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Mars’ Rankin Carroll on finding creativity’s sweet spot

From The Wall Street Journal’s CMO Today

Marketers can lead by example to create a culture that embraces innovative thinking, says the leader of the Mars Wrigley business unit responsible for Skittles, Starburst, Life Savers, and other candy brands.

Mars’ Rankin Carroll on finding creativity’s sweet spot

For marketers, creating an environment that encourages and rewards original thinking is often critical to success in the digital age.

In a business era defined by rapid change and ongoing disruption, the ability to develop novel products and original customer engagement strategies can be critical to survival. Yet there’s no golden ticket to creativity in business—it often requires thoughtful leaders to establish a supportive environment in which fresh ideas flourish.

How does Rankin Carroll, president of Mars Wrigley Confectionery’s Global Fruity Confections unit, foster such a culture? Carroll, who also leads global and U.S. marketing, advertising, and strategic development initiatives for Skittles, Starburst, and Life Savers, recommends a few strategies for CMOs and their C-suite counterparts looking to build a culture of creativity.

To start, business leaders can demand—and model—curiosity, Carroll says, creating a space in which team members are encouraged to ask questions. He advises leaders to design and protect a learning agenda, setting money aside and guarding it so employees have opportunities to expand their skills and explore adjacent areas of interest. He also encourages leaders to embrace disruption. “Assume it’s going to happen—don’t wait for it to happen,” he says. “Create the conditions that would make you very uncomfortable and ask the tough questions, even if you’re afraid of the answers.”

As for approaches to avoid, Carroll cautions business leaders not to assume that what worked in the past will continue to be effective. That doesn’t mean they should abandon traditional channels and strategies entirely—for example, moving TV advertising dollars entirely online. “TV is incredibly powerful, and viewership is very robust. Is it dropping off? Yes. Is it moving to other media? Absolutely. But in some places we’re seeing people jump from one side of the page all the way to the other, and we think that’s a huge error,” he says. Instead, he suggests marketers aim for “intelligent reach” combining traditional and new media.

Create the conditions that would make you very uncomfortable and ask the tough questions, even if you’re afraid of the answers.

This video interview is the first of three featuring Rankin Carroll. In the next installment, he will discuss where and how he finds inspiration.

Rankin Carroll’s participation in this article is solely for educational purposes based on his knowledge of the subject, and the views expressed by him are solely his own.

This content was originally published on the Wall Street Journal CMO Today.

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