Wholesome Marketing Ideas, Bite Size

Wholesome marketing ideas, bite size

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Insights that Incite

This is a guest post by Jeff Swystun, Chief Communications Officer at DDB Worldwide, based in New York.

Jeff Swystun
Jeff is responsible for growing the influence and value of the DDB brand. He leads internal & external communications, knowledge management & intellectual capital, and is Dean of Catalyst, DDB’s university. A prolific speaker and writer, Jeff has spoken at over 80 conferences in over 25 countries. He is the editor of The Brand Glossary (now in 4 languages), The Brand Marketers Report, Best Global Brands, Best Canadian Brands, Best Chinese Brands, author of many white papers including Brand Consistency, Adopting a Professional Services Mindset, Capturing Opportunities in Challenging Times, Catalysts for Branding, and Global Branding, along with columns in marketing journals. Jeff appears on CNBC, ABC, NBC, CNN, CTV, CBC and BBC television and radio. CNBC refers to him as a “marketing maven” and both Nightly Business Report and the Business News Network call Jeff a “branding guru”. He is a branding and marketing expert for the Society of Industry Leaders, a DMI member, and sits on an advisory panel of a leading global strategy consultancy. Follow Jeff on Twitter: @jeffswystun.

“Anyone can look for fashion in a boutique or history in a museum.  The creative person looks for history in a hardware store and fashion in an airport.” Robert Wieder

Some of the most successful brands and their marketing can be attributed to a very straightforward but powerful theory that has been proven time and again. It argues that the most effective and enduring communications are born from single, simple insights into human behavior. Insights so simple, in fact, that once revealed we react by saying, “that must already exist” or “why didn’t I think of that”.

Think circa 1851 - when in Moby-Dick there is the tale of one of the characters strapping his sea-chest to a wheelbarrow but then, not knowing how to maneuver the barrow gathers the whole assembly and carries it.

Fast forward to the 1970's when wheels appear on traditional suitcases. This is attributed to Bernard Sadow when he tugged the odd looking prototype into Macy’s in 1972. The luggage buyer ridiculed him saying no one would want to drag their luggage but was soon over ruled by a sharper, more travel-savvy Vice President.

For Mr. Sadow, inspiration had come one day in 1971 when he was lugging a large suitcase through customs and a man breezed by towing heavy machinery on a dolly. This led him to develop the technology whereby travelers could pull their luggage by a leash. And sure these poorly balanced suitcases toppled over en masse in airports and train stations but still it was a huge improvement over the technology that had remained largely unchanged for centuries. He demonstrated that an insight comes from acute observation and deduction.
Now we move to 1989, because it takes a further 17 years to improve on leashed luggage, when Northwest Airlines pilot Bob Plath develops the roll-aboard suitcase for flight crews. It soon spawns wheels on everything. I spend a great deal of time flying and I continue to marvel at roller luggage – a simple idea that has had such impact. In fact, if you think about the word “luggage” it connotes “to lug”, to be uncomfortable, to be a human beast of burden. It took us a long time to shatter that notion.

So you see, the best insights are the simplest ones. The ones that once introduced blend into our day to day consciousness with nary a ripple. They are so smooth in adoption that we feel like they have always been there.

Insights are interesting in isolation but their real purpose is to solve a problem. And in business, certainly in marketing, that usually equates to creating demand. One of our clients at DDB, The Swedish Army, had a demand problem. After 200 years, Sweden ended its mandatory military recruitment policy. For the first time in history, the armed forces needed to attract recruits – which was rather tough given its image as a playground for no-brain bullies.

DDB in Stockholm developed a truly integrated campaign to attract potential officers to the armed forces and improve their image by asking a simple question: “Have you got what it takes?”

The campaign allowed potential officers to answer that question for themselves through a series of interactive tests. The website was the hub of the campaign with traffic driven through print, interactive web banners and direct mail and TV. Also direct mail pieces were sent to prospective recruits containing a puzzle and a note which read: “You are chosen. Call this number for further instructions”. After dialing the number, they would hear instructions that they had 40 seconds to complete the puzzle and enter the code shown to stop the countdown.  

