Talent in Advertising: Critical and Discovered Early

Gary Vaynerchuk, entrepreneur and host of the Ask Gary Vee show, has an opinion about talent.

He says, “Talent is a dramatically important part of the equation (to success). It’s not just luck and it’s not just hard work.”

I considered his thoughts about talent and the people I’ve met in my 20 plus years as a marketing consultant and adjunct professor. In each of the courses I’ve taught, there are usually a couple students who have really stood out in classes averaging about twenty students. I’ve kept in touch with a handful of those students and they share common traits. They have talent. They’re humble. And they are extremely hard-working.

So, yes, talent matters. It makes a difference no matter what profession you are in.

What about the other people who really didn’t stand out as students? Can they work really hard and obtain the talent needed to excel? As Vaynerchuk says, “hard work is key, but man does it help to have the talent to ‘catch’ that hard work.”

I believe talent in advertising starts early, years before students declare it as their major in college or begin working in the field. I think talent is influenced by environment, personality type and genetics.

This theory was tested when Janice Stark of Rivers Edge Marketing, an imark marketing partner, and I asked students at a local high school to design a logo for one of her non-profit marketing clients, Lakeside Packaging Plus.

We contacted Ben McDonald, business education teacher at Neenah High School, who was completely on-board with the opportunity. He approached his students in DECA and gave them the framework of what we needed.

We provided specific details on what the logo needed to communicate:

• Associates with disabilities reaching their goals
• Transitions in life
• Close relationships

We also included the brand personality of the company:

• Sincere
• Dedicated
• Truthful
• Genuine
• Passionate
• Open to new ideas

We offered the DECA club an award (cash) to help fund their future events.

Six students submitted their designs to be reviewed by me and Janice. We evaluated the designs as we would any other project. We gave them revisions and constructive feedback when they presented their concepts to us.

One student out of the six, Jonah, decided to see the project through to completion. The others, despite the prospects of funding their club, did not submit revisions. Recognizing his talent and dedication, we decided to provide Jonah with additional feedback from a graphic arts student at the University of Minnesota. Every time we saw revised versions from Jonah, the logo improved. Without any guidance from us, he gave us color options that were completely on-brand. Lakeside Packaging Plus selected a logo and their board added that the end result was to the level of a professional graphic artist.

As we got to know Jonah better, we discovered he came from an environment that exposed him to art. His father, an architect, regularly created illustrations and comics. Jonah had his own animation software at home and enjoyed creating graphics “for fun”. He was able to take feedback and make changes without giving up. Talent meets humbleness and hard work.

Impressed with Jonah’s dedication and final outcome, Lakeside Packaging Plus presented him with an award with his teacher, parents, Board Members and the Mayor of Neenah in attendance.

I should also mention Jonah was a freshman in high school when he completed this local marketing project. His talent for design, discovered early, was nurtured with the right opportunity.