Using your Inner Cynic to Weed Out Bad Ideas

Lately, it seems we are constantly surrounded by messages of positivity, mindfulness, gratitude and good vibes. So I want you to pause, take a deep, cleansing breath and repeat a mantra that will give you clarity and focus… bah humbug!

Sound familiar? Don’t get me wrong, optimism and positivity is the fuel that keeps you going through life – but a healthy dose of cynicism is also important.

Cynicism has gotten an understandably bad rap, but listening to your inner cynic can help you screen and vet beliefs, edit plans, and even give you the courage to speak out against bad ideas before they get too far. It helps to keep you grounded, thinking critically and looking out for rocky terrain. Don’t believe me? Then ask yourself if a cynic would have allowed Magnum to think that floral ice cream was the best way to celebrate the empowerment of women.

So put the Kool-Aid down, brew yourself a black coffee and let’s explore how your inner cynic can make you a better communicator.

Finding your inner cynic

This is the easiest step, as any communicator has seen enough to develop an instinct for bad ideas. An inner critic always starts off with a gut feel – an urge to roll your eyes and go “ugh, seriously?”. Of course, as professionals we don’t always say this out loud (this is, after all, a blog post about harnessing your inner cynic) as we don’t want to be viewed as being an outwardly unpleasant or a consistently contrarian person to be around.

However, as professionals, voicing concerns about an idea we think could negatively impact a client isn’t rude – it’s healthy and can be incredibly important. After all, the biggest misconception in the “be positive” movement is that we can’t be positive and creative while being cynical at the same time. The creative process usually involves some form of evaluation and refinement, and that inner cynic can push you to abandon unfeasible ideas and clear the way for new solutions to address an issue.

Editing your inner cynic

Like most other gut feelings, this cynical voice can come from both rational and irrational sources. It’s a culmination of past experiences and industry knowledge, but it can also stem from unconscious bias and faulty reasoning. Our job is to listen to the cynic, but to also question where it comes from – in other words, you have to be cynical about your cynicism.

If that sounds a little too meta, here are a few questions to ask yourself the next time an idea rubs you the wrong way:

  • Have I seen something similar done before? Has that idea failed?
  • If it sounds like something that’s failed before, were there any other factors that led to the failure that we could change this time around?
  • Does this idea contradict something that I believe in? If so, is this belief sacred to me? Why?
  • Does this idea go against something that its target audience believes? If so, can we – and should we – change our target audiences’ belief?
  • Do I think that there is not enough time/resources/skill to implement the idea? What else does this idea need to become reality?

Most times, there is a solid justification for your gut feeling. But sometimes, that cynic speaks from an irrational place and it can hinder you from looking at the idea from all perspectives.

An experience that stuck with me was working with what I felt was an “unpitchable” client. They kept pushing badly designed products, but the client was absolutely convinced they were the bees’ knees. My inner cynic kept pushing back on a lot of their ideas, and most times that gut instinct was validated, as a lot of their products were badly reviewed and killed in a matter of months. After a while, it became second nature to find flaws in and discount whatever new thing they were sending us – but when someone new to the team asked me to pause and take a second look at a new product, I realised there was actually something unique about it. If I didn’t have that someone to remind me to check that inner cynic, we would have missed out on a great opportunity for that client.

Expressing your inner cynic

This is the hardest part – especially for people in an agency role where sometimes pushing back on a client can be complicated. But as communicators and guardians of our clients’ brands, we have a responsibility to tell them when something isn’t sitting well with us, even when it may lead to difficult conversations.

One way to do this is to justify your concerns with examples and data – this moves the conversation away from the realm of feelings and into one of facts. Another way is to come prepared with alternatives. No client enjoys being told they have a problem without being offered a solution. In terms of positioning your pushback, always be conscious about not attacking personal views or beliefs, and instead focusing feedback on solving your clients biggest challenges.

So the next time the urge to roll your eyes hit you when you hear a “bad” idea, take a deep cleansing breath, examine your feelings and harness your inner cynic to help you find the next best solution.

Have a few ideas up your sleeve but need a fresh, “cynical” pair of eyes? We can help : hello@mutant.com.sg

 

Millennial-speak: Let data do the talking

A data-led guide to marketing to millennials

They say we are prone to spending money, careless with personal data, and technology is second nature to us – well, it’s partly true. But it doesn’t mean waving your brand in front of our faces will guarantee you our attention.

Trust me, I’m a millennial and you bet we’re discerning. But I promise you that we are fiercely grounded in authenticity and self-expression. As digital natives (that’s what they call us), our cyber footprints are literally all over the internet.

But remember one thing before marketing to us: Please, get to know us first!

