I moderated a panel at MarketMix about how marketers can be bold. I was up there with three people I greatly admire: Peter, Ryan, and Michael. Their bold work speaks for itself. The session ended up being standing room only--it was quite fun.
The idea for the panel started here: As an agency, you present a very bold idea, it gets approved, and then you leave. But the marketer is left with an entire organization of people who don't work in marketing or advertising so they have to champion the work internally and get it approved and supported. Imagine how difficult that is when your idea is extremely bold?
One of the great bits that came out of our discussion was how to recognize a bold idea. The group's answer: when it makes you uncomfortable. Their opinion was that, when the work is presented, if you don't feel uncomfortable it means you've probably seen something similar before... even if you're not sure where.
Which doesn't mean it's not good! It just means you're probably not in "bold" territory. And that's fine, of course. But if you're looking to be bold, to stand apart, to turn convention around, to surprise your competitors, to earn an unfair share of consumer attention, then you should anticipate being uncomfortable on your way there.
Bowie said the same thing.
"Always go a little further into the water than you feel you're capable of being... go a little bit out of your depth. And when you don't feel that your feet are quite touching the bottom, you're just about in the right place to do something exciting."
But my favorite part was about why it's important to be bold... you do it on behalf of the customer.
The core reason for bold ideas isn't to make your organization "be different." It isn't to strongly position you against your competition and it isn't to grab headlines. The reason it's important to be bold is to make something notably better for the customer. As Bernbach said, a brand value isn't really a value until it costs you something.
T-Mobile, Xbox and Amazon are all bold because they put the needs of the customer at the top of their thinking. And when they do that, their ideas become bold--and the advertising has to level-up.
Hemingway said the same thing.
When you first start to write you get all the kick and the reader gets none, but after you learn to work it’s your objective to convey everything to the reader so that he remembers it not as a story he had read but something that happened to himself. That’s the true test of writing. When you can do that, the reader gets the kick and you don’t get any.
Tracy Wong offered one of my favorite descriptions of advertising: "commerce, artfully told." So it's not surprising that the process of being bold--understanding what it takes, and what it means--is similar to what the world's best artists, writers and musicians experience, too.