Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Marketing Strategies For Popular Problems

Problems .. problems  

I read this fantastic quote that applies to thought leaders in any industry.
“The greatest challenge to any thinker is stating the problem in a way that will allow a solution” by George Bernard Shaw

All great solutions start with a well and accurately defined problem, whether in design or marketing or even urban planning. Extrapolating this principle across the entire solutions industry, makes most the business that  solves a human problem.
Most of the work I have been part of recently, involves asking questions around the real problem. A lot of rigor and effort is put into identifying the best problem to think on and solve. Ee think the real problem that needs to be solved, the blockage that needs to be opened up, is a product, brand or communications problem.

 The way we break it up: product serves needs - brands serve wants and communication serves desires.

The fundamental starting point of any scrutiny is the structural breaking down of the need and how the product/service/business/device/  satisfies that particular need. Human needs dont really evolve but expectations do and products need to bear that in mind. this is more of linear problem that can be handled by progressive thinking ( starting from point A it could go all the way to Z and beyond).   

A problem with the product is pretty fundamental. This indicates that in some way what the consumer is being presented doesn’t work for them – whether because of performance, pricing, distribution/accessibility. It may well be that you can’t do much about this – certainly in the short term but it is nonetheless valuable to know as you try to put your plans in place that they will always be compromised because you are not bringing the right product to the consumer. Many brands do creative work that is magnificent in nature and compliments the thinker's ability. But a product that has limited appeal rarely benefits from the genuis of the creative team.  Good advertising can kill a bad product faster. This is where marketing and strategy steps in and needs to redirect the creative energy.  Again the great challenge is the problem, making accurate problem articulation a skill to harness. 

If there appears to be no fundamental product issue it is time to explore the brand world before ripping it apart. usually a brand is a relation, and hence the classification is with human wants. A lot can go right or wrong with relations. From harmony to dissonance to an atomic explosion. It is necessary to look at the brand world before we anlayse its citizen and its relation.  Is there something about the brand and specifically people’s relationship with or beliefs about that brand that are holding sales back. Many perfectly good products are compromised by unhelpful brand associations that ensure its downfall which is a bit like a song on the music charts. Any great idea stays on top for a while, but eventually does slide downward and finally out. Branding's job is to make sure that there is enough freshness to keep moving the brand up or down this tricky path called human preference. 

A great analogy can e found in the way the design firm IDEO  thinks. They drive change from the sweet spot that exists between current need and future expectations ... truly innovative ideas do this very well, from the iphone to gangnam style, spinning the familiar always works in branding.


And finally it is the turn to fulfill desires. this is a dark secret fantasy space that rarely gets discussed but is often visualized privately by the brand users. Another way to arrive at this is to assume, if it’s not a product or brand problem it’s probably a communications problem – this is a hunch, a hypotheses that the communications for the brand are not telling the right story, working in the right way or targeting the right people.  This is a refinement space rather than a overhaul, here the strategist needs to tinker away at the ends to get the base notes right.


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