Insight and creativity can be hard to summon on demand, especially in marketing and advertising. That is why there are entire businesses built around doing just that. But how can we find more of both with the same tools we have at hand?

In my last post I mentioned the effect that calligraphy had on Steve Jobs, and consequently computers. Calligraphy and computers… doesn’t sound too complimentary. Or are they?

As a student of history, I loved the wide range of subjects that were embedded in my studies. Politics, economics, psychology, leadership, art, culture, geography, business, law – all were woven together to paint a holistic picture of how events unfolded over the course of time.

This interweaving of subjects is known as cross disciplinary learning, defined as involving two or more academic disciplines. Allow me to share an example of cross disciplinary learning done right, and hopefully provide some interesting points on marketing.

Dan Cobley, former marketing director at Google, gave a brilliant talk about how he learned key truths in marketing from the most unlikely of places, physics. Let’s look at three of his main points.

Insight 1

Physics: The bigger an object is, the more it takes to move it.

Marketing: The bigger a brand, the more it takes to reposition it.

Takeaway: Keep your brands specific to your target audience. This is why large organisations will keep many smaller brands for their various products and offerings. Think Unilever, Coca-Cola, or Procter and Gamble.

Insight 2

Physics: It is impossible to measure a particle, for the very act of measuring has an influence on it.

Marketing: Measuring consumers changes the way they behave.

Takeaway: Measure what people do, not what they say they do. This is why online data is so powerful, it tracks what people are doing, what people say they are doing (online), and can tell the difference.

Insight 3

Physics: You cannot prove a hypothesis, you can only disprove it.

Marketing: You can invest a lot of time and money in a brand, but one stumble can crush it.

Takeaway: Be vigilant in avoiding those big mess-ups. Warren Buffet said the number one rule in investing is never lose money, and rule number two is don’t break rule one. In investing you can lose in a moment what took years to build. The same is true for trust in brands.

So, to generate some insight and creativity, connect what you previously hadn’t bothered to connect. Look at some of your areas of interest. What topics seemed too unrelated to even consider pairing together. Perhaps there are gems of creativity and insight waiting to be discovered.

Link to Dan’s TED Talk: