The Musings Of An Opinionated Sod [Help Me Grow!]

We Need More Imperfect Solutions …
April 25, 2012, 6:00 am
Filed under: Comment

We live in a World of ‘tailored solutions’.

Food … finance … clothes … friends … apps … books …

You name it, we’ve got it.

But is it doing us any good?

Is having all our needs/wants/tastes met, helping us in the longterm?

Of course it’s nice when you receive something that suits you – but what about those things that, on first impressions, don’t match your usual tastes?

What about those things that when you experience them, take you to somewhere new … somewhere interesting … somewhere great?

What about those things?

A book … a film … an outfit … a food?

The good news is that currently, the technology that companies rely on to match their products to their purchasers are – appropriately enough – imperfect, but this will only diminish over time as things get smarter, better, quicker and more invasive.

And while convenience is well, convenient … isn’t it all a little bit, boringly comfortable?

As my Mum said, everything is good in moderation – but we’re not getting tailored solutions in moderation are we, we’re getting them – or attempting to get them – in excess.

The irony of planning is that we are contributing to this.

For all the talk about helping brands be more powerful, differentiated and interesting, we are ultimately paid to help them ‘fit in’ with people’s lives

What’s worse is the way the discipline does this, is to place a huge emphasis on what people are doing now and then try to find a gap – or a way – to put ourselves in-front of all our competitors offering.

In other words, it’s not about finding ways to nudge/encourage/push people into the unknown and exciting – a place where they may find things fascinating and interesting – but keeping them firmly where they are, albeit with a slightly different slant on what has gone on before.

I know … I know … ‘commercial realities’ mean this is what we have to do.

But is that what actually happens?

You could argue that if all you’re doing is fighting within the existing category, you’re basically fighting in a limited pool where your only hope is to steal a bit of share from one of your existing competitors.

And that’s why I have always been a massive advocate of thinking about culture, not just the category.

By understanding what is going on in their hearts, minds, fears and thoughts … looking broader, not just deeper … you can find an underlying tension that can be the basis for you to challenge a broader audience to take notice and start to care … a mass of people who might start to consider you an option, not just as a brand but as a category … a group who could go on a journey of discovery and push things even further because you’ve appealed to their values not just their habits.

Planning is very important, we represent the views, needs and opinions of the masses … but if we want to make a bigger difference – to them, our clients & our industry – it’s time to stop just focusing on what can be the ‘perfect fit’ and more on what people can grow into.

37 Comments so far
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This is great stuff Rob especially your last few words “perfect fit vs. something you can grow into”.

Question. Isn’t appealing to people’s values still being about creating the perfect fit? I know what you’re saying and you have to create some relevance to create some intrigue, but how imperfect do you think we can feasibly get away with?

Love this post though.

Comment by Pete

weve already got one pedantic fucker, theres no room for another bastard doddsy thank you very fucking much.

Comment by andy@cynic

but good work on developing your bastard creds, theyre coming along a fucking treat, just ask byron.

Comment by andy@cynic

Fair point Pete …

According to a lot of French advertising, I would say you could go completely off at mega-tangents, but they’re French, so they don’t really count.

In all seriousness, I’m not suggesting we suddenly go ‘rogue’ and ignore everything the audience needs or wants, but this obsession with mirroring an audiences needs and not leaving anything to the imagination is ultimately keeping brands – and their audience – in a very tight space meaning that:

[1] it often fails to attract anyone new to the category

[2] it relies on the audience to drive the innovation rather than the brand

… both of which, in my mind, are against the traditional economic goals of companies.

Ultimately, it’s about leaving some space for people – and the brand – to explore and grow which means – as you will know from all the rambling I used to give you – we should ‘freeze the idea fresh’ rather than boil the life out of it in a bid to make it more ‘tailored’.

Of course, there’s a whole other aspect about ‘dreaming bigger’ which is – sadly – unbelievably rare for many companies [wanting to be ‘the biggest’ doesn’t count] but that’s a post for another day.

Comment by Rob

what the fuck are you on about campbell.

and i thought id never have to hear your fucking “freeze it fresh” bollocks again. youve ruined my fucking birthday before its my fucking birthday. prick.

Comment by andy@cynic

youre basically slagging off the industry that keeps you in the lifestyle you dont deserve. no fucking wonder i almost like this.

Comment by andy@cynic

Consider that your birthday present then.

Comment by Rob

like fuck i do. cock.

Comment by andy@cynic

all fucking good campbell but say that to a someone waiting for a heart fucking transplant.

