Vinay Kanchan
Guest Article

Knocking out challenges with the 1-2 combination

Thinking these days, especially in branding and marketing communication, tends to get over-complicated. This results in watered down products and pieces of communication. Here is a perspective on cutting through the inanities and clutter, and arriving at sharper, more powerful and promising ideas.

It is interesting to see how the process of creating brand communication has progressed over the last decade. Different corporate systems have approached it differently, many installing proprietary formats to inspire structured thought. And while these have their merits, often serving at the very least, as an organised way in which to get clients to download their thoughts; several get lost in the labyrinth of filling in those queries. Often, these forms (for lack of a better word) are completed as merely yet another bureaucratic process to initiate things. Needless to say, the work which emerges looks a lot like ‘work’, to use a polite euphemism. The prospects of any kind of spark emerging seem as remote as the possibility of coherent dialogue taking place on any news channel debate these days. The whole situation appears like it could do with the addition of a bit of adrenaline.

This is why boxing (or mixed martial art these days) might provide some thoughts to add some punch to the process (all puns intended). One of the most potent strategies to employ in boxing is the ‘one-two combination’. This move opens up the guard of the rival with one leading punch (usually a jab) and finishes the job off by landing a devastating cross (not in religious terms); leaving one’s opponent down on the mat for the count. Often, many big contests come down to this strategy being able to effectively unfold.

Likewise, the quest for better output in branding and marketing can be as simple, if only one opens their eyes to a similar kind of play; albeit in this case, eyes could be replaced with those two seminal ‘i’s’. Although times may change and new formats might be introduced, the innovation process in business will always boil down to two important things - the insight and the idea.

Many creative people across domains have an inherent tendency to zero in on these two vital ingredients, whatever soup they might be in. Much of the rest of the conversation merely serves as a cerebral appetiser to sample this duo.

Prying open the opportunity with the first i-the insight

Insights are often the most abused term in the business. Everything seems to be claimed as an insight these days, watering down that pristine concept to an extent. At its best, an insight is a refreshing observation about the category, consumer, culture or competition that brings a new perspective to things. Frequently, it is something derived by reading between the lines of a research report, not quoting things verbatim from it, as is oft the case.

Contemplate the immensely counter-intuitive insight that there was business to be had in revisiting nostalgia; which resulted in the inception and huge success of brands like Saregama Carvaan and Paper Boat. Consider the ‘in retrospect sounding obvious insight’ around people being more comfortable using their fingers (rather than any other navigational system) that gave smartphones a playful, relatable, and eminently accessible interface when they first arrived. Dwell on our deeply voyeuristic desire to peep into other people’s homes which led to the worldwide success of programmes like Bigg Boss.

When an insight like that is discovered, it often opens up the possibilities for some great creative thinking and innovation to follow. It leaves the problem or challenge with its guard invitingly open.

But the telling blow still has to be delivered.

And that’s why it’s important to pay attention to the manner in which the idea is articulated. It actually needs to be deliciously chiseled into form. An idea is that fountainhead from which different creative expressions can readily flow. While many have differing perspectives (as they should); perhaps leaning towards the usage of metaphor is a really potent way to craft ideas. The power of a metaphor is in the fact that it opens an entirely different world which often provides a ready creative springboard.

Think ‘the freshness of an out of the bathroom bathing experience’ which famously presented so many vistas of expressions for the Liril brand. Consider the likening of the conjugal act to a popular sport that resulted in myriad pieces of interestingly consistent communication for KamaSutra. Recount Volkswagen’s iconic international campaign around ‘engineered with an obsession, oblivious to everything else’, to understand how framing an idea in just the right manner can be so liberating to the creative process.

In conclusion,employing these two i’s in the manner of the one-two combination in boxing, not only brings wonderful clarity to the challenge at hand, it also provides a powerful impetus for the entire strategic thinking process going forward. It cuts down conversations around the business to their most potent and incisive avatars. And in the end there is light! Even if it is a case of ‘lights out’ for the problem being grappled with.

(The author is a brand storyteller, innovation catalyst and the author of ‘Sportivity’, ‘Lessons from the Playground’ & ‘The Madness Starts at 9’.)