Building on yesterday's post on branding warning signals, in the Brainzooming world view, creativity and creative exploration are integral to developing successful strategy. Yet in the last few years, I've run across many marketers gravitating toward incredibly literal - not lateral - thinking.  This may reflect a crappy economy and job market where people want to follow exactly what they're told or pick the safest path to minimize the perceived risk of being fired for pushing beyond the status quo or implementing a strategy with some room for maneuver (and potential risk) in it.

The real downsides to literal thinking arise in ho-hum strategies and uninspired customers.  It's my firm belief literal thinking also results in inferior financial performance. Outside of direct marketing strategies, however, it can be tough to demonstrate the financial downside of play-it-safe marketing.

There's been a recent example on TV though where, at least hypothetically, it's possible to speculate on the financial impact of less literal and more creatively strategic thinking. There's just one caveat: I have no idea whether my imagined back-story really happened or not, and that uncertainty is why I don't do a lot of marketing case studies on Brainzooming. Even though it's hypothetical, the strategic decision scenario is completely accurate, because I've seen too many times where unfortunately it didn't play out as successfully.

Kentucky Fried Chicken is celebrating its 70th anniversary with a promotional discount offer. A literally-oriented marketer (if they're at least somewhat strategic), would be thinking about, "What can we do with 70 in a promotion?" 70 pieces of chicken? 70% discount? 70 cents off? None of those really work.

Another number important to KFC is eleven - the number of herbs and spices in its original recipe. Less literal than 70 in the context of this offer, it's still a strategically and creatively important number for the brand. A literal marketer might get to 11 pieces for $11 because it's direct and straight-forward. Yet, that's not the ultimate offer. Instead, it's 11 pieces of chicken for $11.99. Sure 99 might not be connected to the KFC brand. A strategic, non-literal marketer, however, wouldn't be stopped by that because adding the 99 cents to the price increases revenue per item by 9%

The real lesson in this hypothetical case study is the right mix of strategic and creative thinking on what's important to the brand will generate more benefits than the prevalent, "don't over think, just act" mentality. In this case, it translates to 9% greater revenue per purchase. That's a great strategic benefit and a strong performance differential in a fear-filled, crappy economy!   - Mike Brown

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