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Cool Brands – The Cool Factors

Do you remember the cool kids in school? They always made witty comments with perfect timing. They always had the right clothes and the right look. They seemed years ahead of us! We envied them and tried to be like them. We were either in or out of fashion. Likewise, some brands have it and some don’t. What is the cool factor? How does a brand get an “OMG that’s soooo cool!!!” reaction?

While coolness is an intangible and elusive concept, being a cool brand is lucrative. It means huge economic profits based on premium pricing, insatiable demand, and image enhancement beyond your control. It can also be a major barrier for any competitors. Researcher and blogger Harsh Verma says “Cool is a scarce resource capable of bringing about value transformation.” Stephen Cheliotis, chairman of the Cool Brands Council, says that innovation, originality, authenticity, and desirability makes a brand cool.

Other experts say that cool brands only matter to people who tie their identity directly to that product. To make this relationship happen, a community aspect of interact with the brand is required. It’s easy to understand how high tech (Tesla, Apple, Google, Samsung, Sony) and luxury brands (Gucci, Rolex, Prada, Tiffany) become cool but how do everyday products like deodorant, underwear, shoes, food, or other mundane products become cool?

What is Cool?

Wikipedia defines cool as a word often used to express admiration or approval. The word became popular in the late 1940s by Black American jazz musicians, who were real cool cats.

Things or practices have been called cool to mean superlative, excellent, exclusive, special, original, unique, rare, exciting, and desirable. Like all things we want to know we put questions like this through a vigorous scientific evaluation. But what exactly is cool?

Alan Tapp and Sara Bird in their research paper (2008) defined cool as “the best [word] to describe that elusive, exclusive quality that makes behaviours, objects so hip, desirable and symbolic of ‘being in the know’.”

Clive Nancarrow and Julie Page defined cool in the Journal of Consumer Behaviour as a laid back, narcissistic, and hedonistic attitude and as a form of insider knowledge. In true cult-fashion, everyone wants a piece of your brand until it becomes uncool. Cool isn’t for the masses; it needs to have a distinctiveness and restricted access to keep its cool factor.

According to a Datamonitor (2005) report, the perceptions of cool vary by age. While young consumers often mimic celebrities who are to be perceived as cool, most teenagers and adults view cool as a means to express their individualism. Older customers were found to view cool as synonymous with quality.

Numerous researches and marketers have tried to formulate a concrete description of ‘coolness’. The closest any researcher has come to such a definition has been Sandra Loureiro and Rui Lopes (2011) in their study Characteristics of Cool Brands: The Development of a Scale and a study done by Caleb Warren, Rajeev Batra, Sandra Loueiro and Richard Bagozzi (2019) titled Brand Coolness.

The two studies identified ten major cool characteristics. I took the liberty of mashing the insights together and created some symmetry in their outcomes to develop a coolness brand wheel. Hit all ten characteristics and your brand will be so cool that Oprah Winfrey would need to put it on her “Favorite Things List.”

Cool Brand Wheel

In essence, the Cool Brand Wheel perfectly explains the coolness factors as behavioral, state of mind, aesthetic, social distinction and appropriately autonomous. Coolness can turn a ‘want’ into a ‘need.’

 

Here are the ten cool factors:

Autonomy

Branding legends Jack Trout and Al Ries said that consumers shop primarily by categories. People can only remember a few brands per category. The goals is to be at the top of that list. Once the category list is full–it’s full. A company can only break that full list if they develop a new, unique category.

Cool brands are either at the top of the list or in a category on their own. They are perceived as the creator of their category. For example, there is a numerous automobile brands, but the most successful ones have built their brand on a unique category (i.e., safety, luxury, speed, quality, etc.). Tesla has recently marketed itself as the electric car company; they created a brand new category.  While other well-known automobile companies have electric cars, they don’t own the new category, Tesla does. Being the first in a category helps the brand be unique, distinctive, and autonomous making them cool.

Caleb Warren and Margaret C. Campbell published a paper in the Journal of Consumer Research on how autonomy influences coolness. They concluded that “coolness was a subjective, socially constructed positive trait attributed to cultural objects (like brands) perceived to be appropriately autonomous”. Note the word ‘appropriately’.  What they found was that the degree of autonomy was important. They needed to create a sufficient divergence from the norm.

