August 23, 2017

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.