As we (the entitled millennials) are not all the same, you should use insights to tailor kick-ass marketing and PR campaigns to us. Here are 3 sure-fire avenues to get to know us (aka collecting data) and help your brand to zoom in on the ever so critical Gen Y:

Basic Data Analytics

Whether it’s Google Analytics, Facebook or Instagram insights, the basic level of data is easily accessible to all marketers and brands. Studying the data will reveal where online traffic originates, what posts are most popular and, more importantly, will tell you what topics drive the greatest engagement from millennial audiences. So, dive into the data and see where your target audience and millennials connect.

Social Sentiments

Social listening tools like Meltwater can help you track conversations across a variety of online and social media platforms that may not necessarily be owned by you. As the millennial world moves fast, you want to quickly pick up on online conversations and the sentiments surrounding them. Are they positive or negative? Can you use them for trend-jacking?

Third-party Research

Looking at a bigger picture, you want to get research and consultancy firms like Nielsen and Euromonitor involved. With the help of their comprehensive database, you can gain some insights into the millennial pulse.  While the free online samples may not necessarily reveal all that juicy data, they should provide you with an adequate snapshot to point you in the right direction.

Questionnaires

Scalable, easy to conduct and great for getting to know millennials questionnaires can be tailored to suit specific demographics and/or geographics. Considerable effort needs to go into asking the right questions so that collectively the responses will reveal insights that might support your campaign objectives. Using platforms such as Google Forms and SurveyMonkey make it really easy for your business to reach audiences.

Be a Millennial

If you really want to get under our skin (and into our minds), then you should behave like one of us. Get on Reddit, join Facebook and Instagram live events, and watch YouTube videos – don’t forget to read the comments. It’s the most authentic way to connect with us.  I know that millennials have gained quite the reputation for having an inflated sense of entitlement, but once you’re better acquainted with us, you will better understand our needs, concerns and priorities in life.

But just like you too – we agree that personalised treatment never goes out of style. Regardless of the generation, customising your brand’s messaging to your target audience will always be part of the right path.

You want to hear what millennials think about your campaign? Drop us a message at hello@mutant.com.sg.

My company is profitable! Do I still need marketing?

According to a recent report, the success of SMEs is essentially like flipping a coin – there’s an estimated survival rate of 50%. This means that establishing a strong and profitable core business is more crucial than ever before.

Since survival is a major focus for SMEs, investment in other aspects that may not seem to have immediate trackable results on business performance are often highly scrutinised. But even when SMEs manage to survive and find their stride, becoming profitable without the help of marketing, content, public relations or social media, many decide to continue without these things. Why would they need them even if they are profitable? Let’s dive right in.

Marketing

With the view that only large, multinational organisations have dedicated marketing teams, many SMEs outright dismiss the idea of hiring dedicated marketing staff. If SMEs do have a staff member focused on marketing, the scope of that role is usually tied up with additional tasks, such as business development.

Without the attention and focus of a true marketing professional, marketing initiatives usually end up in the form of more traditional activities, such as developing collaterals or organising events, which often do not drive easily trackable business results. A dedicated marketer will be able to identify broader business issues and create solutions to fix them, whether that be an online lead generation, sales team support or employer brand management to help bring in the best talent.

Content

Content is on the radar for many organisations, but often only in the form of a few commissioned articles for the company website. The truth is that content has many more practical uses for a business than most business owners realise. Content can be presented in many ways – think text, infographics and videos – and have the ability to engage potential customers across a wide array of platforms, ranging from the company’s website to social media channels to content-led PR campaigns.  

A singular piece of content, such as a research report, can be reworked into different pieces of satellite content, including infographics, toolkits and short, digestible videos that can be shared on different channels. Lead generation, client relationship management and sales support are all business-focused goals that can leverage content to deliver measurable results.

PR

Crisis management and spin-doctoring are often the first things that come to mind when thinking of public relations, but these functions are usually back of mind when it comes to successful businesses who are focused on growth.

Public relations can do much more than just clean up sticky situations. Good PR will play a key role in stakeholder management, putting the business in the midst of relevant discussions happening in the industry and the media, and positioning key people in the company as thought leaders. Strong PR can boost the visibility and credibility of the business and open new doors for the company in the process.

Social media

If you think that social media is simply a Facebook page for consumer brands to deal with angry posts, think again. Social media can act as a multi-platform ecosystem that can be used to engage with different types of audiences. By using specific targeting, businesses can reach new and relevant customers from literally all around the world.

From customer support and sales to employer branding and community management, every employee can learn to use social media in a way that influences the business, no matter if it’s a B2C and B2B operation. It’s important to establish goals and outline clear roles that each social media platform will play for the business, though; only then can a business truly start to see the benefits of a social media strategy.

Do you want to find out more about what marketing, content, PR and social media can do for your business? Drop us a line at hello@mutant.com.sg