorgi. He really, he likes Twitter followers.

Dennis: I love that. We had a guest…we had a speaker a few years ago, had a bigger following with the dog than the cookie brand which is interesting. Hey, dogs and kids play, right? On social media.

Allen: That’s right. It’s great.

Dennis: All right. This is where the questions get very difficult. What superhero do you relate to the most?

Allen: Relate to, oh, my God. What’s the dorky one that has the… Dead Pool.

Dennis: Okay.

Allen: Dead Pool.

Dennis: Now. Youngstown is a huge pizza city. It’s like a religion here and extensively throughout the United States. So…

Allen: And I’m from New Jersey, so I know pizza.

Dennis: And you know pizza. Best pizza city in the country?

Allen: Oh, what do I think the best pizza city in the country is? Asbury Park, New Jersey, of course. Easy

Dennis: All right. So, we’re gonna put that to the test in August. We got DJs that play music throughout the day to make things interactive. You got a walk-up song, you’re going up on stage to give a keynote, what is it?

Allen: Taylor Swift, “Shake It Off.” Easy, come on.

Dennis: Now, this is an easy one, but other people struggle with it. What’s one book you recommend that everybody reads?

Allen: Oh, well, you know, I have a bias. But other than my book, there’s a book coming out the week before mine that I’ve gotten a chance to read early called “Dream Teams” by Shane Snow which is really, really good. It’s all about how diverse teams outperform homogeneous teams and how to build a diverse team. It’s really good. It’s…

Dennis: All right. Here we go, and I think this is it. Last question, the best piece of a business advice that you either get or you give? And we still got Allen? He’s dropping back by. He’s not giving me… Here we go.

Allen: I’m back.

Dennis: You’re back. Last question. Best piece of a business advice that you either give or you get?

Allen: Oh, the best practices are the best practices for a reason. So, don’t try to reinvent every wheel.

Dennis: That’s good advice, Allen. I appreciate that and I appreciate you dropping by again once today. You can see, you can get Allen’s new book. Get to TrackMaven too, they’ve got a ton of great content on the web. I was looking today about all the definitions that we use in marketing that were super smart and we use those. So, I love that. I love your content strategy. It’s very informative. We’re sharing as much of it as we possibly can through to educate. That’s what we stand for. And then obviously, get the book. It drops in June, but you can pre-order it now. And then get your tickets for DOYO because you’re gonna get a chance to meet Allen and his team live in person.

Allen: Can’t wait, Youngstown. We’ll do it.

Dennis: Thanks so much. I appreciate. We’ll see you guys. Have a good one.

Allen: See you, guys.


DOYO Live is a digital marketing + interactive design conference being held in Youngstown, Ohio on August 1 – 2, 2018. This is the premier marketing event of the year and quickly becoming one of the top digital marketing conferences in Ohio.

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