The Power of Little
No doubt with Cannes on the radar we’ll soon see all manner of contenders acknowledged and celebrated as big ideas in the French Rivera sunshine.
But as our industry scurries towards ‘big idea Nirvana’ at Cannes, like a crack addict searching for a new fix, just remember to take a moment and look sideways at the growing force of little ideas who are quietly doing cool shit in extraordinary ways.
"What’s this big haired fool talking about," you might ask?
Humans navigate the world through the lens of something called unified perception. That’s fancy lingo to say we absorb and interact via an unconscious approach. The majority of communication actually happens on a very deep unconscious level we don’t even think about.
For example, once you have learned to ride a bicycle or touch-type, you can do these tasks without being conscious of them in the same way as you had to be when learning them. Studies have also shown that you don’t need to be aware of a stop sign to comply – subliminal perception of a stop signal can be enough to halt someone performing an action.
Likewise, it is why when you eat with a perfectly hand-crafted fork somehow your brain tells you that the food tastes better. Or why some finger swipes on an interface feel perfect and others feel jarring.
These are small unconscious actions we pick up, learn, assign, or transfer to other new interactions we meet as we navigate life.
Designers in environmental, product and car design have long been aware of this thinking and used it to their advantage unlike our sector. Their’s is an industry that picks up on the forces of unified perception. An industry that seeks out and crafts little ideas which then ladder up to a deeper richer human experience for their clients. Subliminal cues guide the unconscious brain and make us feel or respond on a deeper level. The feel of the wood used, the enriched wayfinding, the tiny feel of a perfectly shaped button, the curve that is just right, the micro inflection of sound that feels right, the colour that is the right shade of colour and so on.
Paradoxically human evolution has made us unconsciously more aware without being aware - we now hunt out and expect more subliminal signals whatever the place, channel or medium we interact with.
Now we actively search on an unconscious level for patterns I like to call a ‘narrative of little ideas’. A pattern of micro-interactions that direct you towards a richer and deeper relationship with a brand.
New experimental evidence coming out of Neuroscientists in Germany suggests this unified perception has evolved even faster in the last five years to help us adapt to the increasingly changing and complex circumstances we live in. It seems research shows that the 24/7 barrage of communication we face has rapidly accelerated our human need to feel things rather than be told things.
And surprise - we humans aren’t happy to be just told shit anymore in the new fragmented world. Unfortunately, it seems our industry is still locked into a model where we convince ourselves that telling people stuff is more important than actually enabling stuff.
Think about why Amazon and Google work so well? Or why Booking.com has leapt ahead of its rivals. Why ASOS or Uber have gained so much traction in their sectors. These are brands that have leveraged the power of little ideas but you just aren’t aware of it.
From speed of purchase, to ease of use, to knowing you before you arrive, to tools so you can shop your way and so on – the power of little ideas is growing in force as physical and digital overlap. As online and offline merge. As people now desire to be members of a brand not the audience of one.
Maybe it is just my crazy thinking but I believe that a brand’s modern identity is less about what it says and more about how it interacts. Thousands of little ideas all collectively generating the essence of a brands’ values and DNA.
Yes, the little ideas. Often not sexy. Often not flashy.
Little hidden gems that that you don’t see because they might not be screaming "hey, check me out!”.
The big idea might get all the limelight at Cannes in the next few weeks.
But as a few big ideas get all the attention, don’t forget to look sideways at those little ideas you didn’t see coming. The ones that helped you find that hotel, get that taxi, get that plane, buy that shit you wanted and get you to Cannes in the first place. The ones helping to keep brands from becoming irrelevant. The ones keeping share prices high and CMOs in their jobs.
At Cannes, I will raise a cheer for the big ideas with friends and colleagues and say congrats but I will also be looking sideways and raising a glass to the rise of the little quiet ones.