Looking at Things in a New Way Can be Uncomfortable
“I like this one because it’s different than what we normally do”.
Those are my favourite dozen words, and I heard them spoken by a client recently during a campaign presentation. Different. Standout. Uncomfortable even. Exciting. Alive. Purposeful!
Why is it important to challenge ourselves to rock the boat – even just a little bit – with the way we present our organizations through our marketing communications?
It’s the purple cow, and it just makes sense
I’m not exactly treading through uncharted waters with this topic. Advertising agencies like Ramp Communications and – I dare say – all others worth an RFP consideration, champion “doing something different” every time they pitch.
Years ago Seth Godin put it in perfectly understandable language with his book Purple Cow. He states it simply: “You’re either a purple cow or you’re not”. A regular cow is not remarkable. But a purple cow, now that’s something you’re going to notice.
So when I hear a client decide to take a road less travelled, to stand out, be remarkable and be an unexpectedly yet delightfully coloured bovine, the canvas opens up and together we can create ways to break through. I stress together because, in my experience, it is best to handle the discomfort in the most comfortable way possible for any client. Just because we have agreed to push the envelope, doesn’t mean they’re ready for the paper cuts that the envelope may cause along the way. You’ll likely have some set backs because you are trying something new, but the alternative is remaining invisible. And that’s just good money after bad.
What if you promoted a past failure as part of a new way of thinking about your organization?
THAT sounds like a really bad idea.
Imagine a company pointing at something they did wrong instead of simply pretending it never happened.
My favourite example of this comes from, of all places, the US Postal Service, an organization that seems to have been bypassed by technology, yet somehow manages to survive through creative thinking and bold ideas.
In 1918 they issued the most famous printing error in Philately history. The stamp showed a biplane flying upside down. This became the most sought-after stamp of the past century. In 2013, the USPS decided to commemorate the error by reprinting stamps with the upside down planes once again. Nice idea. Embrace the error. Even THAT seems a little daring, a bit uncomfortable. Good start.
But then the idea became fully formed.
They decided to do something even more remarkable. Instead of worrying that another error would damage their reputation, they deliberately issued a small number of “misprinted” stamps with the plane flying right-side up and announced that these stamps would be randomly distributed. They had created a brand new “collector’s item”. With this element in place they now had a story that would stand out, get noticed, and be talked about.
It’s ok to be uncomfortable
In fact, it’s BETTER to be uncomfortable. But don’t worry, we’re here to be uncomfortable right alongside you! At Ramp Communications, we work predominantly in the not-for-profit sector. Sometimes budgets are tight. To paraphrase Uncle Ben, “with tight budgets comes great responsibility”.
We believe that our responsibility is to create ground-breaking ideas that maximize the impact of our clients’ stories.
The only way to achieve this is to be noticed. So, use this as a guide when you are evaluating your communications plan, and if you find yourself “doing what we normally do”, take a moment, step back, and truly evaluate if it will make the impact you’re hoping it will.