Hunting is the task based version when you know exactly what you want and desire to get it over with as soon as possible.
It's the supermarket shop, it's the traditional man looking to buy a shirt. But it's also the woman looking for the quintessential black dress (and rarely finding it), it's the guy looking the perfect suit for the first job.So it can be utterly practical or bursting with drama - the trepidation of not finding what you want, the joy of the find and the fleeting contentment of owning it and, in the case of clothes, wearing it.
Then there is gathering.
The simple joy of prowling the shops, the shelves (real and virtual) simply to have a look at what is out there and be joyfully surprised - that intense gladness of discovery. The frisson of indulgence and naughtiness when you find something you don't need but now want more than life itself. Especially clothes of course. Here, it's as much about identity construction as anything, heightened by our modern transformation culture. The possibility of discovering a new version of yourself to try on and keep, or discard. It's free, you don't have to buy anything, the object, it's IDEA, what it might say, what part of yourself it might suddenly awake is enough.
Increasingly for young men and well as women.
That's in direct contrast to hunting, where you already know what side of yourself you want to project. It might have inspired by all sorts of stuff, but the idea is there. That little black dress might be fulfulling the wish to become sophisticated, sexy and cosmopolitan, perhaps inspired by a film, an image or simply an occasion where you know how you want to come across. Equally, it could be the need to be seen as a 'creative' type - the jeans, ironic t-shirt and urban hippie look of the modern agency, or digital type.
Only the mentally disturbed don't look like they care about what they wear on purpose. Every decision about what we wear is a decision to show the world the person we want them to see, on some level.
Unlike the relief and satisfaction of hunting, gathering relieves our need for novelty and surprise, the need for some sort of chance that we could be more than we thought we could be, that life isn't fixed. That everything is up for grabs. It's safe adventure if you like.
It doesn't matter what shopping experience it is you are designing, it is either about finding something you want quickly - sometimes high drama, sometimes not- or wanting to research the world and be inspired. It's amazing how many retailers- on and offline - seem to either don't know this, or just ignore it.
I'd already bought these CD's, but still, the very small innovation in design just made the experience a little more special. A little more attention, made with a little more love. The music is pretty good, but that extra bit of magic made it sound a little better. You don't get that from I-Tunes.
It's quite fashionable at the moment to dismiss research as worthless, limiting or the enemy of creativity.
Despite a sneaky suspicion that much of this comes from those who want to avoid doing the kind of hard work that creates amazing work that has an effect, rather than just amazing work, one can't help but agree.
Most research is crap. But's that's not the fault of 'research' the problem should be placed firmly on the slim shoulders of poor researchers and the ones who commision them.
The most incredible, game changing ideas - in communications ideas or even better, actual product and market innovation, have mostly come from a deep and intelligent understanding of people and what they were doing.
Not from asking people directly what they wanted, or what they thought of a new idea- it came from understanding situations.
Apple didn't ask people if they wanted an Ipod, but Steve Jobs understood that people still wanted 'mobile' music but found it incredbly difficult to liberate the hundreds or thousands of songs from their CD's and stuff.
In that famous John Steele, Porsche case study, no one TOLD him what was stopping people buying Porsche's- being thought of as a rich douchebag. It came from the disconnect connecting between the insight that people thought of Porsche drivers as douchebags and the fact that even rejectors in test drives couldn't stop talking about the thrilling drive, rather than the 'image'. Hence repositioning Porsche drivers as driving enthusiasts.
The same man, found that you could increase sales of milk, not by promoting 'milk', but by promoting the situations milk was essential for - with cookies, cereal etc. And 'Got Milk' was brought into the world.
I guess what I'm saying is that good research is about uncovering situations - great problems, gaps, issues and tensions in real lives, not artificial segmentations. That can be with data, qual research or, even better, going out and talking to people in real life situations. That's not hard, it's just hard work.
Then it's the leap of creativity or imagination to fill that gap. To change the situation.
Here's a mundane but very telling example. In EVERY test of popcors eaters in cinemas, people with large buckets ate 53% more than those with medium ones.
Not everyone finished the buckets by the way, so it's not that the people with medium buckets ran out, it's just that if you give people a larger portion, they'll eat more.
So if you want to reduce obesity, it's better to directly alter the situation rather than mess around with 'perceptions' of fat, greed and health, just reduce portion size.
Just like the wierd example in bars, that people with different drinks, say a half pint and pint, finish their drinks as the same time. The perception of how much we have to consume directly affects how MUCH we consume, how fast we consume and how we feel about it.
If the popcorn eaters has been 'asked' why they ate what thety ate, they would have said stuff like, "I know when I feel full". When of course, none of us really do (especially when the sensation of feeling full lags about 20 minutes behind actual consumptionm which is why slower eaters tend to be less obese than guzzlers).