Apple was initially highly autonomous due to its obscurity and association with the graphic design community.  They allied themselves with strong graphic software like PageMaker, Photoshop, Illustrator, QuarkXPress, and Adobe. According to Columnist Charles Pillar, the famous 1984 ad help portray Apple as a symbol of counterculture: rebellious, free-thinking and creative. They became synonymous with desktop publishing, photography, creativity, and design industries.

Over time, Apple continued to redefine itself and its marketplace. While Apple didn’t invent the MP3 player, the smartphone, the smart watch or the tablet, they made the best products.  They also made them cool. Apple designer Jonathan Ive said, “Our goals are very simple—to design and make better products. If we can’t make something that is better, we won’t do it.”

Apple has clearly positioned itself as a brand that thinks differently and stands out. To emphasize being autonomous, Apple has purposely associated itself with autonomous rebels and artists such as Picasso, Einstein, Nelson Mandela, and Mark Twain.

It is hugely important that brands be authentically autonomous, otherwise they can be perceptive as conceited. This is a problem that Tesla owner Elon Musk has faced. To be authentic, a brand needs to have a unique story and reason behind their brand. The brand needs to be true to its heritage. The brand promise must be clear and delivered at every customer touch point. The brand must live the talk. To be cool, a brand needs to follow its own path, regardless of the norms, beliefs, or expectations of others.

Memorable

In a world where we have a hard time concentrating, brand memorability is a challenge. Havas (2018) found that brand campaigns have a direct impact on consumer behavior only after 60 days have passed. What they discovered was that memorable campaigns had a greater chance of recall after 60 days. Nigel Hughes, managing director of Havas said “There is a significant gap between being aware of a campaign and remembering it. With so many channels broadcasting, respondents are initially aware of many campaigns, but they don’t remember the messages…” The stickiness of the message is just as important as the awareness.

There are a number of ways to make your brand memorable or sticky. If humor fits your brand personality, it can be very useful. Old Spice understood the importance of entertaining their customers. They took an old brand and “Swaggerized Their Brand” into one of the top brands in its category.  Landor, a leading brand consult and design company said “Old Spice’s business has grown by double digits every year since the new positioning went to market.” For more on using humor check out this blog post.

Pulling consumers heartstrings can also attract massive views and social engagement. Every holiday season airline companies, department stores, and tech companies try to bring out the holiday spirit, hoping to transfer the warmth onto their brand. But, be careful, too much love isn’t cool.

Being offbeat and edgy can also get a brand noticed. This generally includes being rebellious, risky, and controversial. Taking this direction can quickly fortify a stronger bond between a brand and consumers but can also repel a portion of consumers. Nike’s support of Colin Kaepernick’s racial injustice cause is a case in point. As their ad said “Believe in something. Even if it means sacrificing everything. Just do it.”

Preciousness

People have always been attracted to beautiful aesthetics and expensive things. Highly exclusive and extremely expensive brands are historically cool. Diamonds have continuously been cool. Just ask my wife.

In contrast to today’s crazy world, simple, sleek, modern designs seem to elevate the consumer’s senses. These design elements are seen in functional, sound, touch, and visual manifestations. Apple has perfected a clean and minimalistic design in of all of its products including packaging and advertising. As Dan Frommer said, “Apple products are cool because you don’t have to figure out how they work—they are natural and human.”

In their book Rethinking Prestige Branding: Secrets of the Ueber-Brands, Wolfgang Schaefer and JP Kuehlwein coined the phrase Ueber-Brands. For Ueber-Brands, prestige is less about high prices and more about provoking pride and aspiration through mythical storytelling.  

Paying a hefty price of entry shouldn’t create buyer’s remorse but a belonging that should continue to keep giving.  Extra attention to the details and the little things makes a brand stay cool.

