“We're looking for big ideas.” I would guess I've heard that phrase from clients and colleagues 1,500 times over the last 20 years.
When any of us hear it, our minds scold us to buckle down, think harder, hold all calls, and book brainstorms at once. We re-read the client brief, sample the product/service and think, think, think. However, the more we try to force big ideas, the farther we seem from a breakthrough.
There's an endless well of inspiration that will drive astounding creative, and it's accessible to all of us. Consumer insight will infuse new energy, free new ideas, and improve the rate of sell-in with clients and prospects alike. It's not a restrictor; it's a turbo boost for “big ideas.”
Here's a quick test to prove that consumer insights free your creativity. First, try to come up with as many PR ideas in one minute for the following challenge: an automobile manufacturer is trying to sell minivans to consumers in their 20s.
Then do it again, but now you've discovered that the target's top priority is someday being a good parent; 20-somethings are surprisingly grounded about the ideal of family and optimistic that they will lead better lives than their parents.
This second version should be much easier to ideate, since you know more about the target's desires. It becomes less about the equipment or the price and more about human truths that drive them.
Ad agencies use highly trained account planners to champion the mindset and needs of the consumer target and the things that move them. They draw intriguing consumer insights from seemingly unrelated data points, observational research, focus groups, or their own life experiences.
If you don't have the means to hire an account planner to help you uncover some insights, then I recommend using the “Five Whys,” a technique outlined in a book from Kellogg School of Management professor Andrew Razeghi. Start with the problem statement in terms of the target's challenges and then ask yourself “Why?” As you continue to answer the question each time, you peel back the onion until you at least have a rough consumer insight to research or test. It's not ironclad, but it's a first step and a great way to practice using your intuition.
And when you need a big idea, don't beat yourself up – get human.
A 20-year agency veteran, Brad Buyce is EVP of client strategy for Coyne PR. He is an aspiring student of account planning and he still loses most driveway basketball games to his brother.