Is Your Industry Struggling? Here’s a 5-Step Blueprint to Create Game-Changing Ideas

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By Avin Narasimhan, CSO, Hill Holliday

The recession and inflation are creating unexpected turbulence for brands in the housing and auto markets as consumers reconsider big ticket items.

Real estate giant Zillow is forecasting a dramatic drop in advertising, according to this Bloomberg article, and is reportedly shopping for a new agency, as published here in Business Insider. Other brands in the housing space like Redfin and Compass are announcing layoffs according to CNN.  Meanwhile, in the auto market dealer sales have been declining, according to CNBC as car loan delinquencies rise, according to this article on CNBC.

Brands in these industries find themselves in need of a fresh, big idea – one that will define the next generation of their message and image in the wake of the pandemic and in the midst of a changing economic landscape.

The rapid cultural and economic shifts underway call for modern ideas, thoughtful execution and seamless delivery. To drive this kind of transformation, brands need imagination that resonates and sells in the real world.

Here’s a blueprint for struggling brands in need of a game-changing idea:

1. Turn the Brief Into a Rallying Cry

You’ve got to dig deeper than the superficial goal of the campaign. Sure, auto makers want to boost sales, but consider what you’re really trying to accomplish to get to that outcome – you’re trying to create an intervention that influences behavior or breaks the inertia of convenience or habit.

By identifying the real goal of your brief and the guiding strategic thought that will steer the rest of the process, you can transform the strategy creation from a check-the-box project to inspiring charge that unites people behind a shared mission.

2. Deepen Your Understanding of People

Building an audience profile isn’t rocket science. Most agencies draw from the same syndicated data and it doesn’t really tell you anything revolutionary. But if you’re truly trying to inspire people to change their behaviors, you’re going to have to get to know them. Investigate the emotional reasons that might drive someone to splurge on a new car right now. Or, explore the various scenarios in which consumers are house shopping despite record-high prices and rising mortgage rates.

Elevate your audience above a demo and find out where they spend their time and what’s meaningful to them. Go beyond syndicated data by pairing it with behavioral data in a modern marketing context, creative leaps and intuition that will lead to truly imaginative solutions.

3. Identify the Obstacles or Challenges From the Outset

Next, you need to find out what’s in your way. Figure out the hurdles before you develop a plan so you can leverage them to your advantage.

What unlocks truly great work is cultural tension. Just think about Volvo’s Ultimate Safety Test campaign, which touts the brand’s longstanding commitment to safety before cutting to startling footage of a glacier breaking apart to announce Volvo’s plans to become all-electric. The power of the campaign came from people’s shared apprehension around climate change and what it means for the future.

Once you discover the bigger concept or contradiction your idea is getting at, you can figure out how to push past it or address it head on with your strategy.

4. Let Your Rallying Cry Guide Creative and Messaging

Now put your imagination to work. Let your guiding strategic idea lead you to the creative and messaging. But this can’t just be “the message.” The idea is about how and where you’re meeting people in the real world with that message.

Consider, for example, The National Association of Realtors’ That’s Who We R campaign. A mix of video and radio spots look beyond the dream home purchase (think: “carrying over the threshold”) trope, to address the real-life stressors of the homebuying process.

5. Come up With a Plan of Attack to Bring Your Idea to Life

This is where you bring it all together. You know your audience, you know the underlying cultural tension, you know your mission and you’ve got a next-gen idea – now you need a plan of attack. Focus out when, where and how you’re going to show up with the right mix of creative messaging, media strategy and comms planning. Successful communications hang on when, where and how the ideas show up in people’s lives – on their screens and out in the world.

If you want your idea to thrive, it’s important to have an integrated process throughout the idea’s lifespan – from creation to execution. Even the best creative messages can be destroyed by a sloppy media strategy that’s tacked onto the end of the process.

Here’s the bottom line: The economic and cultural landscape has never been more complex than it is today and brands in struggling industries are in search of a way to reach consumers with a refreshed, relevant message. The solution is better ideas, carefully thought out from start to finish.

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