In my work as a CD, I live by the maxim that if you play stupid games, you’ll win stupid prizes.
Many of us in the creative industries are now stupidly falling victim to a trend so villainous, so heinous, so destructive of innovation.
The over reliance of asking your audience what they want.
Everybody loves to talk about the end user. Agency, in house. Whatever.
“What would the end user think?”
“Would the end user click here?”
“What copy does the end user like?”
Each and every day, we take briefs and listen. We run UX focus groups, and listen. We run qualitative research sessions and listen. We run quantitative surveys around the world…and listen. We mine terabytes of insight data to listen. We AB test. Hell, we A-G test.
We drown ourselves in a delicious stew of…safety!
Whilst all of the above are important, they cannot be the only thing that leads your decision making.
As Henry Ford himself said:
“If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.”
We've gone from a species of game changing norm-wreckers to meek listeners behind the digital curtain.
If we’re honest, sometimes you are right, and the user is wrong.
Helping the user see your way is hard. Harder than giving them the expected. But our job should be hard.
Changing minds is hard. That’s why you use agencies like us to do it.
If convincing people to use your brand of cut price shampoo were easy, you’d have made your ad on WordArt.
But that hard work pays off when the users love what you do more than anyone else.
I have seen websites built entirely out of user expectations. Films crafted within echo chambers. There’s a booming industry of mundane content marketing based around your equally mundane web habits.
However, where has all the disruption gone?
Have we, in the quest for accuracy, become uninspired? Have we become the boyfriend that has a good job, and good hair…but no soul?
We creative agencies used to be bold. Take risks. Say…who cares?
By becoming enslaved to the big data machine, we have become very good, at just being good.
What’s the point Mr Soapbox?
My manifesto for the purge of boring communications is this:
- For every safe use of data, take one wildcard risk. Proper wild now. Not ‘oooh we used the secondary palette’
- Pretend to be the agency competing against you. Think like a creative team that hasn’t eaten for weeks and will steal your worst client. They’d steal your Woolworth’s account if they could. If you’re not that hungry, you’re basically Rocky, in Rocky III. And that’s bad.
- Bring something new to the table. Audiences will only ask for what they know to exist. Give them something they didn’t know about before and they may just love it. Just ask hot yoga, jeggings, vegan food and Himalayan salt lamps.
- Get them gains! Make hard decisions. Compromise is the death of creativity. If your AB split test is balanced, don’t just go for the middle. If A or B work with equally efficacy. Pick one!
- Believe in your product. It’s easy to over-serve and over-flex as an agency. But if our credibility is to be relied on, sometimes we have to fight the good fight. Say no, challenge, object and argue. The end result will be better.