Michigan Lottery’s Fast Cash Commercial and What it Reveals about Creativity

There’s a Michigan Lottery radio commercial that plays during Detroit Piston games and sums up the problem with creativity in a business setting perfectly. The commercial talks about Fast Cash, how good it is and how much people like it. The set up isn’t really important to the point. What is important runs like this:

  • Presumably the boss: “Is there anyway to make Fast Cash better?”
  • Suggestion Lackey 1: “Glow in the dark tickets!”
  • Suggestion Lackey 2: “Lemon-scented tickets!”
  • Presumably the boss: “How about new games?”
  • Lackeys are all-in for those.

The first point is one of time. Of course, a 30-second (or fewer) spot doesn’t allow for the development of new ideas. There just isn’t enough time to be more creative. Time is the most precious resource for all of us, and we need a lot of it to get truly creative.

The second point is the boss doesn’t want creative ideas. He asks the question and immediately jumps to an old idea not even paying any sort of attention to the suggestions from his team. New games in the context of the lottery are not new ideas. They are, at best, recycled ideas.

Businesses do not want new ideas. They do not want creative ideas. They want profitable ideas. That means, proven and/or cheap to produce ideas, in this case, new games.

However, let’s take a moment to imagine that the Michigan Lottery really was looking for new ideas, and it had glow in the dark and lemon scented to work with. Fast Cash tickets range in price from $1 to $20.

Let’s start with “lemon scented.” If the tickets were lemon scented and could be used as car air fresheners, would that be an incentive for people to buy them? The advantage for the buyer would be that he or she actually gets something useful out of the transaction while taking a risk at winning some money. The advantage for the environment is that the ticket would be used for something other than throwing away. The cost of tree air fresheners on Amazon is about 24 for $19 plus whatever shipping would run though they can run over $1 each. Big foot is around $5 as is squirrel in underpants. So, depending on the design of the ticket, people may want to buy them for the air freshening qualities. The disadvantage is maybe the winning tickets would smell up the shop where they were purchased.

“Glow in the dark” is a little more difficult to work with because it tends to be nothing more than a novelty. It’s not like the lottery ticket could be used as night light or emergency flashlight, at least not as the idea stands with just the “glow in the dark” moniker. However, glow in the dark tickets would work great for a Halloween lottery game and possibly for a Santa Claus based lottery game.

The disadvantage of both these ideas is that they are a step beyond what most lotteries are interested in doing. A cheap scratch-it or computer printed ticket will keep more money going toward the state, and people are going to pay for them anyway. Adding scent or glow in the dark is also adding an expense.

Another disadvantage is that people may not go for them. They may not be interested in getting something extra for their lottery dollars. It’s a risk, and it’s riskier than just opting for new games that may be unpopular because of the greater expense. Still, for my money, if I have to choose between a $5 air freshener and a $5 lottery ticket that can be used as an air freshener when I don’t win money, I’m choosing the lottery ticket. I’d be willing to bet so would a lot of other people.

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