There's a great new documentary on the comedian Steve Martin.

He had a long, painful, unrewarding slog for over ten years as a standup comedian playing small venues and dying on stage too often.

But then, with a sudden twist in his approach, he broke through.

Big time.

He became the most famous and highest-earning standup performer in the world, and then made it big in movies too.

What's fascinating about the documentary (which is called "Steve! (Martin)" and is on AppleTV+) is him looking back through his journals and discussing his thinking process — which was very much from the perspective of a creative businessperson considering positioning, marketing, commercialisation, rather than just an artist or funnyman focusing on the jokes.

The realisation he came to, which has stuck with me most, was looking around and recognising he looked like all the other comedians of the late 60s: a hippy.

To stand out, he decided, he needed to not look like the current trend in comedy — he needed to look like the future.

He shaved his beard, cut his hair, and ditched hippy clothes for a sharp white suit and tie. He adapted his stage persona, his material and even the way he worked with the audience, to become totally different to others of the time.

By being so different, he was showing a possible future and leading audiences there.

People were hungry for change, something new and surprising, and they followed him by the millions.

I think we can all agree, he's done okay for himself since then.

So, how can you, and your agency, look more like the future of your marketplace than the present?

This isn't about being seen to talk about new tech. Simply going 'something something AI' isn't going to make you look like the future. It's easy to copy and everyone's doing it.

This is more about doing the hard thinking and the hard work about how you position and present yourself, what your staff and client experience is like, how you interact with people.

It's worth considering what everyone else looks like and acts like now. What the norms and expectations are.

What is the polar opposite of that? What is a bold big step into the future? What would be surprising, inspiring?

Design the future of your industry, and then make yourself look like that.

People will follow you into the future.