If they completed this challenge they were instructed to bring the puzzle into a dark room where they could read the message that their recruitment had begun and were directed to the website for further instructions. It only took a matter of days for the site to start picking up visitors.

Inspired by the real tests recruits take when applying for pilot training, people could find out on the web if they had what it takes to be an officer. Using headphones, the experience created the feeling that the instructor was right there in the room with the test taker. While completing tests on memory, multi-tasking, spatial thinking and concentration, participants could see how they compared with others, particularly any friends that may have challenged them to the test. 

The site had over 360,000 visitors and 180,000 completed the tests with over 70,000 hours of interactivity.  And that in a country with only 9 million inhabitants. In one month, there were more applications than in the whole previous year.

The insight appealed to brain over brawn while avoiding the relevant but too often tapped message of national pride and duty. The Swedish campaign resonated with the target market of problem solvers not problem makers so you not only get quantity you also attract a different caliber of recruit.

No one has a monopoly on good ideas and the same can be said for uncovering insights. However, it does take focus and dedication. I want to close by posing two questions to you. Whether you are a marketer, a graphic designer, whatever you do – we are all communicators. And as communicators, you will do better by your clients, your audiences and yourselves, if you challenge yourself and your work by asking…

How insightful are you and how inciteful are you?

Does your work prompt new thinking? Will it change the way people think? Is it creative solely for creative sake or does it solve a problem or advance an argument? Does it help your client sell more, more often, to more people, at a higher price? Does it improve our world?

There was a great line from Mad Men where the Creative Director, Don Draper, critiques some copy and offers the copywriter the following advice, “Stop writing for other writers”. Meaning be relevant to the consumer and engage them with powerful insights executed with brilliance both strategically and creatively.

So I encourage you to look at things from fresh angles, examine problems from other perspectives, seek inspiration from other industries, from the animal kingdom, from science, from science fiction. Uncover the insights that incite and you will find yourself in a rarified and exciting place. But do not be surprised that once you identify and implement that particularly amazing insight that people say, “wasn’t that done before” or “that’s not new” because as Arthur Koestler said, “The more original a discovery, the more obvious it seems afterwards.”

Jeff Swystun
Chief Communications Officer
DDB Worldwide


Hayley Niven said...

As business students, we are often reminded how important it is to stay fresh and be innovative. I sometimes find it difficult to be given a problem and be forced to think of it in a new way. New ideas, like the wheels on luggage, come when people aren't sitting down trying to think of a good idea. This is why it's imperative for us to constantly be on our game, keeping our eyes open for that simple, yet spectacular idea. And when we are given a task to think of a new idea, letting ideas flow freely, regardless of how bizarre they may seem, will help to hone in on the right idea. You can't force innovation and creativity, you have to just let it happen.

Josh Meyer said...

“Stop writing for other writers”. Yes, this is very true, but the beauty of Mad Men is that we see the layers beneath the ads. Often, copywriters write for their clients instead of consumers with the assumption that the two parties wants are one and the same. Clients, just like consumers have their own opinion of the product.

From Fridays per-sua-sion column in The Globe and Mail on Buckley's we see that often creative approaches these meeting with multiple pitches. One that the client asked for, one the client may consider and one that you think they ought to do. It is this last one which usually contains the golden insight you mention. Even if the insight is present, there is no guarantee the client will appreciate a view other than their own - yet another reason why these insights are rarely brought to market. Buckley's was wise to take the risk, and it paid off. Who knows how many brands have dismissed such opportunities themselves.

Coming up the these original insights is just the first step (and a tough one at that). Navigating through the bureaucracy is another challenge to itself.

Jamie Habert said...

An aspect of this post that I find particularly intriguing is the anecdote about the Recruitment problem for the Swedish Army. I thoroughly enjoyed reading about how this problem was solved, as I believe this solution is a great example of the effectiveness of strong marketing in general.

