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It's so new, we don't understand it

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[ All though this post identifies brand building and the creative developed for the communication industry, I think it applies to anyone that spends there time expressing what might have been previously considered inexpressible ]

How difficult is it–trying to explain a new idea or concept to someone? Especially when there may not be supporting materials to substantiate the use/need/purpose of the idea. It's difficult. And even more difficult when the people you may be communicating with have absolutely no familiarity with what you are talking about.

I think most agency's do not want to claim a style, or look, or type of work. Styles are very transparent. And very disposable. They eventually become peripheral noise. Many struggle to remain neutral regarding their personal brand positions, as a company that builds brands–how ironic. I think one key reason may be that, we generally pride ourselves on being able to learn, understand and communicate new ideas, products or services across a broad spectrum markets. This also tends to yield ideas and creative that was not subjected to the existing rules.

There may be criteria that is applicable and consistent across a broad spectrum of markets, but that does not usually last very long. And this criteria often creates lethargic behavior and tendencies. Innovation is good. Newness is very profitable. Often, an idea works once, and someone thinks that it's a perfect package. They believe it can be mass produced. Which ironically, is the exact reason a client will hire a new agency. We're hired to help the brand reignite it's fire and reposition itself within the market place.

Because we are in the business of ideas, to take a position ( visually inferred through the broader visual language of design; interaction; writing; communication/media arts ) might mean the lose of a potential prospect. There are niche-based agencies that demonstrate extremely successful portfolios for one market. But this talent for specialty becomes a scapegoat for stagnant creative and slumping sales–this becomes the excuse for an agency review. When something new is presented, like new creative for a campaign, it's immediately measured by/against an existing system that was previously used for another objective. How biased is that? How truly new will this campaign be if it's measured against a floor plan that was designed for someone else's house?

Ideas, as a service or product, are not tangible goods. It is very difficult to reference something new without using an existing context to reference it, or re-represent it. I could show you a new way to draw a tree, but you would only perceive it as a tree if it resembled the types of trees you are familiar with. And if you didn't recognize it as a tree, you'd say it was abstract. How then, does someone show something new, without being subjected to the old? Basically, you can't. And matrices won't *insert dramatic music* qualify new creative work either. If that where the case, I'd begin to feel ashamed for contributing to such a boring creative pool. And subsequently screwing a client's campaign up. Having been fortunate enough to work under a lot of creative people, I've come to understand that everyone has ideas, at times, even the same idea. But it's the execution of that idea that helps a brand rise above it all. It's the new tree we've created against a backdrop of older trees within the forest.

Marketers and clients alike are known for saying, "we care about the ROI." Fair-enough. Who doesn't? –well, the consumer doesn't. And your ROI is dependent on the consumer being able to relate, understand and be informed about your products, services or ideas. The means by which these ideas, products and services are communicated are, as we all know, considered media. Media must look, act, and communicate/interact in a way that is relevant to the surveyor. Relevant to the surveyor, not to you, me or the guys sitting at the table next to you. This often requires us to uproot the old tree and plant an entirely new species. This tree has been created around someone else's idea of a tree. It references their understanding of a tree, more so than it references mine. We've seen this tree before. We're looking for something a little more unique.

Advertising is an end-result. It has no true form. And in this brand landscape, interactivity and engagement are facilitated by people and online users. Those matrices and plans are being circumvented more and more by x-factors. Form can not over-power function. However; due to the increased value of Saas, brands are beginning to consider Function more important than Form. –Be very careful with this. The power of context rules the internet landscape. As it does the world.

It is very easy to sell advertising or to sell another iteration of the same idea. My point; there are those who create new forms of communication and media and there are those who reiterate what has been done before, in an attempt to mass produce advertising itself. I can't imagine a client wanting to hear that their budgets are being spent on revisions/iterations to an old idea when their paying for ideas that are new and unique. Never underestimate the power of peripheral vision and contrastingly, peripheral visual noise filters. People will ignore the uninteresting. Especially when we've seen the same thing over and over again. Changing a color or typeface isn't a reinvention. We cannot paint a new portrait if the brand is continually wearing the same outfit.

10 years ago, someone on the agency-side might have mentioned using Craigslist as a means to promote something. I wonder what that knowledge was worth? Such a simple task–yet, the RIO was huge. And for all that it was eventually worth, how long did it take us to convince a client that it was an emerging medium? A tool that exceeded expectations and unfortunately, someone's personal frame of reference.

Websites and blogs have begun to explore the notion of fluid brands and interchangeable logos that work as containers for the centralized used of a specific campaign, but I'm not really sure that this is a new idea. It's a strong approach to an old problem but I have concerns. It can also have the reverse effect in that, someone experiencing the communication my not connect with the work at all. It's become to abstract.

As software and web-based applications, desktop applications and programs that automatically do things for us are being packaged as DYI marketing kits, remember that it's only providing you results based on what has already been done before. And it can only produce results based on what it has been programmed to understand as a viable result.

Your tree will be slightly taller or shorter and perhaps a little more green, but it still blends in far to much to be noticed. And I can't imagine a client allocating their budget towards a simple trimming and topping.


1 comment

ryanprice's picture
ryanprice wrote 8 years 36 weeks ago

Marc, All I can say is


All I can say is thank you once again... I really dig your articles. I'm glad you're still contributing, and trying to keep us on our toes.

Ryan Price

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