So, we’re down with the idea that brands need to innovate and try out new approaches to succeed in attention markets.
For me it means that the instinct of the brand communicator has to be to think about the platforms and the loosely coupled processes for communicating before they get to the creative concepts. And when they do get to the creative concepts, accepting that they are not do or die spread bets in the attention markets, they are starting positions, seed investments, pilots…
That means that the starting point for planning communication in networks is not about where the 30-second spot is going to be shot, it’s about where in the networks the brad is going to listen and have conversations, make its conversational openers.
That’s not to preclude blockbuster content hits. Viral mega-wins. Whatever.
Brands can learn a lot from the entertainment industry and from entertainers themselves.
Here’s how it works. You try stuff out in the fringes, loving your tribe and seeing what plays with them. You test your material in front of friends who are willing to boo and heckle you if you get it wrong.
Like Chris Rock.
First, he picks small venues where he can do rapid, low-risk experiments with new material. In gearing up for his latest global tour, he made between 40 and 50 appearances at a small venue called the Stress Factory in New Brunswick, New Jersey, not far from where he lives. Rock told the Orange Country Register, “It’s like boxing training camp. I always pick a comedy club to work out in.”
In front of audiences of say 30 to 40 people, Rock will bring a yellow legal note pad with lots of joke ideas scribbled on it, according to fellow comedian Matt Ruby. In sets that run say 45 minutes, many of the jokes will fall flat, but according to Ruby, “There were 5-10 lines during the night that were just ridiculously good. Like lightning bolts. My sense is that he starts with these bolts and then writes around them.”
It’s all part of a process. When the material falls flat, Rock will even pause to say things like, “This needs to be fleshed out more if it’s gonna make it.”
I exchanged a few emails with Simon Evans, a professional comic (website to follow soon), who told me:
As I’m sure you’re aware this is how most comics do it, especially when they are trying to write a two hour show on an almost annual basis (I think that’s roughly?Rock‘s work rate….).
And it’s certainly true that a lot of jokes you think are cast iron turn out to be made of playdough, and others that you almost swallow as you say them, you’re so sure they’re duds, bring the house down. You just never know. But it takes real guts to go out and?only do stuff that is new. Certainly for more than about five minutes. Most of us work in a? couple of new minutes here and there in a twenty minute set….
Of course, Chris Rock’s success and stature, the fact that he has strong fan-base is what gives him permssion to be so relentlessly experiemental at certain times:
you can’t expect a booker to watch his audience losing interest and still invite you back. So what I’m saying is,?Chris‘s status enables him to take those chances and do that kind of testing?- but it sounds like for some big organsiations,?their very size hinders it.
Depending, then, on how strong your relationship is with your tribes, you get to either keep introducing small nuggets of new material or call it your fringe show, your labs and just try new stuff out with people you can trust to (a) give feedback and (b) not walk out when you drop a clanger.
Perhaps what Skittles did was throw all caution to the wind, book Wembley and hand mics out to the audience – but more of that later…