Restarting creative thinking in PR

In addition to working with agencies and brands on ‘real projects’ I also run a variety of training sessions such as “Thinking Strangely”, and wanted to start to share some more information about these rather than just showing you the end result which is what I have been doing until this point.

“Weird Thinking” came about as a lot of people ask me how they can “become more creative”,  and it won’t surprise you to know I don’t think there is no one simple answer. In fact I would go as so far to say you can’t become ‘creative’, especially not from reading a book or watching a long PowerPoint presentation, but you can learn to look at things from a different view point, which of course is where the root of where all creative thinking lies.

Brain Cupcakes (from Cupcakes for Zombies)

All of our training sessions are tweaked to a client’s brief but getting teams to venture down avenues of thought they have never been before is one of the hardest things to do regardless of the detailed approach. So how do you get teams to think about a ‘brand’ they know inside out, but against which they are no conceived creative restrictions allowing their imagination to run free… …well I have found common cultural references are the answer!

As part of the warm up exercise each pair in the training session is given a ‘brand’ (such as Santa Claus) along with top line aims of the campaign (a higher profile during the summer months). The PR concept having to appeal to a ‘real’ target audience, so for example the idea presented back could not be a campaign that would appeal to unicorns.

One of my favourite viral images of all time: Desaturated Santa Costume from Brody S for San Francisco SantaCon 2009. Grey wig, fabric, contacts, and Kryolan body paint were used to create the illusion of the Desaturated Santa.

There are also common stumbling blocks in the concepts. Hansel & Gretel launching a range of ovens reflective of a PR minefield where a product might have ‘questionable associations’ that need to be navigated, or Captain Hook reflecting how a celebrity may want to leave their past behind them, reinventing themselves for a new generation (*cough*Kerry Katona?) for example.

Should you wish to try this for yourself I’ve shared some of our favourite fantasy clients below and if you do use these then I would LOVE to know how you get on.

SANTA CLAUS wants to have a higher profile during the summer months

BART SIMPSON wants to be taken seriously as a business man after launching a range of shorts

JACK wants to promote the Beanstalk as a leading tourist destination

CAPTAIN HOOK would like to show people that having a hook for a hand should not hold you back in life – an inspirational campaign from someone trying to leave their troubled past behind them

THE SEVEN DWARFS want to re-brand themselves to go solo – how should they relaunch themselves minus Snow White

HANSEL & GRETEL are launching a range of ovens – what’s the PR stunt

SHREK is launching a range of swamp inspired bubble bath aimed at boys – how do we position it so it appeals to parents too

MOONFACE is launching a range of Faraway Tree inspired treats including ‘toffee shocks’ and ‘google buns’ – how can we give this range a magical appeal

Taking inspiration from fairytales is nothing new (as shown in the Lady Gaga Hansel Gretel shoot for US Vogue above) but to many it still seems too far from reality in order for it to be effectively used as a mechanic in creative thinking for ‘real brands’, despite the fact it is widely used in fashion and art.  Going from Captain Hook to a launch stunt for a toothpaste brand may seem like a long and winding road for a brainstorm but you can guarantee the idea which carries you there will be unique (disclaimer: it may be rubbish & unique), originality being one of the hardest things to crack. Of course it is also always wise to remember the golden rule that it is easier to make a extreme idea more workable, than a dull idea more interesting.

All of that said and done thing are starting to change, with fairytales offering inspiration to a broad with of brands (not just for those kind of girls who like to wear pink and put glitter inside birthday cards). A big 2012 trend starting to heat up already, and one massively influenced by high profile projects such as  The Guardian’s Three Little Pigs adverts and I could not be more pleased.

If you want to find out more about a training session please email or tweet @miss_cakehead. Please note I do not accept magic beans or a cow as payment.

Read my post on how to use Pinterest for creative thinking here.


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