Recently I received some much-needed clarity and it came to me in the shape of an Oldsmobile.
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I love pinball machines and that’s partly because they remind me of those halcyon days of my youth – inexorably linked to car culture – of carefree days (and nights) cruising to games arcades, milk bars and making a play for pinball wizardry.
Apart from the nostalgia trip, they’re also works of engineering, design and art crammed into a wooden cabinet. If you don’t know what I mean, get a load of one some day and take note of the artwork, the design, the colour, the screen-printing (yes, screen-printing; heard of that?), the lights, the sounds, the themes and of course the design of the game play. Way more character than a PlayStation, but I digress.
Most of all though, I simply love the challenge of playing them because no two games are ever the same (ever). That got me thinking about the insight to be drawn from pinball, applied to marketing and business planning (particularly in the context of a more strategic, longer run view).
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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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Have you ever had one of those days where you learned absolutely nothing, gained no knowledge at all? It feels empty and incomplete.
A day without gaining any knowledge at all is a day wasted, no matter what else happens, because knowledge is currency and one day you might need to draw on it.
Whether it’s trivial or mountain-shifting, edifying or entertaining, there’s always something new to be discovered. Learning a single piece of something can also start you on a trail of discovery that can uncover a whole series of thoughts, ideas and insights, which in-itself is always exciting.
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We’re all bombarded with government ads, community service announcements, new websites and nice, glossy (expensive) brochures that tell us what we should be doing to change our habits for a positive impact on us or our environment.
For the most part, most of us agree, but then what do we do with the information? What motivates us into action?
I could write lots of theory and puff up my own successes, but this site shows us exactly how it’s done http://thefuntheory.com/
If you’re not smiling after watching this, check your pulse and call a medic. This site demonstrates exactly how to things get done (not just talked about) and is a fried gold initiative. Not only does it have longevity built in, the strategy rewards the creator (Volkswagen in Sweden, in this case) by rewarding entrants for true innovative action. It builds massive brand credibility through active engagement with community, not just through an idea but through real, solid, measurable action.
The idea also has connotations for your marketing communications strategy as well. Information is important but activation is the key. Activation will follow experience by a factor of millions (slight exaggeration, but it’d be a lot) over an ad alone.
Make your messages more engaging and outcomes-focused by BEING engaging. Think it through, be daring and provocative (not controversial) and your cause, brand or business will benefit.
Inspiration is one of those things that’s always looked right on through or around.
Sometimes it’s our rational left brains brains that get in the way, dismissing it as folly almost as quickly as it’s discovered. Sometimes it’s the simple distraction of other tasks that need doing. In marketing communications & strategy, that often translates as trying the same thing over and over, because it’s familiar or had good outcomes in the past. In business it can be doing things easy that cost less and have outcomes equally as boring or the same as your competitors or worse still, taking expedient shortcuts in creating memorable customer experiences.
Inspiration can create the most unique differences in a brand, a marketing strategy or tactic, or the way a new venture is created and yet, for all there is in the world it’s all too often missed. It needn’t be so hard; all that’s needed is an open and inquiring mind.
I read a fantastic example of drawing inspiration from the most unlikely place just today in an article on the new Toyota sports car concept unveiled at the 2009 Tokyo auto show. Evidently, the chief engineer has admitted that the colour for the car was inspired by a Japanese monkey’s bum.
Now who knows what lead a chief engineer to look on in amazement at a monkey’s butt and think that it’d be a good colour for a car, even to provide the pop for a concept car. Or the pitch he made when asked by the top brass before sign-off “so, what inspired that colour?”
None of that’s the point though.
The point is that, no matter how well-hidden it is or how far removed from what you thought you were looking for, inspiration can come from anywhere if you keep an open mind.