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Discovery is a Question

Discovery isn’t just about documentation. Discovery is a question. It’s a series of almost endless questions that arrive at answers when the slides are over, and the stories begin.

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This is a true story. A guy is sitting on the beach in the Bahamas. Let’s call him Jim. There’s an umbrella stuck in the sand behind him and another in the drink in his hand but he’s still not happy. Why? He’s itching. Bugs are bothering him. Little gnats, or fleas or something. “Is this what they mean by all-inclusive resort” he wonders. 

Here’s the catch: Jim was in this very same spot yesterday and there were no bugs, not a one. “Actually,” he thinks to himself, “this can’t be the right spot. I was down the beach 50 feet by a shack.” He picks up his towel, sunscreen, book, and umbrella drink and finds yesterday’s spot in front of the shack. Relief! No more bugs.  Jim is happy again. The end.

Well, that’s not quite the end, because Jim is a science geek and now his little grey cells have something to nibble on. “What happened to all the bugs? What’s the deal with that shack?” So when the cabana boy comes to check the status of his drink, he asks him about the old shack. Jim learns that a local rum distillery stores their discarded wood barrels there.

At the end of the week, Jim heads back to his midwestern suburban home with his Research and Development job. But now he’s got a hundred flea-fueled questions so his perfect idea of a souvenir is to take a sample-cut from a couple of empty old rum barrels. Jim wants answers. 

He takes those samples into his lab and starts exploring in earnest. After numerous trips down blind alleys, Jim discovers why the fleas stayed away from that brightly painted rum shack. Some biological process in the aging, rum-drenched wood creates a unique molecule that fleas want nothing to do with. And from there, a new product is born.

I listened to that story over a beige box lunch, in between an endless stream of download meetings. I was a creative director getting to know a new client. These new clients had PowerPoint decks that made the Oxford Dictionary look like a pamphlet. And after three days my notebook was filled with their business plans, product pipelines, and mission statements. But scribbled in the margins was the itch story and other tales of exploits, eurekas, and nightmares from lab nerds, product geeks, and sales trainees — The stories I heard in all the in-between moments. I don’t know if the itch story is fact or fable but it was part of a pattern of passion. 

You feel the difference when someone is passionate about something. Passion isn’t documented, it's shared. There is focused energy that no bar chart could muster. You feel their energy, their passion. And that is the very spot where we found that brand's voice. 

My job is to discover what makes a company passionate and leverage that story into a consumer experience that could turn start-ups nto serious contenders. Discovery isn’t just about documentation. Discovery is a question. It’s a series of almost endless questions that arrive at answers when the slides are over, and the stories begin.

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Our client’s story began with a shack and led to the first of two products they eventually brought to the marketplace. That first product, born on the beach in the Bahamas, faced competitors with through-the-roof brand recognition and products that were uniformly viewed as outstanding, highly effective, with multiple avenues to market. The second had a tiny end-user market and was ridiculed as one of the 10 worst products of the year by CNN. Really. 

To make matters worse, our client had a limited marketing budget, no established sales channel or sales team, and hadn’t even settled on a company name yet. What they did have was passion. Passion is where the brand found its expression. The real work behind building the creative ecosystem that gave voice to that brand was discovery. Our process was informed and guided by bar charts and mission statements, but its true power lied in uncovering passion. You might not be able to draw a line between the itch on the beach and the lobby design of their new offices, the exhibits at their first trade show, or the headline in the company’s first print ad, but I could. Just five years after that beige box lunch, our client had hundreds of millions in sales. Really. 

If the partner you’re considering to craft your brand experience has all the answers on day one, keep looking. The real questions haven’t even been asked yet.

At Dimensional Innovations, one of our defining characteristics is curiosity. It’s what drives our Discovery process. We start with questions, not solutions. A 2-day Discovery Session allows us to hear your stories, fully immerse ourselves in your world and learn all we possibly can about your vision, goals, and requirements. In turn, you’ll walk away understanding us better, your DI team, our capabilities, and what to expect as the project moves forward. This deep dive and dialog is critical to creating unique and authentic solutions. It’s how we start each journey and it’s why we consistently arrive at remarkable brand experiences.

Nigel Morley

Nigel Morley

Creative Director

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