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If you pose the same challenge, use similar kinds ofinput as others have used and place similarlyfunctioned people from similar backgrounds who allhappen to work in advertising and say go ﬁgure thisout, can we honestly expect a different result than thelast agency provided? Or any agency could provide?
“If we’re not feeding the creative process with wellthought through, imaginatively framed problems, thenwe’re failing creativity.”- Martin Weigel, Wieden and Kennedy
Why we need good problemsThey show us things that stand in our way. And greatproblems, great challenges, are most able to generateinspired solutions. Setting the right challenge gives our work speciﬁc,solvable, knowable and achievable purpose. When doneright, they show us the most commercially viable path toan end.
What is a good problem? Client Challenge “We want to be happier.”Meet the Johannsons. They came to uswith a challenge. They wanted to behappier.So as per usual, they came up to theofﬁce so we could have a chat about theirproblem. It was then that we met littleJackson. He was a crier. Non-stop. Thewhole interview. They spoke of a time 2years go when they were super happy.Just married. Going out all the time, butstill got great sleep. They were newlywedsin love. They just want to be that happy again.
They have a baby problem. The answer became clear to us quickly. They have a baby problem. So we briefed the creative team. The objective, the Johannsons want to be happy. Like back before they hadlittle Jackson. The team came back with a few options. They were all great. Dead on brief. We were super excited to show the client. We brought the Johannsons in, did some glad handing and whatnot. Then it was time to reveal our concepts.
“Grandma”The ﬁrst concept we called Grandma. The kid would be shipped off to SouthernCalifornia to live with grandma. A simple, but effective concept. They did not look pleased.
“Adoption” We pressed on to the next concept. This one we really thought would sell, so we took our time with the set up, explaining our thought process. We called it“Adoption.” No dice. The Johannsons satback further in their chairs. Never fear, our favorite concept was still to come.
“The Pillow Case”And that’s about the time they got up and walked out.
What is a good problem? The Real ProblemOf course, if we had just gone to their house, we would have found a small studio apartment that they hadn’t yet escaped. As much as they loved that little kiddo, he kept them up all night and they had nowhere to find quiet. They didn’t have a babyproblem, they had a space problem. Theycould have just moved a little further outside of town to bigger place they could afford, orwe could have created some solutions for the home or helped them up their networking skills to get better jobs. But now we’ve lost a client. And almost a baby. That’s why problems are important. Problems are foundations.
What makes a good problem?• It is understandable without much explanation• It is solvable and measurable• It inspires new thinking• It provides a differentiating, brand-aligned territory• It provides focus on the tasks that matter most
What a problem is notWe need to sell more stuff. Everyone wants to sell more stuff or they wouldn’t betalking to us. Our job is ultimately to increase sales.Doesn’t matter if we’re optimizing CRM for a directmarketing client or creating a campaign to enhance theimage for a brand client – we’re here to add value. Goodproblems go beyond the obvious.
Where we ﬁnd good problemsWe tend to look in the same types of areas for whereproblems may exist. It’s a process that mixes art, science,gut and experience – narrowing where to look and lookingfor incongruences. When something doesn’t make sense,we stop and understand why. Brand Audience Market Category & & & & Product Behaviors Environment Competition
Brand & Product• What do people say or think about your brand? Is this perception the same as you would expect? • Do they tell others about it? • Is your in-store experience aligned with what you communicate?• Is the internal organization aligned in support? • Are there other points when the brand seems confused?• Is your product being used in ways you wouldn’t expect?• Are there time when usage unexpectedly drops off or increases?
When tasked with updating the Honda brand, W+K didn’t have to search long before ﬁnding a disconnect between public perception and the actual culture of Honda. While most peopleconsidered Honda a safe bet and certainly high quality, they were also bored by it. They found the car dull. But within the walls of Honda, they found a feisty, inventive company “still behaving as though their unpredictableengineering genius of a founder was stalking the corridors looking for engines to tweak.”
The challenge became reconnecting those two worlds.http://bit.ly/hondacogs
Audience & Behaviors• What is it that we want the audience to do? Now why aren’t they doing that?• What are there motivations for buying, both rationally and emotionally?• What is it that our audience wants to do that they can’t? • Who are the heavy users? Are purchases grouped heavily within certain audiences? What makes them different from other audiences? Are there also commonalities?• How about light users? Why don’t they buy more or more frequently?• Is the audience for your product changing? • Is there additional value we can create for current audiences that aligns with the brand purpose?
Nike saw an opportunity in an audience that already had high recognition and regard for the brand, but below average product penetration. High school footballers thought of Nike when playing basketball or running, just not as much in football. When they dug into that audience they found a competitivebunch, dreaming of what it might be like to play in the NFL. They tracked their own stats and posted videos of themselves to YouTube.
Nike realized that they can extend their existing value within this new audience. They created the Head2Head platform which enabled a behavior that high school athletes were already engaged in, but without the proper tools to do it easily. http://bit.ly/nikeh2h
Market & Environment• Are major purchasing shifts happening? Is it stagnant?• What else might gain the attention of our audience? • What other products might the audience group with our brand? Are they trending in the same way we are?• Is there a movement or an uprising that is relevant to the brand in some way? • What cultural elements are popular in this market? Does that align with the brand?• Where are environments where the product or service is bought most often? How about used most often? Are there factors within that environment that inﬂuence behavior?
Tesco found an opportunity in the way that many South Korean professionals shop for groceries. It becomes anextra unwanted shopping trip on the way home from work.
