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True insights come from unexpected places

23 May 2014 Jim Harrison,

Strategy Director, Marie-France Van Heel writes...

At Heavenly we ask a lot of questions. From the obvious (Sky: how many viewers are you targeting?) to the obscure (RFU: what does it feel like when a 6-year old buys his first pair of studded boots?). This is because though all great brands must be founded on a core truth, that truth can be tricky to discover. It's usually already there - embedded in your business somewhere - you just need someone to help you nudge it out.

And that is what a brand audit should be all about - unearthing hidden gems that can translate into a transformative idea, and lead to a transformed business. It's not about 250 interviews for the sake of doing 250 interviews. Nor is it 20 days of desk research to tell you what you already knew. And it's certainly not about a 425-page playback tome where only the final slide is truly enlightening.

That's not to say at Heavenly we aren't thorough. We are, and sometimes 250 interviews is what it takes. It's just that our mission is to unearth the magic, not just replay the logic, and in this endeavour we are not afraid to shake things up a bit.

That might mean a dynamic workshop over a dry interview. Or a bus ride with a bunch of customers over a dull qual group. Or even a back-to-the-floor programme to get management to really re-evaluate what their business is all about. Anything that will get people thinking about their brand, their business and their ambition with a fresh pair of eyes.

And when that magical truth hits you like a thunderbolt, there's no stopping it. It was reading a 1907 Fulham Football Club programme that inspired the 'Defenders of the Faith' idea that captured the heritage of integrity and honesty of the club - an idea that rings as true today as it did then. And it was a conversation with a junior promo designer that inspired the 'Masterful Musictellers' idea for Universal Production Music - the truth is that music done well can tell a story better than a thousand words.

And finally, insights from unexpected places can also lead to big ideas for sectors and companies we don't actually work for. A colleague on paternity leave was bemoaning the experience of trawling through Mothercare with his partner looking for the optimum breastpump. We thought - wouldn't it be great to re-brand a few flagship stores 'Fathercare' for one weekend only and not just transform the experience but start a cultural debate around the role of fathers in today's society? We haven't pitched that idea yet, but Mark Newton-Jones if you are reading, get in touch...

Header image courtesy of Flickr user 'Capture The Uncapturable'

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