WHOSE BRAND IS IT ANYWAY?
USING THE RULES OF IMPROV IN BRAND DEVELOPMENT
If you’ve ever been to an improv comedy show, you have probably had one of two thoughts: “These people perform on stage without knowing what is going to happen next? That must be terrifying!” or “That looks like serious fun!”
If you have ever taken an improv class or performed improv comedy on stage, you know that both of these statements are true.
But how in the world does performing seat-of-your-pants comedy relate to developing an engaging brand story? At their hearts, improv and brand development share a common goal: make a connection at all costs.
Though completely spontaneous, there are rules for improvising that, when applied to your brand development strategy, will help you create authentic connections with your team, your client, and your audience through innovative strategies that you may not have discovered otherwise. So, what are the rules?
Take a two-part “Yes and” approach.
In improv, there are no bad suggestions. You must accept anything your scene partner brings to the stage. If your partner says “Hello, welcome to my flower shop!” and you respond with “This isn’t a flower shop, it’s a dentist’s office!” then you have completely stopped any forward momentum and you’ve already lost your audience. You’ve also made your scene partner feel bad. When you say YES to your partner’s suggestion, you have not only supported your team member, but you’ve brought your audience along for the ride as well. When you add the AND to your yes, you’ve taken your partner’s idea and made it better by adding to it.
Actor 1: “Hello, welcome to my flower shop!”
Actor 2: “Yes, and I’m here to pick up the man-eating Venus fly trap I ordered.”
Now we’ve got a scene that the audience is into.
The rule of YES AND is imperative in the brainstorming stage of any brand development project. This creates a supportive environment that allows anyone in the room to let go of the fear of having a bad idea so that they are able to push through to get to real innovation. An idea that may not seem so great at first can be “yes anded” by your team or may spark something in someone else that will eventually lead to the big idea.
Make statements, and don’t ask questions.
Tina Fey said, “Whatever the problem, be part of the solution. Don’t just sit around raising questions and pointing out obstacles. We’ve all worked with that person. That person is a drag.”
Asking questions to make your partners explain themselves or their ideas does not add to the scene, or to the brainstorm. It puts all the pressure on your teammate to come up with every detail. Most times, a negative question intended to “poke holes” can be reframed as a constructive statement, and this approach is much more effective in getting the desired results; an innovative, previously unseen idea that was discovered together. Basically, don’t just sit around raising questions and pointing out problems – contribute.
Remember, there are no mistakes, only opportunities.
This rule holds true for every stage and every boardroom in the world. Within each “mistake” we can find an opportunity to turn it on its head and make it work for us in a brilliant way that we may not have ever thought of before.
For example, in improv, an actor may start a scene by wiping down the counter at his flower shop. His scene partner enters and thinks he is waxing a car at a race track. Now, we must agree that we are at a race track, and the first actor must let go of his original idea or else the momentum of the scene comes to a halt. Who knows? We may end up in a combo flower shop/ drag racing operation opened by a florist who has a secret love for car racing. And now it’s interesting.
When it comes to brand development, this rule helps us let go of our egos to get to the best, most unique ideas for our clients and their audiences. It helps us to keep moving forward to innovate, rather than getting hung up on how we’ve always done things.
When you are on stage, you must actively listen to your scene partners or you might miss a vital detail that could take your scene to the next level.
Actor 1: “Hello, welcome to my flower shop!”
Actor 2: “Yes, and I’m here to pick up the man-eating Venus fly trap I ordered.”
Actor 1: “Great! We just received a shipment of Easter Lilies this morning that I think you’ll love!”
Here, we can see that Actor 1 was not actively listening and was instead just waiting to speak. He missed a delicious nugget about a man-eating plant. Now the scene is headed into a less exciting direction and the audience is confused.
This translates easily to business meetings, where it can be difficult to stay engaged. According to Forbes, we only remember between 25% and 50% of what we hear. All the more reason why we must work to focus and observe carefully in order adapt appropriately and in real time.
At the end of the day, improv and brand development are about taking risks and diving deep into our imaginations for unifying ideas we didn’t even know were in there. It allows us to feel safe in our pitches, because there are no right or wrong ideas, only opportunities to stretch your thinking. Through supportive experimentation in our brainstorming, we breed innovation because we’ve weeded out the fear of failure knowing that failure doesn’t exist. It is just another critical step towards your next game-changing idea.
Soulsight is a Chicago-based iconic brand design agency. Our mission is to propel brands to unlimited success through strategic design that drives consistent relevancy. We are known for delivering inspiring, category-leading creative and insights-driven strategic guidance for the some of the world's best-loved iconic, global brands. We're a team of 60 multi-disciplined, strategic creatives who believe in the power of consumer-centric, design-driven branding. We build Soulful brands through strategic design. We are Soulsight.
Remarkable Beyond Par
What We Learned from Tiger Woods and Why His Comeback Matters to Your Brand (Whether You Like Him or Not)
April 14th, 2019 is a day that will live in our collective sports’ memories for a long time to come. It is, of course, the date of one of the most epic comebacks in sports history; the date that Tiger Woods won his fifth Masters title.
