Sometimes we are just too close to our own stuff. That is why it is good to look outside our world as part of our continuous insatiable appetite for new insights.
The related world concept is a way to learn from others and generate new ideas for solving business challenges. This technique includes analysing other industries with related problems to take some inspiration from their solutions or systems. This is particularly helpful in strategic marketing when you are seeking new insights, new sources of information and new ideas that could give you a competitive edge. Of course, it does not replace deep analysis of your current marketplace, competitive landscape, and customer journey. It does, however, give you a new perspective and can help you see what cannot normally be seen.
Teaching An Old Dog New Tricks
For example, there is a well-known cosmetics company some time ago seeking inspiration for a new long-lasting foundation for working women who started their days early, went to the gym at lunch and continued on to social functions in the evening. The research included all the traditional users of their products as well as other foundation users such as drag-queens. Looking at a new segment helped them to identify a competitive edge for their products in the existing customer base.
In another example, Eyeforpharma recently saw some likeness in the challenges we are facing in the Pharma space to those faced in the automotive industry [Social Eyeforpharma 2017].
“Both industries have focused on breakthroughs as key components of their business model. Pharmaceutical companies traditionally innovated by discovery, research, and development. The essence of the Pharma business model has been: create the best clinical discoveries in medicine and generate superior drugs. That way, physicians would prescribe them and the companies would recoup the billions they ploughed into research and development…Interestingly, I see the same with the automotive sector - another traditional, old manufacturing sector. Like pharma, auto’s big competitive approach was improved engineering, so instead of medical breakthroughs, they had engineering breakthroughs. Like big pharma, big auto can see that it is not just about manufacturing anymore, and they need to move beyond their simple ‘beyond the car’ approaches.”, wrote Dr Andree Bates.
To find a related world, simply ask the question, “Who is facing the same problem somewhere in the world?”
Give Them The Problem
Ever wondered what Apple would do if they started providing healthcare in your marketplace? Or Amazon? Or Telsa? Just imagine it and you are on the way to a new way of seeing your challenge. While you may not be able to make the leap, this process can inspire incremental improvements or even new products and services.
In simple terms, you can do this yourself in your brand team. Don't forget to bring in some fresh naïve minds too – people from within your company that do not work on your brand or even in marketing and sales. For instance, do not underestimate what the GM's PA might contribute. After all, everyone in your company is a patient or a consumer, and a carer at some time in life. Everyone has a "back story" away from the day to day in the office.
Kick off with a problem briefing that describes the conflict. You need conflict to be innovative. Try to generalise the problem to be solved, but be brief! The longer the briefing, the more you will start influencing the participants thinking with your own biased information. Then plan to immerse yourselves in the problem and a related world. Be warned, this does take time out of the office. Of course, you can pay an agency to do this for you and they will profit from their increasing knowledge in your space at your expense. We recommend instead that you find the time to live, feel and see the related world experience and its possible solutions. Be an explorer and find both successes and failures including those focus points that resonate deeply within you. Make inter-connections between them too.
Same Problem, Different Perspective
Try describing the challenge from the related world’s perspective. Re-express the situation as if your team were the team in the related world looking at your challenge. Challenge the rivers of thinking in your team. Right down all the rules you think govern the challenge and try to break them. This is called Revolution. Take the example of Heinz Ketchup who once thought they had a problem as their ketchup was too think. So they broke that rule by assuming it does not have to be thin or even to be poured as competitive products are. They considered the option of doing nothing at all to address the complaints and instead turn their differentiating feature into a benefit; according to their revised messaging, if it pours easily, it is poor quality ketchup.
Do not assume you are the first to face your challenge. Related worlds can help demystify the creative process: remember that the ballpoint pen (the related world) lead to the invention of roll-on deodorant.
Whether it is a brand challenge or a business challenge, using creative processes such as Related Worlds, Re-expression, and Revolution you can change business models and discover untapped opportunities.
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The Actando Consulting Team