Outside The Box is Not Far Enough

25 10 2012

Yesterday, at businesses everywhere, this meeting happened:

“Okay everyone, we need to think outside the box for next year’s marketing campaign.  We want some ideas that will really shake things up.  What we want is a game-changer!  What crazy ideas do you have?”

Then the ideas start rolling.  “Let’s throw a launch-party!  Let’s give away a car!  Let’s support a charity!  Let’s wear crazy pants at the tradeshow!  Let’s make YouTube videos!  Let’s get people to like our Facebook page!”

And then there’s Red Bull.  I can imagine their meetings:

“Let’s have an inter-continental airplane race!”

“No, we did that last year.”

“Let’s have people fly homemade aircraft at dangerously high speeds over bodies of water!”

“Been there, done that.”

“Let’s get a Major League Soccer team to change its name to the Red Bulls!”

“2006 called – it wants its idea back.”

“Wait, I got it, let’s send a guy 24 miles above the earth in a Red Bull logo’d shuttle, have him jump out in a Red Bull suit, and break a world record.  Then let’s broadcast it around the globe!”

“Okay, now we’re talking.  If he breaks the sound barrier – you get a raise.”

If there is one term I really can’t stand it is: “Think outside the box.”  If you really want to get some attention, if you really want exponential growth, then you have to explode the box, run over the remains with a monster truck, bury the rubble in a landfill, and then dump nuclear waste on the wreckage (apologies to the environmentalists).

Often, “outside-the-box-thinking” results in slight changes to the old plan, which of course is fine if you only want slightly better results.  Even more often, the so-called “crazy” ideas are scrapped altogether when it comes down to crunch time because decision-makers fear the repercussions of a failed experiment.

Meanwhile Red Bull, the most popular energy drink on the planet, sells nearly 5 billion (yes, with a “b”) cans of their drink every year.  How does sending a man to jump from record-setting heights sell energy drinks?  How does creating new sports help promote your company?  Who knows?  Frankly, who cares?  Results are all that matter.

How can we achieve our own great results?  Here is what I think we can learn from the Red Bull approach to marketing:

  • Don’t improve an old idea.  Stop looking at what your competitors are doing and don’t begin your meetings with, “Here’s what we did last year.”  Start fresh and create something totally different.
  • Embrace the weird.  When asking your team for creative ideas, don’t make them feel bad if they come up with something kind of stupid.  Doing so will squash any hope of getting creative ideas from them in the future.
  • Take risks.  It takes some big brass ones to put your job and reputation on the line to create and implement a crazy idea.  Yes, it might crash and burn – but what if it actually works?
  • It’s all about eyeballs.  It doesn’t matter how great your products and services are if no one knows you or cares enough to find out more.  If you want to grow your business, you had better find a way to get in front of people and give them a reason to pay attention.

Okay, so you don’t have a marketing budget like Red Bull, but at some point in time, neither did they.  I am not in position to tell you what your next crazy idea should be, but I am really looking forward to watching you take the leap!


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5 responses

25 10 2012
bobbylehew

Excellent advice, Brad. Nicely constructed post, too. 🙂

25 10 2012
Brad White

Thanks Bobby. You have some “let’s get weird meetings” at your company right?

25 10 2012
Jennifer Knox Watson

When I was interning, so we are talking early and impressionistic in my career, my boss said, “Better to beg forgiveness than ask permission.” That has always stayed with me. I interned for a radio station, so bending the rules was the norm. And we had no box.

25 10 2012
Joe

Brad
This was awesome and so true.
Thanks
Joe

21 01 2013
UNCUTBLOCK

Great article Brad! Be the space for greatness and people will fill it!

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