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Marketing Outside of the Box

Those who have experienced my handwriting will be delighted to hear that I have started to learn to draw. And that’s been a revelation.

I’ve learned that I haven’t been drawing what I’ve been looking at. I’m not seeing what is really there.

Let me explain. From an early age, our brains have learned to assume so much about their environment. We collect models of what things look like, how things behave, how to think. And that means we naturally don’t draw what we see. Instead we draw what we think we see.

My drawing teacher tackles this by placing objects for drawing upside down so that we see its real shape rather than making assumptions about a familiar or recognisable thing. In this way the brain does not impose its model of what the object looks like. Similarly we are taught to focus on the space around an object rather than the object itself. For example we are asked to draw the space between the legs of a table rather than the table itself.

We draw poorly something we know because we know what it is supposed to look like. We have a mental model already, and we draw that rather than what is really there. If we are asked to produce the space between the table legs, it is easier to get the proportions of the table right and the table we draw looks more realistic. The brain has assigned no meaning to the space between the table legs and so does not try to correct our mental model.

The lesson is to see shapes as they are and not as the brain models them.

We make the same kind of assumptions when we try to be creative in our marketing. And perhaps we need instead to let go. We need to trust in our own innate creativity and not jump to our conventional models. One of the best ways of fostering creativity in your marketing is to take the barriers off the traditional ways of thinking about things.

Categories: b2b marketing Creativity

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Dave is an experienced global B2B Chief Marketing Officer / Marketing Director with an established reputation for delivering commercial results in start-up, mid-tier, and blue-chip businesses across technology, and business services and professional services sectors.

Dave has worked for major brands such as Telefonica O2, EY, and Barclays and held posts from Chief Marketing Officer to Director of Online, has run his own business, and managed a P&L for a major corporate. He is chair and co-founder of the Business Marketing Club ( - a network of B2B marketers. In 2019, he was named one of the top 100 B2B European marketing leaders ( He is a graduate of Cambridge University, a Chartered Institute of Marketing (CIM) Chartered Marketer and holds a MBA with Imperial College, London. Dave is a keen cyclist and adventure traveller, is married, and lives in Buckinghamshire. You can read his blogs at

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