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Articles filed in: Strategy

Finding Ideas That Spread

You have ideas every day. Some are great, others are truly awful. So how do you work out which ideas deserve to be executed or which ones have a chance to succeed?

It begins by understanding that the people you are trying to reach have an established ‘worldview‘, their own unique framework of ideas and beliefs through which they interpret and interact with the world.

That means there are some people you can’t and never will reach. They have already made up their minds long before you get there. You won’t convince the guy who buys a box of 200 own brand tea bags to spend $10 a pop on your calming herbal tisanes.

Spreading an idea doesn’t simply depend on finding a new and different “worldview’ either. What it does depend on is how the idea is framed and your ability to tell the story with your packaging, website, book, Facebook page and so on. Most ideas that spread tell a true story, from a different angle that not everyone will pay attention to. I know that feels counter intuitive in a world where we measure everything by volume. Our logic tells us to cast the net as wide as possible. Companies like Apple don’t market using logic and neither should you.

Let’s say you want to enter the bottled drinks market. You understand that you’re probably not going to capture the hearts and minds of avid Red Bull fans, that slot is taken. Maybe you start noticing how a lot of your friends are anti-energy drinks and would never touch one. You’ve worked out the importance of looking at the edges and identify a ‘worldview’. Now you’re ready to design the story from a different angle. So you become The Relaxing Company. You tell the people who are ready to hear it a true story that they can believe, buy into and share. Your aim is not to capture the whole of the drinks market. It’s possible to be successful by just honing in on a tiny portion of it.

Here’s part of how Mary Jane’s Relaxing Soda tells their story:

Mary Jane’s Relaxing Soda is perfect for stressful situations, when you need to relax, but still need the ability to function.
Long Day. First Date. Road Rage. Job Interview. Deadbeat Boyfriends. Lousy Girlfriends. Long Trips. Public Speaking.
It’s the all-natural soft drink that delivers euphoric relaxation and focus to a stress-filled life.
Within minutes of drinking, a “calming” sensation can be felt throughout the body and mind.
Mary Jane’s Relaxing Soda is perfect for stressful, nerve-wracking situations or when you just feel like sitting back and enjoying life.
Made from herbal extracts, carbonated water, and all-natural cane sugar, it’s good for your body and mind.

The Relaxing Company are successfully spreading their idea because they discovered an ‘unfulfilled worldview’ and built something around it. You could spread your idea this way too by:

1. Identifying a worldview.
2. Designing the story from a different angle
3. Fulfilling the emotional wants not simple needs of your audience.

Before Little Miss Matched socks were sold in pairs. And before Twitter the news broke on TV. There are almost 7 billion people on the planet. All of the worldviews are not taken.

You just need a great idea!

Image by Andrew Hudson-Smith.

Framing Your Brand The Ikea Way

You don’t need to be a multi-million dollar corporation to do what IKEA does really well. In fact it’s probably easier to implement some IKEA-think into your business if you don’t own a huge factory.

Sure IKEA might be an iconic brand but it’s not their size, their logo or their buying power that keeps us coming back. What is it that makes IKEA so irresistible to the millions of people who shop there every week? What makes them the biggest furniture retailer in the world?

The fact is the IKEA isn’t actually in the furniture business, they are in the aspiration business. They sell us a story that we want to believe. It’s a story about ‘loving where we live’ (even if that happens to be a back of beyond bedsit) and ‘making space for the things that matter’.

What’s amazing is that this huge, slightly irreverent brand seems to understand us. They know that our dreams are the oxygen of any shopping experience. Not only do they allow us to dream but they positively encourage it. Their room displays say: “This could be your place. Take your time, wander through, let the kids jump on our sofa’s, make yourself at home.”

So how does IKEA frame their brand story in a way that makes us want to keep coming back?

They start by telling us the truth.
This stuff isn’t going to last forever but it looks good and it’s affordable.

They walk in our shoes and anticipate how we are going to feel at every stage of the experience.
The store is out of town and we have to make a day trip. No problem they have a cafe which opens early. They understand that harassed parents means shopping hell, so they try to create shopping heaven with free childcare, reasonably priced food, toys you can touch and games consoles. And yes they know we hate queues and it’s been a long day but hey, the cheap hot dog is visible from the checkout so we’ve got something to look forward to.

IKEA speaks in our language.
There’s no jargon and no hype in their marketing. “Love where you live.” They make it about us not them…..this is how and where our stuff might fit into your life.

They give us what we want because they know how we live.
You’ve got a problem (too much stuff), we’ve got the solution (somewhere attractive to hide it).