Comment by andy@cynic


Comment by Bazza

+1 (For Andy. Not midget millionaire)

Comment by Billy Whizz

midget millionaire? better class of insult billy, youve been practicing.

Comment by andy@cynic


Comment by Bazza

commenting with one word doesnt make you look fucking deep. even fucking more so when that word is fucking “nice.”

Comment by andy@cynic


Comment by Bazza

cheeky cock.

Comment by andy@cynic

The kid in this post is more stylish and fashionable than you Rob. Just saying.

Comment by Billy Whizz

Is this your way of saying you’re going to stop wearing birkenstocks?

Comment by Billy Whizz

we can only fucking hope.

Comment by andy@cynic

I couldn’t do it to Birkenstocks, they’d close down.

Comment by Rob

campbell? according to the date on this bollocks post, its the 25th april, more importantly known as my fucking birthday so where the fuck are my bastard birthday wishes. and money. i want lots and lots of your fucking money.

Comment by andy@cynic

It only counts in your timezone and no, you are not the exception to the rule.

But happy birthday for tomorrow. You’ll like the present that’s on it’s way, even if it’s not as inappropriate as George’s uber-faux pas from a few years ago.

Comment by Rob

it fucking better be expensive. and not expensive in that chinese currency crap, but real money. dollars and shit.

Comment by andy@cynic

Happy birthday Andrew. For tomorrow.

Comment by Lee Hill

A lovely read to end my day.

I wonder how many people will appreciate what you are saying is different to ad agencies traditional interpretation of differentiation.

A good week of posts Robert, long may it continue.

Comment by Lee Hill

Good call. A different execution from the category is not being different from the category.

Comment by Pete

Yep, and so few people get that. Actually, I think they do, they just can’t be bothered to embrace it – either for laziness, convenience or something else I can’t think of.

Comment by Rob

Thanks for a great post on a day that I am leading a discussion on growth (whatever that may mean these days). I find that fewer people can express their needs in unique ways. It is more and more “like a pad, like a service, like product X”, almost a dumbing down of sorts. Maybe they’ll know the need when they see the offering, maybe creating a scope for growing your own skin, and not getting a taylored one …. Anyway, let me go understand what they want to grow, and why. Maybe growth is not what it seems afterall.

Comment by Henk

I suppose your saying there’s an opportunity to make people think and actually change their minds, rather than just agree with them. I think that’s why I dislike all that ‘we share your values stuff’.
Now some twats would probably malign that Ehrenberg Bass stuff and say people can’t be arsed to think about brands (it’s already happened to me, so nice to cut media twats to ribbon with proper data analysis) when it’s really saying you have to be distinctive. Another take on the category rules is not distinctive.
On the other hands, Medis Arts fuckers, you are never going to ‘stop interrupting what people are interested in and become the thing people are interested in’, or at least not the 90% of people who have a life and don’t spend their life wanking off to the ‘5 conversations’
Oh, a measured comment turned into a rant, well there you go

Comment by northern

The issue with ‘share your values’ is that [1] it’s always so generic that it basically represents nothing unique whatsoever and [2] it can/should be “this is who we are and if you like it, come play” rather than this subservient, bland and passive approach so many brands have in trying to relate to people.

Or said another way, values that attract rather than chase – or creep – after an audience.

But yes, make people think – with the acknowledgement that they might not be interested so you have to find a way to make them, rather than [1] assuming they’re already sitting at home waiting for your next bland ad to come on and “inspire them” and/or [2] believe nothing you can do will stir them so don’t bother even trying.

Either way, mirroring or mimicing them to perfection isn’t the way to do it – at least not if you want a chance of getting people to be actively be involved in some way.

Comment by Rob

As the late lamented Mr. Frith says don’t make them believe what they see, make them see what they believe.

And as someone else (can’t recall who) recently said: don’t make people want stuff, make stuff people really want.

Comment by John

That’s you and me doomed then Mr D.

Comment by Rob

For different reasons and with different implications.

Comment by Rob

Ha. It’s not me who wants to force a branded car onto the unsuspecting world.

Comment by John

And I’m doomed because of the things I really want.
Not trousers made of soap John, in case you were wondering.

Comment by northern

This is a very interesting topic. I can see how every brand being sycophantic in approach could get very annoying. As stated above, brands that are clear about their values in a way that challenges people have so much to gain.

Think of Marmite, no stupid eating emjoyment shots, but challenging people by saying ‘you might hate this’. Stella Artois deliberately not trying to fit in on price.

If you genuinely connect with people, then great. But too many brands try and wedge themselves a connection that isn’t there.

Comment by Rob Mortimer (Not a fake Andy)

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