There’s something about Abe Lincoln

What is it about Abe Lincoln? He pops up everywhere and is referenced all the time. Think about it.  Not a day goes by where you don’t see honest Abe referenced somewhere, somehow.  Sure, on President’s Day and because of money.  But that just scratches the surface of our Abe obsession.  He pops pretty much every day in all kinds of expected and unexpected ways.  On billboards.  In quotes.  On TV.  In books.  Movies.  Parodies.  As a vampire hunter.  In costumes.  To settle bets.  A.k.a. he is the Elvis of ex-Presidents.  Honest Abe is one of 44 U.S. Presidents (albeit one of our very, very finest) and has been deceased for 148 years.  So why are there seemingly more Abe Lincoln references than those of all other non-sitting presidents put together? And what does this have to do with innovation, design, research, new product development and marketing?

Read on…

Blog 2-18-14 Something about Abe-1So what does this Abe phenomenon have to do with innovation, design, research, new products and marketing? It’s this.  All Abe, all-the-time is a real thing.  But it’s the kind of thing that most people would never consciously notice.  Most anybody can catch the obvious things.  You need someone…yourself, a leader, an employee, an agency person, a researcher, but someone…who is able to notice the offbeat things, the emerging, the next, the heretofore unseen wave that leads to big ideas.  And if you don’t have such a person, you should find one. Honest.

8 things Sochi teaches us about innovation and marketing

So what do the Sochi Olympics teach us?

1. If you build it poorly, your customers will do anything to break free of you.  And  then they will complain.  Loudly.  On social media.

12. Beware of scope creep.  The larger and more elaborate the plan, the bigger the over-runs (and the more hands that come out grabbing for money)

3. Don’t make things so complicated that you forget the simple, important stuff
2 4. Don’t over-promise and under-deliver.  For example, don’t promise “an Olympic experience that exceeds China” and then fail to provide clean running water or enough pillows.

5. Bureaucracy, committees and too many meetings are killers of productivity.  If you want to get more done, involve less people.

6. Create positive advanced buzz (and a lot of it).  In the absence of such positive buzz, negative buzz takes over, infests everything and grows out of control.  Next thing you know, everyone is paranoid and nobody wants to visit, pay or watch.

7. Big egos tend to get exposed in ways that turn off your prospective audience

38. The product can speak volumes for itself…if you avoid the above and simply let it shine.

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Here’s To The Crazy Ones

Way back in the stone age days of 1997, Apple Computer came out with a kick ass ad campaign during the launch of the Macintosh. This “Think Differently” campaign rang true then, and it’s still equally powerful today.  Here’s how it went:

“Here’s to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round pegs in the square holes. The ones who see things differently. They’re not fond of rules. And they have no respect for the status quo. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them. About the only thing you can’t do is ignore them. Because they change things. They push the human race forward. And while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius. Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world are the ones who do.”

think differentSo while everyone else is telling you why not, nay-saying, resisting, saying “we can’t” or “we won’t” or just being a general all around pain in the you-know-what, just keep telling yourself:STAY CRAZY That is, if you really want to make a difference.

The single key to great market research

The single key to great market research isn’t slick research design.  Or some perfect technique.  Or recruiting exact match research respondents.  Or asking just the right questions in just the right order.  Or achieving statistical significance. So what is it?

The single key to great market research is INTERPRETATION.  The ability to understand not just what a customer or prospect says, but what this really means. Here are the facts:
• People rarely know what they want in the first place
• Even if people know what they want, they have a hard time articulating it
• People cannot envision what they do not yet have
• What people say is often not exactly linear to what you should do about it

So how to get around this? When setting up research, focus less on the exact technique or research design and more on who is interpreting it.  In research, you need a seer.  Someone who doesn’t just hear, but that understands. You need to find someone with a sixth sense.

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Frankenstein Your Innovation

Is the mad scientist really mad? Not when it comes to innovation.  Because one powerfully effective path to success is to create a monster.

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Or for that matter, several monsters. Just to see which version truly gets the intended rise out of the villagers.

By way of explanation: one of the most successful entrepreneurs we’ve worked with was a big believer in experimentation as the most effective means to successful innovation.  It all started with down and dirty experimentation and a whole lot of it. Trying out lots and lots of product concepts in highly informal, grassroots settings.  This meant building a variety of functioning prototypes in all states of being.  And then experimenting on consumers in real life settings to get true gut reactions.   In the end, he sold his household cleaning products company for over $300 million in cash.

Why did this “Frankenstein” approach work? 1) Trying real products in real settings forces consumers into a true gut reaction – they either love your product or they don’t, 2) you get incredibly vivid feedback to evolve your ideas – far beyond the surface level, and 3) it is faster and cheaper than conventional R & D methods.  Plus, let’s face it.  If you throw enough darts at the wall, a few are bound to stick.

So if you want to fast track your innovation, get crazy and create a few monsters. It’s downright scary how well it works.

What Voodoo can teach us about Innovation

Have you heard about Voodoo Doughnut? If not: these doughnut shops, founded in Portland, Oregon, are where people literally line up around the block day and night to get in on what they are serving.    There’s no end in sight to their long lines…or their nationally expanding business.  What makes Voodoo Doughnuts so kick ass? Why are they killing it where so many other doughnut shops struggle? The answers to these questions teach us some key lessons about innovation.

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The secret to Voodoo Doughnut’s success? They draw familiar, beloved ingredients from other walks of life and bring them to the world of doughnuts.  Things like bacon.  Oreos.  Cap’n Crunch. Cocoa Puffs.  Peanut Butter.  Nutella.  Etc.  And now…you can love all those ingredients…in some extremely indulgent, unbelievably delicious, unexpected, totally original doughnut combinations.

BApplied to innovation and new products, this technique is called Parallel Universe.  It’s juxtaposition.  It’s familiar and at the same time it feels totally fresh and new.  Architects do it.  Fashion designers do it.  And so do some very sharp new product innovators. Do you?

Attention-grabbing vs. wow factor (there’s a big difference)

A lot of celebs seek to grab attention (see Cyrus, Miley or “Kardashian – Kim, Khloe, Kourtney, Kendall, Kylie or Kris).  They make outsized noise doing over the top things involving nudity, wrecking balls, giant teddy bears, costumed little people, farm animals and meat suits to get on our radar.  And it works.  For about 15 minutes.  A lot of new products seek to do the same thing. But there is a HUGE difference between attention-grabbing “Whoa” and true “Wow” factor.  And if you want to succeed for more than 15 minutes, you need lasting WOW factor.  What is it and how do you know if you have it?

bikeLook just above.  WOW, right?  Just WOW.  Not made you look, 15 minutes of fame “whoa”, but WOW.  Lasting cool.  “It” factor.  It’s a bitch to develop but not hard to define.  Lasting Wow is deliberately built to reinforce brand, send the right message, with just the right design queues and touches that deliver lasting cool. You know you have it when most anyone in your intended target looks at your new innovation and simply utters the word, ”Wow.”  Not “whoa” like a Miley Cyrus stunt.  But “Wow”.  Whoa is Miley Cyrus, WOW is Adele.

When developing new products, you should research, brainstorm, design and engineer with “WOW”, not “Whoa” in mind. At least if you want your new product to have more than 15 minutes of fame.