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Brand ROI: “Cool” Ideas Aren’t Enough When It Comes to Marketing Today


In 2009, before Justin Bieber had been engineered in an Eastern European laboratory, Volkswagen teamed up with creative agency DDB to roll out “The Fun Theory”: a campaign to remind everyone that the best way to change people’s behavior for the better is to make good things fun to do.

As part of the initiative, Volkswagen converted a staircase in Stockholm, Sweden, into working piano keys to encourage people to take the stairs instead of the escalator. DDB’s video of city dwellers using their footsteps to make music was an instant hit. As of today, it’s tallied over 23 million views on YouTube. The concept was fresh, thoughtful, and it goes without saying, cool.

But if we’re being honest, what do piano stairs have to do with Volkswagen?

Don’t get me wrong, the world will always need cool ideas. But we need to complement them with strategy and simplicity. “Creativity is more than just being different,” said the legendary jazz musician Charles Mingus. “Anybody can plan weird; that’s easy. What’s hard is to be as simple as Bach. Making the simple awesomely simple, that’s creativity.”

I tend to believe the most impactful campaigns call for an idea first, and a “pretty picture” second. In that order. No exceptions. We’re not here to create something cool for the sake of being cool. We’re here to create both fit and form — what works and what makes the most sense for our clients’ goals.

To me, that’s a cool idea.

One of the creative efforts I’ve been most proud of at Elasticity came when we were challenged to create awareness for St. Louis’ first-ever arts and culture event mobile app launched by The Regional Arts Commission. To bring the idea to life, we created Team Orange, an enthusiastic, orange-bodysuit-wearing group of local performers and creatives who encouraged people at local arts and culture events to interact with live art on site. Attendees were also led to press a large orange button that read “PRESS FOR ART” in order to activate a team of breakdancers, a musician and even a 3-part orchestra ensemble.

“If you love art experiences, you’ll love the STL Arts app,” Team Orange suggested as they explained how to download and navigate the app.

Yeah, yeah — being a flash in the pan on AdWeek is nice while it lasts. But trading that sexy idea for one that actually drives real ROI in the form of tangible results is almost always in a brand’s best interest, not to mention it can save money. So keep dreaming big and keep dreaming creatively. Just keep in mind that that “cool” doesn’t always cut it.

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