Restrictions are good.
I used to not like limitations. I preferred open-ended uninhibited idea generation where any idea had validity and possibility. But I have grown to appreciate restriction.
Restrictions push us to think with more focus by placing a frame around our ideas. That frame can be a limited time-frame or a physically limited space within which our idea will be communicated.
The other day I set myself a restrictive challenge. I had to come up with a new tagline for our company with the limit of only two words. And two short words at that.
So I asked myself this question:
“If I only had two words to communicate our value and purpose as a company, what would I say?
We’re just about to complete a company re-brand at The Learning Community. Well, kind of. We really didn’t have a brand approach, a logo, or even a website. We basically traded for 10 years on the back of recommendations. But that’s a story for another time.
At first the restriction made me doubt I could come up with something relevant. I initially thought I would be compromising an opportunity to tell people what we were about. But I wanted to give it a go.
So I had just two short words to tell the world about our purpose and value. I always think better on paper so I grabbed my old faithful Moleskin notebook and headed to my local cafe.
I started by writing our value proposition. You know that statement you write to sum up the real value you offer. This is the difference between your formal and core product. The formal product is the actual product or service you provide. Like “we build houses”. The core product is the benefit, the value your product or service offers. Like “we build contexts for life”. The formal product is bricks and mortar, the core product is providing a context for a certain type of lifestyle.
Ok so I was clear on that. I wrote down our formal and core product and shaped that into a value proposition. Then I thought about the problems we wanted to solve for people and formed that into an elevator pitch to push me into communicating succinctly.
I was now ready to brainstorm two-word taglines. I wrote and wrote. Ordered another coffee then wrote some more. I paid the bill and took a walk. Halfway through the walk I had a lightbulb moment. I sat on a park-bench and wrote some more. I walked again and let it percolate. This was just as hard as I had thought. But I was enjoying the challenge of restriction.
Now taglines are usually one of three things.
- A descriptor - ‘The ultimate driving machine’ (BMW)
- A call to action - ‘Let’s Motor’ (Mini)
- A value proposition - ‘Gives You Wings’ (Red Bull)
I wanted our tagline to be a customer facing value statement. Another restriction.
I was getting nowhere, well at least that’s how it felt. So I went home. I walked in the door said hello to my wife and sat down to play with the children. I didn’t last a minute. I had it. It came to me in an instant and I knew it was the one.
I jumped up, sat at my desk and wrote, “Get Smart”. If I had only two words to communicate our value and purpose that would be it, “Get Smart.”
It was both a value statement and a call to action at the same time. Perfect. Now all I had to do was convince my business partners.
Thankfully they loved it too. I was relieved and thankful I persisted with my two word restriction.
Why ‘Get Smart’?
Let me explain by starting with our elevator pitch. Ok so imagine we’re in an elevator, I get in, turn to you with an outstretched hand and goofy grin and say…. ha, can you imagine. I’ve never given an elevator pitch in an elevator. Too weird. Anyway here it is.
“You know how its hard to be effective in today’s competitive market? We help our clients get smart, increase their capacity and find opportunities to advance their cause.”
Our value proposition is a little shorter
“Get smart and advance your cause.”
So our key message is essentially to “Get Smart” in Branding and Marketing, Professional Development and Organisational Effectiveness.
So why these three areas? I’ll save that for another time.
Thanks to the creative people at The Distillery, this is what it looks like designed.
Let me know if you need any help with generating your own brand name, tagline, campaign approach, or any other marketing related activity.
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