Ideas born out of life: New kinds of ideas for a new era of media.

A couple of years ago I had a meeting with the global MD of a world famous brand. A charming, intelligent man and a great talker.

‘I’ve got a problem’ he said. “We create some of the most famous TV ads in the world, but the world has changed.

What worries me is I have a number of markets where I can’t really afford TV, but my bigger worry is a cultural one. We seem to have programmed our people to think in a certain way.

We have some very smart, young marketeers. Outside work they live a life Facebooking , socializing, tweeting. But they step in here at 9.00 in the morning, get their coats off, put their I-Pods down, put their marketing hats on and ask ‘Right where’s the big TV ad’.

We behave as if there’s only one kind of idea, an advertising idea. We know what they are and we have a strong process to create them. However, we don’t seem to have an alternative approach.”

He went on to ask ‘In this new world, are there different types of ideas and how do we find them?’

That got me thinking about how we develop communications, specifically ideas.

Here’s a point of view and a framework for thinking in a new way.

How we develop ideas hasn’t really changed. It is very brand-centric. Find something to say about the brand and push it into people’s lives. We have added some other channels to the mix, but generally speaking, this approach holds true.

The reason, as much as anything, is the development processes used by most big players and their agencies were created in the mass marketing era. They are perfectly developed to create ads, but not really adapted to the new world.

What if we turned this approach on its head?

Instead of brand ideas forced into life, how about ideas born out of life.

In the old world it was easy to push ideas into people’s lives. Lives weren’t as busy, there wasn’t much media, advertising was a big source of popular culture and consumers were generally captive and passive.

Fast forward to today, busy lives, masses of media, advertising just one small part of a much bigger popular culture and empowered consumers.

People’s preoccupation is their lives, not our brands. The brands that win will be those that fit into people’s lives and find ways to enhance them. The brands that achieve this will be welcomed in, those that don’t, ruthlessly excluded.

So how could we achieve this?

We could ask: As people go through their lives when, where and how could the brand be part of it?

A framework for this could be time, space, like, place. I like this little mantra because it rhymes and it’s memorable.

Time refers to occasions, hours, days, special events, weeks, seasons, even years. Anything to do with time when it is most relevant to us.

IKEA built a “bed o’clock’ campaign for beds entirely around the hours of 10.30-11.00 p.m.

Space refers to the media channels that people engage with and asks whether there is a high affinity channel, which has special meaning.

The DTI built a road safety campaign for teenagers around the mobile phone, as the mobile is the device that binds the group.

Like is the things we love in life- people, passions and interests. Could we leverage the things people love to build the brand?

Gordon’s Gin created a partnership with Gordon Ramsay to make it part of Britain’s emerging food culture.

Place is where we like to hang out in both the real and virtual worlds. How could brands create or be part of the places people love to go?

O2 have used their sponsorship of the O2 arena to give preferential treatment to customers for big events.

So there we are, a different way of thinking about ideas and a framework for generating them.

I’m not suggesting this is perfect, nor am i suggesting that traditional advertising does not have a role, it most certainly does, but I hope it demonstrates that if we want to develop different kinds of ideas, thinking about them from the human angle will help us get there.

In the old world we pushed brand ideas into life. In the new world we should create ideas born out of life.


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