My dad’s late buddy, marketing guru Bob Sandleman, made a lot of hay off of that thought. He even wrote a book, “The Problem is They Don’t Understand the Problem,” (look for it on Amazon). And behind that pithy phrase is a whole lot of wisdom. Consider. Is the problem, “we’ve got to get people to drink more Coca-Cola,” or is it, “people need license to have a little selfish danger in their lives, where can they find it?” Is the problem, “We’ve got to sell more Arm & Hammer baking soda but nobody is baking cakes like they used to,” or is it, “people aren’t using Arm & Hammer to bake but they are putting it in their refrigerators to get rid of smells, what should we do about that?” Bust your noggin on trying to really figure out what the real problem is — that requires getting OUTSIDE that demon space known as CONVENTIONAL WISDOM, often expressed as, “everyone knows that,” or “well, the way we do it in this business is…” It taps into the gem of insight from Zen thinking, “beginner’s mind,” something I’ll talk a lot more about later. It opens your eyes to REALITY. If you think Mr. Sandleman’s expression of the concept is too addy or too flashy consider this expression of the same thought from illustrator and designer Craig Frazier, “The quality of the solution depends entirely on how well you state the problem.” Or, better yet, heed the words of my first boss, Norman Berry, who used to be fond of inspiring his writers and art directors and composers and producers with the missive, “Give me the freedom of a tight strategy.”
Think on these things. Then design like a lunatic.
Now for the second — or is it the third? — cuppa.