Category Archives: provocation

Rejected? Try Hippo Skin!

A hippopotamus has skin that’s an inch and a half thick and is 25% of its total body weight.  For an animal that weighs 1,800 kilos, that’s a lot of skin.

It’s almost impenetrable (some say bullet proof) and yet a hippo’s very survival out of water depends on a coating of oil it secretes that acts as a moisturiser and sun-screen.  So even though a hippo sports some of the best body armour in the animal kingdom, it still needs to adapt when called for.

It occurs to me that when it comes to dealing with rejection, sometimes hippo skin would come in very handy.
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Creativity is a virtue of the stupid

Think about that for a second.

The process of logic can (and does) deliver great outcomes that make significant economic and social impacts.  People who just get things done through running the logical process to its end are more often than not thought of as being smart.  So by definition, someone not following logic is stupid (the opposite of smart), right?

However it’s from illogic that most real creativity flourishes, so isn’t creativity then, a virtue of the stupid?
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Move the box

The concept of thinking outside the box has been around a long time and it’s valid.  Just because you’re thinking outside one box though, it doesn’t mean that you haven’t made another one.

Wouldn’t it be better to keep shifting the box, or even do away with the box altogether?

That’s the real bedrock of creative thinking and a spirit we should all be getting into.

Unhealthy perfection

One summer when I was a young, wide-eyed lad, I recall a promotion that McDonalds ran where young, wide (and not-so-wide) eyed lads could win a free poster of the World Series Cricket teams.  You didn’t have to buy anything to get the prize (even though you would anyway, so marketing objective one achieved for Maccas).  All you had to do was say the Big Mac “Two all beef patties…” jingle.

The catch was that you had to do it in 4 seconds or less.

Wanting that poster and knowing what I had to do to get it, I practiced that line over and over (marketing objective two achieved) until I could nail it in under 4 seconds, visited Maccas and claimed my poster.

That was my first ever (memorable) exposure to a sales promotion.  Looking back, it was also a point where I could identify such a thing as an unhealthy obsession with perfection.
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No Elvis impersonators

no elvis impersonators
I have only one creative rule: no Elvis impersonators.

I was presented with a creative idea using Elvis impersonators once.  It wasn’t pretty.

Some Elvis impersonators pay genuine homage to The King, but in general most of them are parasites, profiting from his brand or at best, making fun of a great artist during a period in which he was truly troubled (in fact I view Elvis impersonators in much the same way as politicians in that they probably get into it for the right reasons but eventually lose sight of why, though now I’m really off the track).

Other than that one rule, all ideas are game on as far as I’m concerned because creative daring is essential for breaking free from the clutter to get your story told and heard.
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Unexpectations

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If you want to change (or even reset) the way people think about your brand and what you offer, you won’t do it by telling stories that are expected.  Communicating the same idea as always doesn’t change behaviour, invite new actions, craft positive experiences or create deeper engagement.

At all.

You need unexpectations to do that.

I got a late call up to goal-umpire my son’s under 13 AFL match at the weekend.  I’ve never done it before (it’s a high pressure job and I like to keep Saturdays a bit calmer) but, ever the willing helper, I jumped in there with my white flags and did the job.  It didn’t take long for the controversy to follow.

The goal umpire’s job (expectedly) is to call if the ball goes through for a goal or a behind.  When a goal is scored in AFL, the goal umpire is supposed to get quickly to a spot exactly in between the posts, stand very straight, leave a little pause for suspense and then shoot both cuffs with elbows bent, followed by a choreographed waving of both white flags.  This tells the opposing goal umpire that a goal’s been scored and both cards are compared at the end of the game to make sure the scores match.

It’s expected that this will all be done with an impressive level of sequence, poise and steely seriousness.

During this particular under 13′s game, where there’s no salary cap and all the players have day-jobs (i.e. school), I concentrated on getting the main thing right and was less worried about the formalities, which is to say calling the goal, casually shooting the cuffs and waving the flags without necessarily thinking about whether it was the right way (which I didn’t know anyway), just that it was seen.

As a result my actions invited the attention of the officials and evoked a response.  It wasn’t positive but it was a response all the same (elbows bent).  I’d raised their unexpectations.

The goals (and behinds) were still scored and recorded.  The opposing goal umpire’s tally matched mine.  I wasn’t less professional than the other umpire though I certainly had more fun.  It was the expectation that I’d act like all the other goal umpires that attracted the attention and response of the officials (and one or two of the crowd).  I’d cut through by being unexpected.

The next time you’re crafting or telling a story about your brand, wanting to cut through and attract attention, you could probably do a lot worse than bringing an unexpectation or three into the mix.