Memory lane – communications kata no 1 Reframing

Long long ago – I set up a website Planning Above and Beyond to promote my discipline of communications planning. Its still there as although not much visited these days. And its choc full of goodies. So I thought now that this blog has been listed in the US advertising blogosphere that it might be good for this particular householder to bring a few old things out of the storeroom from time to time. We'll start with the kata.

Kata – routines- algorithms – patterns 
If you have ever done any martial arts then you will know about kata the
exercises practiced solus to improve technique, speed and accuracy.  Think of them as mental workouts particularly when you
are in a jam.  We all fall into familiar patterns of thinking and
responding.  And we all know of planners who seem to have been successful
doing one thing very well.  Over and over again.  But most of
us get stuck from time to time

Some of the kata I want to post here are legendary. Arguably a creative
brief is a formalised kata most agencies cannot survive without. 
Think of them in two ways, as ways of jumping out of the loop and as checks
as to whether you have been thorough enough at following a particular
routine through.  WARNING: Whatever happens don't try to do several
at one time.  They will tie you up in knots!! By the way I'm not
the bloke in the illustrations: there's a limit isn't there to self promotion?

Kata No
1 Reframing

We all get stuck in ruts – we all get bogged down. Here are 10 ways to
reframe the communications task to get you out of the rut.

1. How would a customer describe the task - well we have to start
here don't we?  If you haven't already done this then I suggest a
career review – this is after all what planners are called on to do day
in day out. A related question found on many creative briefs is What would
you expect the consumer to do, think and feel as a result of this communication?
And check out 3. which is close.

How would the MD or the finance director client-side describe the task
- how is this supposed to make money? It is often worth on a creative
brief to separate the business from the communications objectives very clearly. 
Partly to stop the client thinking you are going to achieve a business
objective – e.g.. increase market share with a communication strategy
- e.g. challenge audience perceptions of a product. Partly because if
you're not careful you will write a comms strategy that won't deliver a business
objective even when it does what it is designed to do. A variant on this
reframe would be How will this help to get my client promoted? 
But that would be too cynical dear reader..

3. How does it feel the first time? Otherwise described as An
adolescent or first impressions model. Or what Zen monks call Beginners
mind. It is that heightened sensibility you feel as a tourist  in
a new country.  You pick up on sounds tastes and smells. In retrospect
you will realise that you didn't pick up on most of what was happening.
You didn't understand it.  But the first impressions were vivid and
lasted.  This applies to more markets than you might imagine including
the internet and the mobile phone.  When markets are young and everyone
is on the starting line or close to it.  The point is that 1 touch
speed dialling is a more significant discovery than a grasp of obscure
insider jargon.  Get good at this.  Clients are terrible at
it because they are usually experts in their field.  There are
limitations to expertise and this is one of them.  Cultivate beginner's
mind (grasshopper!) 

4. What scripted behaviours am I trying to produce? We are in
the terrain of the behavioural psychologists here. This isn't just about
buying the product.  It is about encouraging a behaviour pattern
that is rewarding and keeps on rewarding the punter every time they do
it.  What can you suggest they do that will make them feel good?
Loyalty cards and Airmiles live or die by this but you don't need a database
to do it.  Tango do it very well Remember Midland Are you the listening
Bank?. I once went into a Midland bank and delivered the script word
for word because I had just had a row with Nat West.  The script
made it a doddle to say what it wanted making it a cinch for the counter
staff to close the sale. If you haven't a script in mind you may just
be messing with their heads. In which case they may not do anything. 
Or they may do something you hadn't expected. And didn't want them to do.

What cultural practices am I drawing on?
Cultural anthropology. 
Yes you can do it yes it's fun, yes there are a few research agencies
are qualified to help you on this one.  You have to be careful with
culture because it tends towards the generic – its where all the competition
are aiming as well.  But if you find an odd segment it is very powerful
because the script (see 4. above) has been planted and enforced. 
Crown Paints once commissioned Desmond Morris aka Naked Ape to to a study
on home decoration titled The Human Nestbuilders.  I have the report
- a treasured possession.  While a lot of it is a hoot – just what
is the connection between my choice of magnolia and my ancestors daubing
paint in Lascaux or the Olduvai gorge? While I shan't be telling you
about how the drapes in the boudoir support my personal courtship rituals
you may find it helpful if you have got stuck between baikal green and
killearney emerald. Nuff said!

