Straws, Scraps and Intuition

One of my favourite quotes from the great Jeremy Bullmore goes as follows: “People build brands the way birds build nests. Through the straws and scraps they chance upon.” It’s a wonderful summation of how it’s people who build brands – and why all channels, all the straws and scraps have to work together, to fit together to build the whole.

There’s a lesson too for how we work.

This coming week sees the annual asi video and audio audience measurement conference, this year virtual, of course and consequently attracting a wider audience than usual.

The asi event has been going for nigh on 30 years. It’s a coming together of those who measure audiences, those who care about the techniques and the results that emerge from different variations.

Audience measurement along with data and an understanding of a client’s business, provide the raw materials but those alone aren’t sufficient to create a plan.

For that you need intuition, and a degree of integrity in how you apply it.

This is something we often forget in a world of optimisers, spreadsheets, and the latest shiny tool.

Intuition in the media world as in most others comes with experience, with an innate understanding built over time of how different channels work, how they fit together, how they combine to create a campaign.

There’s no single course teaching ‘intuition’ or ‘experience’, but there are events where you can learn where to find and how to use the straws and the scraps. Over time, the more you learn, the more valuable you become. But you have to serve your time.

Some learn quicker than others, some develop their skills further, some become expert at recognising it in others.

As Steve Jobs once said: “Creativity is just connecting things. When you ask creative people how they did something, they feel a little guilty because they didn’t really do it, they just saw something.”

It’s the same with great planners. They put in the hours, they spend ages on the data and the research, then they ‘just see something’.

I’ve always maintained that you can tell you’re in the presence of serious talent when your reaction to some insight is ‘Well yes, duh, of course.’ But at the same time you know you would never in a million years have come up with that thought.

As a child I used to enjoy ice galas. My favourite bit was the guy who came on, flailed around, almost fell dozens of times, knocked everything over, then somehow managed to get off without injuring himself and others.

I was told he was the best skater. He had to be brilliant to be that apparently bad.

He’d learnt his craft, he’d earned the right to showcase his skills in his own way.

We are in severe danger of believing in the power of the shortcut, and of letting machines replace craft skills.

Learn where to find the straw and the scraps; without them there’s no nest.

  1. Great piece Brian.

  2. Thank you!

  3. The great Jeremy Bullmore indeed. Reading him – and learning from His acolytes at J. Walter Thompson – made me a better thinker and a prouder man. Very good piece, Brian.

  4. Thanks Jim – yes I agree, we can all learn a huge amount from JB.

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