Instead of adding promotions to entice people to the store,they found a time when their audience actually might enjoy a quick shop, and brought the store experience to them. http://bit.ly/tescosubstore
Category & Competition• Who are the major competitors? What are their strengths and weaknesses? Who is growing the fastest? Why?• Is there an orthodoxy that exists within the category? What assumptions are those based on? Are those still valid?• How is the competition selling themselves?• Why does that audience buy from someone else rather than us?• Are competitors investing in places we are not? Why would they do that?
MTV launched in the early 80’s as an anti-establishment, grouchy underdog totally focused on a new form of television built aroundthe music video. But after 20 plus years, they weren’t playing much music anymore. They were the behemoth, giving more time to the Real World, Sorority Life and Room Raiders than underground music. They spotlighted the fantasy life of the young and rich instead of the “we don’t give a shit” attitude that deﬁned the network from day one through Nirvana and Beavis and Butthead when they led the slacker rebellion.
But those kids still existed, and it’s there where Fuse found a problem they could solve. http://bit.ly/fusebeachhouse
Tools for Problem SolvingIssue TreeThese are perhaps the most fundamental tools inunderstanding problems. The Issue tree is a diagram thatbreaks down a challenge or problem into smaller pieces inorder to understand the relationships between thosechunks. There are two types, often used one after the other, thewhy and the how issue tree.
Tools for Problem SolvingBasic Issue Tree Increase Sales Component Increase Proﬁt Reduce What do you want to do? Product Cost Component
Tools for Problem SolvingWhy Issue Tree – Diagnosing problemsUsed ﬁrst, the why issue tree begins to outline theproblem. It’s best to start with the client ask and someinitial work to understand their audience, brand andmarket. Annual reports are a great place to start for this.
Tools for Problem SolvingWhy Issue Tree Why? Millennials are ﬁnding other ways to give. Under 30 charitable giving is decreasing Unemploy- What is the problem? ment for Under 30 increasing
Tools for Problem SolvingHow Issue Tree – Working to solutionsThe how issue tree becomes most effective after you’vedetermined the most impactful problem you can solvegiven your resources. The How issue tree starts with thequestion and moves towards solutions.
Tools for Problem SolvingHow Issue Tree How? Increase How? advertising Increase u30 customer base How can we Add increase younger investments consultants for those under 30? Increase u30 What is the challenge? customer investments
Other toolsIshikawa Trees (also called a ﬁshbone diagram)Useful for looking at a complete problem
Other toolscatwoeA framework for understanding the parts of the problem.C = CustomersA = ActorsT = Transformation processW = World ViewO = OwnerE = Environmental constraints
Framing Problems• Finding the right problem is not enough. The more imaginatively or interestingly you can describe a challenge while retaining simplicity and speciﬁcity, the more imaginative and inspired the solutions you’ll ﬁnd.• When possible, ﬂip the negative to the positive.
Framing Problems Running applications are only for runners. Make running fun for people who think running sucks, but do it anyway.
Core thought The core thought is the main idea you want to communicate with your campaign.
Core thought Where is your audience now? Where do they need to be for us to be commercially viable? What do they need to know about us to get there? Is this place ownable, compelling and distinct? And there you have it - you have the beginnings of a core thought.
About 95% if human communication is non-verbal. Bodylanguage, appearance, facial expressions, these are whatpeople react to and subconsciously remember. Its nodifferent with creative work. The core message that arisesfrom the proposition still matters, but its the delivery thatreally matters - the brands body language.- Andrew Hovell
Say, Do and Be. The Pharma ChallengeYou are a company in a less than trusted industry, but you have a pretty good track record.So you want to communicate that you are trustworthy.You wouldn’t say trust me. You would do something that communicated that you are trusted.
• You might show other people who trust you. • Or you might make a guarantee.• Or you might issue a report on your effectiveness • You may make your business practices more transparent. All of these things would communicate that they can betrusted, before they’ve said a word.
Brand ideas usually ﬁnd a place that’s true to what thebrand represents or believes in, then matches that tosomething that’s meaningful or interesting to theiraudience. That’s essentially the value you create. It’syour vision, values and how you see the world. Thisdoesn’t change much at all when done properly. Andeverything else you do should ﬁt within that.
The proposition is another type of core idea, sometimesknown as the key message, selling idea orcommunications idea. This is what a speciﬁc campaign,ad, website, whatever, is meant to communicate. It has tobe aligned with the brand idea – but it’s meant to solve amore speciﬁc, often short-term, challenge.
Project X Red Bull Music Academy Red Bull Creation Gives you wings Culture Blogs Crashed Art of the ice Flight Communications Ideas Red Bull revitalizes body and mind.Brand Idea
SimpleAlthough our ﬁnal communication should be deep andcomplex, we need to start from a place that can beunderstood by lots of different people, both internally andexternally. Red Bull has Taurine, which increases physical endurance and mental alertness. Red Bull revitalizes body and mind.
StimulativeAlways consider where the ideas can go. Whether you’rewriting, reading or distributing brieﬁng documents, thecore thought should feel bigger than the statement. Inother words, as you write it, if you can’t think of any ideasof where it could go beyond a headline, it’s probably notright. We make the best Welcome to hammers, now $10 Contestville. off at Costco.
InterestingThe awesomeness of a core thought done well is that it’simpactful, compelling, arresting, exciting. People want towork on it. It makes someone look at something familiar ina different way. That’s the core thought at its very best. Old Spice has a great, musky scent. Men should smell like men.
Core thoughtSo that’s the core thought. • Think about what you say and what you communicate as two different things. • Be sure you understand the challenge – focus on the brand alone or solving a speciﬁc problem.• Start in a place that is simple, stimulative and interesting for the team and credible and distinctive for the brand.