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Dare to be different: who is really pushing boundaries in today's competitive markets?

16 June, 2015 - Source: Animl

The notions of bold work, of different work and distinct work have been about for a long time. Striving to separate your brand from the masses has always been the aim of the marketeer. It is the pursuit to create memorable work that can stand out from the crowd and be distinct that has driven brands to innovate.  

It used to be said that in order to lead the category, you must step outside of the category; that operating solely within the parameters of your business was no longer enough to push the boundaries of today’s competitive markets. However, this is no longer the case. The competition for attention is no longer specific to your category, we’re competing for attention full stop and this competition reaches from a local scale to a global scale - whether this be against the latest blockbuster film, the most viral of YouTube videos or your mate’s new pug on Instagram.  

Attempting to create brand distinction amongst these countless distractions is an essential task - the distinction of your brand is everything, it can mean the difference between success and failure. However, being able and willing to embrace difference is key. Being different is creating something that hasn’t come before - something that is new and something that we can’t compare or measure precisely. In order to embrace the creative mindset needed to push these boundaries marketers need to accept that risks must be taken. However, what we need to ask ourselves is that if we’re now willing to take risks - are we set up in the right way to help us push boundaries, to accumulate the failures into successes and to innovate outside of our categories?  
Whilst facing these challenges can be scary, facing up to them is essential - daring to push the boundaries to create truly different, innovative work should not be easy. There is the temptation to tread the well trodden path, to pitch brave and buy safe - we all have mortgages, kids and the various realities of life lingering near.  

Its at this point where we need to address what different and innovation actually mean to us: these are two terms that can be associated with vast sums of money, digital product innovation and cute buzz words. They need not be these things. Different does not necessarily mean rejecting established brand values and innovation need not mean recreating these values. Difference and innovation is achievable through leaning into the brand’s values and embracing the brand’s audience. For it is at this point that we can, as brands and marketers, reenergise the consumer and use them as the genesis for great work. In order to pitch brave and buy brave trust between clients and agencies is essential - lean into the existing values and the audience insights and trust them.  

Our Kids Today project aimed to give mothers around the world a different perspective into what its like to be a kid today and to highlight the positive impact play has for child development. On paper this project required an open, trusting relationship with OMO. We proposed a made for digital content project to bring the Dirt is Good  brand idea to life. We took what could be perceived as big risks in this project: we had no script and no storyboards, just six film outlines and an intention to explore a subject matter in detail. To secure a different angle of the brand’s story, we invented a new camera technology to show the world through the eyes of children. We worked with a neuroscientist to show parents the science behind play - highlighting that allowing kids to take risks and be autonomous afforded them executive functions that are highly desired in the workplace today. None of this had been done before - there was nothing to measure it against, from a brand point of view and from Unilever’s point of view yet we knew, through heavy engagement with our audience, that it was a topic at the forefront of parent’s minds.  

The trust afforded to us by OMO allowed us to create memorable work, not just pushing the boundaries but recreating them. It would be lying to say that this wasn’t a scary process - it was one rooted in risk yet it was handled carefully. We had a trusting client and together developed knowledge of our audience and put our faith in that. What resulted was a branded project that provoked, empathised and gave mums a new perspective on childhood today, and why dirt is more important today than ever. The results were unprecedented: like for like outperforming TV, generating conversation both on and offline with consumers and the media. The campaign has defined a different global marketing approach - one that pushes the boundaries of convention.  

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