December 12, 2018

The 5 Simple Rules of Concept Branding Alchemy

Peanut Butter + Jelly, Cookies + Cream, Copy + Blogger, Lateral + Action, Unconventional + Guides, Entrepreneur + Producer, Endurance + Leader, Productive + Flourishing, Ranch + Doritos and Chris + Brogan (Well, I’m not sure what kind of alchemy he is but, Shhh, don’t tell him).

What do all these things have in common?

They combined two seeming different concepts and made something new, unique and useful.

Why is this important?

Well, new and interesting concepts are hard to get across especially if you want to stand out among all the other noise out there.

It’s also important to think about new and creative ways to combine different things simply because it allows you to push beyond what’s already out there and get people to pay attention to you.

Pushing the Edges

Most innovations (both in concepts and products) come about by applying tools, techniques or technologies to seeming different disciplines. Some examples include:

  • Post-It Notes: came about because Arthur Fry’s markers were falling out of his choir hymnal and he wanted a way to secure them while also not marking the page. His knowledge that Spencer Sliver developed a super weak glue created one of the most popular office products in the world.

  • Cool Ranch Doritos: Frito lay combined two things that were big in 1987 — tortilla chips and ranch dressing. Now, there are all sorts of combos — Flaming Hot Cheetos, Bacon + Chocolate and Chicken + Waffles.

  • Drug Eluting Stents came about because of restenosis (re-blocking of arteries after the stent opens them up) was happening more and more. Drugs can prevent restenosis but they can also cause complications if given globally, so they coated a stent to keep it local and Voila, restenosis dropped from 20-25% down to single digits.

  • Burning Man: started on a small beach in San Francisco back in 1986. It soon moved to the Black Rock Desert. By combining Freedom + Community, Burning Man changed the way people express themselves and bond with each other.

By pushing the edges, you can explore problems that are in need of unique and different approach.

By using concept branding alchemy, you can achieve a memorable and lasting impact.

It’s Never Obvious Until It’s Obvious

Many people (me included) don’t fully appreciate that obviousness is a subjective thing. Something that may be obvious to us may not be obvious to others. This is known as the curse of knowledge and it can prevent us from exploring unique and novel ways of combining two seemly dissimilar things into something else.

To avoid the curse of knowledge, think like a novice and try and breakdown concepts into manageable pieces so that they are easily digestible.

The Rules for Concept Branding Alchemy

Even though we have the curse of knowledge, it does not mean we can’t break free of our limitations and build some different and unique branding concepts by simply following the rules below.

Rule #1: Some Overlap is Good but Not Required

The more far out or distant the two concepts are, the harder it will be to cross them. I’m not saying that it’s impossible, it’s just a lot harder to see the connections between bacon + chocolate for example.

Overlap in concepts can also be subtle like Entrepreneur + Producer = Entreproducer. It takes a minute to get but producers are like entrepreneurs because they pull together people and resources to build something new.

Rule #2: Complements and Strengthens

Whatever concepts you choose, they should be stronger together. This means finding concepts that both challenge assumptions and rethink approaches to solving problems.

Unconventional Guides is a good example of two concepts that strengthen each other by taking a different approach to solving a problem. Alone, they stand on their own but together they illicit more curiosity and strength.

Rule #3: Changes Perspective

One thing a concept combination can do is change your perspective on the subject.

Advanced Riskology does this by implying that Basic Riskology exists (which I’m not even sure it does).

By doing this, the idea takes on a new perspective that the art of risk taking is more than just taking simple risks — it’s a whole methodology and mindset that can be taught.

Even Advanced Riskology’s tag line, Better Living through Uncertainty, challenges the wide held perspective that better living comes from safety and security.

Rule #4: Solves the Problem Simply

Productive Flourishing encapsulates the simple idea that to flourish in life and business, you need to be productive. Simple yet it’s hard for most people to be productive (especially if you are creative).

That’s why their idea of a planner for creatives (an oxymoron if I ever heard one :)), encapsulates the core of solving a problem simply.

By recasting the concept of the boring, linear planner, Productive Flourishing solves one of the biggest challenges anyone creative has — organizing their time for maximum productivity.

Rule #5: Sticks in the Mind

Lateral Action not only sticks in the mind but also plays on the whole lateral thinking concept where you solve problems through a creative approach that’s not immediately obvious or obtainable using logic.

It also changes your perspective on how creativity can and should be associated with doing rather than just thinking (kinda like productive flourishing).

Why Lateral Action sticks in the mind is that it takes two seemly different concepts and marries them together all while being simple to say and write.

