I’ve always anointed myself as an “ideas” person. What
does that mean? Truth be told, this description is probably just a shorthand
way to describe people who love coming up with ideas, but would not object to
having others execute them from time to time.
Entrepreneurs and technology leaders come up with
breakthrough ideas every day, ranging from the disruptive companies they create
to the innovative products they imagine. But sometimes, in my opinion, the
order of the ideation process is backwards. A client might say “we really want
to create a viral video,” or “we want to develop a mobile app that draws
consumers and prospects to our website.” Their stated goals can be even more
granular, such as a desire to launch a Twitter hashtag campaign, Facebook
contest or grassroots stunt at Penn Station.
There isn’t anything functionally wrong with this approach,
but it can have the unintended consequence of limiting the ideation process. No
longer are you tasking your team to come up with an idea to grow the business,
you are asking your team to come up with an idea that fits within the confines
of a Twitter hashtag campaign.
This recent ad for a Thai telecom company, which deservedly went viral, emphasized the need for companies to focus first and foremost on the message or
idea, and secondarily on the tool (i.e. – video, social media, online ad,
mobile app) used to deliver that idea.
The video ad is only 3
minutes long, but it packs a wallop of emotion into 180 seconds. The ad
contains very little dialogue, instead relying on the actions of the main
characters, primarily a man in Thailand who we watch spend his life from young
adult to old man giving to others without asking for anything in return.
Ultimately, at the end of his life, these random acts of kindness are repaid
several times over.
The ad is amazing, and probably cost a fraction of what
other companies have spent to try and gain a similar type of impact. With
millions of views and positive reviews, most would measure this ad as an
unequivocal success. But at the conclusion of the video, when it was revealed
the ad was for Thai communications conglomerate True, I was
slightly miffed. Not because I’m against large corporations thinking outside
the box to reach existing and potential customers, but it is a real stretch to
connect the ad’s central message of giving to the firm’s stated vision.
The True video offers multiple insights for startups and
entrepreneurs. If there was a desire to connect with consumers, the video
reinforces the importance of creating content that is not blatant marketing.
True developed a story, and did not allow its brand to interfere or water down
that story. On the flipside, it remains to be seen whether the video will
reinforce the firm’s messaging or vision in any way. In other words, True
succeeded in creating a viral video, but did the tool trump the message?