So yes, good research doesn't hinder ideas that change the future, if done right, it unleashes them. By 'done right' I mean uncovering a situation you can change brilliantly. Not by listening to what people say they want, or what they claim they'll do, because the best ideas also show that none of us really know.
One of the most hallowed pieces of recieved wisdom in brand thinking is the iron rule of differentiation.
Nearly every marketing textbook tells is that brands need to differentiate or die. Kotler, Riess and Trout, they're all at it.
So it's surprising then, that most brand communication in any category looks and feels exactly the same. Then again, when one takes into account the influence of snake oil salesmen, also known as brand consultants, it's a foregone conclusion.
They get paid thousands, sometimes hundreds of thousands, to come up with a 'differentiated' brand - a new 'position', 'proposition', 'essence' or promise, plus the squillion other boxes in their brand pyramids, onions, wheels and God knows what other wierd and wonderful shapes.
Basically, they come up with a new 'strapline', mess around with colours and create constricting rules and guidelines over tone of voice, values and stuff that squeeze out any chance of a good idea for the poor bastards that have to execute any brand communication.
The only 'differentiation' is a strapline that, in the real world, normal human beings don't care about that much, with some sort if tiny variation in 'positioning' and product benefit, that escapes everyone apart from deluded marketing departments that have signed all this stuff off.
Worse, it gives them the comfort of 'being different' within the category, while actually perpetuating the creation of 'risk free' brand assetts- packaging, websites, Facebook pages, ads, POS etc - that look and feel just like everybody else. Expensive clones with beautifully pointless little phrases no one really pays any attention to.
In their heads, their brands are different, but in the hearts and minds of customers, they're all the same, when attention is actually the only battleground that matters, which we'll come to in a minute.
But what about 'Just Do It'? you ask. What about 'Vorsprung Durch Technique'? What about 'The Future's Bright? You have a point, but that point isn't about 'differenentiation' it's about distinctiveness. Which makes the battle for differentiation an even more evil crime against marketing- customers don't really care.
Once again, I return to Byron Sharp's 'How Brands Grow' (with reams of data to prove it) to find that while differentiation does exist in mind customers, it's weak and, amazingly doesn't vary that much between different brands (a minority of Coke buyers think it's different in the same way that a minority of Pepsi buyers think Pepsi is different)
Even worse (and a poke in the eye for most brand tracking) if you ask the same sample, rather than the all too common, new sample, the same questions about a brand three months later, they're likely to say something different. Because they neither care, nor think about brands very much. Certainly not enough to pick up the subtlety of a strapline or a different Pantone version of red.
So then, differentiation doesn't actually matter all that much anyway to customers. It is marketing people talking to themselves. It's brand gurus getting very rich for doing not much, validated by bad research that asks the wrong questions.
As is often forgotten, real people don't want to think about choices in categories that much, they just want quick and easy signposts for what to buy.
So then, we come to the paradox of 'differentiation', it's most common outcome is making brands look the same. When the only battle worth fighting for is the struggle for attention amongt people who don't really care. Creating legions of marketers comfortably numb the much harder, but only sure route to growth.
To mangle Karl Marx, "Differentiation is the opiom of the marketing professional".
So coming back to the straplines that have mattered.
We don't remember and respond to them because they clearly state out the 'brand vision' or anything like that.
We remember them because they're utterly distinctive. Not just within the category, but within wider culture.
Because they're powerful, provacative invitations.
Because they're powerful engines for communications ideas, not barriers, or even worse, vampires that suck the lifeblood out of them.
Because they're a launchpad for startling, distinctive brand communcations, that are coherent, not the endlessly repeated proposition constantly hurled at people who care less and less.
They empower marketers and their suppliers to deal with business issues, rather than tying one hand behind their back.
Just Do It was simply totally distinctive in the sports market, and was the canvas for even more unique advertising and stuff.
Orange was a name utterly unlike anything else at the time, as was 'The Future's Bright'. You didn't have to get it was about, I bet few did., It was noticed and made us feel different.
Whereas with, Vorsprung Durch Technique, no one even knew what it meant! Which is sort if the point.
So, if you're lucky enough to get a genuine brand development brief, or unfortunate enough to be stuck with the useless brand consultancy output you have to execute somehow. Your job is to convince conservative individuals, living by old and, frankly wrong rules of differentation, that they can 'tick the different box'. Whereas, in reality, you're striving for distinctivenes.
A strapline that's a provacative invitation, or statement of intent- if you even bother with one.
Brand imagery, tone, colours sounds and and concepts that are at once ownable and incogruous to the rest of the category. That once add to and stand out from culture.
In other words, less 'Oh that's clear'. More, "My word!"
A final word.
A new brand idea is not the same as a new brand.
If you're dealing with a brand with some any level of familiarity, it's commercial madness to throw it all out try to start a new story in their heads. It's so hard to build up any sort of profile in the heads of customers, that once you have it, it will short circuit long term growth rather thab hinder it.
