April 12, 2021No Comments

5 Things OUTCREATE Learned From Launching A New Running Shoe.

Over the past few months, Outcreate has been working under NDA with INOV-8, on a top-secret launch of a new trail running shoe – Inov-8 TrailFly Ultra G 300 Max.

But it wasn’t without its challenges for the entire team. The launch was done entirely under lockdown. Of the many things we learned during these months, here are our top five.

TALKING LESS, LISTENING MORE HELP UNDERSTAND THE INOV-8 TRAILFLY

As a creative and strategic business, OUTCREATE has over 20 years’ experience of handing client’s advertising, marketing and brand problems. It’s easy to think you’re the expert and have all the answers.

So, we park that mindset at the door before we start anything, because every job, is different and every job has its variables.

Launching a trail running shoe is similar to launching a car for instance, but the markets and the mindsets of the audience are vastly different.

The initial conversations we had with INOV-8 were truly fascinating. It was a real journey and they absolutely loved telling their story of how the brand got to this point, what the pitfalls had been, what their hopes were, and what made their brand and the product they wanted to launch, different.

All of this is key context. Every word spoken mattered. So, in the first couple of meetings, listening to what is being said and asked is far more important than talking.

The client is bringing you up-to-speed, immersing you in the detail which they feel is of the utmost importance. Listening helped understand that the Inov-8 TrailFly was much more than just another shoe launch, this was an announcement to the world that they had created a first-of-its-kind material (GFly graphene foam cushioning) which they had developed in partnership with the National Graphene Institute at the University of Manchester.

Trail. Blazing. - The Inov-8 TrailFly Ultra G 300 Max

GO TO THE SOURCE OF THE INOV-8 TRAILFLY

When you talk to marketers, you get a marketer’s perspective. Most clients have a pretty good understanding of what’s needed, they come to businesses such OUTCREATE for the extra diligence around audiences and media, as well as those all-important creative ideas and executions.

What we like to do is get perspectives from elsewhere. In this instance we spoke with the man who had spent countless hours designing the Inov-8 TrailFly Ultra G 300 Max.

The design process is incredibly important in any product and what you get is a different level of respect and understanding for the craft and consideration instilled in the research and development stage.

Why did this shoe have a 6mm drop? Why that material for the upper? How does the patent-pending adapterflex groove help the runner’s physiology? The designer had the answers to problems we had no idea existed from a consumer’s perspective.

Some of his answers were very business focused too. Material weights for example…bump up the cost of transportation, so they find smarter and lighter ways to reinforce the shoe’s integrity.

Geeking out on this stuff not only gives you a new level of respect and understanding, but it also helps way down the line when you’re writing ads, scripts, content and copy.

Image courtesy of Luke McConnie - Snr Inov-8 Footwear Designer

KEEP AMBITION HIGH

Presenting your first round of ideas is both exciting and nerve-racking in equal measure. Both sides don’t know what to expect. Will they laugh? Will it be on brief? Have we gone far enough…or perhaps too far?

OUTCREATE have always been about showcasing something different, with real ambition to show the clients not only what you’re capable of as a business, but also show them where their brand can go.

It’s easy for a client to stay in a comfort zone, but it is also easy for an outside agency to come along and get it hideously wrong.

So the first few meetings sharing work are always a bit of dance, but they’re amazingly constructive and you soon get a sense of where the work should and could go.

What I love about working with INOV-8 is the democratic way they judge the work. They are a tight team and everyone gets to speak. The last person to do so is most senior person, who is insistent that everyone reviews the work as if it were being seen cold…and not explained by someone trying to sell it to you. Smart thinking.

Naturally many ideas die. We only need one after all. But ultimately where we get to can’t be a compromise, the place we end up has to move the brand forward, so regardless of time, and budget, the work has to be ambitious.

An OUTCREATE scamp from one of the early storyboard ideas

THINK AROUND THE INOV-8 TRAILFLY LAUNCH

We’re in lockdown. We’re all in different locations. INOV-8 are in the Lake District, and OUTCREATE is in Brighton, we couldn’t be further from them if we tried.

But that didn’t matter. Sure, being face-to-face on location is preferred, but with Zoom & Teams, and sticking to scheduled meetings, things move along at pace as long as everyone is clear.

But on this project, the biggest hurdle was the Press Launch. This is where all the big retailers, ShoeTubers, the running and outdoor journalists all get to see and hear about the Inov-8 TrailFly most importantly, get to understand the new technology within it and how it will change the game for the customers.