Watching Tiger’s masterful (pun intended) performance unfold, alongside throngs of fans who rallied behind their golf god got us thinking about the power of brands; even more specifically, the power of Tiger’s brand, its ability to survive adversity, and to seemingly bounce back stronger than ever.
It’s been 22 years since Tiger first set the sports world on fire, and 14 years since his last green jacket. Since then, he’s had quite a few personal struggles and countless injuries that had many counting both Tiger, and his high-performing brand that represents red-hot excellence, down and out. They were mistaken.
At this year’s Masters performance, it was as if we were watching the Tiger we knew two decades ago. The man and the brand that fans fell in love with back then seemed to swell back to life before our very eyes, as if the scandals and injuries had never happened, to win over our hearts and minds once again.
Millennials, who were just starting to find their own sports affinities when Tiger exploded on the scene, remain his biggest champions today. He single handedly made golf cool to them way back when and brought it to the forefront of their minds when they easily could’ve found their passion in the more conventional choices, like football, baseball, or soccer. Tiger elevated the sport of golf to a level of prominence it had never seen before and we are finding that his effect seems to be everlasting.
But how does he do it? How does he manage to connect on such a deep, emotional level with so many fans that truly spread the gamut of age, race, gender, and beyond?
Tiger Woods is remarkable. He is especially uncommon through his focus and his dedication. And with that, Tiger’s brand is remarkable.
There are three key factors that make Tiger’s brand (and can help make your brand) so remarkable:
Stay focused on what makes you great.
Keep your story relatable.
STAY FOCUSED ON WHAT MAKES YOU GREAT
As our world continues to evolve, staying focused has become one of the toughest things to do. Maintaining focus means you must persevere through all the noise, but to truly be great, it requires more than just your full attention. You must also have an unwavering belief in what you are doing. Not only did Tiger Woods have to persevere through the personal distractions, but also through physical limitations that had everyone suggesting he was finished. It was his own belief in himself that drove him to excellence once again. Just as Tiger stayed focused on his core purpose, which was to deliver a great golf performance despite all the interference, it is important for you to stay focused on your core brand purpose. Make sure all of your brand touch points are built from your purpose. Brands should constantly evaluate their brand world and all of their messaging to make sure the purpose is laser-focused and has a high-level brand ideal that compels your audience to care. For Tiger, that’s his heroic archetype. He’s the man that paves the way for others. The man that challenges and overcomes despite all odds.
Now that’s a message that anyone can get behind.
Birkenstock comes to mind when we start to think of brands that have stayed focused to ultimately win. As a 244 year old German brand, Birkenstock has remained consistent with their purpose and brand DNA over and over again to see skyrocketing success in the 1960’s, 90’s, and now again today. Their message of quality, craftsmanship, and heritage is resonating with consumers again. The brand has seen a surge in revenue, which has grown tenfold in the last five years. Birkenstock has embraced who they are regardless if you think their product is ugly. They are winning.
KEEP YOUR STORY RELATABLE
Brands must be relatable to core human needs in order to give their audience a reason to feel an emotional connection. It’s ok – even ideal – for a brand to be vulnerable, to be transparent, and imperfect. When a brand comes back to its core purpose from whatever setbacks it may experience, it shields itself from long term negative effects. Tiger’s story is by no means clean, but when the narrative shifts to his game and his perseverance, he taps into his brand’s purpose and maintains relevancy.
No one is relating to their consumers better than Polaroid Originals is relating to them today. Launching into immense popularity in 1977, Polaroid saw great success by introducing the public to the magic process of instant photos but the rise of digital photography caused them to dwindle significantly. Their confidence in their product allowed them to stay relevant by creating campaigns that encouraged consumers to “slow down, be present, and make the most of every moment.” It was this relatable technique and the tangible product that actually captures real moments that encouraged Millennials to go out and get their own Polaroid cameras, and in turn, breathe new life into a retro brand whose relatability never went out of style.
Red shirt, black pants. That’s the uniform of a winner, according to Tiger Woods, and whether you are an avid golf fan or not, that uniform is unmistakably symbolic of excellence. Commit to consistency. Commit to leadership. Commit to being unique, and most of all, commit to being remarkably you to be memorable. It’s when brands revert to a “copycat” strategy to save time or money that they lose their way and eventually lose relevancy and the ability to stay top-of-mind with their audience. Brands must live and act their truth at all costs – that’s their superpower. For Tiger his superpower will always be his ability to play the game his way. Not the way Jack or Arnie played – the way Tiger plays. It’s in his play, his focus, his relatability, and his memorability that generates fan loyalty. It’s what makes him remarkable, and once again, a force to be reckoned with.
Levi’s is as much an American Icon as apple pie and baseball, but how do they manage to stay remarkable and top-of-mind with consumers more than 150 years after they launched? The brand saw a downturn in the 2000’s but they’ve seen a resurgence and had their best year in a decade in 2018, hitting almost $5 billion in sales. Loyal fans are returning because of their inclusive, innovative, and memorable campaigns that remind consumers what they love about the brand - their strong roots in authenticity and firm values - two things in particular that today’s consumer is looking for when they associate themselves with a brand.
Congrats to Tiger and his historic comeback. Here’s to knowing your game and knowing your purpose. A true brand champion, Tiger stuck to his roots and the payoff is gloriously green.
Sources: AdAge, Mintel, Nielsen