How Strategy and Ideas Happen: It Ain't Easy

How Strategy and Ideas Happen: It Ain't Easy

The Generative Process

MAY 18, 2018



I’ve been in the idea-generating business for about 40 years now.  By idea generating, I mean coming up with ideas for marketing strategies and the creative execution of those strategies.  You know…product positioning, promise, personality, brand image, core message…that sort of stuff. It can be the stuff of nightmares and torture for us marketing and communications folks.  And yet it’s the stuff that drives us.  Over and over again.

(Hmmm, why is that?)

After all of these years, I’ve come to realize there’s essentially the same pattern that occurs time after time.  Think of it as the stages of progress…and the emotions that invariably accompany each stage.

Here are what I perceive to be the seven basic stages of the generative process and their prevailing emotions:

1 | Preparation/Excitement:

this is when we’re just getting started. We’ve been given initial information by the client and we’re excited about getting the project and the opportunity to tackle it.

2 | Exploration/Anticipation:

this is when we immerse ourselves into getting to know and understand everything we can about the company, product, market, competitors, and customers.

3 | Intellection/Anxiety:

this is when reality thoroughly sinks in and the panic starts. Because we don’t have any answers yet.  We need to make sense of everything we’ve learned.  We need to figure out the best way to market this product so that it’s differentiated from the competition, so it can be as successful as possible.

4 | Incubation/Frustration: (sometimes stage 3 and 4 are interchangeable or happening simultaneously. All I can say is that it’s all uncomfortable--for us and the client)

This is when ideas are emerging and we’re trying to figure out if they make sense. What’s better or worse? Will this work or not? Who are we going to take our message to and how? Key themes are bubbling to the surface. Strategy gets developed here as everything we’ve learned starts to coalesce.

5 | Inspiration/Elation:

This is the “eureka” stage. We’ve honed the strategy and the key verbal and visual creative concepts begin to blossom.

6 | Execution/Relief:

Those blessed creative inspirations now flow into tactical translations, and the campaign is created and delivered to the public.

7 | Success/Celebration:

This and the prior two stages explain why it is we go through all of this over and over. The emotional ride we experience in going from nothing to something wonderful is decidedly exhilarating…each and every time it happens. Especially if we’re uncertain at the beginning. Because we never really are certain.  And that’s truly scary. 

So clients, have mercy on your marketing and communications people!  We promise to empathize with the fear, anxiety and frustration you too are experiencing.


Video Marketing 101

Video Marketing 101

MAY 11, 2018

Why you should implement video advertisements into your marketing strategy

In this current day and age, the most impressionable advertising comes from video marketing. We as consumers love to watch videos. It goes without saying that online streaming, whether it’s YouTube, Netflix, Hulu, or what-have-you, has become a central staple in how we live our lives. YouTube recently revealed it’s viewing figures, showing that approximately one billion hours are spent streaming videos daily. You know how much a billion is. That’s roughly 17,500 hours of people around the world watching cat videos every MINUTE. That almost doesn’t make sense.

But we do more than watch these videos. We love sharing them too (arguably just as much). We share the videos that use laughter, emotion, or intrigue to distract us from life. And that is the key to successful viral video marketing. Generating click-worthy content that your audience enjoys and shares with friends. In other words, the video allows customers to advertise for you.

“Okay, I’m interested. But what exactly am I supposed to put in this video?” you say, taking an inquisitive sip of coffee.

Great question. First things first, you’re going to want a short and sweet concept. The shorter and sweeter, the better. I can’t stress the shorter part enough. It may be hard to believe, but you leave a better impact with a 30 second hook than a 3 minute short film. Our attention span decreases by the day, so it is important to get your message across as quickly and effectively as possible.

The concept itself, needs to always focus on story over sale. There are a lot of commercials that get skipped or ignored simply because they aren’t appealing to the customer’s interests. No one likes to watch commercials that only try to sell you a product.  The commercials that stick, don’t concern themselves with selling. A memorable story is a memorable sale.

Once you’re ready to post the video, the next thing you want to do is tag the crap out of it. Anything that even slightly relates to your content is fair game. You really can’t have too many tags. Don’t limit your customers’ ability to discover your content. Descriptions are important too. Having a unique, eyebrow raising title alone garners a click or two.

What do you think about video marketing? Sound off below in the comments


7 NEVERS for Successful Endeavors

7 NEVERS for Successful Endeavors

MAY 4, 2018

1 | Never Neglect This Customer

Everybody knows the customer is #1 on the Make Happy List. One way, especially early on, to provide quality customer service is by establishing unique relationships with individual customers. For example, a handwritten letter simply stating “YOU ROCK, JANET” will instantly turn Janet into a returning customer. Maybe Bobby got an “exclusive” deal for being such a valued customer. There’s a difference between saying, “I love everyone” and “I love you, specifically”. Look, we’re all selfish.

2 | Never Doubt Your Instincts

Trust your gut every time. It is an invaluable decision-making tool. And as an added bonus, you’ll never have to worry about hindsight! “Welp, I’ll know what to do next time,” is better than “Damn, I knew that wasn’t gonna work”.

3 | Never Think Inside the Box

To quote Brad Pitt’s character from Seven, “What’s in the box?” The answer is; everything that has been done before. When it comes to marketing, I’d argue that there is more to offer by strategizing outside of conventional thinking. In these current times, there really is no right or wrong way to success. That’s why I suggest trying the unconventional. Make a product placement deal with a Netflix show. Autograph every 25th product just because. Start an ad campaign that chronicles the adventures of a puppy and a piglet. Use the box for deposit rather than withdrawal.

4 | Never Stop Posting

It’s 2018. If you don’t have a Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Linkedin and Tumblr, for good measure, then your business is probably more of a secret. Having an internet presence is basically the standard for any company, person, or thing. Understandably, social media can be an overwhelming task. If you find yourself struggling with social media, seek help from millennials! Hire college kids to be your interns (paid handsomely in college credit). Make sure they know how to make memes.

5 | Never Let Your Nephew Replace Your Best Dude

This one rhymes so it’s definitely true. A good employee is hard to come by. Conversely, a bad employee is a dime a dozen. It is important to notice the difference as soon as possible. A lot of managers go easy on the slackers and overwork the good employees because their work ethic has set different expectations. Reward good behavior. Remember poor behavior. A bad apple makes a bad pie.

6 | Never Fail

We’ve talked previously about our relationship with failure. Failure can cripple our momentum in a moment’s notice. The fear of it alone prevents startups. Now, while atychiphobia (that’s actually what it’s called) isn’t necessarily always a bad thing, dreading a loss is the wrong way of approaching it. The truth is, you need to fail. You can’t spell FAILURE without FUEL. Catapults require setbacks.  Pull back and reflect. Use the knowledge you gained to adjust your trajectory. Then, launch back in there!

7 | Never Stagnate

What does a successful business and a human ear have in common? They both listen and grow perpetually. Wow, I really can’t stress how critical this is. There is always more to learn. There is always room to grow. Obviously. Don’t forget, your number one confidant and competitor, above all, is YOU. So do yourself a favor: pay attention to your environment and innovate constantly. Run your business like it’s your business.