September 15, 2022
Certainty is overrated
If you were to think about having to take a math test, some of you might immediately feel confident, while others are struck with a stomach-churning sense of dread. What is loved and hated about math often is the same thing. When it comes to calculations and solving equations, there’s really only one right answer. If you follow the steps correctly, you will arrive at the right solution.
For a strategist, though, it’s just the opposite. Marketing challenges and briefs are problems that require solving but without ever knowing if it’s the right answer. It requires sifting through the ambiguity of multiple possibilities and perspectives to find the best direction. Not the right direction. Without a true compass, choosing a direction requires a little bit of inspiration.
So how does a strategist find inspiration that can unlock ideas to make for a better tomorrow, ideas that can impact sales, behaviour, our community, and our society? They take a meandering path through multiple perspectives.
Picture, if you will, a cute, perfectly plump pig. To a farmer, this pig is his livelihood; to a butcher, their product; to a child, perhaps it’s their pet. Each of these individuals sees the pig in a completely different way. And it’s in exploring these differences that the best direction forward starts to reveal itself.
Places on the journey
We start with the usual suspects: the brand and its core advantage, a target consumer’s wants and desires, what competitors are doing, macro trends and shifts in culture, and any buyer or consumer research. But, while on that journey, below are some of the best pitstops worth exploring to gain impact worthy perspective:
Cognitive biases are errors or patterns in thinking that deviate from logic. They can help explain the why behind a buyer’s choice or lack of action. Similarly, behavioural psychology and behavioural economics can be looked to for how to motivate or nudge an audience to action.
Tinder is a prime example of how to use behavioural psychology. They offer a seamless, worry-free sign-up experience and later capitalize on loss aversion- those ‘oops, maybe I should have swiped right’ moments, by offering an upsell rewind option. These smart user experience designs, and the psychology behind them, offer insight into why customers may be choosing one option over another. Take digital and print content bundles for news sites. Often the digital-only content is priced the same as the digital plus print bundle, effectively changing the perceived value and influencing the customer’s purchase selection.
Many comedians have an uncanny ability to state the things that often go unsaid. If their jokes are obvious, they just aren’t funny. So, in searching for a better punchline, they often uncover human insights that can inspire a strategic direction. They also utilize wordplay that can unlock a creative territory or idea.
Take, for example, George Carlin’s observation that “electricity is really just organized lightning.” Or Mitch Hedberg’s line: “an escalator can never break; it can only become stairs.” Comedians’ lateral thinking and way with words offer great inspiration on how to take a problem, like a broken escalator or a brand losing relevance, and turn it into a marketing opportunity.
But not the 5-star reviews; there’s much more value and critical thought to be found in the 2, 3 and 4-star ratings. Recently a consumer posted a 4-star review for a personal care product. They stated they loved the product but also hated it because its name implies she may be pregnant. She went on to write she feared that any guests seeing this product in her house would pester her with questions and a conversation she didn’t want to have. This simple yet powerful point of view could change the entire course of a brand or help them see a business opportunity that was never on their radar.
Share your early thinking and ideas and gauge other’s reactions. This helps fine tune the pieces that are missing or were never yet considered. Sometimes that conversation with a client or coworkers, your friends, your Uber driver, or a stranger on the subway can reveal a perspective you would never have come to on your own.
After a meandering journey through information and multiple perspectives, then comes the messy middle. Part science, part art, getting to a strategic point of view requires identifying points of intersection across the mountain of information explored. It’s asking the question; how might a co-worker’s comment, the brand’s benefit and a two-star review come together to uncover a novel realization? While the direction is the destination for a strategist, the journey can make all the difference. Only when you consider multiple points of view can you get to the best work.