10 Inspirational TED Talks About Marketing That Are Under 10 Minutes

You look at the clock. It’s 2:45. You go back to work. An hour later you look at the clock again. It’s 2:48?!


This is what I like to call a brain slump. Maybe you’ve been staring at that Excel spreadsheet for too long or maybe that meeting lasted 45 minutes longer than it should have. When I feel myself sliding down into this dreaded trench, I sometimes like to look outward for inspiration. Here are 10 fun, interesting, and short TED talks that can help jump start your brain and get you back on track!


1. Dan Cobley: What Physics Taught Me About Marketing (7:38)

Whaaat? Physics and marketing don’t go together, silly! Or do they…? Dan Cobley thinks so. A Physicist-turned-marketer, he marries this odd couple using Newton’s second law, Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle, the scientific method, and the second law of thermodynamics to explain the fundamental theories of branding. Trust me, it’s simpler than it sounds.


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2. Renny Gleeson: 404, The Story of a Page Not Found (4:04)

We’ve all run into the dreaded ‘404 error’ when browsing the web. This short, and surprisingly funny, TED Talk from Renny Gleeson takes on errors in marketing and how those situations can be flipped around and made into something even better.

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3. Amy Lockwood: Selling Condoms in the Congo (4:16)

It’s not as racy as it sounds. Self-proclaimed “Reformed marketer,” Amy Lockwood, discusses the HIV crisis in the Democratic Republic of Congo and why few people are using the aid agency-provided, free condoms, instead opting for the more expensive “name” brands. It’s a tough lesson on knowing your audience and how neglecting them could have drastic effects. (Some NSFW images.)

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4. Alexis Ohanian: How to Make a Splash in Social Media (4:26)

Alexis Ohanian, the co-founder and executive chairman of Reddit, discusses the story of Mister Splashy Pants the Humpback Whale and how he rose to internet stardom. In similar fashion to the recent “Boaty McBoatface” fiasco (if you’re scratching your head- just Google it or click here), Ohanian describes how what may seem like a marketing disaster can actually turn out to be a blessing in disguise.

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5. Evan Williams: The Voices of Twitter Users (8:00)

Everyone knows Twitter. What they don’t know is how many of the ideas driving its explosive growth came directly from users themselves- 140 characters at a time. Your audience is your most important asset- don’t be afraid to use them.

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6. Tom Hulme: What can we learn from shortcuts? (7:20)

In this short talk, Tom Hulme lays out three insightful examples of the intersection of design and user experience, where people have developed their own “desire paths” out of necessity. The emphasis here lies on design for real human needs when launching products and services.

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7. Shimpei Takahashi: Play This Game to Come Up With Ideas (5:40)

Shimpei Takahashi is a Japanese toy developer who remarks on the importance of creativity in the workplace, rather than relying on data alone. We’re so analytics-driven these days that sometimes we forget to simply come up with ideas. Takahashi shares a simple game anyone can play to generate new ideas and new ways of thinking. (In Japanese with English subtitles.)

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8. Tom Wujec: Got a problem? First, tell me how you make toast (9:01)

Ask 10 different people to draw a step-by-step process of making toast and you’ll get 10 different results. This talk reveals how the simplest process can sometimes reveal unexpected truths about how we can solve our biggest, most complicated problems at work.

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9. Tim Leberecht: 3 ways to (usefully) lose control of your brand (6:30)

Control is overrated, right? Online buzz means that if you’re relevant, there’s a constant, free-form conversation happening about you that you have no control over. Tim Leberecht offers three big ideas about accepting that loss of control- and even designing for it.

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10. Jacek Utko: Can design save newspapers? (6:04)

An interesting look at how Jacek Utko, an extraordinary Polish newspaper designer, used his design ideas to increase Polish newspaper circulation by up to 100%. Can a good design save the newspaper? Can a good design save the world? Anything’s possible…


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Khuram Zaman

Khuram Zaman is the CEO of Fifth Tribe, a leading digital agency serving the Washington DC Metropolitan Area based out of the 1776 Startup Co-working Space. In his professional capacity, he has provided digital marketing services to clients as diverse as the Department of Defense, Kaiser Permanente, Oxfam America, Ernst and Young, and The Hult Prize. His writing has been featured in Forbes, Entrepreneur.com, and Business2Community. Khuram is the host of the Campfire: Impact and Innovation live podcast on Youtube. In his free-time, Khuram serves as a mentor to startups through the Peace Tech Accelerator, the Halycon Incubator, and is also a Entrepreneur in Residence at Georgetown University