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Mistakes, Observations and Magic

Been up since 7am helping with the PSFK conference. Overall the day went off without a hitch.

I’m sure some of the official bloggers will have lots of in-depth insight. I just want to pull out the three things that I wrote down in my notebook today.

“Computers don’t make mistakes”

That comes courtesy of Laurie Rosenworld who was explaining why she chose to make art and design by hand and glue instead of Illustrator and Photoshop. Laurie does some amazing work with bits and pieces of saved type, photos and other assorted goodies. Everything is rough, but she brings beauty to it. She reminded me that the perfect solution isn’t always the best. Sometimes it’s nice to bring a human element to design (and marketing). (As a side note, Grant McCracken wrote a little about a conversation we had as it relates to Laurie’s work.)

Most of the time your insight’s an observation.

This one comes courtesy of Simon Sinek. It’s a point I’ve thought about in the past, but can’t be reminded of enough. It’s important to dig beneath the trends and find the truths that lay beneath. An observation is easy, anyone can make them: The talent is in a) turning your observations into a larger insight and b) understand the difference between the two. It brings me back to something I wrote about Drew and Renegade before I started working there: “For Neisser’s Renegade Marketing, this means looking for ‘truths’ not ‘trends.’ ‘Trends come and go,’ he says, ‘truths survive. Trends can provide color. Truths, substance.'”

Sure we all know these things, but how often do we remind ourselves to keep going deeper?

Don’t talk to people like they’re adults.

This comes from Mike Byrne of Anomaly who closed up the conference. Being a ‘serious’ adult is far less fun than being an innocent child. So how do we, as marketers, inspire the kind of hoping and dreaming that make up a kid’s every day life?

At first it was hard to tell if Mike was being serious or just taking the piss out of all of us. Turns out it was the former and in the end I think he nailed his point with a Coke commercial of all things:

For just a moment you can’t help but think maybe there is some magic inside the machine . . . Why doesn’t more marketing do that?

March 7, 2007


  • Onika Simon says:

    That’s uncanny! I was there yesterday too and pulled out the exact same headlines. I think these thoughts were the stickiest partly because the speakers themselves were memorable for their outspoken and quirky delivery – but also because these three issues are all about our humanity: the beauty in our errors, the errors in our perceptions and how perceptions can change lives when driven by our most basic emotions.

    Either that or the fact that they all spoke just before much-needed break times, I dunno.

  • jeff says:

    “taking the piss”? did you move to england and not tell anyone? as for the marketing point of treat people like children, its the truest thing imaginable…look at the best ad campaigns out there: cavemen, lizards, little richard…

  • Scott Buchanan says:

    I found it interesting that Simon Sinek’s panel talked at length about the importance of differentiating “insights” from “observations”… but when asked (twice) by the moderator, how one might pull insights from observations, all panelists evaded the question.

    Perhaps they were unwilling to reveal their secret sauce (or method), or perhaps they simply have no idea… that there is no science to insight development; that the ability to uncover an actionable insight is more chance / timing than anything else.

    Can translating observations into insights truly be boiled into a replicable process?

  • Noah Brier says:

    That’s a great question Scott, and probably worth of an entire panel in and of itself (maybe we should do a virtual one).

    Just off the top of my head my answer would be maybe you don’t turn observations into insights at all. They may be different things: Insights being the deeper of the two . . .

    I will definitely need to give it some more thought, though.

  • KG says:

    Thanks for these snapshots of the conference.

    This is the third time this week, in different sources, that I’ve read about the crucial importance of making mistakes.

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