And, what’s more, these days it’s where and when you say it too. Is your message for Tacos more relevant on a mobile phone or as a tweet? Does a political solicitation get more traction at four in the afternoon, or does it connect more with people who are surfing the internet at 4 in the morning when they can’t sleep?
Big data can tell us this. We can follow patterns of behavior that show us the strange and wonderful ways that people act — at least when dealing with a screen — and that can inform us about PAST BEHAVIOR.
But that’s not the final be all and end all. Or as they are forced to say in the investment ads, “past performance is no guarantee of future results.” Add where and when people connect with where and when and how and, most important, why they’ll act. Tomorrow.
And the crazy thing. We can’t know. The suspense, and promise, of the next thing is what keeps us going. So use data to uncover unexpected behavior patterns (for example, something like, “why do so many hunters in the Great North Woods buy Avon ‘Skin So Soft’ hand cream?*)
But use planning, and strategy, and guessing, and heart, to change the way people behave tomorrow.
* The answer on the Skin So Soft question: The stuff scares the hell out of mosquitos! Go figure.
Think about it. The minute somebody tells you to “think outside the box” they are telling you to do what everyone else is doing. To be “creative.” What box? What box would that be? The box that about ninety seven billion facilitators and coaches and brain jockeys have been screaming to you about as long as you can remember? To be more CREATIVE!!!???
As they say, “fuggedaboudit.”
Think INSIDE the box. You’ve got a problem to solve. Just make stuff. Let me repeat that — JUST MAKE STUFF. In fact, I think the very word ‘creativity’ is poison. “Hi Fred, I’d like to show you our creatives.” BS. While we’re at the task of getting rid of thinking outside the box, we should banish the word ‘creativity’ too. We should change it to ‘making stuff up.’ The only way humans can truly be ‘creative’ is by giving birth. And only roughly half of the human race is capable of doing that! (Thanks mom!) But think of it. If we changed the name of, say, The Creative Director to, say, The Making Stuff Up Director, we’d have a lot more fun and probably solve a lot more problems.
Was Steve Jobs creative? Did he think ‘outside the box?’ Hell no. He just made stuff up — and made sure others did too. If it was cool, he kept it. If it sucked, he let you know about it and he threw it out. As for ‘the box,’ he chucked that puppy right out the window. He thought under the box, over the box, he blew up the box, he made the box a ball, he just MADE STUFF.
So, stop thinking outside the box. Just love the problem you’re facing and start making stuff up.
Sounds like fun, doesn’t it?
Back in the mid-90’s, when my agency was agency of record for Lands’ End, we were wrestling with getting the ‘vibe’ of this billion dollar entity onto the Internet. I was lucky enough to be working with a great team in Dodgeville, and I was also lucky that, while not in a day to day capacity, the founders of the company — Gary Comer and Dick Anderson — were still paying attention, close attention, to the doings. (As someone once said, “attention must be paid.”) At any rate, these two giants, who had emerged from Y & R Chicago to take a boating gear company into the stratosphere of content meets commerce, were worried. They knew that print and catalogs and copy and facts were “warm,” and they were faced with this plastic and glass box, a box that didn’t do a heckuva lot with type or layout either. I, being a child of Steve Jobs (just an expression of phrase — I wish!), was taken, smitten, drinking the kool-aid and just about everything else about the box. But these guys were worried. Had pause.
And this stunned and impressed me. They recognized that something vital was at stake. While not McLuhan-ites, as far as I know, they knew that a “warm” media form was being traded in for, or morphed into, a “cool” form.
So we worked at it. We built early ‘dressing’ avatars, we had some of the first ‘live chat’ features on the web — realizing that those good old alfalfa of the earth phone operators from Central Wisconsin were gold. We questioned every which way we could add some pulse and life to the cold plastic eye (as I put it) sitting on the desk.
Dick and Gary may have passed but their concerns and their legacy live on. UX and metrics are all well and good, but we are still dealing with a very generic device. The task at hand — how to ‘warm it up.’ Account planning can help. Good writing can help. Simplicity can help. But most of all — heart can help. It’s an ongoing, never ending battle.
I wish computer screens were on paper you could fold up and put in your pocket and then throw away. Maybe there’s a super secret project left over from Mr. Jobs that they’re working on in Cupertino to do just that.
I wouldn’t put it past them.
Have a warm weekend.