New Trends, Same Old Mistakes
Client: Hey, did you guys see Minions: The Rise of Gru?
Creative: Yes, amazing.
Client: I don’t care. Just make it trend and get the people going!
Creative: [Plays Running Up The Hill again.]
You know that some people, somewhere, had this conversation recently. Maybe you were even involved in one like it. I’m sorry you had to go through that.
Upon its debut, the long-delayed Minions sequel film collected $125.1 million, the highest grossing box office for Independence Day weekend, and the party continues. The film sparked a movement that involved young men in suits flocking to see the film. Their #gentleminions posts went viral, garnering millions of views on TikTok and other social media, generating even further participation from fans. This resulted in news coverage most brands could only dream about.
It would make my job as a CCO much easier if there were a formula for meeting a moment like this, but I’m sorry to say there just isn’t. And TBH, the closest thing to it can be found in the chorus of a Fort Minor song:
“This is ten percent luck, twenty percent skill
Fifteen percent concentrated power of will
Five percent pleasure, fifty percent pain
And a hundred percent reason to remember the name”
That kind of organic traction was an enviable, well-earned win made possible because Illuminations understood exactly who its audience was and how to play up their brand nostalgia–while staying culturally relevant with new music.
The bad news for the client in the above scenario is that they will never, ever be able to replicate another #gentleminions by piggybacking off the success of others.
The good news is that there are some best practices to adopt to position brands for their own unique victory. Here’s what I want for my clients—and for all brands who are willing to do the work.
DON’T BE COOL. BE YOU.
You know you’re supposed to be authentic. But you also need to be aware—who is your audience? What are their needs, and how do those evolve? You can ride the wave of a trend (houseplants, anyone?) or pick up micro moments in consumer culture with varying degrees of success.
But the best brands hold true to who they are and never lose themselves in trying to be cool. Your people will find you if you show them exactly, unapologetically, who you are.
Make audience engagement a regular part of doing business. Allow conversations with consumers to grow organically—not just as a component of a targeted campaign. Some brands such as Starbucks, Nike, Apple, Super Coffee, Peloton and Whoop don’t always run ads.
They are more focused on community and earn their conversations. And when they do launch a campaign, it’s with purpose and it’s better positioned for success.
BE TRULY CREATIVE
It’s tempting to see what others are doing well and put your own spin on it. I get it, everything is derivative—and sometimes it works just fine (looking at you, “during these difficult times” ads at the beginning of the pandemic).
But the biggest “wow” moments that stop consumers in their tracks are the ones that are completely original–I’m thinking about how cleverly bonkers some of Ryan Reynolds’ Maximum Effort projects are, or the particular nostalgia delivered to a target generation in the Limewire NFT commercial.
In the case of Minions, nobody could have anticipated that young men would dress up in suits for the movie as an homage to the titular supervillain—but that kind of creative, positive participation is exactly what made the movement so sticky and joyful.
EMBRACE THE CREATIVE GENERATION
When you’ve been doing something for 30+ years, you’re bound to be an expert. But no matter what your age, it’s important to connect with younger generations and not waive away what’s important, entertaining or compelling to them.
Take time to listen to your younger creatives and listen to people in generations Y and Z and even A (those born in 2012 and after). I remember being in my early 20s with crazy ideas and hunger hoping someone would trust me with a campaign. And I want to give that back to this generation of creatives that grew up knowing how to have fun and make an impact.
To that end, I’m rediscovering the fun in creativity from the interns we brought in this summer. When you get out of the old “the real world sucks” mindset and shift into one of curiosity and fearlessness, you’re better positioned to authentically reach the people who matter and gain their trust.
GET TO WORK
People who are good at any job make it look easy. Sue Bird seems like she can cook anyone on the court with ease. I’m pretty sure Pharrell can produce a hit song in the amount of time it takes for you to read this article.
But we all know the truth behind genius—there are thousands of hours of training and failure that come before anyone arrives at the point of expertise.
We earn audience and consumer trust and engagement by busting our butts with hard work—it’s never just handed over. We try and we try again until we get it right. And then we restart because the same things don’t work forever. Therein lies the fun in what we get paid to do every day.
When we invest time, resources, effort and–this may sound crazy–patience in the correct kind of work, results follow.
I see creative work a little like falling in love.
Once you’ve found your people, treat them well. Build trust. And beautiful things will happen as a result.
Rob Canales is chief creative officer at THE 3RD EYE, an agency catering to the health and wellness industry. He began there as an intern and has helped grow T3E from 15 people to 60. His fresh approach to creativity in health and wellness has led to a 30 percent growth in agency revenue, and increased brand awareness for clients.