Everyone can use some inspiration after a long week … and before a working weekend.
Some of the coolest stuff that exists in the world today is due to taking a different perspective. A cultural artist, Banksy definitely acheives that in both his art as well as his canvas – he started as a graffiti artist spraying on walls in London. And just like JJ Abrams, he knows how to weild the power of mystery. Nobody knows the true identity of Banksy. Definitley a mystery box.
Check out some images from Banksy’s exhibit that he held in LA in 2006 called “Barely Legal”.
A couple of years ago I was taking a Creative Industries course at the University of Toronto when I had the privilege of speaking with David Mirvish. This was before the whole Lord of the Rings fiasco. Anyways, he explained to me that there was a simple order of popularity and success with the shows that Mirvish Productions put on:
I believe that the same applies to viral videos online. The most popular ones are musical, followed by comedy and rounded up by tragedy. Of course, in the “tragedy” sense it might be replaced with a category I like to call “what the fuck”. Don’t believe me? Check these out:
1. Musical- 8,000,000+ in 4 weeks
2. Comedy - 300,000+ in 3 weeks
3. Tragedy/WTF- 245,000 views in 1 year
Now comes the problem. How does a brand create something like this without being lame? Obviously it appears to be easier for celebrity brand, especially one that is known for comedy. But how can it apply to a product? I think the key is not to force it. If your brand is cool enough or you can show a funny take on a benefit/service, then people will gravitate towards it. But you have to remain on brand. That’s what Blendtec did and their sales grew five-fold due to their viral “Will It Blend” videos.
I definitely have some more thinking to do on this topic. It’s so easy to pick out examples of what works and what flops. It’s easy to break down the reasons for their success. The hard part is replicating them, because you can only be original once.
J.J. Abrams is the brilliant creative mind behind Alias, Lost and Cloverfield. I was watching a talk he gave at the 2007 TED conference that I thought was spectacular. Not because he had an awesome presentation style or really cool slides. To be honest, he was really nervous at the beginning of the talk. But he has such a passion for creativity. And such interesting and honest stories, that he just pulls you in. I highly recommend watching it here.
The coolest thing is that he talks about mysteries. Abrams starts his talk by showing a wrapped box he’s owned for decades. It’s a “mystery package” he bought from a magic store in New York when he was a little kid. It was supposed to be $50 worth of magic for only $15. What a deal! It has a big question mark on it and promises the secrets to magic once opened.
But he’s never opened it.
Why not? Because it represents something important – infinite possibility. There could be anything inside of the box! But once you open it, you know exactly what it is. You rob yourself of the imagined possibilities and deliver an outcome.
Mystery is the catalyst for imagination. Think about it. When you were a kid who was afraid of the dark, you imagined all of the scary monsters that could be hiding under the bed or in the closet. The unknown mystery of the dark was scary and exciting!
Abrams also suggests that there are times that mystery is more important than knowledge. When a mystery box has the opportunity to create something greater than a textbook or instruction manual. That’s because creativity stems from mystery boxes. From imagining solutions when you don’t know all of the facts. From being enthralled by endless possibilities and not having someone there with “credible” information saying that it can’t be done.
The next time you find with a mystery box, don’t open it. Just imagine what’s inside.
Do you remember when you were in Grade 9 English and you had to read Hamlet? Did anybody else watch the movie instead of reading the play? I just want to know that I’m not alone.
Inspired by Hugh’s manifesto “How To Be Creative”, some design students have put together a short video version of the (extremely useful) guide.
It pretty much sums up what you need to do to be creative in three short points:
1. Don’t do tons of drugs
2. Creativity doesn’t come from having the coolest tools
3. Don’t hang out with the water cooler crowd
I highly recommend reading the original presentation, but if you’re lazy (like I was in Grade 9), you should definitely check out the video.
In Tuesday’s article, I wrote about how people like surprises. But why? And how does that affect how my behaviour? Luckily, behavioural psychology has some answers. Humans respond to rewards. I mean, I like getting stuff when I do things well. Especially if that stuff is a free beer. Once again, I digress. Back to the topic there are three main patterns for how you can reward people:
This is the simplest kind of reinforcement. Every time someone does something that you like, you give them a treat. You won a pitch? You take the team out for dinner and drinks. Easy and effective, and people learn their tasks quickly.
Unfortunately, this schedule is much more costly than any of the other methods and you run the risk of satiating your subjects (meaning they’ll be full and won’t pull your lever anymore, because they’re not hungry). In addition, heightened expectations for the rewards can result, leaving people less satisfied with the results as they continually achieve.
On a side note, I always need constant reinforcement. Please hug me and tell me I’m special.
Try and try again. With a fixed ratio setup, people are rewarded after a fixed number of actions. Once they learn the setup, people tend to slack off after they received a reward, then work harder as they come closer to meeting their quota and getting their next reward.
It’s pretty much what sales quotas are. You make your base quota, you get to keep your job. You make the next level, you get a bonus etc. Knowing that you’re closer to your goal makes you work harder for it. On the other hand, knowing you’re far from your goal may make you put off working for it. This system tends to reward the hardworking/motivated people the most. But it leaves your more “relaxed” customers thinking that they won’t win so they don’t want to try.
Random ratio is simple in that every action has equal chance of winning, and often times the system allows you to win far more than you lose. Once people learn the system, and they realized the more and the faster that they perform the desired action, the more rewards they get.
