This article first appeared in Advertising Week and is written our Chief Strategy Officer, Tom Gray.
There is so much going on with new technologies in marketing and creative industries at the moment that it can often feel overwhelming – Metaverse, crypto, NFTs, Web3, AI – if it’s not an H&M virtual showroom in the metaverse, it’s Spotify creating tools for artists to experiment with NFTs.
Sure, we’re living in exciting times, but sometimes it can create paralysis – lots of links to share, lots of opportunities to look smart, lots of ‘we should have done that’ moments of regret.
There’s also the downside risk too –no one wants to invest hundreds of thousands in vanity projects that are ultimately empty – the emerging data on engagement levels in metaverse platforms like Sandbox and Decentraland is far from convincing.
The challenge for marketers is to shift out of sharing and showboating ‘what if’ mode and find smart hacks to get real quickly, to determine what’s useful and what’s not for their brand and business – and get the most out of that process.
The secret lies in harnessing two things: the right kind of curiosity and an experimentation mindset.
The first step is to shift from ‘lean back’ curiosity to more purposeful, ‘lean in’ curiosity, that moves from passive “I found this” to active “…and here’s what I think it means for us”.
To get unstuck we should take a lesson from startups. Successful start-ups are natural-born curiosity and experimentation machines. In part, because being small they are freed from the bureaucratic, logistical, and reputational shackles of big businesses; and, in part, because they have very real constraints on time and budget. It’s called runway and burn rate for a reason – if you’re not airborne by the time you reach the end, it’s terminal!
1. Find your focus – home in on where the value might be for your brand
Your first goal here is to get the seed of a unique idea – make the flip from what you’ve seen out there, to what’s useful and possible for you. A great shortcut here is to use the 4Ps of marketing. Start to poke at your current status quo with the new technology in mind – might it be a tool for promotion? Could it be a channel play, giving you a new place to meet customers? Make a first best guess as to where you think the value might be.
2. Use experiments to increase your speed of learning
With an idea of where the value might be, think about the key assumptions that must be true for it to be right for your brand. Perhaps it’s about a customer need or a trigger that will result in new customer action.
In the world of start-ups, great experiments are simple enough to prove/disprove your assumptions at the highest pace, enabling you to quickly move on or iterate. But there’s another side to experiments for bigger organisations and established brands: they can help to increase learning inside the business, helping more people to understand the workings and potential of new technology and what it takes to really unlock it. To get the most from this learning, you’ll need to move from simple experiments to a prototype.
3. Build a prototype to increase momentum
The key to a successful prototype is the speed of learning – this is not about building a fully-baked product, but rather doing enough to validate your hunches about what the technology might do, and lay the groundwork for a bigger play. Successful prototypes become the story that your team can tell inside the organisation to increase confidence and unlock further investment. And at the right fidelity, you can take that story outside too, creating a PR halo for the brand.
We’ve worked with clients designing our experimentation and prototyping sprints around these principles. It’s not only helped us to develop some rapid proof points for our clients, but we’ve also found it makes our teams more curious, more creative and more motivated too.
Strategy and Innovation Director
Tom Gray is our Chief Strategy Officer, who is focused on evolving Imagination’s business and those of our clients.
Tom specialises in helping businesses and brands to develop game-changing propositions, products, services and campaigns that can create sustainable growth. His experience spans the BBC, deep tech start-ups and boutique innovation consultancy Fahrenheit 212. He has worked with clients ranging from IKEA to Land Rover, Shell, HSBC and Diageo. He is an Associate of the Imperial College Business Design Studio and lectures MBA students on Design Thinking for Business.