So, What Does This Have to Do With Leadership?

Good Question.

As a leader of pretty much anything, you need to convey what your cause is about. By creating concepts that stand out and stick in the minds of your supporters, you allow your cause to easily grow.

Leaders need to use concept branding alchemy as tool to motivate and reinforce the mission of their organizations. It’s about making complex concepts simple, mantras memorable and goals achievable.

It’s All About Broadening Your World

Effective concept branding alchemy challenges preexisting notions and builds bridges between concepts that make sense.

By doing this, these concepts reach new audiences, broaden perspectives and create new products, services and methods that enhance an otherwise dull and dreary status quo. Who knows, one day you may come up with the next Chris Brogan but Shhh, don’t tell him.


How to Fight Your Creative Bonks One Light Pole At A Time

Bonking is one of the most dreaded conditions for the endurance athlete. It’s that point where every ounce of energy you had is expended and all you want to do is quit.

When bonking, your entire mental attitude goes south. You struggle with the most mundane tasks. Your thoughts turn to anything except continuing on.

You feel like quitting is your only option.

Creatives bonk just like endurance athletes. It may be writers block, procrastinating, doing more research, organizing your desk, not starting a project or just watching too much TV.

These creative bonks sap you of your creative desires and make it almost impossible to write prose, stroke the brush, bend metal or practice a piece one more time.

Why we Bonk?

For the endurance athlete, bonking is the metaphoric “hitting the wall” where they have used up all their energy stores and their body is telling them stop.

Bonking is your body’s way of telling you “I need fuel” which means that your blood glucose levels are abnormally low and need to be replenished.

Creative bonking is when you run out of creative energy. This can be for any number of reasons and all are valid (at least when you are bonking).

Like blood glucose, your creative energy needs to be replenished by training your mind and body to recognize when you need to feed yourself and to break through the bonk to achieve your creative goals.

Fighting the Creative Bonk

There are times when we just don’t feel like creating. These are the times when your creative energy is low and we just want to play Angry Birds. There are times when we just want to stop enduring and quit.

In order to replenish that creative energy, you can employ a trick that endurance athletes use — just make it to the next light pole.

The Next Light Pole

Bonking is both a physical and mental process. The physical process is a mechanism to protect your brain from starving by diverting blood flow from your muscles to your brain. When this happens, you feel tired and lethargic. You may become confused and disoriented. Control of your emotions flies out the window and you will find it hard to focus on anything. A flood of emotions overtakes you such as anxiety, hopeless and the feeling of being unable to carry on. This is your body telling you to slow down and replenish you fuel or it will shut down to protect itself.

To fight this, endurance athletes play a mental game called make it to the next light pole or aid station or bend in the road or whatever small goal they can easily obtain until they can replenish their fuel and get back in the race.

The game goes something like this: You pick a marker that you can make it to. It’s a simple goal but an important one to achieve. Once you achieve that goal, you pick another one, just as easy and continue on.

By doing this, you give yourself time to refuel and collect yourself to continue on.

This takes a tremendous amount of willpower because emotions are running high, you fell really bad and refueling yourself is really the last thing on your mind.

Your Next Creative Light Pole

Most of us (okay, all of us), have bonked creatively. It’s that point where you struggle to keep moving your creative project forward for whatever reason or maybe you can’t start something because the last thing stalled or failed.

It’s tremendously frustrating, depressing, harrowing and frighting to stare at the unfinished canvas, blank page, chunk of metal, lump of clay or bag of work out gear knowing that you want to get something accomplished but feel you can’t. That’s why it’s important to get to that next creative light pole so that you can break the bonking cycle.

To fight the bonk and achieve your creative goals, consider these getting to your next creative light pole techniques:

  • Set a micro goal: Micro goals are like those light pools — easy to see and achieve.

  • Practice your craft: Sometimes the anxiety to create something wonderful gets to us. That’s why you need to step away and practice. Practice will help you get back in the groove.

  • Slow down: If you push too hard, you may end up burning out. Step it down a notch. Slow down your mind and focus on just one thing.

  • Help others: Reaching out to other struggling creatives will not only make you feel better but also inspire you to create. Seeing others struggle may be the thing you need to put things in perspective.

  • Get inspired: Take a walk. Thumb through a book. Watch a little TV. Any of these things can inspire you to get back to creating. Don’t do them too long or you might end up procrastinating more or quit altogether

For each of us, the creative bonk looks different. It might be the fear of failure that drives us to quit (or success for that matter). Whatever it is, just be assured that we all face it, you can work through it and you will create more once you learn to fight your creative bonks.