Social Awareness

Brands that do good is not a new concept. But its popularity has increased among Millennials. Millennials have become socially conscious; they buy brands that demonstrate their commitment to changing the world. The extreme weather conditions and devastating consequences of climate change have created a highly-sensitive consumer base that appreciates corporate social engagement. Caring for our planet and humanity are becoming an integral part of a brand’s business strategy, as they activity engage in communities and social and environmental causes.

For example, TOMS started out as a shoe company with a one-for-one promise:  for every pair of shoes purchased, a pair was donated to needy children. Today, they have expanded into one-for-one spectacles that provide ophthalmic treatment to the needy, one-for-one coffee where each cup sold provides clean water to the poor, and one-for-one bags that help save lives of birthing mothers and their newborns in developing countries. Very cool!

Patagonia scores big in this area as an environmentally and socially responsible company. Their mission statement clearly states, “Build the best product, cause no unnecessary harm, use business to inspire and implement solutions to the environmental crisis.”

Tribe

According to the Ueber-Brands concept, there is a precarious balance between longing and belonging. While the goal is to acquire as many customers as possible to maximize profits, you must be careful to balance inclusiveness with exclusivity. To be cool you always need the admirer, desirer, and dreamers to be part of your tribe. Brands that build strong communities help the brand to evolve and also fulfill peoples’ needs.

Remember the day when it was cool to wear white iPod earphones. Now, it’s the white earbuds. I’m not sure if this qualifies as being cool today. But Apple has sold over 2 billion iPhones & iPads since 2007. They continue to introduce a new model every couple of years to create exclusivity and to keep their loyal tribe happy and wanting more. And they have a very big tribe.

There is something special about being part of an exclusive club. Harley-Davidson motorcycles understood the idea of building a community by setting up the Harley Owners Group H.O.G. across North America. Chapters popped up everywhere and the company started sponsoring rallies, showcase new motorcycles. It was a win-win and the cult-like Harley Nation was created with over half a million participants. “I’m very into the Harley myth,” says Alvin LaSalle, a 63 electrical contractor from California. To prove it, he proudly displays the Harley’s trademark wings tattooed on his arm. The brand has always been associated with the Hell’s Angels, who supposedly uses the Harley owners’ manual as a bible at wedding ceremonies. Their challenge today is to make the HOG cooler for Millennials whose parents are still driving them.

Authentic

Reflecting on the past and reinventing oneself in a familiar, but unconventional way accentuates coolness. Many of the world’s luxury brands like Louis Vuitton, Chanel, Hermes, Gucci, Cartier, and Tiffany perpetuate themselves by highlighting their history, and craftsmanship. It’s never bad to remind your customers what you stand for.

History legitimizes the core brand values and how they became who they are today. This doesn’t mean that the brand fails to change, but that they continue to evolve while maintaining their ultimate goal of surpassing customers’ expectations.

Classically cool individuals stay away from trends and so do trendy brands. It can be important to stay true to your roots and stay the course. Timeless brands are consistent in look and style. Coca-Cola is a great sample of a brand true to its roots with decades of steadfast positioning and looks. However, the brand isn’t entirely unchanging. The brand should be tweaked constantly overtime in a natural fashion without fanfare. Being discrete and real is also cool.

Original 

In connection with being authentic, cool brands must also be contemporary. This means reinventing itself in a progressive, natural fashion that strongly ties back to the brand’s purpose and vision. This is how Apple was able to morph from iMac to iPod, iPad, iPhone, and Apple Watch. What’s next? The autonomous iCar?

Old Spice is an interesting case in point. It had been around for over 70 years and was starting to become an old man’s product. It wasn’t on my shopping list, but it was on my dad’s. In 2010 that all changed when they launched one of the most successful rebrands with the “Old Spice Guy”.

They spiced up the product line and attracted a new customer-base; now their product is very cool. There is a fine line between timeless and contemporary, but Old Spice navigated the waters with skill.

Back in the 1970’s their slogan was “Mark of a Man” and targeted dads and grandfathers. Today, their focus is on young men with the slogan “The original. If your grandfather hadn’t worn it, you wouldn’t exist.” The nautical theme is still present, but the colonial sailing ship is now a racing sail boat. The packaging has also evolved over time. Initially, the bottle was made of clay (something you would find on a sailing ship in the 1930s), then it became a cream-colored glass bottle that mimicked pottery design, finally it evolved onto a plastic bottle.

