Five of the weirdest places to find brand inspiration

Sir Paul Smith likes to use a pencil and paper because from a "mistake can come an idea". Creative inspiration can come from the weirdest things - marketers should seek out that creative spark in the most unlikely of places, writes Peter Knapp, global creative officer of branding agency Landor Associates.

Nike's "Make It Count" viral
Nike's "Make It Count" viral

Landor’s founder Walter Landor once said: "Products are made in the factory, but brands are created in the mind." This quote illustrates how powerful our impulses and instincts can be and is as relevant today as it was when Walter first used it.  

Despite a plethora of research, statistics and data that informs us what we should be doing to create a memorable brand, some of the best ideas spring into our minds when we’re least expecting them. 

Here’s five examples of some of the more curious sources of brand inspiration:

1. Topshop has referenced pub wallpaper, old photos of "football managers in their sheepkins", plus other photos of the North and 90s grunge for its new season Unique sub-brand collection. According to Topshop, its aim was to capture "authentic Britishness" for the collection; it’s probably the first fashion brand to use old pub wallpaper prints and carpets for its inspiration.

This is a lesson in perceiving things in new ways, detecting patterns, and making connections that others may miss. Topshop has tapped into the national pride and nostalgic images as inspiration for a cutting-edge and fashion-forward new line.

2. Nobby’s Nuts. At Landor, we were looking for an alternative to the sometimes vanilla branding of snacks; to compete in the arena of macho man snacks and battle McCoys head on.  We decided to take our inspiration from the White Van Man and focus upon a barely concealed sense of "blokeism".  Our ultimate inspiration came from paint shops in that most blokes love paint shops, strange but true, a home from home. 

The core pack of Nobby’s Nuts is based on the numbingly simple aesthetic of the "trade pain"' vernacular, reinforced with the ubiquitous knob gag that is typical in most mens’ toilets. A very specific piece of market segmentation and cultural expression.

3. In the US, Richard Montanez had been a janitor in a California Frito-Lay plant for almost 20 years when he was inspired by a message from the company’s president to act like an owner.  While eating a cup of corn spiced with cheese and chiles, he came up with an idea for a new flavour.  He persuaded executives to give it a try, and Flamin’ Hot Cheetos quickly became Frito-Lay’s top-selling snack.

Forget titles, job descriptions and hierarchy - creativity is not a kill set, it’s a mind-set; an orientation that resists habitual thinking and invites courageous exploration.

4. When Nike hired director Casey Neistat to create its latest commercial, Neistat threw out the pre-approved script and took his team on a trip around the world. He filmed their journey and experiences and presented the footage as the ad. Although Nike hadn’t approved this direction, it embraced "Make It Count". The ad became a viral hit with 6m views in three weeks.

Environments that allow freedom to explore, exposure to stimulus and time to reflect will inspire individual and collective creativity - without excessive rules and regulations, siloed thinking and the need to conform.

5. Pablo Picasso
once said: "It took me four years to paint like Raphael, but a lifetime to paint like a child."  Picasso was able to continually reinvent himself by being inspired to "think like a kid". Instead of being overly critical of his own ideas, he freed himself to sketch whatever struck his fancy.  Unlike so many adults who became stifled by convention, Picasso was inspired by his right and will to be free – expressing himself unselfconsciously.

Creativity is often served when we "think like a kid", unfettered by all the reasons something might not work, but inspired by what could be.

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