They understand what we’ll need before we’ve worked it out for ourselves.
Food at the beginning, childcare and snacks. Loading bays and roof racks at the end.

IKEA sells us things we can’t get anywhere else.
Unless it’s another IKEA store.

There are no pushy sales people, they allow the products to tell the story.
We’ve got time to think, space to decide and we can work out where the product fits into our story.

They create an experience we can’t get anywhere else.
The store layout is a journey and everything form the meatballs to Småland feels out of our ordinary, like another world.

Anyone can take some or all of these elements and successfully apply them to their brand. It doesn’t matter if you’re a solo entrepreneur selling hand crafted jewellery, a software designer or a cafe owner.

How could you make a hot dog a brand icon? How are you framing your brand?

Image by Aeternitas.

10 Things To Think About Before Naming A Brand

I once watched a whole community of highly intelligent, creative entrepreneurs allow an idea to become undone, never to see the light of day. And all because they couldn’t agree on what it should be called.

I know your idea is ground breaking, it’s fresh and exciting and people are going to love it, once they know what it’s all about of course.

The thing is naming your idea is just a part of what will bring it to life. It’s an important piece of the puzzle that helps people to understand who you are, what you stand for and what you do.

“Brand names aren’t brands, not by a long shot.
But they are valuable clues to consumers,
as well as assets you own.”
~ Seth Godin

To communicate the value of something you’ve created you must first understand where the value in it lies. Here are some of the things you need to consider before you get to the fun of the naming part.

1. Mission
What are you doing right now, today? What happens because you exist?

2. Vision
What are or will be the results and effects of what you do in the future?

3. Core Values
What are the attitudes and beliefs that shape your business culture?

4. Difference.
What’s your edge, the thing that makes you stand out?

5. Emotional Selling Point
What’s the intangible that you are you selling? Think feelings not facts. Connection, freedom, ego, belonging….

6. Brand Essence
The core of what you do, the image it portrays and the signals it sends.

7. Tagline
One line that communicates everything.

8. Identity
How the consumer perceives the brand.

9. Name
The verbal hook on which all of the above hangs and is communicated, the icing on your cake. Comes in all the way down here at number nine!

10. Logo
Last but not least the visual hook that represents your brand, the cherry on the top.

How are you working out the value of your ideas?

Thanks to my friend Brendan Mitchell for helping me work this out many moons ago.
Image by Andrew Barclay.

The million dollar story

The crowd funding platform Kickstarter is a fantastic place to see how ideas spread in action.

The biggest success on the platform to date has been the Tik Tok and Luna Tik watch project. Scott Wilson initially pitched for $15,000 in funding to enable his company to produce the multi-touch watch kit. The final amount pledged was almost $950,000! The project was over 6,000% funded by a total of 13,500 backers. The story was framed in such a way that we were already imagining how we would feel when we wore the watch and showed it to our friends.

What is it that makes this story so compelling? Is there are formula?

Did you notice how Scott painted an authentic and consistent picture throughout the video? He’s credible (he was a designer at Nike) and his company has a track record. We can trust him to deliver. Although we do hear some facts about the materials used in the manufacture of the watch kit most of the story speaks about the design not the facts. It appeals to our senses not to our logic. A lot like Apple!

Don’t forget that what MNML is selling here. It’s just the thing that will transform something we already love into something even cooler, thus subtly taking the story to another level because it agrees with the worldview we share about Apple. Great product, fantastic story.

Do you know of any other brands who do this exceptionally well? How could you tell a story like this about your brand?

Image by Brendan Lim.

Why the story you tell matters

“It happens millions of times each week – a customer receives a drink from a Starbucks barista – but each interaction is unique.
It’s just a moment in time – just one hand reaching over the counter to present a cup to another outstretched hand.”
About Starbucks

Notice how Starbucks don’t start straight away by telling us how good their coffee is and why their beans are better. They start by telling a story about connection and belonging as they did back when the company began to expand in the 1990’s. The facts are left for later. When they arrived on the scene Starbucks changed how we thought and felt about drinking coffee forever. They showed us how they were different in every way from their competitors. They gave us an experience that made us feel different too.

Starbucks created an expectation with pricing, interior design, mellow music, fresh pastries and a great name. The change was subtle. They didn’t spell it out for us they just allowed us to become complicit in their marketing and enabled us to tell ourselves a true story that we could believe. And the result is that we were seduced. We weren’t just buying coffee anymore we were buying how the process made us feel (more on Starbucks’ positioning from Dan Ariely).

How you frame what you do matters. Telling people why you are different is just the start.
Showing them how you are different is the goal.

Image by Robert the Noid.