So often I speak to strategic planners and creatives about their source of inspiration. I go around the globe preaching about the power of finding similarities and differences between different cultures that drive change. On many occasions, I’m asked: “Where do I begin in understanding or gaining insight that will drive creativity?” The answer is simple: A sense of curiosity, an open mind, and exploring ways to capture moments.
No matter where I am in the world, it is critical that I forget my nationality and culture and embrace and observe everything about where I’m standing at the moment. Creativity comes from finding small things that can be expressed in big ways. Observation is the key.
Let’s look at some examples:
2020 Tokyo Summer Olympics
In 2020, the world will set its eyes on Tokyo for the Summer Olympics. Ninety-Nine percent (99%) of those participating as viewers will experience it as sports fanatics obsessed with their home team’s success. There will be a small group, however, that will explore the beauty of understanding other cultures. Our team will be in attendance on behalf of our clients – with mobile phones and cameras in hand. We will document how people interact with each other and technology; where they gather, what they eat, and how they value local customs. We will not only be looking for differentiating human values but similarities with other cultures. How can the customs, activities, and trends we observe be adapted to solve a current challenge that we are working on?
Redefining the Consumer
Too often as we look to come up with an earthshattering idea, we lock ourselves in a room and “brainstorm” the possibilities. In many ways, this is a set up for failure. How often have we sat in a conference room with like-minded people and tried to come up with an idea when we aren’t truly the target audience. Or listened to a client go on and on about how they understand the category and what is needed; however, we all know that the reason they’ve hired us is that they have a problem and what they’ve tried already didn’t work. Most often this happens because there has not been time allotted to understanding the people we are trying to satisfy. For example, if you want a game-changing idea for Millennials, stop asking them what they want. Live with them, play with them, observe their frustrations and their moments of delight. Listen more than talk. Ask questions about life not just about your product. Stop trying to fit them all into one box. When you truly take the time to live with the consumer, you’ll be surprised at what you might learn and how that may change the way you do business.
Redefining a Category
I’m pretty sure no one sat in a focus group facility and said: “We need more taxis in more cities.” Uber is not just another taxi company. They redefined the category by understanding the frustrations that people have by getting from point A to point B regardless of where you are in the world. They provide a sense of control to consumers. They provide answers to internalized questions like “Who am I going to be driving with? How many rides have they done? How have people rated them? How long will it take to get to my destination?” They have solved for the challenge of “uncertainty.” They observed and conquered.
We are in the process of redefining the senior living category. For the past 18 months, we have observed, asked questions, laughed, cried, and lived the frustrations of the senior target. Why spend so much time to understand this? Because in order to redefine a category, one must understand the journey with a true sense of empathy. That takes more than a focus group. It means finding unique ways to stay engaged 24/7.
Transferring the Insight to Creativity
Whether designing a new product, service, logo, packaging, website, etc., the sense of fulfilling a purpose must be the priority. Yes, the insight and the resulting creativity should increase shareholder wealth but, everything should start with how we ignite the love affair between a brand and consumer. The only way that can happen is to aggressively and passionately search for the values, humanity, loves, and frustrations of who you are attempting to attract. The inspiration can come from anywhere and anyone if we are open and ready to receive it.