6. Who else is involved and how does the group fit together? -
the sociological perspective.  No man (or woman) is an island. Many
purchases can only be interpreted in terms of groups whatever poor devil
ends up standing in front of the facings exercising human choice. 
Wherever kids are involved – where do the parents figure? In any B2B purchase
what is the buying unit? It has been shown that babies are at least as
proactive as mums in initiating play and communication – dyadic it's called. 
But you know all that.  Where it gets interesting is that this applies
just as much where the solitary consumer appears to be buying just for
themselves.  And even the most inner directed individual may well
be modelling themselves on the tastes and preferences of other inner directed
individuals they admire.  Just a few weeks ago someone who had done
voluntary work overseas was telling me how literally she had been imitated
by later volunteers she spoke to. Her own experiences were taken as normative
and replicated.

7. Where do the lines of power run? Not the same as 6. the sociological
structure this is about who is telling who what to do.  Traditionally
the communications have set themselves up as a key authority (though these
days the punters are less willing to tolerate this). This is often where
transactional analysis is wheeled in.  The TA ideal is that communications
should be adult to adult.  What is more common is that the adult
goes into child mode and relinquishes control expecting to be told what
to do.  I used this some years ago with air travel.  For all
kinds of practical reasons an airline can't afford for their business
passengers to behave in the way they behave on the ground with their laptops
on, and  their mobiles fully in use. So the airline gets parental,
talks down to them and offers to pamper them – the tone here has to be
carefully chosen – i.e. not patronising, the intent is that the punter
relinquishes control temporarily to have it restored when they get on
the ground again.  Clearly there is an opportunity here for any airline
that finds the means to keep business passengers in adult mode all the
way if they so choose.

How does the way the consumer process information affect their understanding
of the message?
NLP or Neuro Linguistic Programming has become very
trendy.  People are biased in their processing of information. They
incline towards visual, audio or touch.  More interestingly the language
within certain markets tends towards the visual, audio or the tactile. 
So by tilting your creative approach you should increase the effectiveness
of your communication.  I nearly persuaded Franklin Mint once to
test a direct mail piece using tactile copy on the grounds that collectors
of pewter/china memorabilia were more likely to respond to touchy feely
copy. Pride of ownership is only half the story. It's about something
precious you can touch.  Franklin never did it.  So I'm giving
the idea away!

9. What are the symbolic communication conventions of this particular
- yup we had to get to semiotics sooner or later.  Although
the language of semiotics is mostly obscure the idea is simple enough:
that the concepts and imagery are highly structured so by deconstructing
them and reconstructing them differently you can play the game within
a category but still stand out.  I have worked with a Japanese car
brand in recent years and find it extremely helpful to look at the conventions
of car advertising and particularly those favoured by German marques. 
The point is that by unconsciously adopting these,  newcomers like
the Japanese frequently come across as me-too brands with little new to
communicate.  And I still remember blowing a creds meeting with Nokia
by commenting (innocently I thought) on how how their name and brochure
seemed far more Asian than Scandinavian.

10. What mythical /big picture stories could I borrow to build up
my story?
  You can resort to Jungian archetypes arguably most
advertising does this anyway – it is how European minds at any rate decode
our identities but I didn't mean to be as esoteric as that.  The award winning Tango
Black Currant TV ad about Sebastian the French exchange student perfectly picked up on the Where are we on Europe?
issue just before the 1997 election.  There have been a couple of
spoofs of Government ministers caught out in news conferences raising
the issue How much further are we willing to be spun?   At the
time of writing we have had a succession of  "plagues"
devastate the farming community in this country, currently Foot and Mouth. 
How does this feeling of being embattled with successive crises translate
itself in the national consciousness.  Is there a way of identifying
this and linking your brand to it?

That'll do for now. Go to if you want to sample some more. And I'll bring out some more goodies soon.



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