Dispatches from L.A.: What’s your Cotton Candy Strategy?

A sticky and sweet takeaway from the Creativity Conference

. 3 min read

A sticky and sweet takeaway from the Creativity Conference

The team behind ‘Wireframe with Khoi Vinh’ returns to Canada after a week at the Adobe Max creativity conference in Los Angeles. This is what ‘stuck’ with them.

While chatting with some of the vendors at Adobe MAX, we noticed people wandering by us in the “Community Pavilion” with fresh lemonade and bright pink, freshly spun cotton candy. As the cotton candy spread throughout the pavilion, we needed to know where it came from.

Whoever was responsible had our attention (and our appetites). It became a lesson in how simple but creative thinking can connect a brand to a listener.

The “Community Pavilion” is where you’ll find vendors and sponsors showcasing their products and services, chill-out areas, artist marketplaces, and many staging areas showcasing great design work from Adobe. (Oh, and puppies too. There was a puppy pit, and you can pet them. Which we did.)

Creativity was everywhere. Face painting over in one corner, free “social media headshots” in another, design-your-own-sticker over here, silk-screen your t-shirt over there.

But for me, the cotton candy is what captured my attention.

Pink, fluffy, sugary, nostalgic cotton candy. It triggered memories of being a kid at my small-town summer carnival. I was immediately primed to like whatever brand was responsible.

Turns out, the sweet stunt was Tiled’s idea. They’re a young company that helps customers build “interactive content experiences” without needing to know any code. And if we wanted the candy, we had to sign up for a free 21-day trial of their software tool. I typically balk at this stuff. But I was charmed. So we signed up.

We spent a good 20 minutes connecting with Chase and Kate about what they do (while munching on the candy floss). We nerded out about podcasting (naturally) and got an immediate sense of their brand’s personality. Tiled is a company of problem solvers who also want us all to have fun while we work and create. Afterward, Pippa and I talked about how the cotton candy stunt grabbed our attention in the same way a cold open to a podcast does.

They hooked us with the candy and, primed us to think of Tiled as a fun and light, and creative company that we might want to work with. And they kept us engaged and talking for a good twenty minutes. (Which, as it were, is a typical engagement average for the podcasts we’ve had the pleasure of making with our clients.)

What Tiled did with their candy trick is similar to how we advise our clients to think about their podcast strategies. Like a conference floor, the podcast space is very competitive. Your show needs to leverage every creative tool you have to woo your audience, namely:

  • podcast artwork
  • show title
  • episode cold opens (that first minute off the top)
  • format

Ask yourself: what will grab your audience’s attention and express the voice and spirit of your brand? What can you design that tells listeners that your podcast is worth their time? That your podcast is worth “lining up” for?

Ultimately, the creativity you inject into the kind of show you make and the creative effort you put into how you package that show is how you’ll win the audience game. Want some metaphorical proof? Check out the lineup for the Tiled booth. By contrast, I passed booth after booth after booth of vendors and sponsors with near zero foot traffic. It’s not like they weren’t interesting companies with interesting products. The problem, I suspect, is that they didn’t spend enough time thinking creatively about their brand.

They didn’t have a Cotton Candy Strategy.

If creativity and fun build lineups at a conference booth… What do you think it might do for your podcast?

Pippa Johnstone at Adobe Max 2022
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