So often I speak to clients, strategic planners, and creatives about their source of inspiration. I go around the globe preaching about the power of finding similarities and differences between different cultures that drive change. On many occasions, I’m asked: “How do I begin to understand or gain insight that will drive creativity?” The answer is simple: You need a sense of curiosity, an open mind, and a passion for exploring ways to capture moments.
No matter where I am in the world, it is critical that I forget my nationality and culture and embrace and observe everything about where I’m standing at the moment. Creativity comes from finding small things that can be expressed in big ways. Observation is the key.
Let’s look at some examples:
TOKYO SUMMER OLYMPICS
In the near future, the world will set its eyes on Tokyo for the summer Olympics. The vast majority of people participating as viewers will experience it as sports fanatics obsessed with their home team’s success. There will be a small group, however, that will explore the beauty of understanding other cultures. My company’s team will be in attendance with mobile phones and cameras in hand. We will document how people interact with each other and technology, and where they gather, what they eat, and how they value local customs. We will not only be looking for differentiating human values but also similarities with other cultures. How can the customs, activities, and trends we observe be adapted to solve a current challenge that we are working on?
REDEFINING THE CONSUMER
Too often as we try to come up with an earthshattering idea, we lock ourselves in a room and “brainstorm” the possibilities. In many ways, this sets us up for failure. How often have we sat in a conference room with like-minded people and tried to come up with an idea when we aren’t truly the target audience. Or listened to a client go on and on about how they understand the category and what is needed, even when we all know that the reason they’ve hired us is that they have a problem and what they’ve tried already didn’t work. Most often, this happens because there has not been time allotted to understanding the people we are trying to satisfy. For example, if you want a game-changing idea for millennials, stop asking them what they want. Live with them, play with them, and observe their frustrations and their moments of delight. Listen more than talk. Ask questions about life, not just about your product. Stop trying to fit them all into one box. When you truly take the time to live with the consumer, you’ll be surprised at what you might learn and how that may change the way you do business.
REDEFINING A CATEGORY
I’m pretty sure no one sat in a focus group facility and said, “We need more taxis in more cities.” Uber is not just another taxi company. It redefined the category by understanding the frustrations that people have in getting from point A to point B regardless of where they are in the world. Uber’s service provides a sense of control to consumers. It offers answers to internalized questions such as: “Who am I going to be driving with? How many rides have they done? How have people rated them? How long will it take to get to my destination?” It solves for the challenge of uncertainty. The company observed and conquered.
We are in the process of redefining the senior living category. For the past 18 months, we have observed, asked questions, laughed, cried, and lived the frustrations of the senior target. Why spend so much time understanding this? Because in order to redefine a category, one must understand the journey with a true sense of empathy. That takes more than a focus group. It means finding unique ways to stay engaged 24/7.
TURNING INSIGHT INTO CREATIVITY
Whether you’re designing a new product, service, logo, packaging, website, etc., the sense of fulfilling a purpose must be the priority. Yes, the insight and the resulting creativity should increase shareholder wealth, but everything should start with how we ignite the love affair between a brand and consumer. The only way that can happen is to aggressively and passionately search for the values, humanity, loves, and frustrations of the people you are attempting to attract. Inspiration can come from anywhere and anyone if you are open and ready to receive it.
Antonio Patric Buchanan is the Co-CEO and Chief Strategy Officer for global brand innovation & design firm Antonio & Paris.