Like a lot of people in this room, I was in a band in high school and college. That’s me on the right in the red suede-leather pants, in front of the Marshall stack. Although we clearly weren’t playing jazz back then, the kind of music we played was very improvisational…
Which leads me to my first lesson that I’m going to share today.
Jazz (and improvisational music) has taught me to be a stubborn optimist. It taught me to approach situations always knowing that there is a solution.
Fast forward a bit to now.
I own an agency called THIS IS RED, and I am responsible for Creative and Strategy for the agency. We work with a lot of great clients, from many verticals, from all over the globe. You may recognize some of the logos. We also make a lot of really smart and fun stuff from mobile apps to social apps, websites, videos, and on and on.
But it doesn’t really matter what things we end up doing, we are really just solving problems.
Whether you are a start-up, the biggest brand on the planet or mother Russia, it is the same fundamental approach. …before all the doing comes thinking
When we are solving problems for our clients we start off with some fairly obvious questions, like… What are we trying to achieve?
Sometimes we are trying to make Moms and Wall Street better informed about Heinz’s global story. Sometimes we are trying to build a Facebook & Pinterest audience for an amazing Italian Sparkling wine brand. Sometimes we are creating a visualization of the future of Mom and Pop stores in Latin America.
The next question we ask is: What forces are in play? How do all of the pieces interrelate and influence one another within the context of the whole?
A very important part of seeing the big picture is understanding context. For one of the Coca-Cola projects we worked on we were helping to visualize the future of Mom & Pop stores in Latin America.
One of the first parts of the project was to go to Mexico City and visit the actual stores-interviewing the owners and their patrons, observing different shopping patterns, all to understand the context so we could formulate meaningful insights.
Then as we are transitioning from thinking to doing what we really want to focus on is to make things better .
Only then do we start doing things
It is important to remember that the things we create don’t fall from the sky perfectly formed-we start small and iterate. We work in a lo-fi format to mitigate the risk and so we can fail faster. Failing faster will lead you to the best path forward more quickly as long as you are keeping the bigger picture in mind your failures will still move you forward.
One of the big lessons we have learned is that when you only look at individual problems, you only solve individual problems and you end up generating incremental value.
But, when you look at problems holistically and solve problems within the context of the big picture you end up with holistic solutions that can generate massive value
So, how does this approach work when jazz is the client?
We’ve been working with the Jazz Forward Coalition on a couple projects and I wanted to show you a quick snapshot of a holistic solution as it applies to jazz.
We of course start the same way.
The objective on this particular project is to increase the volume of ticket sales in U.S. Jazz venues sustainably. Observing the different players and components in the big picture, conducting research, and listening to all parties. We found that to achieve this objective we needed a trade and a consumer approach. Fixing only a piece doesn’t get us where we needed to go.
Obviously to increase ticket sales we need to augment the existing jazz audience, and without proper tools on the presenter side to connect to the additional audience the system could break down. On the consumer side the research has given us the insight that there is a group of consumers we call “Jazz friendlies” who are looking for anesthetic development through Jazz, but aren’t sure where to begin. And that part of the solution is a sort of “Jazz Concierge” app that helps them find a show that is right for them. On the trade side we provide the tools to capture and mine data and best practices across a network of presenters helping the whole system grow.
This is one of the things that we’ve been doing to move jazz forward using a holistic approach.
The last lesson that I will share with you is one we learned working with very large organizations. It is a way of thinking that allows you to approach huge seemingly intractable challenges.
Q: How do you eat an elephant?
A: One bite at a time.
The best way to do something big is to start small.
So do one thing this year to move jazz forward, and if we all do just one thing, we can make a big impact.