Normally, this would be done at a venue, live. But thanks to Covid, the whole launch event was made virtual. None of the team had done a virtual presentation before, so finding the right partner to help was key.

On the day, the presentation went perfectly, without a hitch. So well, in fact that what was at first thought of as a problem, soon opened up new possibilities for future presentations to wider markets.

Screen shot from the virtual press launch
Wayne Edy - Inov-8 Founder - Speaking at the virtual Launch Event

CUT CORNERS, NOT QUALITY

INOV-8, as their name suggests, like to do things differently. But the outcome has always got to be the best. It’s one of the reasons the team there is light and nimble and they partner with businesses such as OUTCREATE, because we fit that ethos.

I think it’s something routed in trail and fell running itself. Often there isn’t a clear path to get to where you want. Sometimes, you’ve got to go through the rough terrain, get dirty, fall over, get back up again, and take some calculated risks.

Your typical big network agency, with proprietary processes, timesheets, internal sign-offs and much higher rates will have found themselves floundering at the pace and the demands being asked of it. The corners we cut were in places we knew we’d make up time, save money, get a better result, and everyone on the team knew they had the support of the others.

The Inov-8 TrailFly Ultra G 300 Max is now available to buy as of today, so I guess we’ve crossed a sort of finish line. We’re all confident that this shoe, engineered with trailblazing technology, will not only defy the limits of ultra-long trail runs and races, it will defy INOV-8’s sales expectations too.

The finished launch film - Shot by James Appleton

Case study coming to the OUTCREATE website soon.

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Rob Steeles is the founder and creative director of OUTCREATE - the creative marketing agency for sports, active and outdoor brands.

outcreate.io / hello@outcreate.io / +44 (0)7952 539 205

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February 17, 2021No Comments

Exposed: Why brainstorming could be one of the reasons your business is sinking.

Good old-fashioned 'Brainstorming' doesn't work. Well, not if you want great ideas. Read on and you'll find out why.

Your business has to grow. To do that it has to have creative ideas. After all, thinking like everyone else will see you move with everyone else. You need to have a way to constantly innovate.

We said 'Old-fashioned' for a reason. Brainstorms first appeared back in the 50's courtesy of Alex Osborn. The ad-man claimed brainstorming enhanced creative output by almost 50%. And we're still defaulting to that in various guises today. (Aka sprints).

ON PAPER

When you look at the purpose of a 'Brainstorm' it looks like a great idea.

  • Generate lots of ideas quickly
  • Highlight original thinking
  • Rapid refinement through collaboration
  • An open forum where there's no criticism

Being in a hot-house thinking session with your teammates will surely elevate everyone's game? And a little competition never did anyone any harm, right? Plus, because brainstorms aim to create a tsunami of ideas, you should hit on a humdinger of an idea sooner or later. What's not to like?

Evidence to the contrary

There have been over 60 years' of independent studies into the effectiveness of the brainstorm. Yet little evidence exists to prove this methodology leads to more, or better, ideas than people working independently. At OUTCREATE we think it could be having a harmful effect on creativity and key business decisions as a result.

There's a number of reasons for this contrary trend. The 800 teams used in the aforementioned study showed that people working on their own are more likely to have more ideas...and better one too.

And in big brainstorming groups, which require a lot of supervision, there was a large drop in performance. The drop was most obvious in sessions that were lead verbally, rather than having written inputs and outputs.

The most telling factor was how negativity creeps in and begins to affect a team when they hit an unproductive patch. There was a tendency to gave up.

Some reasons why Brainstorming doesn't work

We've all been in them and we've all felt it when things aren't working. Which, is pretty much every session in our experience (20 odd years in the Ad industry). Perhaps the following reasons help explain things:

  • No accountability: in a brainstorm, the team members can cruise a little because they think others 'will probably crack it...'. If this mindset dominates the group, the session will soon run aground.
  • Peer pressure: for some inexplicable reason, brainstorming in a group turns into Lord of the Flies. Participants become fixated on what their peers are thinking of them and their contribution (or lack of). This is a real problem for introverted staff who will always defer to the highest paid person's opinion. Participants either under-perform or over compensate in a bid to justify their attendance.
  • Dumbing down: another reason why brainstorming doesn't work is a that you'll often observe a conscious dumbing down from the more talented thinkers in a group. In an attempt to not dominate, they pull back and ultimately end up regressing to the base level of thinking.
  • Too many chefs: most brainstorms are linear and that means only one idea can be heard or highlighted at a time. The bigger the group, the fewer ideas individuals can put forward.
  • Democratic mediocrity: there's an unwritten rule in brainstorms that "There are no bad ideas...". Therefore people just blurt out whatever's in their head. Because no one in the room calls out bad ideas in the room, bad ideas will seep into your thinking, your brand and your business.