The fundamentals of the Old Spice brand still remain the same: nautical theme, cream color bottle, and red top. What’s different is its coolness.

Unconventional

Cool brands march to their own drum.

Recognize these names: “Cherry Garica, Chucky Monkey, Phish Food, The Tonight Dough, and Americone Dream?”

These are Ben & Jerry’s ice cream flavors. Two Vermont boys, Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield ignored conventional wisdom and built an ice cream business worth $326 million (Price sold to Unilever in 2000). Here are some of the unconventional ways they built the brand:

  • Instead of using venture capital to expand their business, they sold shares door-to-door shares ($126 each). They raised $750,000 for their first expansion efforts.
  • When Pillsbury (owners of Haagen-Dazs) was discouraging vendors from selling Ben & Jerry’s ice cream, they retaliated with an ad campaign “What’s the Doughboy Afraid Of?”
  • Back in 1988, their business was ahead of the times based on three missions:
    • make fantastic ice cream
    • build sustainable growth by respecting the Earth & Environment
    • make the world a better place.

As the franchise development manager for Ben & Jerry’s, Eric Thomas said, “You really can change the world through ice cream.” One cool scoop at a time.

Emotional Connected

Harvard Business School professor Gerald Zaltman says that 95 percent of our purchase making decisions take place in the subconscious mind, a place where emotions are king. Activating an emotional connection can be very beneficial, but you will not connect with everyone. You must clearly understand your customers’ needs and wants to connect at this level. If you connect, the risk will be well worth the effort. If you don’t, you’ll have egg on your face.

Pepsi’s Kendall Jenner protest commercial was a great example. Somehow, the public couldn’t buy the concept that Jenner could stop hatred and tension with a can of carbonated sugar.

For more on this topic check out my blog article called A Brand with Feelings.

Energetic

A cool brand has energy and excitement. I don’t mean loud and always on. More like smart and with-it. These are brands that are current. They don’t just follow current events but make things happen. They are rebels with a cause. They think and act as if the world is their oyster.

Energetic cool brands also speak to youth. They speak their language and engage in the conversations on their terms. Participation is key to building a mutual relationship. Over the last six years, Moosylvania has surveyed Millennials to track their brand preference. Unsurprisingly, top brands always includes Apple, Amazon, Nike, Samsung, Target, Wal-Mart, Sony, Microsoft, Google, and Coca Cola. If you look deeper into the list, you will see brands that make them look, feel good, and keep them entertained.

As the iconic David Ogilvy said, “You can’t bore people into buying you product, you can only interest them into buying it.” There needs to be a level of fun and fascination to keep customers engaged with the brand.

Can you think of a cool brand that isn’t fun in one way or another? I can’t.

 

Another Cool Factor – Sexy

‘Sexy’ doesn’t fit easily onto the Cool Brand Wheel, but it can be a powerful branding tool. Sexy is a primal instinct. A sensual attraction, excitement, or even ecstasy. ‘Sexy’ branding can be a risky business.

Bad-boy brands like AXE, Calvin Klein, Abercrombie & Fitch, and Playboy built a tribe based on selling sex, and all of them were super cool at one point. Sexy people are notorious for making brands cool like Kim Kardashian, Paris Hilton, Marky Mark Wahlberg, Jenna Jameson, Justin Bieber, and a number of Victoria Secret models.

While sex and sexy can attract attention and help create coolness, they aren’t a sustainable factor. Other factors of the Cool Brand Wheel must be present. Overtime sexy can also have a negative effect on a brands when people only remember the attractive bodies and not the brand.

Stay Cool

The cool brand wheel is a great way to move a brand from functionality to coolness.  A product is built on attributes. A brand is built on a narrative that people want to embrace and buy. A cool brand is built on mythology, faith, and desire. Cool brands give meaning to our lives. They make us feel happy and good. They make us proud. They make us cool.

