In a recent speech, business tycoon Anand Mahindra said that it is the “age of entrepreneurship” in India and we must all embrace it. I could not agree more. Just spend a few hours in any Starbucks in Mumbai or Bengaluru and you will realise that you are surrounded by conversations of business plans, prototype developments and investment proposals; in other words — ideas just waiting to happen. Young India is more restless, ambitious and creative than it has ever been. Old India is not far behind with even 100 year-old giant companies acting like new entrepreneurs and reinventing themselves.
So how can brands and creative agencies embrace this new era? Simply by being entrepreneurs ourselves! By thinking beyond communication of ideas that will fill gaps, solve problems and enhance lives.
Big talk, small action
While words like ‘innovation’ and ‘entrepreneurship’ sound like a lot of big talk when you are facing fickle clients and reducing industry-wide remuneration, it is possible to get there with one small action at a time. Richard Branson says that his secret weapon in business is his small notebook. He carries it everywhere with him and makes notes of every interesting thing that he sees or thinks.
Similarly, we must remember that innovation can happen with small but meaningful steps. We are not here to hurl the rule book out the window. We understand the realities of business and that every brand manager comes with KRAs. That’s why we abide by granular changes that make all the difference — for example, we added a ‘what if’ section at the end of our brief format. This section compels us to think outside the brief and ideate on how we can use the client’s marketing problem as an opportunity to create something that people will truly care about. It turns us into entrepreneurs and the client’s business into our own start-up. Then, we aren’t afraid of asking uncomfortable questions about revenues, market gaps, quality control, etc.
Through this process we often discover an opportunity for innovation — the one that’s hiding in plain sight amidst the humdrum conversation of 30-second TV spots and quarterly marketing calendars. This could be a new product idea, a new digital platform, a new marketing channel or creating content. In the last three years, this process has helped us with all our clients – be it rejuvenating a 100-year old apparel major, launching a budget whisky with nothing but a book or getting an automobile behemoth to start funding innovative ideas.
Everyone needs to know about ownership
Entrepreneurs are funny creatures. Their brains are wired to sniff out areas of concern, conjure bizarre solutions and generally surprise everyone around them. Their passion reaches levels of obsession and once they see a project as their ‘baby’ they will go to any lengths to make it successful. But we like these funny creatures, which is why we believe agencies must work hard to create entrepreneurs around them.
It starts with treating employees like entrepreneurs — giving them ownership of their work and the freedom to make mistakes. It could be a small move like taking job titles off our business cards or a large decision like a share of success. Furthermore, it is also important to think of all clients as entrepreneurs. Let them co-own and co-create every idea, with as much child-like enthusiasm as possible. We also go a step ahead, invite them to transparently review their account structure and advise us on how best to use our resources on their brands.
Most importantly, agencies and brands should strive to create entrepreneurs out of their consumers. Marketers often spend too much time underestimating customers or talking at them. Every human has an entrepreneurial instinct — that passionate, creative and slightly crazy personality, which people hide or forget amidst a busy routine. We use our ideas to tap into that instinct. To make consumers ‘act’ and through these acts let them live the life that they really want to live. When a consumer sees your brand as an ally in their cause and wants to innovate along with you, you have earned your stripes.
Keep the craziness alive
With a growing bouquet of clients and healthy employee strength, it sometimes gets quite easy to lose the entrepreneurial side. We have seen that happen time and again around, particularly with brands. But it is important to keep that craziness alive: to keep your heart as invested as your brain; to have sleepless nights and nervous energy; to know that what you do can’t be ordinary; because only then can you truly make a difference.
The author is founder and chief creative officer, Famous Innovations