Could a Great Insight Backfire?

Quick Read: Rooted in a universal insight about play and its potential, Barbie’s new film is brilliant. But could that very insight be its undoing? 

Using imagination as the USP to sell something is nothing new.

But using imagination as a means to reshape a brand’s narrative into that of a more affirmative and purportedly more inclusive discourse is.

At least that’s what the new Barbie campaign does. To good effect.

In a new film by BBDO called “Imagine The Possibilities”, Barbie speaks of the power of imagination that allows girls to explore their potential.

It’s twitter page shows how the brand has begun to drive conversations around topics like inspiring confidence, celebrating boldness, encouraging self expression and calling out the ‘inner superstar’.

For a brand that has often been accused of perpetuating an epidemic of body hatred, this campaign seems to hold promise in getting parents to reappraise the role Barbie can play in a child’s life. At least a cursory look into the comments in the film’s YouTube page seems to suggest so.

The film is great because of its brilliant insight – when a girl plays with Barbie she imagines everything that she can become.

But ironically it is this very insight that could be its undoing. 

If when a girl plays with Barbie, she imagines everything that she can become, wouldn’t such an imagination naturally get rooted in a (misguided) notion –  i.e., the notion that her dream of becoming this someone could be a function of her growing up to look as ‘perfect & pretty’ as the Barbie dolls seem to her?

The jury is out.

Only time will tell if this can make any substantial dent in the brand imagery for Barbie in the long term beyond the seemingly positive discourse of “seek your inner superstar”.

Meanwhile, did you hear about Lammily?

Lammily

It is feted as as the “first fashion doll with realistic proportions”.

[Bonus Link: Did you know that every woman in every Disney/Pixar movie in the past decade has the exact same face? You should check this out.]

(Featured Image source: Barbie.com)

Ideas And Their Six Degrees Of Separation

Quick Read: Ideas, like people, could be said to have their own “6 Degrees of Separation” i.e., any idea in the world can potentially be related to another idea in the world with a maximum of 6 connections. And if this hypothesis is right, it can have major implications on marketing. 

What are you thinking right now? This comic by Richard McGuire appeared in 1990.

Richard McGuire(What Are You Thinking Right Now, Richard McGuire. Source)

While it is a wonderful comic and a fun reflection on how we think, for me it is a brilliant work that manages to encapsulate within the confines of a comic panel – the interconnectedness of our thoughts and ideas.

Speaking of which, just as this theory that any two people in the world can be connected to each other with a maximum of 6 steps, my hypothesis is that:

Any two ideas in the world can be related to each other in less than or equal to 6 degrees of separation. 

In other words, if you think of each idea as a node, I contend that you could potentially connect any two nodes in the “idea universe” with a maximum of 6 connections.

(One way of proving this could be as a corollary of the 6 Degrees of People Separation and mixing it with the notion that ideas make a man. And voila! You can have even a far right capitalist ideology being related to a far left communist ideology within 6 degrees of separation.)

people-exchanging-ideas-26061929(Ideas and connections, stock image)

Why is this fascinating? If the hypothesis is proven right, it can potentially have two major implications on how ideas can be sold.

Implication #1: 

Let’s take Recommendation Engines, the intelligence behind “If you like this, you might also like these” kind of recommendations that you see on Amazon

A good recommendation engine – in search, videos, online shopping, travel etc.,  has far reaching implications in delivering more relevant content to users, thereby driving sales and growing retention within the platform. In fact, as per many accounts, some companies have even gone so far as to realign their business objectives in light of recommender-driven demand, such as Netflix, Amazon, Microsoft, Disney and Apple.

Now, what if we abstract this concept of “six degrees of ideas’ separation” into an iterative, machine learning algorithm that can build up, in real time, a user’s idea map – i.e., a construct that maps out the interconnectedness of user’s ideas?

We can then perhaps use it as the back bone of a more powerful recommendation engine.

So instead of dishing out nearly hard coded, precedent based recommendations – with imperfect results –  what if the smart logic embedded in the recommendation engine can rapidly learn, iterate and replicate my idea map resulting in recommendations that almost feel like – mind reading?

That’s when I might be able to see breathtakingly personalised assortment of search results, advertisements, content and retail options appear in front of me almost at the speed (and diversity) of my thought.

Implication #2: 

Given that any of my existing ideas can potentially be connected to other ideas – and thereby products – out there, having an insight about my idea map can potentially help you sell me a new product/service. How?