Coolness must seem effortless not forced or manipulated. It isn’t just a clever or sexy advertising campaign. Many cool brands’ origins are associated with being non-mainstream, controversial or sub-cultural, almost cult-like. Growing into a massive brand or becoming part of a multinational enterprise can easily affect the coolness factor.

Cultural shifts and demographics shifts can have significant impact on what defines coolness. There was a day that cigarettes, especially Marlboro, were sexy and cool. Remember the Hummer vehicle? Now known as the gas guzzler. Then there was Krispy Kreme, the cult-like doughnuts. As one customer said, “Fresh Krispy Kreme is the food of the gods.” What happen to the once cool brands of Gap, MTV, Nokia, Dr. Martens, and Playboy? They failed to stay cool.

Cool brands aren’t built, they are cultivated. Customers determine if a brand is cool. A brand can continue to emulate coolness if they carefully balance the ten cool factors and stay in the lead by turning customer’s wants into needs. The benefits of being a cool brand are enormous: fame and fortunes beyond your control. Be cool.

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How Do Brands Deliver the Future? Innovate

Innovative is the most overused word in business. However, it is also the most important business concept. Without innovation, a business cannot survive. Last year, Inc. magazine published the top ten overused company buzzwords. Guess where “innovative” ranked? It was number one! Search the word “innovative” on Google and you get over 2 billion results.

In today’s world of disruptors, digitalization, Artificial Intelligence, and the Internet of Everything, every brand is looking for the ultimate innovation to keep them relevant and profitable. Every CEO understands that innovation is key to their brand’s future. Yet, it is often elusive. Every day, formerly popular brands become obsolete.

A brand can either ignore reality or start looking for new opportunities outside their comfort zone. Thomas Friedman, author of The World is Flat: A Brief History of the Twenty-first Century says, “the most important attribute you can have is creative imagination – the ability to be the first on your block to figure out how all these enabling tools can be put together in new and exciting ways to create products, communities, opportunities, and profits.”

Shawn Hunter the author of Out Think: How Innovative Leaders Drive Exceptional Outcomes, defines innovation as the implementation or creation of something new that has immense value to others.

“Creativity isn’t necessarily innovation,” Hunter told Business News Daily. “If you have a brainstorm meeting and dream up dozens of new ideas, then you have displayed creativity, [but] there is no innovation until something gets implemented.”

Innovation is Putting Ideas into Action

Creativity is the process of developing unique and novel ideas. To find out more on this topic check out 9 Creative Ideas for Great Branding. Innovation is the process of putting new ideas into workable, physical actions that create measurable financial results and brings value to the brand and its customers.

It’s easy to generate ideas. The hard part is implementing the ideas. There will be many reasons why an idea can’t be implemented such resource limitations, timing, expertise deficiencies, process and production issues, costs, and leadership. Most big ideas cannot be implemented without many small, successful ideas.

A company’s internal culture sets the stage for their ability to create great ideas, but that is only the start. Most companies don’t know how to move an idea into reality.  Physically implementing an idea requires many disciplines across many different silos. A clear system must be in place to turn new ideas into overnight innovations.

Innovation Starts with a Problem

Many new innovations are inspired by a problem such as declining sales, customer changes, shifting trends, new technologies, or competitive actions. The trick is listening to what customers are thinking and understanding the opportunities or issues. Brands need to closely watch the marketplace (locally and internationally) to understand shifts in attitudes, trends, and technology drivers.

In her article, The 10 Things Innovative Companies Do To Stay On Top, Julie Bort says that successfully innovative companies get their best ideas by listening to their customers. In Everything Connects—How to Transform and Lead in the Age of Creativity, Innovation and Sustainability, Faisal Hoque and Drake Baer emphasize the importance of engaging customers throughout the innovation process. “Listen again to the customer to help them imagine; use prototypes to elicit feedback; listen to customer acceptance/buying criteria; listen to what could go wrong, but don’t let the devil’s advocate take control.”

Innovation is a Constant Process

New ideas can be easily implemented by setting up an internal start-up team that works on a concept from start to finish. Another popular way is to buy out promising innovation companies and combine them into the big brand powerhouse. David Friend, CEO of Wasabi Technologies, says “It’s hard to have a corporate culture that juxtaposes caution and process on one hand with nimbleness and innovation on the other. So, it’s a good idea to separate the two functions inside the company so that both are fostered.”

