Monday, 25 April 2011

Old Spice "Woman": Short-Term Laughs, Long-Term Gain ?

Can your Brand DO standup comedy?

Getting people to laugh is probably even harder than getting them to buy. To me “to make someone laugh is to disarm them.” Deciding to buy is as much a release of tension as laughing, especially when people aren’t buying on the basis of need alone.

People may watch a comedian expecting to laugh, but they still need to be disarmed and won over. It’s a competitive environment, just like business. What does a comedian say after he leaves the stage with the audience cheering? “I killed ‘em out there.” What does a great salesman say after a fantastic quarter? “I made a killing in the market.”

Brands have to do more than just meet expectations; they have to penetrate the built-in resistance to commit. That energy and insight has to be supplied by the performer, not the audience.

Good branding and design, like good comedy, is often the art of sacrifice. You are defined by who and what you’re not for, thus freeing you to excel within the audience that gets you.

Innovation, like comedy, is a messy, often counter-intuitive business. It’s an iterative loop of creation, feedback, revision, rejection, and creation again. Used correctly, research fuels the understanding that leads to real breakthroughs. In the wrong hands, it all but assures the death of originality.

So, I killed some frogs here, but if one more good idea sees the light of day, perhaps they did not die in vain.

When it comes to innovation, the customer is rarely right. At least, they’re rarely right about what they want next. Businesses run on process, and the traditional market research process of concept testing is indeed an efficient process: Nothing kills ideas faster than concept testing. That doesn’t mean research has no place in innovation development; the key is to use it to understand, not to evaluate.

A comedian doesn’t ask the audience what the next joke should be about, he has the skill to tell them. Great comedians are tremendously astute observers of human beings. They know how people think, what experiences we have in common, and how to direct (or misdirect) our attention. They have to be ahead of their audience, but not so far ahead that they baffle us instead of amusing us. Similarly, the best market research is aimed at understanding how customers interact with a given product category, not asking them what should come next.


Atul Sikrai

Chief Mentor & Founder

Brand Daigonal.

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