Redefining Risk: Get comfortable with being uncomfortable

The real risk is blending in.
Redefining Risk: Get comfortable with being uncomfortable

The night before his first national ad campaign was set to run, Tommy Hilfiger couldn’t sleep. The ads George Lois created for him were too bold, too daring, and too audacious. They made Mr. Hilfiger uncomfortable. He was up all night.

Of course, that ad campaign turned out to be a resounding success, quickly propelling the fledgling Tommy Hilfiger apparel brand to national fame.

On the other end of the spectrum, there’s a common reflex among some brand managers and agency folk to revise and soften ads until everyone is comfortable with them.

So whose approach is right?

At this point I should probably alert you to the fact that I work in the creative department. I’m a copywriter, and a tireless advocate for breaking through the clutter.

Maybe a good place to start is by asking, what’s really at risk? In most campaigns, the single biggest expenditure is the media budget. Not to be too blunt, but that budget is at risk of being wasted if your campaign doesn’t get noticed. Or if your message isn’t believed, remembered or acted upon.

Creative people have this top of mind at all times. Like you, we’re pros at ignoring ads that don’t connect with us. That’s why your creative team occasionally presents something that’s a little different than what you were expecting. Chances are they’re simply trying to get your brand out in front of your competitors. But they’re acutely aware of something else, too

Brace yourself, this part may hurt a little. Unless you make iPhones or sneakers, the world probably isn’t waiting to hear from your brand. People need a little entertainment to get interested.

And entertainment feels risky. Especially what we call “breakthrough” ideas – those that are new, unusual, and different. These ideas go beyond getting noticed. Often, people enjoy them to the point where they want to see them again, and even share them with friends. In the process, people fall a little bit in love with your brand.

Creating those ideas isn’t easy to do. It takes skilled, experienced planners, strategists and creative people with the ability to pull it off in both idea and execution.

But consider the risk/reward analysis. Breakthrough ideas typically perform well beyond their media dollars, drive not just today’s sale but tomorrow’s repeat purchases, and cast a long shadow over your competition.

Whereas blending in often means burning more and more media budget, just to make impressions that are soon forgotten. That’s especially true in today’s fractured media landscape, where consumers have more ways than ever before to tune out your message.

Good agencies know this. And we’re not intentionally trying to make you uncomfortable. We’re trying to make you a thousand new friends every day.

We think failing to do that is the real risk.