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Value Creation

Brands And The Power Of Crazy Ideas


The source code of value creation BEGINS with formless creative thought not data. Formless thought in the creative mind is where crazy ideas come from. Crazy ideas have changed the world many times over. Knowing this, it’s surprising many marketers still don’t trust the crazy idea when it shows up.

Everything that ever was, is now, and ever will be is at first a formless thought seed in the creative mind. Many of the products we can’t live without today started out as crazy ideas– automobiles, airplanes, personal computing, digital entertainment, smartphones, the internet and social media – stuff nobody needed or was asking for, but once realized, was just the thing they we’re waiting for.

All the stuff that has changed how we live in the world begins as formless crazy ideas.

Crazy ideas are always more richly embedded with game changing opportunity than safe ideas. A safe idea is the one you can “prove will work” before it takes form in the world.

Crazy ideas are like ancient fire – feared until proven useful

As early humans, we learned and adapted within the context of our surroundings. When humans first learned that fire makes life easier (like cooking meat and keeping warm) the idea of fire was eagerly embraced as necessary for survival.

I’ll bet before people figured out the “use value” of fire, it probably was a very frightening thing to experience – consequently something one should avoid.

Crazy ideas are like that.

The music industry fought tooth and nail to avoid the crazy idea of digitally produced, reproduced and distributed music. Looking back, it’s hard to imagine the folly of their resistance to this crazy idea. But they did for nearly a decade at great harm to their shareholders.

Consumers weren’t demanding the crazy idea of digital music be created out of their unmet need for digital music.  Yet once its use value was realized, the crazy idea changed an industry and the world.

The same is true for more commonplace crazy ideas like the Swiffer, which changed how people clean their homes. Netflix which destroyed its established brick and mortar video rental competitors. Even DiGiorno Pizza, which elevated the idea of frozen pizza to freshly delivered pizza status. Nobody was asking for these crazy ideas, yet each one proved massively successful.

Crazy ideas propose new meanings and create competitive advantage

In a me-too world of abundant choice, it’s far better to create new value (propose new meanings) than compete for the value created by others. If your brand is competitively ranked number three or four in a category, you might want to be thinking about a crazy idea that will create a new meaning around your brand that will put it in a league all its own.

That’s exactly what Swatch did.

When their bigger competitors Seiko and Casio were closely monitoring consumer needs for technical precision then inventing quartz technology, Swatch had the crazy idea that people valued self-expression more and created a new category and untouchable competitive advantage in a class all by themselves for well over 30 years.

The key ingredient to competitive advantage is to provide people with more “use value” than they have paid in cash value. That takes crazy ideas.

Although you could buy a high-quality, precision quartz watch from Casio for under $50, it didn’t provide the perceived use value of active self- expression available for $100 from Swatch. The correct time was not what Swatch customers valued. The same could be said of the iPhone over the Blackberry. The power of crazy ideas creates new value even when the innovation is not driven by known user needs.

Two choices: the creative plane or the competitive plane

If your brand is to thrive in the new economy driven by crazy ideas, you’ll have to choose between operating from the creative plane or the competitive plane.

When your organization operates on the competitive plane, it can only win when somebody else loses. It will only bring products to market that are based in incremental user needs and ever-cheaper prices. It will be forced to compete for low value customers. Crazy ideas that are without form and unproven will be quickly discounted in favor of the known and the proven. The business will be managed based on fear, control, competition and survival.

On the other hand, if your organization operates on the creative plane, it will have a compelling purpose and reason for being. There will be no shortage of supply or opportunity. It will develop products that redefine the category, delighting customers with the unexpected, making competition irrelevant. Customers will experience more use value than they pay in cash value–making the price irrelevant. Everyone in the organization will be focused on turning possibilities into realities. Management will not be hyper focused on counting transactions but will create experiences people love earning trust  and advocacy that advertising money can’t buy.

Get crazy if you want your enterprise to move up the value chain.

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1 Comment

Greg Mercer, MSN
Twitter: gregmercer1
on March 28th, 2013 said

Thanks for this interesting piece. The infinite opportunities for innovation and creativity today are exciting, especially given just how cheaply one can present many of the widely for comment: free focus groups and editors abound.

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