By carefully structuring your sales pitch in a way that takes me gently through the different related nodes from my existing ‘idea state’ to a new ‘idea state’ that could probably help me better relate to your product.

Easier said than done, I am sure. But the outcomes here could be as thrilling as they could be scary – a signpost of every major scientific advancement over the last few decades.

On a related note..

If you enjoy the creative process of discovering and connecting disparate ideas into an insightful whole, check out Seenapse.

Seenapse

A creative technology start-up, Seenapse is an ‘inspiration engine’ that assists in your creative process by exposing you to non-obvious idea associations between seemingly disparate concepts. It is currently in a closed beta but you can get an invite by using the code: strandsofgenius. (source)

(Featured image source. H/T Austin Kleon for the riff on Richard McGuire and Faris Yakob on Seenapse)

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PS: This is my 100th blog post on BrandedNoise which got its 2020th subscriber today! A big thank you to all the readers out there who have been the source of my strength, inspiration and support. Looking forward to many more blog posts to come and a journey fuelled by creativity, curiosity and fun. A big thank you once again!!

Marketing Nostalgia – Retro Innovation

The first thing you notice about Paperman – an Academy Award nominee for Best Animated Short Film (2012) –  is how different it seems from most modern cartoons.

paperman_title

See the full 6mins version here. It has a distinct retro black & white look not just because it is a story based out of 1940s Manhattan, but also because it clearly feels like as if real people have drawn it  it on a piece of paper as opposed to say – like machines creating it on computers.  The result of Disney’s new in-house software called Meander, it seamlessly  blends the best of ‘hand drawn cartoon kinda’ look with CGI animation in a way the animation industry has never seen before; a game changing animation style so distinctive, innovative and beautiful that WIRED magazine even bills it as the future of animation as a whole!

This can be called out as an example of a unique kind of innovation – new technologies, new products or experiences that are designed around connecting us with the past that is nostalgic. Something that  calls as Retro Innovation.  In this FastCompany article he writes that Retro Innovations roughly fall into three categories:

  1. Innovations that authentically mimic a product or experience of the past to transport the user back into a gone era.
  2. Innovations that use a nostalgic format to meet a new need.
  3. Innovations that use a new format to meet an old need.

Read the whole article here and get a dose of some 10 emerging examples of Retro Innovations. My favorite example is Moleskine, regarding which he says..

The Italian paper notebook maker MDleskine, whose recent IPO was valued at more than $600 million, is a stunning anachronism in a business environment that glorifies tech startups and digital business models.

There are reams of case studies out there that extol the brilliance of Moleskine’s branding. But the best example of its retro innovation is its Moleskine Evernote Smart Notebook that bridges the digital and the analog world.

The key insight on which most successful retro innovations thrive on is brilliantly articulated in this Washington Post article that says..

With the rise in computing power, there has been an acceleration of the rate in which we build on new information technologies, leaving us clutching awkwardly for things we recognize from the past. The pace of change at times seems so overwhelming that it’s no wonder that sometimes we want to be transported back to an earlier era.

Think about this insight and you could possibly have explanations for things like:

  • The emergence of  a ‘modern retro’ trend in the  retro gaming culture.
  • The popularity of Mad Men – the only basic cable series to win Emmy Award for Outstanding Drama Series besides 14 other Emmys and 4 Golden Globes. (source)
  • Brands like Adidas and Puma having a dedicated innovation pipeline specially meant for their retro line ups: Adidas Originals and Puma Classics. In fact by many accounts, Adidas Originals can be considered to be a top of the pyramid brand in terms of their positioning and price points. Besides, the corporate logo of Adidas is distinctive from that of Adidas Originals recognizing the unique appeal and potential of this retro innovation line up from the sports brand.
  • The popularity of classics that are remastered to the new digital world – Jurassic Park 3D anyone?

And  in extreme case it might possibly even explain the rationale behind the existence of Skeuomorps – which might be a different discussion altogether!

While the jury is still out to argue whether the ‘retro trend’ actually cripples innovation, a few venture capitalists do concede that  retro innovation is indeed the most lucrative kind. After all, if innovations are about elevating and enriching human experiences, there would always be a market that values a more traditional notion of this experience and that’s where Retro Innovations kick in.

What other examples of Retro Innovations can you think of?