Five Steps to Ideas that Stick. Or, How to Turn Useless Knowledge into Valentine’s Day Fun

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Italian economist Vilfredo Pareto is credited for this idea about ideas: that they are nothing more than new combinations of old elements. It’s the foundation of the classic advertising book, A Technique for Producing Ideas by James Webb Young. It’s also where you might start explaining this year’s Flint Group valentine.

Client valentines have been an annual tradition at Flint Group for as long as most of us can remember. There aren’t many rules to follow, except that they’re usually edible, and they’re always fun. This year, we picked some really good caramel for clients to enjoy.

And since we are in the business of coming up with ideas and strategies for our clients, we decided to include an idea with each caramel in the box. To tackle this light-hearted problem, I turned to the stern visage of a man who has been dead since 1973: the aforementioned Advertising-Hall-of-Famer, James Webb Young! You can read his entire book over a lunch hour, but here is a quick run-through of Young’s time-tested technique, using our valentines as an example.

1. Get the raw materials.

What’s the problem in front of you? And what can your store of general knowledge add to the idea?

In this case, here were my raw materials:

  1. We were giving away caramel.
  2. Caramel is sticky and chewy.
  3. Each piece of candy has a custom label.
  4. Most people would receive this at work, where they have meetings and such.
  5. I sure would like to appear smarter than I actually am in meetings.

2. Work the materials in your mind.

Some of the raw materials are related. Some of them are don’t seem like they are. Trust me, they’re related – because you are going to make ‘em related, whether they like it or not. So start asking questions, connecting dots and drawing lines.

How could a sticky, chewy candy be relevant to the workplace, where people have meetings and such, and where I would like to appear smarter than I actually am?

Well, I might want to pass these caramels out to everyone at my next meeting – and for a brief moment, I would know how it feels to be more the most articulate guy in the room (relative to everyone else with a caramel in their mouth).

Well, that was ridiculous. Now I’ve got nothing.

3. Let it rest.

This is the time to work on something else, or maybe grab some coffee. Just stop thinking about this.

4. Write something down.

Everyone likes to feel smart. Maybe that weird caramel-at-the-meeting scenario is a starting point.

  1. [inlinetweet prefix=”” tweeter=”” suffix=”~ via @FlintGroup #MyStickyIdea”]Pass caramel out at your next meeting, and be the most articulate person in the room.[/inlinetweet]

Now what?

5. Shape the idea.

That idea for the meeting, silly as it was, might enhance your enjoyment of the caramel. Hey! Flint Group is agency that comes up with ideas. Ideas that stick around for a while … kind of like … caramel.

What else could you do with this stuff?

  1. [inlinetweet prefix=”null” tweeter=”null” suffix=”~ via @FlintGroup #MyStickyIdea”]Did you run out of post-it notes? Caramel is a natural adhesive.[/inlinetweet]
  2. [inlinetweet prefix=”” tweeter=”” suffix=”~ via @FlintGroup #MyStickyIdea”]Wrap a little bit of caramel around your earbuds for a perfect fit.[/inlinetweet]
  3. [inlinetweet prefix=”” tweeter=”” suffix=”~ via @FlintGroup #MyStickyIdea”]Caramel bribes are an easy way to delegate your least-favorite responsibilities.[/inlinetweet]
  4. [inlinetweet prefix=”” tweeter=”” suffix=”~ via @FlintGroup #MyStickyIdea”]Stuck in a dull meeting? Eat this caramel and pretend you pulled a crown or filling.[/inlinetweet]
  5. [inlinetweet prefix=”” tweeter=”” suffix=”~ via @FlintGroup #MyStickyIdea”]Stick a pen into a caramel. Now you’re a big shot with a fancy desk set.[/inlinetweet]

Sticky Pen Holder

  1. [inlinetweet prefix=”” tweeter=”” suffix=”~ via @FlintGroup #MyStickyIdea”]Too busy to buy sweets for your sweetheart? Regift![/inlinetweet]
  2. [inlinetweet prefix=”” tweeter=”” suffix=”~ via @FlintGroup #MyStickyIdea”]Get a mullet. Now keep a caramel, matches and some spare wire handy at all times, MacGyver.[/inlinetweet]
  3. [inlinetweet prefix=”” tweeter=”” suffix=”~ via @FlintGroup #MyStickyIdea”]Want to work without interruption? Apply caramel to your face for a quick disguise.[/inlinetweet]
  4. [inlinetweet prefix=”” tweeter=”” suffix=”~ via @FlintGroup #MyStickyIdea”]Eat them all yourself.[/inlinetweet]

See what happened? An idea usually stimulates more ideas. Kind of cool, right? Enjoy those valentines, clients. We love working with you. Share your own ideas online, and be sure to tag them with #MyStickyIdea.

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Phil Hunt

The process of copywriting is a kind of a controlled, focused daydream. Phil used to get in trouble for daydreaming in class, so being allowed to do it while paying the bills is one of life's sweet victories. (Take that, 3rd grade teacher!) When you get down to it, Phil just loves to write. He enjoys hearing the music in a finely crafted sentence and making the words do what you want them to do. (What do you want your words to do?) Over more than 20 years, Phil has worked for big global brands, small startups, and just about everything in between. He has a special affection for loud, left-of-the-dial music like Ramones, Guided By Voices, Cheater Slicks, Teengenerate, etc. Thrash metal, like Slayer or Exodus, is great music to write to when concentration is a must.

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