How to have new ideas

What if things had worked out (dramatically) differently and creative genius Brian Eno was now a high-flying marketer in the M4 corridor. Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO's joint strategy director considers the scenario.

Brian Eno is one of the great creative thinkers. A polymath who seems to have endless interest in the world, beyond his specialist area of music. One of his great contributions has been to reflect on the creative processes he has used in the studio and what he saw from his collaborators through the years.

One of the results of this reflection was a deck of cards, called "Oblique Strategies" (now, of course, also available online at As an Eno fan, I once acquired a copy of the card deck, and it’s quite a beautiful thing, which speaks to the luxury of physical objects in an increasingly intangible world.

They’re kinda useful, but perhaps more applicable to helping Bono find a new melody, or in a similarly intuitive creative situation rather than many of the questions facing marketing departments (good luck in asking your finance director to "trust your body" when you’re trying to engage him in your latest brand strategy thinking).

But go with me here. What if instead of reaching his peak as a music producer and multi instrumentalist in Berlin in the mid-seventies, Eno were right now a high-flying marketer in the M4 corridor? How would his oblique strategies have been different?

Uncertain times perhaps demand irrational thinking, so here is a selection of some of the advice and stimulus he may have been embossing on to playing cards had history been different.

What would Bezos do?

Go to the North.

Make more video.

Say sorry.

Explain it to the first person you meet in the street.

Collect more data.

Ignore all the data.

What could you automate?

Make good design your only comms channel.

Press delete and start again.

Only sell direct to customer.

Focus only on growth.

Outsource everything.

Start a movement.

Bring it all in house.

Make an enemy.

Deliberately make a loss.

Scale everything faster.


What if you only had pictures?

Do it with half the people and twice the money.

Find recurring revenue.

What if it were a service?

Be an aggregator.

Tear up your segmentation.

Give everything away for free.

What would Netflix do?

Write a utopian purpose.

Could it be vegan?

Give them a try next time you’re stuck and need to apply some fresh thinking to a big problem. But most importantly, trust your body.

Craig Mawdsley is the joint chief strategy officer of Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO

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