During my morning walk today, I was listening to my favorite digital marketing podcast Social Media Marketing. Today’s episode stood out to me and literally stopped me in my tracks because of the powerful digital marketing ideas it introduced to me. The guest on board was Duncan Wardle: the former head of innovation and creativity for Disney. Some of the key learnings appealed to me and motivated me to get right back at my desk and pen down my thoughts to share with you. Here goes.
1. Days of Marketing at them are over.
You can’t market at them anymore if you want to create authentic connections with your target audience. If your content is disrupting the consumer, it’s only going to annoy them. Days of interruptive and disruptive marketing are over. It is a one-way relationship between marketer and customer. That doesn’t work any longer. You need to build a two-way authentic relationship with your tribe. Involve them in your marketing speak. Ask them. Listen to them. Give them what they want, not what you have. The successful brands of the future will be those who focus on creating experiences for their customers.
2. Question the rules of the game with ‘What If’ to create experiences.
When Walt opened Disneyland in 1955, he started one of the most successful shopping malls in the world. Why it was and continues to be successful is because it was not modeled as a shopping mall, rather as an experience. Air B &B is an experience. Starbucks is an experience and not just a coffee shop. Especially the generation Z, won’t own houses or cars in times to come. They would instead want experiences more than anything else.
Walt created the best experience by questioning the existing rules of the game, with a simple ‘What If’ kind of questioning. An example Duncan spoke about stood out in my mind. He talks of a glass manufacturing company that was facing the problem of increased breakage rate with their workers at the packaging station which involved wrapping up of the glasses with newspapers. The reason was that workers were getting distracted by reading the news instead! So they did a similar ‘What If’ kind of questioning. Someone came up with the idea, what if we poked their eyes! Now that’s evil! But that kind of questioning finally led them to the idea of hiring blind people to do the packaging job and they not only reduced their breakage rate but also got a lot of positive press for providing employment to disabled people!!
3. Sit in the living room of your customer.
Don’t just look at data to figure out your marketing strategy. Instead, be curious and ask a simple child-like question such as ‘Why’ you will uncover what really matters to your customer. Don’t just stop at the first ‘Why’, instead go to the 5th to get to the root of the motivation. At Disney, when they wanted to rethink their strategy to get more customers into the park, they actually sent their employees to live with their customers. He says you need to get into the living room of your customers to know what they really want and need. What they discovered by truly tuning in to their customers was that most parents wanted to somehow slow down how quickly their kids were growing up and create cherishable moments while they were still small, still believed in Santa Clause, while they were still here!
4. Get out of your own river of thoughts to innovate.
If you want to innovate you’ve got to get out of your own kind of thinking. He gave an example of a young Gen Z kid who went to a museum with his parents. And he actually tried to swipe at a painting on the wall!! Now, imagine, how you need to think differently to market to the next-gen. A static and passive painting on the wall won’t do anymore. But if you innovated and used augmented reality technology and have something pop out of the painting telling an interesting fact or story about the painting, you could create a much more immersive experience!!
5. Diversity is the key to innovation.
Duncan believes in bringing in a ‘naive expert’ into every session on strategy. He relates the story of how he led innovation at Disney. The team was charged with coming up with a new retail and dining experience for Hong Kong Disneyland. He said we did something we call ‘group think’ and in the room were sitting 12 white male men, all architects over 50, experts in their field. He also invited the ‘naive expert’ a young millennial Chinese Female Chef!! He then asked them to do a simple 7-second exercise of drawing up a home. Everyone ended up drawing the same kind of house that we all tend to do with a door in the middle, two windows, and a triangle roof!! The only house that differed was the home drawn by the chef!! She drew a dim sum architecture! Shaped like a bamboo with a little Chinese lady serving dim sums! This is what got everyone else in the room to get out of their ‘river of thinking’ letting their own experience come in the way of innovation and got them to think differently. The design of what they ultimately came up with was very Chinese in its inspiration!
Getting the ‘naive’ expert is super important to allow you to get out of your own ‘curse of knowledge’ and ask some really silly questions which need to be asked to question the status quo and come up with something new and ‘out of the box’.
6. Improv lesson ‘Yes And’ is powerful.
This is something resonated with me personally as I experienced this first hand when I joined a 3-month Improv Workshop. I even wrote a blog post about my experience. Some of the best ideas get killed before they have an opportunity to bloom because they are met with resistance of the ‘old way’ of doing things, or ‘authority’ playing the devil’s advocate by playing the ‘no because’ game instead of the ‘yes and’ game. Try this little role play at your next idea generation session. Tell the role payers the rules of the game. For the first 1 minute, person A has to start the sentence with ‘no but’ or ‘no because’ after person, B makes a suggestion or shares an idea. After one minute, change the rule of the game and ask person A to start the sentence with ‘yes and’. Very quickly you will understand the power of this simple approach. The second scenario allows for ideas to develop further and get an automatic ‘buy-in’ from all involved because the idea that finally surfaces is not just ‘your idea’ or ‘my idea’. It is ‘our idea’. That is the key to generating and executing new ideas when it comes to marketing.
7. Let your customers create content for you.
Disney’s Instagram is almost totally curated by their customers. Instead of aiming for reach and advertising at your customers, let them become your advocates instead by posting user-generated content. That will work as a live testimonial to your brand product or service and build greater credibility than any polished advertisement ever will.