Having one year of planning experience is like being 15 and given the keys to a Ferrari. There’s an adventure under that bonnet, and you’re primed, you understand to the fullest possible extent exactly how awesome that thrill-ride is going to be. But naturally, you have almost no idea how to wield such power and your first slo-mo drift is really a hiccupping sputter round an Asda car park.
There are five crumpled post-its barely clinging to the side of my monitor, craggy missives from me to me. Five ways I no longer get side-tracked. Five ways I no longer write propositions.
Use the most superlatives – if every product made our consumer’s life the “best” “easiest” “fastest” “sexiest” it could be, then technological progress would have levelled out with The Flintstones. Superlatives tend to be lazy and vague.
Jump right in – you’re never going to land the language of your prop first time round. Write it longhand and refine in a rinse, lather, repeat fashion until your heroic propositional David emerges from the verbal marble.
Lob in the kitchen sink – the product might literally be a Swiss Army Knife, but it only does one thing. Being singular in your message is hard, but it’s not up to the consumer to figure out what your message is saying, as soon as there’s doubt they’ll stop paying attent...
“It’s in the execution” – basically an excuse for being vague. No tonality, look and feel, amazing app, or innovative channel selection will matter if there isn’t a singular message being communicated. They’ll help make your argument – but they’re not your point.
Take fucking ages – you can stew, suffer, labour for hours all you want, but as soon as you present it, etched in squid ink on papyrus you made from the reeds in Clapton Pond, someone is going to say “yea but what about...” and it’s straight back to the drawing board. Begin refining as soon as possible.
Ultimately, we’re in the business of magic. You can’t quantify magic without squashing it, there’s no formula, but you can cultivate habits which create the conditions for it to burst forth. Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel has sent shivers of awe through centuries and that’s thanks to his study of anatomy, learning exactly how an elbow or a fingertip doesn’t work, how they don’t act. By qualifying out these dead ends we create the space in which to apply our own unique thoughts, to bring what is uniquely ours to the table and if we’re lucky, some of our own magic.
But until we can be trusted with the Ferrari keys, it’s back to the Asda Car Park Rally with all the other caterwauling junior planners, shaving time off our laps and buffing out the dings – getting faster each time.