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To Be Creative, Never Think in Nouns

March 12, 2020

Our brains are wired to create mental shortcuts.

By evolution, we have been engineered to make processes simpler and more efficient. When confronted with problems—either consciously or subconsciously—we make them less complex by skipping the information and steps we think unnecessary.

This is all the more true for those in creative industries. As much as one may love brainstorming and making every project their creative sandbox, in the interest of time, many go straight to their standard executions and think in those lines.

Though not necessarily bad, always resorting to print and video executions may be boxing yourself in a creative corner.

At GetCraft’s Manila Creators Meetup last July 31, Ogilvy Manila Strategy Director Manny Gonzales started his talk by testing just how “boxed in” his audiences were.

Beginning with a picture of a young girl struggling to reach the top shelf of a bookcase, Gonzales asked his audience, “What does she need?”

Some answered a ladder, some a stool. Gonzales fired back, “Why not e-book copy of whatever she’s looking for? Why not bring down the shelf?”

For Gonzales, you don’t have to answer the question with the go-to solutions. Answer by addressing the need at the center of the problem. In this case, the girl needs help to access the book and the information that it contains.

That’s the problem with many marketers, Gonzales points out. Many simply answer with “stools and ladders,” with what’s readily available in front of them. Gonzales calls this merely “answering in nouns.”

“When you answer in nouns, when you go straight into the executions, you get stuck. This hurts the creative space,” he said. “Answer in in actions words instead.”

Gonzales cited Airbnb as a good example. For him, the 2.6 Billion USD startup revolutionized travel by changing the way marketers answered the question “What do tourists need when they travel?”

Airbnb had the vision to go beyond the obvious response. Travelers needed more than just accommodation. They needed to “feel and live like a local.”

From this idea sprouted a service that allows tourists to live with local hosts and sign up for Airbnb Experiences—activities designed and led by inspiring locals.

For creatives to emulate this, once they begin a campaign, they have to learn how to work against their programming. Yes, in some cases, it may be tempting to experiment with new tech such as VR, AR, and whatnot, but those things will naturally arise later. Instead, think first of how you could answer the question with an action.

By reflecting on a core action that a campaign should tap into, a story will arise. And from this story, that’s only when you should come up with executions.

So how does one exactly change the way he or she sees a question? Gonzales suggested a few thought starters at a Q&A after his talk.

For one, Gonzales suggests flipping the objective of a campaign. Example, for airlines, instead of simply providing rewards to frequent flyers. Why not make those who rarely or never fly feel wanted by giving them the rewards? This way you may get even more converts to your brand.

Secondly, why not look at other products that share the same themes as your own for inspiration. What needs and emotions are they tapping into? For example, pet food and baby food can be parallel products as they both are geared towards a market weaning into solid food.

Lastly, creatives can try answering questions from a different point of view. Instead of marketing a children’s product by resonating with the perspective of mothers, why not shift the narrative? Answer the question from the point of view of kids and let the moms understand that.

“When you do all these, suddenly you’re innovating. You’re thinking more creatively. You’re not stuck with a ladder; you’re not stuck with a 30-second commercial; you’re not stuck with an AVP,” Gonzales emphasized. “When you think in action words, you open a world of creative possibilities.”

For more articles about improving your creative process, visit the Crafters.

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To Be Creative, Never Think in Nouns

March 12, 2020

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March 12, 2020

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