Brainstorming doesn't work. So why keep doing it?

Brainstorming is supposed to bring together a group of people with different skills and points of view to solve a problem. But here's the reality in most businesses - we assemble the people we have, or whomever is available (often with a bribe of a Pret sandwich platter) to make up numbers. Your dream brainstorm team is hardly ever available to be in one room for the time you need for a session to be successful. And now with lockdown, it makes it almost impossible.

Businesses keep doing it because it has always been done this way. It's all they know. And from a managerial perspective it feels good to see a team working together. Even if there's little evidence the team is achieving the what it has set out to do.

The creative alternatives

It wouldn't be right to just tell you that brainstorming doesn't work and leave it at that. If you've read this far, it probably means you know you need to change the way you have ideas in your business.

  • Rogue thinking: let your people think for themselves. Give them space and time to think the problem through individually. You will find that they think deeper, more focused and with more energy. Sharing an individual's ideas amongst a small team who work individually to build them up.
  • More haste: brainstorms should be a fast way of solving problems. But in reality you're failing quicker. So time is something that needs to be respected more. We're all too quick to run off and build or design a solution that we don't stop to ask...'Can it be better?' Give everyone time and the chance to really think things through and find ways to improve the ideas. Any creative worth their salt will tell you that the 'Over-night Test' is a real thing. Ideas that seemed great at when first often find themselves relegated to the recycling bin after a night's worth of percolation.
  • Do doodles: everyone writes in brainstorms. Ever noticed that? Yet, as a species, we react faster to images. So one trick to get people thinking differently when sharing ideas, is to do it only using doodles. Sketching the ideas can sometimes be the perfect way to demonstrate how an idea can start to live in the real world.

Causing a storm

So to summarise, brainstorming is may be one of the reasons your business feels like it's slowly sinking. Every mediocre idea implemented from a brainstorm, pokes another hole in your ship. If you are looking to have teams thinking on your brand or business problems, find a way to give individuals time and space to think more deeply. Structure your sessions around enhancing the ideas they bring into the sessions, rather than using valuable time to generate lots of low-level ideas and post-it collages.

And finally, we're in a pandemic and most reading this will be in lockdown. Running a brainstorm via Video Conference is a terrible thing to put your people through. If you care about your staff, and their welfare, find alternative ways to collaborate using boards like Miro.

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If you want to know more about OUTCREATE and are keen know how we can help your brand or organisation, please get in touch. hello@outcreate.io

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Rob Steeles is the Founder and Creative Director of OUTCREATE. He has over 20 years' experience as an award-winning creative and strategic thinker within some of the world's most creative agencies. He also hates old-fashioned brainstorms.

January 29, 2021No Comments

It’s time for brands to think big by going small.

Why straying from the big agencies could do wonders for your business and brand.

The pandemic has taught us all many new lessons. And every business has had to take a long hard look at themselves, both inside and out. It doesn't matter is you're one of the big network agencies or a small business marketing agency. There's change everywhere.

For brands, this represents an amazing opportunity to reappraise not just what you're doing and how you're doing it, but also with whom. Especially since many new breed of creative businesses have arrived.

BATTERY vs FREE-RANGE

Do you care where your ideas come from? If it's your brand, then you should. Because the insights you're fed, the research that's done for you, and the creative work served up, should be the freshest. And this is one of the problems with your big agencies.

Don't get me wrong, the people in these agencies are smart people. But where they're working and how they're working taints what they produce.

If the agency was a dairy, they'd be adding stuff to the milk. Proprietary tools, agency methodologies, some scientific 5-step process to generate ideas...you get the idea. The hyperbole is easy to swallow, and it all sounds good, but your brand is one of 50 that's getting the same intensively-reared brand treatment.

In some cases, you can even recognise the agency by its output.

And look at the environment where your brand is being reared. Beyond the glittering awards displayed in the stylish reception areas, the agencies are often squeezed for space, open-plan, noisy, and not the least bit inspiring. Indeed, most creatives opt to work outside of the agency for this very reason.

So what does a free-range option look like?

Okay, so the world is currently working from home, but new breed businesses (or small business marketing agency) don't see the need to have an extravagant HQ. Let alone stealthily charge clients for the rent or desks space. They've already figured out working remotely not only makes economic sense in the reality of the world we live in today, it gives them the freedom to work where they're most inspired...all the time, every day.

