Creative stagnation can be a problem in many professions, but is especially devastating to digital marketers. The need to keep abreast of technological innovations and constantly produce highly-engaging content at a competitive pace can dampen creativity. If you’re looking for inspiration to avoid that kind of stagnation, you can find plenty in the ‘Maker Movement.’
In this article, we’ll take a brief look at the history of the Maker Movement, and the principles that define maker culture. Then we’ll discuss some lessons the movement has to offer for digital marketers. If you’re ready, let’s get started!
Understanding the Maker Movement
The term ‘maker’ in this context is only now reaching its adolescence. However, the foundational concepts and principles of the Maker Movement are not new. Maker culture brings together equal parts science fair, county fair, and something else entirely, to celebrate and encourage the innovative nature in all of us.
A maker is pretty easy to define, since the term can refer to anyone who creates something new. Therein lies much of the appeal of the Maker Movement — since anyone can be a maker, it’s seen as an equalizer. All you need is an idea, and a willingness to fail and try again.
The term and concept became more mainstream around 2005, when Dale Doughtery launched a magazine called Make. Inspired by the Popular Science magazine, Make was geared towards the intersection of science, engineering, and crafting, where makers typically gather.
Possibly the official start of the Maker Movement itself was the first Maker Faire, held in 2006. This was a gathering of a diverse cross-section of people who just wanted to play with ideas and make stuff, and it was wildly successful. Nine years later, researchers were pointing to a $29 billion contribution to the economy from this new division of makers.
Defining Characteristics of the Maker Culture
This movement has empowered people to be more than just passive consumers, and has opened a floodgate of entrepreneurial spirit. As with any disruptive cultural shift, there are growing pains. However, the Maker Movement has also shed light on practices that can yield tangible benefits in many fields.
There are a few defining characteristics of the culture that you’ll want to understand when considering it in the context of marketing. These include:
- Creativity is the heart of it all. If you’ve ever heard the adage “if you want to solve a problem, ask a child,” that’s a good way of embodying maker culture. Unbridled creativity is key to being a part of this movement. Even big-name brands like Levi, Home Depot and General Electric have tapped into the maker culture to innovate their products.
- Feedback is essential to progress. Like nature, creativity and innovation abhor a vacuum. Consequently, mastering the art of both giving and receiving feedback in collaborative spaces, rather than forging ahead in isolation, is a hallmark of maker culture. Understanding the difference between criticism and feedback is also important for progressive innovation.
- Embrace failure. Maker culture really welcomes failure. Experiments and prototypes are built to invite failure, so that new ideas can be cultivated. This concept has begun to take on life in the corporate world as well. Embracing failure in the corporate setting represents an exciting cultural shift for many organizations.
- Iteration leads to innovation. Just as with experimentation and prototyping, the concept of the iterative process is important in maker culture. While this is pretty common in the field of programming, it can be a new concept for many other fields. Being able to iterate quickly and remain strategically agile can mean monumental gains for marketing teams that have struggled to act fast.
While the Maker Movement in its entirety is far bigger than just these four characteristics, they do capture what it’s all about in a broad sense. Additionally, these concepts can be applied in nearly any setting where innovation needs to happen.
3 Digital Marketing Lessons You Can Glean From the ‘Maker Movement’
Now that you have a better understanding of the maker culture and its origins, let’s take a look at how it might be useful to you. Here are three lessons that online marketers can learn from makers.
1. Provide Time for Play
As children, we learn while we play. Many companies are embracing this concept as a way to bring out creativity in their employees. Whether it’s by providing time to work on passion projects, or ‘play’ in a more traditional sense, the approach has roots in maker culture and seems to bear fruit.
Big tech companies like Google have been experimenting with creative and playful workspaces for a while now.
This tech giant remains a strong example of how play can be a useful strategy in the workplace. Taking a break from the normal grind of ideation and engaging in some form of play can often help inject creativity into your projects.
2. Set Yourself Up to Fail
Failure is a good thing. While digital marketing might not seem like an area where you want to fall flat, there are ways to embrace failure without taking unnecessary risks.
Market tests, for instance, are one example of an opportunity to flex our failure muscles. These kinds of tests can enable you to highlight areas where your content or campaigns aren’t performing as well as they could.
For marketing professionals, every failure can be seen as a green light for innovation. Small failures provide lessons that, when applied, can pave the way for big successes.
3. Foster Collaboration and Community
If you’re trying to solve a problem in your marketing strategy, having a community of creative individuals to bounce ideas off of can be a productive approach. The more diverse that group is, the better.
After all, maker culture is made up of scattered clusters of creatives hailing from a diversity of professional knowledge and backgrounds. The fact that these people were able to form a community and learn from one another was fundamental to the movement’s success.
It’s no surprise that libraries, which are often central to thriving communities, have been leading an increased effort to offer maker spaces to their patrons. These spaces offer a place for any number of community members to come together in the spirit of creative making.
In fact, maker culture has been so infectious that in the ten years following the first Maker Faire in 2006, the number of maker spaces increased 14 times worldwide.
Packed with everything from hand drills, saws, and soldering irons to paper clips, pipe cleaners, and sewing machines, these spaces are providing hands-on, unfettered opportunities to grow new ideas. It’s not hard to imagine what creative innovations might come out of providing such spaces in your own digital marketing agency.
The results of the Maker Movement and culture can be seen almost everywhere now, but especially online. The principles the culture is built on provide a solid foundation for making a change, if your marketing strategies have become stagnated and lack creativity.
What maker principles do you think would work best in your professional space? Share your thoughts with us in the comments section below!