In the Harvard Business Review, Gary Hamel, London Business School professor, and Nancy Tennant, past chief innovation officer innovation at Whirlpool, suggest that innovation requires a systemic view. “It’s not about individual tools and tactics, but how each of those methods fit together to accelerate the product innovation cycle.”

Technological companies like Facebook, Apple, Amazon, Netflix, and Google (FAANG) have figures this out from day one as they continue to innovate and introduce new brands in a timely fashion.

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos said: “Invention comes in many forms and at many scales. The most radical and transformative of inventions are often those that empower others to unleash their creativity — to pursue their dreams.” Apple’s career website says every sentence at Apple starts with ‘what if…?’: “Everyone here is an innovator, or an innovator-to-be. That’s how we create the kinds of products and experiences that few ever imagine…innovation comes from everyone in every role at Apple.” Netflix’s Culture Manifesto states: “You thrive on change” and “You challenge prevailing assumptions and suggest better approaches.” Facebook strives to make “innovation a daily habit” by encouraging its employees to constantly introduce new ideas. Google promotes a culture of innovation through its eight principles of innovation that help empower employees to innovate.

Innovation Needs to Be Fast

Jeff Bezo is focussed on swiftness; He strives to meet his customers’ every need in hours not days. Every day he asks one simple question: “Are we a Day 1 or Day 2 Company?” A Day 1 brand believes that every day is a new day; experimenting, inventing, and innovating are the norm. Day 1 brands are passionate about surpassing customers’ needs and aren’t hostages to the process. Day 1 brands stay ahead of the curve, have high-speed decision making skills, and believe that 80 percent confidence is enough. They detest bureaucracy, waste, and outdated attitudes and practices. Agility isn’t just a word but an attitude that embraces a start-up spirit regardless of history or size.

Only Innovative Brands Will Survive

Well established older brands are generally less nimble. They have well established processes, systems, policies, and governances that allows them to provide customers with a high quality, consistent, brand experience. All these controls impede innovation. Therefore, they often focus on small product innovation. Major transformations cause too much upheaval and risk.

Retooling a company for innovation is a formidable task. In 1999, Dave Whitwam, then chairman of Whirlpool set a new culture of innovation where every job and very process would change. He anticipated that this journey would take five years! Today, five years is a life-time for some brands and a death sentence for others.

Gary Hamel and Nancy Tennant defined five key innovation elements for a brand:

  1. Upgrade Innovation Skills;
  2. Define Innovation;
  3. Establish Comprehensive Metrics;
  4. Hold Leaders Accountable;
  5. Retool Processes for Constant Innovation.

Moving a great idea into an innovation isn’t easy and many times they fail. Just ask Google about failed innovations (50 failed Google products). But, failure hasn’t stop them from launching many successes new brands in the last 12 months like the Pixel Smartphone, Google Home, Pixelbook, and Nest Hub Max.

We can all learn from the FAANG corporate culture and begin to transform an idea into an innovation quickly and efficiently. For a FAANG brand, innovation isn’t just an overused word, but a way of doing business daily.

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9 Creative Ideas for Great Branding

Creativity is at the core of every successful brand. It is continuous reinvention driven by new ideas and new ways of doing business. Apple, Netflix and Amazon are great examples of iconic brands that continue to evolve. Creativity is the catalyst for innovation. How do you build a creative culture to ensure your brand is always on the top? It starts with an understanding of creativity. Then, talented people must know how to be creative and have the freedom to do so.

Pixar is a wonderful example of a company with a creative culture; the innovative animation giant has created 14 blockbuster movies in a row. Pixar President Ed Catmull, coauthor of the book Creativity, Inc., points out some basic observations:

  • Talent is rare;
  • Management’s job is not to prevent risk but to build the capability to recover when failures occur;
  • The working environment must be safe to tell the truth. Everyone must constantly challenge all of our assumptions and search for the flaws that could destroy our culture;
  • Always remember that the ultimate goal is ‘making the product great’.

