November 16, 2006

News & Opinion: Think Big, Start Small

By: Dylan Schleicher @ 3:22 PM – Filed under: Marketing & Sales

After a few years of working in branding, I had an assignment with a cereal company that was a definite milestone in my career. It wasnt the project output that was so remarkable, rather the briefing for it. Up until that point, project kick-off meetings were at least two hours long, involved stacks upon stacks of background information, and outlined specific branding or new product areas for us to explore. Instead of the big conference room kind of meeting to which I had become accustomed, I found myself in a small office with the entire briefing document handed to me on one single sheet. The client said, People are busier than ever and do not have time to eat hearty and satisfying breakfasts. Create new products that are either grab and go or heat and eat that solve this need. All this with one parameter: No bagels. Less than thirty minutes later I was on my way back to the airport waiting to fly back to New York.
My head was overflowing because for once it did seem like the sky was the limit in terms of flavors, forms, ingredients and all the combinations thereof. With such a big task at hand, I did what anyone else would do: I got stuck. Days went by and this paralysis-by-possibilities did not subside. Suddenly, I realized that I had to narrow my probing or Id never move forward. I went back to the three main points on that one-page document: people are busy for breakfast, they want a something more hearty and satisfying, and can be grab-and-go or heat-and-eat. Once I looked at the paramaters instead of the possibilities, I was up and running.
Making a list of the three key messages or key objectives for your new product or branding project is a great way to narrow your thinking and focus in on what matters most before you forge ahead. Im not saying that you shouldnt look far and wide to explore new physical, functional, and emotional territories for your brand to live in. Rather, the less you get caught up in infinite choice, the easier it is to explore a range of usable ideas.
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By Lynn Altman

About Dylan Schleicher

Dylan Schleicher has been a part of the 800-CEO-READ claque since 2003. Even though he's stayed on at the company, he has not stayed put. After beginning in shipping & receiving, he joined customer service and accounting before moving into his current, highly elliptical orbit of duties overseeing the ChangeThis and In the Books websites, the company's annual review of books and in-house design. He lives with his wife and two children in the Washington Heights neighborhood on Milwaukee's West Side.