Look Inside the Problem for a Remarkable Solution. Welcome to 3D Thinking.
Image credit: Fox News
Sometimes, the best way to find a solution is simply to redefine the problem. Start by looking at it inside-out. Here’s an example:
A Mississippi chapter of the Ku Klux Klan (KKK) decided it wanted to raise awareness for their local group. The chapter came up with an idea to “Adopt-a-Highway.” This program provided them the opportunity to have their name on a sign for a nominal fee. All the KKK had to do was make sure the area along the road was free of trash. Of course, they wanted to maximize their investment, so they put their name right in the middle of a predominately African American part of town.
Well, obviously, the people who lived there didn’t want this racist group thumbing their logo in their face, so they hired a lawyer and went to court to try stopping the KKK from brazenly displaying their name on the side of the road.
But, the KKK was up for the challenge. They hired a high-priced lawyer, who paraded around in a white linen suit like a proud peacock. The KKK won the first legal battle. But, the local politicians got involved and took it up through the court system. Again, the KKK prevailed, based on their freedom of speech rights.
But then something happened. A young clerk in the local congressman’s office looked at the problem differently. And the same day the KKK put their sign up, the town changed the name of the road to the “Rosa Parks Thruway,” effectively flipping the problem into a radically positive result.
You see, for the duration of their year-long contract with the state, the KKK was responsible for cleaning up the garbage along the thruway named after the famed civil rights activist. This is an example of 3D thinking – where a problem is not just solved but redirected to a point of advantage. Like a punch, the best way to absorb the blow is to go with it, instead of deliberately fighting its impact. It’s a good way to go about solving problems that seem unanswerable head on.
Of course, this type of thinking can be applied to brand communications. For example, while creating a retail ad with an amazing price offer, the client’s legal department insisted on including an inordinate number of legal disclaimers accompanied by asterisks. We knew if the low-price offer was steeped in so much legalese, the consumer would question its veracity. Yes, consumers have keen bullshit detectors. If we did as the legal department asked without pushing ourselves, the message would instantly lose credibility with the consumer, and therefore not provide the results the Marketing Director needed. So, we took what we had and instead of fighting against it, we used it, and applied 3D thinking. The main visual became what can be termed “a giant asterisk.” The headline next to the asterisk read “Note: The offer in this ad is so good our lawyers insisted on writing it.”
In essence, we turned the problem inside out and created a positive message with assets that would have condemned it to the scrap heap.
The legal department was not a fan of the ad, but the legal disclaimers they asked for were included, protecting the company and justifying the high thread counts in the lawyer’s suits. Most importantly, the target audience was drawn in by the message and made the cash registers sing, which put a smile of relief on the face of our anxious client.
This little promotional ad moved a ton of products, and a credibility problem like a legal disclaimer entered the “3D Thinking Hall of Fame” by becoming a huge win.
We’d love to hear your stories about redirecting staunch problems into brilliant solutions. If you do, a "3D Thinking Award" may be waiting for you.