Creativity isn’t elusive or exclusive. According to a joint study by Harvard and Insead, 85 percent of creativity is a learned skill. All we need to do it learn it! But that is easier said, than done for most of us.

To get started, here are nine creative ideas to help build an environment to sustain a great brand:

 

1. Connect the Dots

Maria Popova, the creative genius behind BrainPickings.org, says that creativity is the ability to connect the unconnected – it is the melding of existing knowledge into new insight about the world around us. It’s the ability to connecting the dots between unrelated ideas. Sir Richard Branson, founder of the Virgin Group incorporated this concept into the company’s philosophy of growth. They call it the ABCD process: Always Be Connecting Dots.

Steve Jobs said “Creativity is just connecting things. When you ask creative people how they did something, they feel a little guilty because they didn’t really do it, they just saw something. It seemed obvious to them after a while. That’s because they were able to connect experiences they’ve had and synthesize new things.”

 

2. Curiosity

Psychologist Todd Kashdan said that curiosity “appears to be a fundamental motive in facilitating industry and creativity.” Curiosity goes hand-in-hand with creativity. B. F. Skinner, psychologist and author, said “When you run into something interesting, drop everything else and study it.” Visit a bookstore or library and wander the rows of books and maybe get inspired to read about something different. Buy a magazine from a section that you rarely view. Watch a movie or TED Talk on a topic you know nothing about. Take a course on a new skill set that you are interested in but know nothing about. Start asking the ‘whys’ and ‘hows’ of everything around you.

 

3. See Things Differently

In Maria Konnikova’s book Mastermind: How to Think Like Sherlock Holmes, she emphasizes the importance of observing your environment on a deeper level. Leonardo da Vinci observed that many people look, but few people see; mindful seeing is the foundation of direct experience and the foundation of direct knowledge. Writer Joan Didion kept a notebook with her at all times, and said that she wrote down observations about people and events as a way to better understand the complexities and contradictions of her own mind. Try to be in the moment.

 

4. Expand Your View

Involve individuals and ideas from all walks of life to help collaborate. Google provides lunch every day for all their employees but there is a catch – everyone from all departments and levels must participate. They share their current projects and discuss new ideas. According to Caitlin Adair, from Google’s head office, their café and micro-kitchens create collaborative space for employees to “discuss, brainstorm, meet and relax.”

Google goes to great lengths to provide employees with fun perks such as beach volleyball courts, mini golf courses, and adult playgrounds. The goal is to create an environment that lets employees feel relaxed and comfortable with vocalizing creative, even wacky, ideas. Businesses need to do their best to foster a safe, creative space where unusual ideas are celebrated and where creativity is nurtured.

 

5. Experiment – Appreciate That It’s a Process

Creativity is a process that is developed over time. We have to embrace that and give it time.

All facets of life have sped up except the human brain. Technology has reduced production time down to seconds but thinking still takes same amount of time today as it did 300 years ago. Great ideas come from anywhere at any time. If you sit someone down and tell them that they need to produce a brilliant idea in ten minutes, your chance of success is extremely low. 

The first iPhone didn’t just happen. It took many hundreds of versions before it was finally released. Some of them were terrible versions that Apple never showed us like the rumored click wheel iPhone

“Creatives fail and the really good ones fail often,” Forbes contributor Steven Kotler wrote in a piece on Einstein’s creative genius.

“There is a deep and meaningful connection between risk taking and creativity and it’s one that’s often overlooked,” says Kotler. “Creativity is the act of making something from nothing. It requires making public those bets first placed by imagination. This is not a job for the timid. Time wasted, reputation tarnished, money not well spent – these are all by-products of creativity gone awry.”

Don’t be frustrated that you didn’t come up with a brilliant idea in five minutes. Creativity takes time – sleep on it, and get others to sleep on it. The more brain power, the better.

 

6. Shake Things Up

Sitting around a table brainstorming isn’t thinking out-side-the-box. Get up. Move around. Change your perspective, literally. Physical movement has been shown to have a positive effect on creative thinking. Add other stimuli like toys and music to help stimulate your brain. 