And that's got to be a good thing for your brand and the sanity of anyone tasked with working on it.

The thinking that goes into solving your brand and business problems is more wholesome too. Processed thinking is replaced by free-thinking. This allows experts to share more of themselves, their experience, their entrepreneurism and personality. The end result means a solution is found organically and that will invariably lead to somewhere new and fresh.

GET MORE FROM A SMALL BUSINESS MARKETING AGENCY

It's true there's some comfort to be found nestling your brand in the cosy confines of a big agency roster. You know you have people working on your business, you get to know your team, and you may even get taken out on a jolly or two (post covid of course).

But here's the thing with those big agencies. The amount of attention you get from the agency is dependant on how big your account is...or put another way, how much you're business is worth to the agency.

And even then, there's no guarantee the amount you pay will afford you the service and dedication your brand deserves.

So is your brand safe in the herd? Or perhaps it's worth straying from how things used to be done. Imagine the attention your brand would get if it was the biggest client working with a new small business marketing agency?

THE WORLD'S BIGGEST TALENT POOL

There are phenomenally talented people working in big agencies. I can't argue with that. And yes, you will have to pay for them. And yes, they're extremely well paid. But will you always get access to those people? Or will you most likely meet them at the pitch stage and perhaps one or two meetings a year?

The best people are always in demand. But when you have 50 clients all wanting a superstar thinking on their work, the reality is it's not really that feasible. Access to the best people is an expensive luxury.

So does that mean the talent in a small business marketing agency or creative businesses isn't quite as good?

On the contrary. Here's the the thing.

Since Covid-19 struck, the advertising industry has had to haemorrhage staff. Wage bills unbalance the books and some of the industry's finest thinkers found themselves surplus to the CFO's requirements.

There are now more superstar creatives, strategists, producers, client services, designers, editors, data strategists, art workers, project managers...the list goes on... than are inside the big creative agencies.

That means they are available and hungry to work on your brands. And new breed creative businesses use these superstars to create bespoke teams that are handpicked to work alongside you to solve your problems.

Right now, and for the foreseeable future, the new breed businesses have the world's biggest talent pool at their disposal, and now they represent better value for money and you'll have direct access to them because your project is the most important thing on their 'To Do' list.

OUTCREATE - A NEW BREED OF SMALL BUSINESS MARKETING AGENCY

My own business, OUTCREATE is one of the new breed. Having spent over 20 years working as a Creative, Copywriter, Creative Director and Executive Creative Director in some of adland's biggest and most awarded agencies, I have taken the worst possible moment in recent history, to set up a business to give clients not only the work they need, but the attention they deserve too. Primarily I'm doing this for outdoor brands and organisations because that's where my passion lies.

But I know of many others who are doing the same as me. Starting up, finding clients, making great work, creating or enhancing brands, standing on their own two feet and enjoying the directness of it all.

The clients are loving it. And more are starting to flock this way too.

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If you want to know more aboutOUTCREATE and are keen know how we can help your brand or organisation, please get in touch. hello@outcreate.io

________________

Rob Steeles is the Founder and Creative Director of OUTCREATE. He has over 20 years' experience as an award-winning creative and strategic thinker within some of the world's most creative agencies.

January 25, 2021No Comments

THE REAL VALUE OF OUTSIDE THINKING

5 reasons strategic and creative experts from outside your business will transform your brand and creative output.

There's another kind of 'Outside thinking' that many brands are missing that will undoubtedly improve the strategic and creative output.

Bringing in experts from outside your business or organisation is the perfect solution when you feel you need more firepower.

Frequency. Cost. Experience

There are many different reasons why brands and organisations struggle to deliver the type of creative work they know would transform their brand and business. They boil down into three key areas.

FREQUENCY

How often does your business need real strategic thinking and creative oomph? Perhaps a small start-up needs it sporadically as it moves to market, or perhaps you're a brand that has an internal design team who are good at the 'doing' but perhaps not the 'conceptual' creatives you wish you had when those big ideas are needed. There's a desire for the big ideas but the opportunities only come round a few times a year. So you're unlikely to have the big thinking you need 'on-tap'.

COST

Budgets for marketing and advertising have never been tighter. If you're not needing creative work all the time, then it makes little sense keeping creatives on a payroll. But there's also a danger that stopping spending altogether is masking a problem down the line. Your competitors could still be spending and consumers still buying. So finding a more cost-efficient and equally effective solution should be a priority. Outside thinking could certainly help when money is tight.