Rather, you should be looking for a 'reboot'. Work with what you have. Find out what in the heads of customers you have and those you want, and repurpose it for what is right for business aims.
The truth of Old Spice is neither this.
What is often overlooked that the new stuff doesn't work against the deeply ingrained impression of slightly old fashioned masculinity. It brilliantly repurposes it.
Just as Sainsburys is built out of 'foodiness'.
That's the point of brands, long term, loose memory structures that are constantly refeshed and updated, in line with shifting market conditions, organisational objectives and culture and customers at large.
Not 'lines' not 'propositions'. A loose smudge of an impression in customers minds that's more about feeling and character, not a defined, ring fenced 'position'.
That is enriched and refreshed over time.
That, like a shark, constantly moves forward or die, but is never anything but a shark.
To finish, the obession with brand differentiation - and the false prophets who have got rich peddling it - at best, makes little contribution to brand growth, or manages to create it by luck, through accidental distinctiveness that gets noticed.
At worse, and all too commonly, it does more harm than good.
Because the obession with being different just makes everyone look the same.
In sharp contrast to the dumb trailers that followed. GI Joe, Abraham Lincoln The Vampire Slayer (!!), another Underworld film etc. It all smacked of a desperate industry relying on special effects and endless re-boots of old ideas, rather than anything resembling ideas.
The shining beacon within this was the trailer for the third Batman film (I hope). One of the most successful films ever, yes, high spectacle, but dark and takes no prisoners with intricate plotting etc.
Proof, alongwith the numbers Prometheus seems to be doing, not to mention Midnight in Paris doing over $100 million that you don't have to treat people like idiots to be successful.
Sad then, that when it comes to brand communication which is, of course, both part of and competing with popular culture, tends to take the GI Joe route.
So I went to see Prometheus last night (the prequel thingy for Alien if you didn't know). I enjoyed it a lot and it made me think.
I can't seperate the stand alone film from the original Alien, which I was just old enough to watch while it was still relatively new and hadn't dated (it still stands up).
I loved that film, and accept that much of why I enjoyed Prometheus is the adding to that original story. The thrill of the Space Jockey imagery, the prototype face-huggers, the exomorph on the mural and THAt ending with THAt creature. That film and those iconic moments mattered to me, and enriching that is pretty special.
Just like I how grew up with Star Wars and suspect my generation loved that more than any pre-teen generation has loved any form of enertainment before or since.
The prequels that eventually followed were disappointing of course, doomed to never live up to expectations, but to be honest, I still went a little misty eyed when Yoda pulled out his lightsabre, when he rumbled with the Emperor and, most of all, the silence when Vader's mask went on for the first time and then he started THAT breathing thing. I just cared too much about this world to not feel something.
So it's funny when agencies and brand managers alike talk about making brands 'stop interrupting what people are interested in and BECOME what people are interested in'.
How many ads can you remember that really did this? Left you gasping to have the story enriched by more content? And don't get me started on banner ads and 'social stuff'.
Think about the THOUSANDS of communications campaigns hurled at us every year. You can count on one hand those with any sort of genuine cultural resonance, and even then - The Old Spice Guy, The Meerkat, Papa and Nicole, the Nescafe Gold Blend couple - how much do you really think people care when these things are killed off? Maybe a little sad, but begging for more?
Doubtful. Brands are useful, we might have affection for some, even love one or two, but if anyone is crying out for more Old Spice stuff, rather the Dark Knight or even Transformers 4 (yes, it's planned), they're a little wierd.
If you start every brief with the objective, 'Be culturally significant' or, heaven forfend, create a Lovemark, your rate of success is going to be pretty dire. Even the experts at making culturally significant stuff make plenty of duds. The amazing success of Harry Potter is outnumbered by failures like Eragon and The Golden Compass. Geeorge Lucas may have done Star Wars and Raiders, but he also did Howard the Duck and Willow.
Failure is built into the business models of film studios and record companies.
It isn't part of the business plans of clients.
Being realistic, its should never be about love, it should be about getting noticed at all.
These days, kids and stuff mean I go swimming a lot less and go the gym a lot more, on a lunchtime to be precise. Next to swimming or being out on the bike, the gym comes distant third, but when can't do without either the endorphine rush, the sense of Flow and the release from being anything but me from time to time, it's still special.
It happens to be the same place where Jessica Ennis trains (no photo proof of course, you don't take photos half naked women in gyms. Not even the famous ones).
When you get that close to someone, you realise just how extraordinary world class athletes really are. What they do week in, week out is beyond the realms of what is possible for most of us.
Let me correct that, it's possible for nearly anyone, champions are made, not born, but the levels of practise, commitment and sheer hard work to get there are just too much for most of us.
When you face that level of focused, brilliance, it's pretty inspiring.
I was lucky to play a few games with a pro-tennis player once. I asked him to hit a few proper 1st serves against me, I barely saw them, let alone got a racket on them.
You don't really see that on TV, not even in a big stadium.