In this case, nothing was done to change the attractiveness of the actual thing being pitched (joining the army), nor were any false claims made by the Army in order to further entice potential recruits. The Army simply repositioned itself by drawing attention to skills necessary for success that one may not immediately think about when considering joining the army.

This anecdote truly displayed the impact that marketing can provide. Nothing was actually done to make joining the army a better opportunity for people in Sweden, but marketing alone provided a dramatic increase in the number of applicants.

Adam Choleva said...

Often we look to unique circumstances as sources of inspiration. Whether it be seeing our favorite athlete complete an improbable feat or a political figure taking a stand against the norm, inspiration by most standards comes from doing the unthinkable. However, inspiration can be found in much simpler ways; as was the case the addition of wheels to luggage. Recognizing a problem and allowing our desire to fix that problem serve as motivation can sometimes create enough inspiration to make drastic and meaningful change.

In this instance, the problem of reduced enrollment served as the inspiration to create a unique marketing campaign. The increase in enrollment that subsequently followed the rebranding of the Swedish army ,stands to prove that the power of inspiration, creativity and marketing can never be overvalued.

Robbie Kansun said...

What i find particularly interesting about this post, as well as marketing itself, is the power marketing has on shaping a product or service. Changing the perception of a product or service ultimately changes the way consumers use your product or service. For example, by shattering the notion of "lugging" your suitcase, consumers became more receptive to the innovative technology of wheels on a suitcase. Similarly, by launching the "Do you have what it takes" campaign, the army was changed from "a playground for no-brain bullies" to an opportunity to challenge your intellect.

Jacob Goldberg said...

"The more original a discovery, the more obvious it seems afterwards". This illustrates how some of the best ideas are the simplest ideas. The blog reminds me of a recent episode of Dragons Den where an entrepreneur came on the show with nothing but a 5 inch scraper. The simple and unglamorous scraper cleans glass stovetops without scratching them. While this idea is far from revolutionary, it is a great example of "something that has definitely been done already". Nevertheless, this entrepreneur ignored what his peers had told him and invented the scratch-proof scraper. His sales for this year are expected to be over 3 million USD - all from this simple and unglamorous scraper that everyone completely wrote off. Indeed, "the more original a discovery, the more obvious it seems afterwards."

Anna Frankel said...

As a student growing up in an age of great technological innovation, a brand that has had arguably one of the largest impacts on peer-to-peer interaction is facebook. Developed on the basis of catering to “simple insights into human behaviour”, facebook has set the bar for brands to demonstrate an understanding of human interaction. Beyond just following trends, a successful brand must influence consumer behaviour by ways of changing our interaction with our surrounding environments.

With the advent of Web 2.0, human interaction has the opportunity to transcend geographical boundaries. Consumers, who would otherwise not have been able to communicate, can now share perceptions and experiences, which broadens a brand’s influence. The availability and democratization of information has made branding a continually changing and dynamic industry. As a result, creating brands that promote or change consumer behaviour is essential to ensure your brand is able to remain at the forefront of its industry. Following or appealing to consumer behaviour no longer appears to be a viable method of branding; instead companies must influence by striving to promote change.

Jason Wolfe said...

"No one has a monopoly on good ideas and the same can be said for uncovering insights" So often as young business professionals we look at facebook or twitter and think "why did I not think of that?" We may feel limited in our world and begin to feel that all the good ideas have already been put to action. However, the inventors of facebook and twitter are successful because they uncovered insight on the way people think and interact and without a doubt found a way to incite others.

We as students can not be discouraged from other achievements, but should be motivated by them to discover how to be inciteful ourselves. Moving forward we need to seek problems or unmet demands and then communicate solutions to our consumer in a creative way. Old problems need new solutions and as such this article teaches us that we must think outside of the box to discover to pass on value to our consumers.

Anonymous said...

Keep constantly in mind in how many things you yourself have witnessed changes already. The universe is change, life is understanding. ~ Marcus Aurelius