Is your brand X’y?

No its not the preserve of the select phew! Or Reality Television. Y should it be? It need not remain a steadfast tenant at number 24 in the alphabets table. Everybody can have it. What is your X Factor? How can it help you succeed?

We can no longer emoshun it. We are talking emotions. The kind of conceptual branding that is about finding the all-important X Factor and getting that message out there.

X Factor

It’s a different math. This X Factor is about creating engagement, arousing emotion and that which demonstrates how even the most unlikely brands can find an emotional touchstone: sadness, joy, anger, loyalty, laughter, frustration, pride and many other emotions. The X factor is (surprise, surprise) multiplies attention, attraction, appeal and action.

Lets travel beyond the typical visual clue. The DNA of a unique, differentiated brand is far more than just a logo, a typography set and colour palette. The plate needs to be fuller. The consumer believes in brands that tell a story and convey a clear, simple, believable message. Brands should appeal just as much to the heart as they do to the intellect. Call it State of the Heart branding!

As brand guardians we have the fundamental responsibility of ensuring that our brands and the associated concepts are imbued with the X Factor, no matter what category or sector the brand is from. Every brand has the potential to be truly unique, be it cement, telecom, fashion, bank or a coffee shop. Lets realize that in an increasingly over commoditized world, USP is passé. The day and age belongs to UFP (Unique Feelings Proposition) and brands that understand Y the UFP factor is vital to customer loyalty will be devoting more time and attention to embedding the X factor into their offerings and laugh their way to the bang! And Y not!

The Creative Apocalypse: Preparing your client

There is great, there is good and there is average (ok). Superlative. Comparitive. Relative. Most of us want to (atleast there is good enough intent!) do good work and over a period of time how that transmits to average and below remains an unsolved mystery. Have we ever started out saying; Lets do some Great Work? No one came into the profession thinking ‘I really want to produce work that’s a bit meh, a bit vanilla, that makes no impact on the world and sinks without a trace.’ So how come we don’t see brave creative work that often? The occasional breakthrough shines like a lighthouse across a lacklustre sea of work that is often boring, weirdly familiar or just a little bit disappointing.

Creative Apocalypse image











So how is the end game playing out? It’s a whole new world out there. Recession or no recession- there is a perennial pressure on budgets and jobs. The ‘always on’ shifting media landscape and the move from broadcasting messages to managing conversations. The balancing of brand, ROI and an increasing reliance on data and metrics. There is safety in numbers (metrics reloaded!). And how! All of these things have stitched together a sinister conspiracy in the last 10 years or so and made it more difficult for creatively brave work to ever see the light today.  It takes real balls for a client, or an agency, to take a leap of faith in this climate. Till then, it’s a lip of fate! And sealed at that.

Where does the skull drudgery end? What can be done? Selling creatively brave ideas requires an ability to promote the safety of risky situations (don’t miss the contradiction here), psychological management skills and a client that can hold their nerve. Sometimes you have to help hold it for them.

This situation provides both agency and client an absolutely perfect platform to do creative tango. So here is the brief: Depart from norm, break free from convention whilst remaining true to creating lasting campaign impact and brand recall. Surprise, delight, intimidate and come back to do more of the same. Don’t just hand hold the client, hold his heart and get to your customers’ soul in the process. That should be your sole goal.

Alice in Extreme Consumerland

The old order has changed and how. Consumers are now marketing to marketers through the 3 Ps- Price, Pressure & Politics. They are demanding bold innovation with every new product. Apple recently lost 25% of its value as investors punished its lack of new ideas. If it can happen to Apple, it can happen to you. The problem with big companies is not having ideas – it’s bringing them to market.

Coming to the heart of the matter: research kills brave ideas.

Average consumers can tell you how your current products and services are doing.  But they are often resistant to change, as Malcolm Gladwell pointed out in his Aeron chair story in Blink. The chair sat down (read died) in research because average consumers couldn’t get over its lack of leather. But it got made nonetheless because some more creative consumers loved it.


So what’s the remedy? How can research help sell bold ideas within your company -and to the consumer? How do we get meaningful tectonic shifts created? By looking beyond the usual suspects (your regular customers) to the fringes. Out there are the hackers, the early adopters, the extreme users who will co-create your products, inspiring you instead of shooting you down.

So what’s the take away when you look and go beyond? The results are stunningly significant. Mega corporate brands like Nike, Samsung, Google, PepsiCo, Zappos, Amazon, Starbucks, Vodafone and such ilk are able to make big leaps in product development, repositioning and even restructuring their organizations. Average consumers tell you what you already know. They bring in validation. Thank you. Extreme consumers can give you a whole new way of thinking about your category. They bring inspiration. They induce innovation. They embrace disruption. They coerce relevant change. And if you’re looking for that big, transformative idea, inspiration may be the most valuable thing your company can buy.