To test and scale ideas faster, Spyglass developed the Brand Collaboratory™—a learning lab approach that involves key stakeholders in the creation of messages and materials. We firmly believe that “doing it together” and iterating quickly outperforms the old agency model.
Are you moving through the day doing what you’ve always done—struggling with (or avoiding) the same persistent business or brand issues? Do you have a scattershot strategy, a mucked up PowerPoint or a story that just doesn’t sing?
Welcome to the club! The fact is, most of us aren’t optimizing our efforts and time. Which makes perfect sense, because individuals and organizations are actually hardwired to maintain the status quo, and we require certain conditions to make sustainable change, especially the big transformative kind.
At Spyglass, we have powerful processes to help our clients break out of their ruts and accelerate the adoption of new solutions—to generate the kind of meaningful results (and paradigm shifts) that so many businesses now require. Here are 3 key principles:
Ask better questions: In the old days, agencies like ours would receive a stated assignment or challenge from a client and begin brainstorming answers. Today, we start by asking new and better questions (an approach that spookily aligns with this meaty HBR Better Brainstorming article). For example, a recent assignment from a client was framed as a marketing communications project. A bit of deeper inquiry revealed that a trust- and relationship-building initiative was what was actually needed—and that’s what we proposed.
Get there faster: Too often it seems like the juiciest (and most differentiating) ideas get diluted and bogged down by the traditional research/review/approval process. To counteract that inertia, we’ve been deploying a new fast and focused Brand Collaboratory™ approach in order to rapidly iterate ideas to a point where they can be evaluated, tested and refined with real audiences sooner rather than later.
Do it together: Now, more than ever, we believe it’s time to reach beyond the marketing department to engage diverse stakeholders more meaningfully in the creative process—both to ensure relevance and build trust. A more collaborative process increases internal enthusiasm, belief and buy-in, which is essential to the adoption of an impactful, market-relevant and potentially game-changing story.
This part is critical, because companies are often structurally resistant to doing (and saying) things in new ways. According to innovation consultant Stefan Lindegaard: “Change is frightening to many elements inside the typical organization. Change threatens people’s power, their status, their egos, and, in some situations, even their jobs. Change can make someone’s expertise obsolete and thereby make them obsolete as well. Because people are afraid of change, innovation efforts often cause the eruption of corporate antibodies that fight to kill innovation and maintain the status quo.”
Maybe you’re not trying to reinvent the wheel (or your category) but simply need some fresh eyes and juice to jumpstart your marketing. Let’s get started!
The old axiom claims that there are no bad ideas… but anyone who’s been in a brainstorming session knows that’s just not true. Since cavemen first sketched on walls, humans have been capturing concepts and exploring possibilities on vertical surfaces.
Certainly in creative agencies, brainstorming is a time-tested way to generate new solutions to thorny problems. Yet as a discipline, it’s typically undisciplined at best.
“Brainstorming is Worthless,” provocatively proclaims a recent article in Inc. “What a brainstorm session should be is a place to challenge the ideas that have already been vetted,” rants author Nicolas Cole. “Not a free-for-all breakout session where anything and everything goes.” Cole thinks it’s a waste of time to have a group noodling together and tossing out whatever ideas happen to flow. Instead he advocates a process whereby each team member has done their own generative thinking and comes to the table with winnowed-down directions they are ready to defend.
Meanwhile, over in the Harvard Business Review, Hal Gregersen takes a thoughtful (long) view on different protocols and processes and advocates a “better brainstorming” approach that he claims yields the most fruitful futures. Interestingly, over 20 years of practice, he has observed that “the people least likely to engage in the exercise and follow the rules are the folks with the highest positions or greatest technical expertise… who cripple the truth-seeking capability of the entire group.” He emphasizes the importance of organizational culture in creating environments conducive to truly meaningful brainstorming. “Leaders must show humility, vulnerability and trust, and they must empower others and treat them equitably.” Sounds like a recipe for all kinds of transformation and growth!
Here at Spyglass, we’re evolving our collaborative creative process (see our Be the Change post) and have experienced the direct benefits of using a more structured, inclusive and nimble approach. We’d love to show you.
Sure, Spyglass is an agency that works with global brands, but we are based in Minneapolis so it was bothersome to hear that some of Minnesota’s best-known companies saw their stocks decline in the 1st quarter. Large retailers lost value. Best Buy was down, Target dropped, Select Comfort tanked. Even Ameriprise Financial saw a dip. I know what you’re thinking. What Would Spyglass Do? We offer a gratis, broad brush of things for flailing brands to consider.
1. Hit the refresh button. Do something special. Find new reasons for customers to believe in you. Do something to reward them for paying attention to you. Give business-as-usual a kick in the backside.
2. Create some compelling content. Yes, you always need to be creating new brand content. That’s the stuff people share with their friends and family. It keeps you in the conversation. Be smart. Create something that drives people to interact with your brand. Delight your audience. Think how they think. Surprise them.
3. Act like a human being, not a brand. Look like a brand that is “on the way to a good day” and not in the way. Tap into people’s emotions and set yourself apart. Add a little positivity. Avoid insincerity at all costs. And treat flat, unemotional marketing like the plague.
For successful companies, it starts at the top. Unfortunately, half of the greatest ideas out there die on the vine because managers in companies don’t have the desire to fight the battles that it takes to go big. The Spyglass mantra has always been this: upper, upper management has to get on board with new brand work or the new thinking that emerges. Otherwise, the daring ideas and the exciting, new path towards growing your business becomes nothing more than tears in the rain.
Get inspired by the big hitters who dared to dive in head first.
Marketers know a rebrand is more than a shiny new logo or ad campaign. It requires a compelling vision (including your positioning) that can be understood and articulated by all—starting with your company’s leadership and employees.
Whatever the reason for the rebrand—entering a new market, targeting a new audience—your agency should help you sell the rebrand inside your company’s walls. Your most potent brand advocates are your colleagues. After all, if they haven’t bought into the rebrand and the philosophy behind it, why in the world would anyone else?
Having helped hundreds of companies go through the branding and rebranding processes, I have identified six steps to making sure your company is ready from the inside out.