EXPERIENCE

There will come a point where the experts in your business can't quite do what your brand needs. It's not their fault. We all have limitations and strengths and weaknesses. But there's a gap in who you need. And most likely there's not budget to hire someone to deal with it on a permanent basis. Or perhaps there's a transformational shift needed to be made in your business and you need someone who's 'been there, done that, and got the scars to prove it'. Some outside thinking could be exactly what you're after.

Outside thinking from experts outside

Here at OUTCREATE, we talk about being 'Outside Experts'. It works nicely with our outdoorsy positioning too. Rather than consultants, think of us as your strategists who are dedicated to digging out those game-changing insights you never knew existed in your business, product, audience or sector. Or the award-winning creatives who will take those insights and turn them into the sort of beautifully crafted executions you only thought you'd get from big shiny London creative agencies.

Bringing some outside thinking in for a few days, a week, monthly...whatever, will make a huge difference to your brand and business in many ways. But here are my top 5.

1. OUTSIDE THINKING = FRESH THINKING

An outsider's perspective is always going to be different than those on the inside. And it's because we're seeing things fresh, we can challenge the norm. Because sometimes 'good ol' norm' can be a bit of a hinderance when you're trying to budge opinion. In our experience being the outside help, allows us to ask the kind of questions that seldom get asked internally, like "WHY?" We also work with many different clients, with either similar or wildly different businesses, and we learn from each project. This cross fertilisation of thinking could be invaluable to your brand.

2. OUTSIDE THINKING = BETTER VALUE

Now let's not mistake 'Value' for 'Cheap'. We ain't Fivver folks and you should expect to pay a premium for the best thinking. But the way to look at value is the quality of what we deliver in terms of depth of thinking, relatively small size of the team, the pace we work at and the huge step-up in the quality and ambition of whatever needs to be delivered. And compared to a big network agency, with their big offices, big wage bills, big expenses, big teams, big lead-times...yeah, we represent excellent value for money. We should know, we used to big people in these big agencies charged out to you for big bucks.

3. OUTSIDE THINKING = MORE EXPERIENCED

Bringing someone in to your business who has done something before can be the smartest move you can make. Chances are, that person's made the mistakes you are likely to make, and if they're any good (which we are BTW) they will see it coming and side step the pitfalls and guide you to where your brand needs to be to grow. Sometimes they'll even short cut the route saving you time and yep, you guessed it, money too. Experience is everything, especially if you have very little.

4. OUTSIDE THINKING = GREATER FLEXIBILITY

"This is how we've always done it..." is arguably the scariest statement we hear from businesses we work with. Outsiders bring a multitude of working processes, methodologies, corner-cutting abilities and a relentless energy with them. Nimbly blazing through the work is all well and good, but you'll also find outsiders cope better when plans change and things need to be adjusted. We're smaller, we're experienced, we might even have seen it coming, and that means we can turn on a dime...or a five pence piece.

5. OUTSIDE THINKING = COMPLETE OPENNESS

Building a relationship and fitting in with your business is vital to success. It builds trust and that leads to decisions being made more quickly, braver ideas being bought, and a confidence to be left alone to do the job you've been brought in to do. Outsiders don't really see the politics and pecking orders. What matters most is getting the best work done and to do that, outsiders are ego-free, approachable, prepared to listen first, able to communicate to everyone on every level.

OUTSIDE THINKING - IN SUMMARY

If you're planning your activity for this quarter, next quarter or the year ahead (keep the latter in pencil at the moment), and you find yourself wondering "How you're going to do it..." or "Who do we have that can do this...." or "We really need to look at what we're doing because things have changed...", then you need to get some "Outside help".

Outside help is an invaluable resource that is flexible, cost effective and allows you to bring in big-thinking and fresh ideas as and when you feel you need it.

Bring OUTCREATE, in

If you want to know more about OUTCREATE and are keen know how we can help your brand or organisation, please get in touch. hello@outcreate.io

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Rob Steeles is the Founder and Creative Director of OUTCREATE. He has over 20 years' experience as an award-winning creative and strategic thinker within some of the world's most creative agencies.

January 20, 2021No Comments

Start up – 6 lessons learned in 6 months of starting OUTCREATE.

As a start up agency, we've learned a lot. Here's 6 things we've learned in the past 6 months.

Read more

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hello@outcreate.io

PHONE:

+44 (0)7952 539205

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