Because the prizes are randomly distributed, people don’t come to expect rewards after a certain interval. They don’t get bored and increase their expectation. It’s pretty much like creating a gambling addict of your customers. But if the rewards are cool and add real value to your customers’ lives, then you have a chance of growing their love for you.
So, surprise and delight rewards based on a random selection provide the best results during the promotion, as well as the best continued lift after it’s done. Of course, you want to make sure that people want to have whatever you’re giving out.
Sometimes the best things in life are unexpected. When I was working on marketing credit cards, I came across a concept called “Surprise & Delight” promotions. Basically, customers were randomly selected to win some cool stuff when they used their card. I mean, who doesn’t like surprises? One of my good friends likes surprises so much, she doesn’t really care what the surprise is … as long as it’s a surprise. But I digress.
Everyone likes surprises. Especially if it’s a gift that’s something that you didn’t even know that you wanted. Or access to something that puts you as part of an exclusive set. The happiness from a surprise gift makes it easier to fall in love with the brand. And when you’re in love, you are much more likely to overlook other shortcomings of the brand.
So here’s my idea: apply a surprise and delight promotion to cell phones. You randomly text message invitations to your customers that fit a certain demographic profile (let’s say urban women, 20 to 30) and invite them to an exclusive invitation-only party. You provide these women with access to a specific buzz-worthy event. Let’s say a premier that you’re sponsoring at the Toronto International Film Festival or a party during Fashion Week. These women get to go to the event and you (as the wireless service provider) have demonstrated higher value.
The best thing about this idea is that the exact value is not easily related to a dollar amount. During a typical rewards program, where you earn “points” for each dollar you spend, you know the precise value of your rewards. With a surprise & delight program that provides exclusive experiences, the value that the consumer derives from it would always exceed the cost.
I have a lot more to say on this topic, but not enough time right now. Stay tuned!
There is no correlation between creativity and equipment. None. Zilch. Nada. You don’t need a shiny new Macbook to create brilliant ideas. The more talented someone is, the less they need the props. There are too many people that focus on acquiring the tools to be creative instead of working on developing the ideas themselves.
Instead of dropping $1,800 on a pretty new computer, invest 40 hours of your time into becoming more creative. Conduct creative exercises. Go out and learn a new skill. Gain a new perspective on the world. Draw. Experience something new. Then pour all of these learnings, experiences, sketches and thoughts into a $5 notebook. Then the next time you are looking for inspiration or a new idea, refer back to the notes.
The truth of the matter is that every single post on Idea Drunk starts as a scribble somewhere else. On a bar napkin, a Post-It note or in my notebook. None of my ideas that have gone into the pitches that I’ve done started on a fancy Mac. Only after that initial idea has been born and noted, does the computer come into it.
Don’t get me wrong, the tools certainly add value to the process. But don’t hide behind fancy tools because you’re afraid of seeing your shortcomings. It’s only by exposing one’s flaws that you are able to grow your talent and creativity.
I was at Dim Sum yesterday with some fellow members of The Hounds and the conversation moved to an interesting topic. Apparently, there is a grocery store called the T&T in Toronto that is supposed to be reputable for meeting fellow single on a Saturday morning. Now, this was pretty surprising to me, but upon reflection, it makes sense.
It allows for people to interact with each other in an environment with good lighting and plenty of topics of conversation (Wow, whole grains are supposed to be so good for you!). Not to mention, that your judgment probably isn’t effected by alcohol on Saturday morning. So, apparently, this phenomenon has blossomed organically.
So how does a grocery retailer take advantage of this trend to sell more groceries? Here’s an idea “borrowed” from a very successful Home Depot program – instructional classes. You conduct a series of small instructional classes on everything that you need to know when shopping for groceries. Topics could include:
- How to pick fresh ingredients
- Quick and easy meal ideas
- A fact-check course on new eating trends
- What you should pack for lunch
The small class sizes and casual environment would be perfect for growing rapports between you and your customers … and your customers and each other.
The whole idea is that your grocery store becomes a facilitator of emotional connections. Emotional connections to foods, to smells and to people.
Not all ideas have to be big. They don’t all have to change the world. As a matter of fact, many of the big ideas out there today started as small ones targeted at a specific market. It just so happened that the value that a small group of people found in the concept could be applied to the masses.
When you take a look at an idea like Whole Foods, it’s been around for decades. Initially, it was just a good place for hippies to get groceries. It targeted a very small target group. But then the core value proposition of the Whole Foods offering (organics, health, shopping experience) was found to be attractive to a much larger audience. John Mackey, the founder of Whole Foods, was able to grow his company as the idea spread and appealed to a larger market. On a side note, I’ve seen some huge strawberries in there that are definitely NOT organic.
So focus on a small idea. Something that appears to have a very limited target market. And execute that idea well. Because the chances are that the value that your tiny target market gets from your product is derived from a key insight. And that insight has the potential to connect with every human being on the planet – we all feel the same emotions and have comparable physical needs.
Idea Drunk has been voted the Best Business/Finance Blog in Canada! Despite the cockiness of the headline, I am actually humbled by the win. This was totally unexpected considering the quality and experience of the competition in the Canadian Blog Awards. A big thank you to everyone who voted. I owe you all a beer. Or some sort of alcoholic beverage for those who don’t drink beer. (Dorothy?) Regardless, I have fully stocked my beer fridge in preparation.