Anyone who works in marketing will have undoubtedly heard these phrases time and time again: ‘think outside the box’, ‘blue sky thinking’, ‘innovation is key’.
But in an industry where every company is trying to fight their way out of the box first, has anyone wondered what’s so wrong with staying inside it?
No matter whether you’re wanting to be innovative for a client, a campaign or for your brand, if you haven’t got your fundamentals right, then there’s no point in trying to catapult yourself into that big blue sky.
Own what you are and what you do well, and you’re far more likely to succeed, especially in the era of Brand as Publisher - where you have the ability to own a content audience of your own.
We’ve pulled together the most effective tips to help you define the parameters, the four sides, if you will, of your box and start building the content strategy that will enable you to win as a publisher in your own right.
When we talk about ‘think inside the box’, what exactly is it? Only you can define it.
The contents inside the box will differ for every company, and whatever they may be, they should be the foundation for everything that you do.
Below are some factors that could go inside your box for starters - while you may not feel from the outset that all may be necessary, take time to consider them before you rule them out completely.
Most importantly, once you’ve defined your box, make sure that everyone you want to work within your box, also knows the makeup of it – if they don’t, then there’s no point in having it.
Perhaps one of the best ways I can bring the concept of the box to life is through the concept of Brand is Publisher, which I’ll refer to throughout this piece – this is so crucial to brand identity, that our MD Simon described in a post he penned for Moz, as, “changing your mindset to put content at the forefront of your business, almost before the products or services that you sell”
The very first factor worth considering for your box is your brand identity – after all, how can you focus on getting the fundamentals right, if you haven’t defined what your fundamentals are?
To do this, you’ll need to sit down and go back to basics on what your company is and does, and remind yourself of what you want it to be. To help answer this, start by asking yourself some of following key questions
Perhaps the strongest element to consider among these questions is around your USP – what is it that sets you apart from your competitors?
In the Brand as Publisher ethos, while other brands may be fighting to market themselves in the latest x, y, z innovative way, by sticking to your core roots and offering advice, information and resources around your specialist subject, you’ll be providing long term value to yourselves and others.
Once you’ve looked outwards and assessed how you want your company to be seen by others, you then need to turn inwards and look to your employees.
What are the values that you ask all your employees to exhibit and through these, do you want to be exhibited through everything you do?
Below is a list of potential values and attributes to consider:
Passion – Having voracious appetite to learn and deliver the very best, all the time.
Honesty – Always being open and honest.
Innovation/Creativity – Showing constant iteration, never stopping moving and turning insight into ideas that resonate.
Expertise – Being leaders, not followers.
Respect – Showing respect for others, across every element of the business.
Empowerment – Taking ownership, accountability, responsibility.
Make sure that these values become a central part of your business by putting them in each employee’s personal development plans – here, they can then highlight how they’ve considered each value throughout everything they’ve done.
While this could arguably sit under our first point of ‘define your brand’s identity’, I feel that setting your company’s culture should have its own consideration given how important it is, or should be, to any business.
Are you a corporate organisation, a traditional old fashioned heritage brand, a young, fun, vibrant agency or a bit in between?
Whatever your culture, don’t shy away from it and importantly, don’t try to be something you’re not – after all, if everyone was the same, no-one would stand out.
To achieve a strong brand identity with this mindset, you need to consider the brand tone of voice and how you want your culture to be conveyed through your external communications; such as your branding, your website, your work and your people.
The best way to ensure this is stuck to, is to create clear tone of voice guidelines that should be adhered to and delivered with any piece of output. In the Brand as Publisher example, the portrayal of your business’ culture through an established tone of voice couldn’t be more key.
Not only should it showcase you and your people and it should also showcase what you offer and how you execute that down to a tee.
An example of a brand that I feel does this extremely well is Innocent – you know what they do, they do what they do well, their messaging is consistent across every external piece of material they put out and you know exactly what type of company they are, culture-wise, from all of this.
We see it time and time again; a campaign, a business, a brand, a pitch trying to be jack of all trades and master of none.
When you’re considering your proposition, take time to really define what it is you do; not what you want to do, but what you can do – the two are very different.
While it’s of course important to have dreams and aspirations about how you’d like your business/brand/campaign to evolve over time, you have to make sure you’ve got the fundamentals right first.
With the brand as publisher example, don’t try to run before you walk with the topics you want to cover - once again, write about what you know will do well, and vitally what you can do well, and you’re more likely to succeed, not only in the short term but in the long term too.
If you don’t, you could run the risk of damaging your reputation and all those future hopes and dreams could be shattered before you’ve even had a chance to consider them.
So, once you’ve defined your all-important box, don’t just assume that everyone else knows what’s in it. You need to be the driving force in ensuring that every single person in your organisation that you want to use and importantly, stay within your box, knows the exact make up of it. Understanding is absolutely key.
Preach it, practice it and reiterate it at every stage of everything you do until it becomes second (even first!) nature. And once you’re comfortable that you’re doing everything inside your box exceptionally well and you’re starting to outgrow it, then at that point, you can start to consider thinking outside of it…
Remember to get started with the SWOT template - defining your business and your brand personality is crucial, so be honest and open when considering your Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats!
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