Facebook‘s Mark Zuckerberg conducts meetings on foot – walking around the Facebook campus. Creative thinking improves while a person is walking and shortly thereafter, according to a study co-authored by Marily Oppezzo, a Stanford doctoral graduate in educational psychology, and Daniel Schwartz, a professor at Stanford Graduate School of Education. 

Experience new things. Take different routes to and from work. Use your left hand for the things you would normally do with the right hand. Avoid anything that makes life monotonous or mundane. Promise yourself you will do something different today.

 

7. Play

Tim Brown, CEO of IDEO is believes that creative thinkers need time, space, and permission to play in order to do their jobs well because playfulness helps us get to more creative solutions. Check out his TED Talk as he talks about the powerful relationship between creative thinking and play – with many examples you can try at home (and one that maybe you shouldn’t).

 

8. Problem Solve

Creativity ultimately helps a successful brand solve a problem. Nick Woodman couldn’t get any great action photographs of himself surfing in Australia. This problem inspired him to develop the GoPro camera. Doctor Joan Fallon noticed that many autistic children had a deficiency in a certain kind of enzyme for processing protein. She started Curemark and raised $50 million to develop a treatment to solve the problem. Today, she is taking her unique technology and tackling problems like schizophrenia and other neurological conditions. Maybe Ingvar Kamprad couldn’t get a table into his trunk of his small Swedish car, so he took the legs off and then started IKEA.

As Steve Jobs said “You have to be burning with an idea, or a problem, or a wrong that you want to right. If you’re not passionate enough from the start, you’ll never stick it out.”

 

9. What ‘If’ Questions

To help change your perspective, use a simple question to reframe the opportunity. Its like the “what else can you do with a brick” question.

Think outside the box by taking an existing object and asking clever questions to twist the very concept of it and make it new and different. Steve Jobs started off by making the iPhone a super “slick” phone. With a few “what ifs” added into the equation, Apple transformed the cell phone into the smartphone that dominates the world today. Here is some potential “what if” questions:

  • What would happen if you take away or eliminate one element or ingredient of the brand?
  • How could you change or improve the brand to use it in a different way?
  • If you could turn the brand services into a physical product what would it look like? Or if you could turn a brand product into a service what would it look like?
  • If you could get your brand quicker or more conveniently to your customer how could you do this (in X months)?
  • If you wanted to offer your customer something free that no one else offers what could it be?
  • If you could change one thing in your company (process, systems, structure, etc.) what would it be? How quickly could you do this?
  • What do you wish your brand could do better if you had the resources to change it?

This isn’t the definitive list of questions but using these and others is a powerful tool that can help you to think differently.

 

Without Creativity There is No Innovation

You need a safe and collaborative environment to implement any of these ideas effectively. If your brand is about sticking to the rules and follow ridged processes with a mentality of “it won’t work here”, the brand’s life will be shorter. Today’s world demands new innovations. To get to an innovation, you need a great idea. Great ideas come from being creative.

Understand there is no universal recipes for creativity. You need to try these ideas and others to develop your own approach and figure out what works for you and your team. If it was easy you wouldn’t be reading this article. But remember everyone can be creative if they are in the right frame of mind. As American author Elizabeth Gilbert said “If you’re alive, you’re a creative person.”

Being creative in and of itself isn’t terrible productive or profitable. The unique idea must create value. In essence, creativity helps stimulate new and unique ideas. If they are good, they can be turned into an innovation that people will line-up to buy.

Creativity is subjective and impossible to measure. Innovation is measurable. When a unique idea is put into action, you can always determine its success or failure. Sometimes you have to go through a number of ideas before you get to a successful innovation. A true brand innovation is one that meets or surpasses your customers’ needs.

A creative culture is also a culture that sees the glass as half-full. Instead of just complaining, employees must feel empowered to actively look for better solutions. Having the permission to be creative and innovative is very powerful.

Successful brands have passionate people who willingly unleash their creativity everyday and understand how it keeps a brand relevant and loved by its customers. Creativity is a beautiful thing.

 

This is a remake of a previous article A Brand’s Ultimate Weapon – Creativity published April 12, 2015.