How To Be An Original Marketer?
Our brain’s ‘Frontal Lobe’ is responsible for most of the thinking we do on a daily basis. It also happens to controls planning and reasoning.
But can we teach our brain to think out of the box, regularly?
Before we answer the above question, let us first understand where I am coming from?
I am a student of rigorous after-school coaching. For those of you who are unfamiliar with this, it’s actually a norm in India. Parents enrol their kids in tuition classes in the hope of advancing their kid’s academic skills.
80 out of 100 times, these coaching classes end up taking the role of spoon-feeders in a kid’s life. Students pay less attention in school because they will anyway have to go through the same subject in after-school classes.
This practice promotes dependability in kids where they end up spending their formative years on thinking through someone else.
Does the dependable thinking work in our adult years, too?
When I landed up in the real world, I realized that there were no teachers to help me navigate the daily challenges. I was on my own, in a field which required me to work on countless ideas, one after another.
I work in marketing and trust me, it takes a bazillion original ideas to come up with one that clicks with the audience. Marketers will sympathize with me on this.
So how do we adapt to the original thinking without the monotony?
1. Start From Ground-Zero
Whenever I was handed a problem to work on, I always jumped to the execution part without even thinking “why are we doing it in the first place?”
The Emphasis Should Not Be On The Solution But The Problem.
Starting from Ground-Zero means questioning the origination of a problem, why did it come into existence? Once you start asking yourself the “whys”, you will relate to the problem in-depth, which in turn will lead you to identify major hurdles in solving it. The emphasis should not be on the solution but the problem. This also helps the team involved in finding a solution to be on the same page.
Simultaneously, you can also take the help of “5-Why” method, a renowned Japanese method of problem-solving. It promotes asking why has the problem occurred in the first place by eliminating the assumptions and false negatives.
2. Generate And Eliminate
You can’t create a remarkable idea by just thinking about one idea, you need multiple. The best advertising copywriters in the industry deal with on an average 5–6 ideas per campaign after eliminating most of the initial ideas.
The benefit of generating multiple ideas is one, obviously, it gives way to more nuanced and better ideas.
One of the public figures for multiple failed ideas includes James Dyson, the inventor of bagless vacuum cleaners. Dyson failed 5000 times with inefficient prototypes before coming up with the one that worked. As I pointed out above, once we have identified the problem, we have to brainstorm consistently to land upon the one which is workable.
The benefit of generating multiple ideas is one, obviously, it gives way to more nuanced and better ideas. There are a ton of methods to consider if you want to go in the right direction, my favourite is the SCAMPER (Substitute, Combine, Adapt, Modify, Put to another user, Eliminate, Reverse) method. To put it to use, you just have to ask questions in each step of the method, like,
- What tools or materials can be used as a substitute to improve the product?
- Can we combine something with this idea to maximize its impact?
- What are some situations in which this idea could be modified or adapted?
- Is it moldable or can we modify the idea if necessary?
- Can we use this idea in more than one situation or apart from its original function?
- How can we simplify the idea?
- Can we reorganize this idea?
3. Pursue The Disagreements
Most of us might have heard about the ‘Confirmation Bias’, it occurs when we seek evidence to prove our favorability while ignoring the ones that contradict our belief. Originality demands the contribution of contradicting views to understand if we are headed in the right direction.
People who are involved in the project should reason more until the consensus is reached.
Moreover, acknowledging the disagreements helps us understand the obstacle in our planning. One way to identify the actual contradicting views is to play good-cop & bad-cop, but ensure that the bad-cop is someone who disagrees with your opinion for real. In simple words, people who are involved in the project should reason more until the consensus is reached. Also, it avoids the objections which might be raised by your consumers you hit the market.
There have been lots of books and research articles based on developing and managing emotional intelligence. Opinion differs from person to person because we all are humans with our own challenges, right? So how do we deal with the disagreements at work graciously to avoid any serious conflicts?
Here are a few techniques that have worked for me:
- Leaving my emotional side before entering the meeting room.
- Thinking before speaking, most of the time not speaking at all but listening to understand their point of view.
- Allowing time for debate, coming up with three important outcomes, and consensus voting.
While it’s important to agree to disagree, we also have to understand that not every argument need to be resolved. Picking up the healthy ones and leaving the rest makes John, the wise guy.
4. Make It Easy To Understand
Do you use a lot of adjectives while presenting your idea? One important thing which I have learnt in my career is to never use over the top adjectives for your own ideas, let the audience do it for you.
Ask what is the ‘one central idea’ which I want the people to know?
I was once asked to explain the ‘internet cloud storage’ to a 4-year old. Now the 5-year old doesn’t understand the nitty-gritty of technology but he/she knows how to turn on youtube or heck even cast it to streaming devices. The point is if your idea is not easily understandable, how are you planning to explain to each one of your consumers? Well, people have stuff to do, right?
Framing your message matters when the audience is nuanced. I can’t speak in Italian and expect the french-speaking audience to get my message. Ask what is the ‘one central idea’ which I want the people to know? Then build up your campaign based on the central idea. Trust me, it’s much easier.
So how did I explain the ‘internet cloud storage’ to a 4-year old? Well, I just asked her to assume that there is one big room up in the cloud which has all of her toys. Would it be awesome if she can retrieve any of her favourite toys whenever she feels like it? And yeah, she can do also do it from any place in the world. That’s what cloud storage is, keeping all of your digital memories/data safely in one place so you don’t lose it. Want your idea to be understood widely? Explain it to a kid.
5. Embrace The Worst-Case Scenario
I mentioned ‘Confirmation Bias’ above, this is where it plays the most significant role. We tend to lean on to the positive outcomes of our efforts, which is natural for humans but assuming the worst doesn’t do any harm, instead, it prepares us for the failure.
It helps to focus on the macros (long-term picture), plan-Bs because again we are humans, no plan can be fool-proof right?
A few days before the coronavirus pandemic hit the world really hard, my team had presented an extensive brand marketing plan for the year 2020. Soon the countrywide lockdown was announced and our expenses were cut short, I won’t say that we were fully prepared for it but assuming the worst we bounced back quickly on the alternate plan. This way we were able to reach out to most of our existing consumers by providing timely help while keeping ahead of the businesses who were in the pipeline.
It helps to focus on the macros (long-term picture), plan-Bs because again we are humans, no plan can be fool-proof right? One of the prime examples of business failure includes Reddit which struggled to bring in users when it launched but managed to create fake accounts and fake discussions until people noticed, the demand surged. Although, I would totally advise against doing it now.
We all are born original but while surviving in the world full of competitions, we often forget to trust our instincts. Just as you can train yourself into doing analytical work, you can also train yourself into thinking creatively, all you have to do is pay attention, take a look around. Try to see the world from your perspective not what the media or your people say. Involve in deep practice, pick up a skill and try to perfect it, you will fail initially, aim to fail fast and fail better until you get what you want.
- Think about where it all started!
- Produce more ideas and select the best ones.
- Agree to disagree, intelligently.
- Explain it to a child.
- Assume the worst and prepare for it.