The advertising industry has a lot to learn from the wisdom once imparted by Bruce Lee (and the lesson echoed by Po in the 2008 Dreamworks movie Kung Fu Panda):
“You must be shapeless, formless, like water. When you pour water in a cup, it becomes the cup. When you pour water in a bottle, it becomes the bottle. When you pour water in a teapot, it becomes the teapot. Water can drip and it can crash. Become like water my friend.”
Attending Advertising Week Europe recently, I heard lots of the same moans, confused types or worse still people talking shit about shit they don’t really understand. But occasionally from unexpected corners, I got glimmers of hope that our industry is starting to wake up.
Flickers of clarity through the noise that a few (mainly clients from digital-first brands) understand the need to think outside the established slow and walled creative approach and move towards a borderless and frictionless creative mindset.
So, what do I mean by this?
Traditionally our industry has sold big ideas.
That’s been my job at famous places in the not too distant past here and overseas.
Agencies are briefed to come up with a single big idea, in what is typically a slow and layered process.
Trouble is, these ideas are still being delivered as a strapline, manifesto, or a killer spot, or a messaging platform. These things are still very important of course and they absolutely have a place in the mix, but they’re only a part of what is required to compete and remain relevant among consumers today.
Now ideas need to be much more borderless and connected so they can cut through the noise in an increasingly complex and competitive landscape.
Ideas need to be big and at the same thing be small. Ideas need to move with the brand at every turn and change shape and requirements numerous times a day. They can't be static, nor fixed by channel. Brands can't put their trust in one single idea, the concept needs to fluid like water, shaped around the company, its data and its time. They should be personal, while at the same time unified within a community of values.
Are you starting to see the Yin and Yang of how big ideas must take shape today and why I’ve referenced that Panda legend Po?
Most importantly a 'big idea' needs to be more than just a brand building and marketing exercise and something that really accelerates traction for the business as a full interaction. I am not talking about the click of a mouse but about an end-to-end unified brand experience with the consumer at the centre. Something a chief financial officer and chief marketing officer can equally see value in.
Start to think of an idea like you would think of Uber or Google. Your idea is a brand, a behavior, a destination, a pathway of deeper options, a point in time and place personal to you but most importantly it’s a big idea that has made your brand, for want of a better term, into a verb. Yes, a verb. A free-flowing brand 'verbification' that works in any situation.
Today’s landscape calls for a stronger, faster unification of brand, product and technology.
A brand should cement itself as a frictionless flow into a consumer’s every day to provide meaningful interactions in their life. Not an interruption or a fleeting moment of short-term fancy.
Being frictionless is about creating brand ideas from the inside out and always being consumer first, so you as the agency or marketing team don’t get in its way.
The skill is finding ideas to help accelerate behaviors with creativity, innovation and align a connected end-to-end brand mindset. Being frictionless sits outside of just marketing and helps your IT dudes connect with your brand team. Your customer care team connect with your marketing output and so on. It helps all moments that could be a problem not become a problem.
A little watch out. I am not talking change management and consultancy stuff – I am a creative guy and I am talking about the power of creatively connected ideas that bring function and form together to deliver unified brand experiences. Art and science together as one. Wonderful traditional craft skills leveraged alongside new skillsets and thinking.
And before you ask, simply rebadging companies and seating token different skillsets together isn’t going to crack it.
It’s about more than that, sorry folks.
It starts first with building real trust and partnership. Dropping hidden self-interest, big egos and dropping those slow ways of working from the past. Culture and alignment are the powerful undercurrent forces at work here when you start thinking this way.
But most importantly of all it starts with a very simple but powerful creative approach.
Think like water.
Wayne Deakin is executive creative director at Huge London, he tweets at @deakin_ahoy