This is my as yet unfinished manifesto – completion date: unknown. The points raised here are a guide to how I believe all marketing, advertising and design interactions should be approached. They might not be right, they’re certainly not in the ‘right’ order, they might not be complete – if you’ve got any ideas, talk to me and we can discuss them.
I once asked one of my tutors whether he thought that he’d reach perfection as a human being. He just looked at me and said:
“Yes. About ten minutes after they nail down the lid.”
And that’s how it will be with this manifesto. It will grow, it will change. And only after they nail down the lid will it be finished…
Before any project can be started, it must be understood to the most complete point possible.
I always imagined that one day I’d get a gig designing the marcomms approach for a toy, and that I’d horrify the company MD by taking it to tiny pieces in front of him, just to see how it worked. You never know, one of those little springs inside might just spark an idea for the product logo.
Get to know the audience. What makes them tick? Where are they getting their information from? And how do they want to talk to you? Don’t expect the audience to come to you at first – you’ve got to go to them. And if they don’t like grey, you’d better change your shirt before the meeting…
Give it a go – even if the idea is completely outlandish and, on the face of it, absurd (just make sure it fits in with point 2).
Ask ‘Why not?’ as opposed to ‘Why?’ This will give you a lot more possibilities and open up a brief. Sure, you might discard some of the ideas along the way if they won’t get you want you want, but to have and not use is better than to not have at all.
4)Be prepared to fail
Failure: such a pejorative word. In fact, failing is one of the best things that you can do (short of winning a Nobel Prize). Not only is being perfect all the time boring, but it starts to shut down possibilities because you never try anything else.
If you don’t fail, you’ll never learn from mistakes. And mistakes are interesting.
Keep those ideas you discarded and keep your failures close to hand – you never know when they might come in useful.
A design for a wind powered car might end up a total failure (in car terms), but, when you get that gig designing a new power boat, it might just come in useful.
And if the volume of paper gets too much (believe, me, you can only keep so many till receipts with scrawls on the back), scan it. You’ll be grateful you did, one day.
Whatever you do, create the space for interaction. Flat communications don’t work any long – consumers are looking to take what you do, share it, parody it, play with it. And that’s a two way process as well.
And look to create interaction yourself, even if that wasn’t what was intended.
7)Put yourself on the line
Take risks – calculated or otherwise. If you don’t go to the edge every now and again, you’ll never know how far you can go. And you might surprise yourself in the process.
And if you go over the edge, go back to point 4…
Eat lunch. It’s important. Preferably away from your desk. If you can’t lunch, then Do Coffee. And if you can’t do that either, hang around the water cooler. It’s a cliché, but it’s amazing what you find out from people with nothing better to do than hang around the water cooler.
9)Give someone something unexpected
Try giving the person in the bus queue next to you a penny. Watch their reaction.
10) Seek out inspiration
Actually go out of your way to look for interesting things – especially in places where you don’t think you’ll find them. There’s always something, and it probably isn’t what you’d expect…
Life is serious, so make time to play. As we grow, adults lose the uninhibited play of children. Remember when you built a fort out of cardboard boxes and defended it with a spatula? Image doing that now. Refer to point 3 – you might surprise yourself.
Yes, even dull ones. Use them to remind yourself how not to do it and experiment with ideas about how you would have done it.
13)Walk into a library
The internet is the greatest resource that the world has ever had for linking people, minds, ideas and information. But nothing beats the smell or tactility of a real book.
Plus there are all sorts of interesting people hanging about in a library.
14)Keep a pen handy
You never know when a thought might drop in. How many times have you thought up the most exciting, world conquering idea but forgotten it by the time you’ve managed to get hold of the nearest Bic?
15)Realise that ideas are currency
Don’t trample on other people’s, you never know when you’ll need them to support yours.
Clarity is the key in business. Set out what you want to do, how you want to achieve it and how you expect everyone else to link in.
That way, you can keep time and energy sapping disagreements to a minimum.
Plan as far as you can. Plan for the best case and the worst case scenario. Again, be clear so that you know what you’re doing, and everyone else knows what they’re meant to be doing.
18)Challenge the plan
Is the plan actually any good and does it work? Challenge all plans (especially your own) as this can realise a new, unexpected but better outcome for the entire project.
19)Embrace the ‘other stuff’
We all know that there’s plenty of ‘other stuff’ out there – we walk into it every day. So work this into your planning. Leave an ‘Other Stuff’ column on the spreadsheet (or beer mat plan) to allow the plan to grow and adapt to the unexpected. Sometimes the ‘other stuff’ is more useful and interesting that the planned stuff.
20)Accept that Rules Are Good
Without rules, society would collapse, according to Jean-Jacques Rousseau and to be free, everyone needs to give up their total freedom.
This holds true for marcomms – limitations on what we can do can inspire creativity. So the client tells you that you’ve got to use Times New Roman 14pt on their letter head and that, if you use anything else, you’ll be kicked off the brief. Great – play with TNR and see what it can do for you to enhance the project. There’ll be something interesting in there that you can use.
21)Rules are there to be bent
If breaking the rule is out of the question, bend it until you can hear it cracking. See where that gets you.
Look for positive tie-ups and associations that will help you get to where you need to go. Why build a network when you can save time by tapping into a preformed one? The time that you’ll save can be used to hang around the water cooler or aggregated into some positive thinking time.
It’s not being lazy, but it is trying to make life easier. And if life is easier, you’ll have more opportunity to make it more interesting.
Try banning thinking for a day and act on instinct. Thinking can get in the way of great projects and put more barriers up to success than you can overcome. Try an instinctual approach and follow it for a while. Re-read point 3.
24)Take your own advice
Do as you say once in a while, and not just expect everyone else too. If one of your colleagues has got a cold, and you suggest that they go home to sleep it off, remember that when you’re feeling under the weather. You’ll thank yourself for it.
25)Pretend you know nothing
The most liberating thing that you can do is to pretend that you know nothing and get everything explained to you. You’ll learn far more about the person you’re talking to this way and get a much greater insight into the issue at hand.
See point 4 – people might think you’re a little slow, but you can then surprise them with some gem that you’ve gleaned from their long and tortuous explanation. And it will probably be something that they’ve never thought of.
26)Get a pet
Friends, partners and lovers can get their own food. Nothing helps to keep you as grounded as remembering that there’s a ravenous creature waiting at home for their supper – and without you they won’t get it. Plus they make excellent listeners. Be responsible and choose wisely, of course.
27)Know when to stop
There’s a point we all reach where no more tinkering will make a project any more brilliant than it currently is. Learn to recognise that point and walk away. The likelihood is that if there is anything that will enhance the project further, it’ll drop into your mind while you’re at lunch, Doing Coffee or hanging around the water cooler.
28)Don’t add to the noise
There’s enough noise around us all of the time to last a thousand lifetimes. Whether it’s the 2500+ ad impressions we receive each day, banal chatter to pass the time or Tweets about how orange the orange juice looked this morning, noise drowns out the good stuff.
Communicate what needs to be communicated. Consumers filter out noise spectacularly well, so don’t add to it. Plus you’ll build up a reputation as someone who it’s worth listening to.
29)Listen to static
Or photocopy images until the individual pixels are all that’s left. In the absence of full information, the senses and the mind do the most amazing job of filling in the blanks. You’ll see and hear the most amazing stuff.
30) Realise that you don’t know everything
Knowing everything can be dull, and you don’t anyway. Be prepared for new thinking, new ideas, new challenges to your preconceptions. Even if you’re right anyway, the debate will be interesting.
But, most of all, don’t be frightened by the challenges.