I'm going to start keeping a list. It's going to be a collection of marketing posts where authors choose to say that brands should never do something, or always do something.
One of the things the world has taught us, particularly over the last 20 years, is that nearly everything isn't black or white: it's shades of gray. Part of learning and empathy is that things are, mostly, situational.
The latest in my feed: A brand should never use a hashtag. Right, it makes no sense for the World Wildlife Fund to hashtag campaigns in an attempt to connect people around the world with animals or issues. Nope, WWF is a brand, and they should NEVER use them.
Examples of "never" are everywhere. Like how a brand should NEVER use a brand extension. Because Disney had no business creating Disneyland.
You can find the same for "always".
Never and Always constrict thinking. They're most prevalent in presidential election politics, of course. Which is such a lovely topic to follow.
Sometimes I wonder if authors and publishers choose Always or Never thinking because our industry can sometimes lack confidence so we take dramatic stances in response...
One of the things that's nagged me about advertising--the industry I love--throughout my career is that there is no official certification that agencies or practitioners need to get before doing the job. Lawyers and architects show the confidence of their extended education. Advertising professionals, on the other hand, don't have anything.
But I'm quickly coming to one positive outcome of this: there's no ordained and proper way to do things. Channeled correctly, that openness is a blessing for clients because it means that a (good) agency must deeply study the brand, the business problem, the audience needs, the marketing opportunities and create a tailored solution from both proven theories and new ideas.
Always and Never have cautious roles here for once they're gone we increase our odds to make things distinctive. Approach solutions with 'yes and.' Embrace 'perhaps' and 'what if.' Get rid of the devil's advocate. Create ambitious things like this, this and this.
Of course, it is incumbent on good practitioners to know and understand the well-proven theories for only then can we use them, or know how to break from them. They help us think. But there are no shortcuts. And that's what Always and Never are... shortcuts.
It's good to understand the foundational reasons that someone might say Always or Never. Then, adorn yourself the ability to agree and use the theory sometimes, while at other times, break the shit out of either when the problems and opportunities are pointing you to do so.
When Genevieve Bell was studying the car industry, one of the things she reportedly discovered what that the technology in the car wasn't as important as the technology that people brought into the car.
Our music, podcasts, address books and recent destinations are with us everywhere, so why try to duplicate that in the car? Just create the ability to hook up the phone.
Which makes sense. Our cars are full of personal items we brought in.
It's a very smart piece of ethno research. And it might be the philosophy that helps retail, too.
What if instead of a retailer investing huge amounts of money into physical things, location by location, they focus their attention on reacting to a phone once it arrives? I think this goes beyond apps and beacons. Target and Starbucks and more could tie together on one platform, not separate ones that they each have to build, market and grow an audience for. Like our playlists of hundreds of bands that share a channel.
Jack In The Box is parting ways with the guy who created Jack and has been producing every ad for 20 years. Why this is interesting is that he's also the voice of Jack and the director of every spot.
There are three Jack ads I always loved. Yes, they're dated. But there's a wonderful blend of personality, quality and food promo in each. They always did that well. Every time Jack came on-screen, I found myself listening.
“Nike is about to become a significant network television advertiser. We will spend nearly three times what we spent on the ‘Revolution’ campaign in the fall of 1988. (Despite the high visibility of ‘Revolution,’ Nike had spent less than $5 million on TV that year.) This is a turning point for a company that not long ago spoke to its customers at track meets from the tailgate of a station wagon. This just cannot be a narrow look back at where we have been. We should be proud of our heritage, but we must also realize that the appeal of ‘Hayward Field’ (an Ad set at the University of Oregon’s Track & Field Stadium) is narrow and potentially alienating to those who are not great athletes. We need to grow this brand beyond its purest core…we have to stop talking just to ourselves. It’s time to widen the access point. We need to capture a more complete spectrum of the rewards of sports and fitness. We achieved this with ‘Revolution.’ Now we need to take the next step.”
The reason design projects that neglect research fail isn’t because of a lack of knowledge. It’s because of a lack of shared knowledge. Creating something of any complexity generally requires several different people with different backgrounds and different priorities to collaborate on a goal. If you don’t go through an initial research process with your team, if you just get down to designing without examining your assumptions, you may think your individual views line up much more than they do. Poorly distributed knowledge is barely more useful than no knowledge at all.
I think in the corporate world we freely use ‘positive words’ like ‘transformation’ and ‘innovation’ in order to indicate our progressive, modern leadership style. But we shy away from a proper engagement with ‘negative words’ like ‘risk’ and ‘mistakes’. We don’t like the suggestion that commercial success is a calculated risk, because we don’t like to accommodate the prospect of failure. It offends our faith in optimism and positive thinking. In this respect we do ourselves a disservice. It’s like talking about rights without recognizing responsibilities.
And we are particularly cautious around the word ‘creativity’. Creativity belongs in Pandora’s box, along with art and Bohemia and adolescent paintings of Coke cans; along with hirsute cyclists of dubious politics and personal hygiene; along with an excess of emotion and a scarcity of common sense. Creativity is all about soft sell and soft options, not hard data and hard facts.
I wonder if we in the creative businesses have chosen the wrong word. Would we fare better if we were called ‘change managers’ or ‘commercial disruptors’? Would our expertise be more highly regarded if we were ‘innovation scientists’? Would we sit at the mythical ‘high table’ if our chair said ‘transformation consultants’?