The best planners demonstrate what Daniel Pink coined “A Whole New Mind”; they pull together seemingly disparate ideas to reveal something new and imminently useful. Sure, planners still turn to old standbys like syndicated research, but the most inspiring and creative ones comb all sorts of digital sources for insights. (On a separate note: can we finally please kill focus groups? That methodology is sooo over…)
The vast amounts of user generated content on the web provide easy entry into the personal lives, interests and values of various people. Sites like Flickr and YouTube hold a wealth of visual information, much of it within innocuous background detail, letting us inspect homes, offices, desks–even purses. Since few people activate their security settings, Facebook and MySpace provide detailed troves of personal opinions, such as which TV shows they like, and which they claim to be ‘fans’ of. Comb www.search.twitter.com and you quickly learn who mentions you, plus what else they are twittering about, who they follow, and in turn, who those people follow. Even something like Pandora can be illuminating: anyone who has ever shared a dorm room knows musical tastes reveal inordinate amounts of deeply personal information.
Handled clumsily, this is all merely deck-clogging data. Considered creatively however, an insightful planner can extrapolate meaningful human truths to shore up one very critical aspect of every brand story: the context. When planners draw fresh personal insights from these unfiltered sources, they guide creatives and insure the brand stories they craft will be deeply relevant and meaningful to their audiences…that they will gibe harmoniously with their lives.
After all, while most people like stories, everybody loves stories about themselves.