Imitation is the greatest form of flattery, right?
As content marketers, you should constantly be looking for ways to translate other ideas you see into your market by any means necessary.
So, how do you do that? Let’s first find a great idea.
Step 1: Find a Great Idea
Grab a pen or pencil and try to draw a bicycle entirely from memory.
Can you do it?
In 2009, the amazing Gianluca Gimini shoved pens and paper into the hands of friends and strangers and ask them to draw a bicycle from memory.
Then he decided to 3D render those sketches as if they were real bicycles. Some had extra bars sticking out of the back. Others would probably never hold up to a morning commute.
His takeaway was show that human beings are all capable of being designers. He collects and displays them all in what he calls his Velocipedia.
If you have time to peruse the whole work, it’s truly inspiring.
My initial take-away, however, was that I couldn’t remember how to draw a bicycle to save my life. And I ride one every morning to work!
Fast forward to 2017.
One of Signs.com’s top pieces, I discovered, with over 600 LRDs, was their post/study called Branded in Memory. They took 150+ people and had them draw 10 popular logos from memory. They then compared the drawings in an in depth analysis.
The piece then analyzes everything from the colors used to the number of people who added a crown to the Burger King logo (21% did).
It is essentially the same concept as Gimini’s Velocipedia. But it is done in a completely different industry and the focus of the piece is more relevant to the Signs.com brand and product offering (logos instead of bikes).
There’s even an interactive quiz at the end giving this endless reasons and opportunities to share.
I’m not even sure the folks behind Signs.com content saw the Velocipedia.
But, let’s imagine if they did and walk through how you can reappropriate amazing ideas like this for your industry.
Step 2 : Determine What You Like About the Idea
The important first step to hijack an idea for your industry is first stepping back and appreciating it.
First you need to break it down to what it is that appeals to you. Maybe it’s the design, maybe it’s way they gathered the data, maybe it’s a bunch of things. (Rarely is there a great piece of content that has just one redeeming quality.)
To determine what I like, I mentally I check off if the content is doing the following:
1. Providing utility
2. Putting something into perspective for me
3. Changing/altering my perspective about something
Usually every piece of great content does two, if not all of those things in a single piece.
Step 3 : Write Out Everything You Like
Now write out everything you like about that piece of content.
This way, when it comes to evaluating it later, you can determine what is doable for you and what is just a luxury of an artist having too much time on their hands and/or a company having too much money to burn.
This will also help you decide if and how you can fit it into your industry.
What does Gimini’s piece do for me?
- It made me realize I wasn’t alone in not knowing how to draw a bike. By showing me other people’s results, he helped put the content into perspective.
- By creating 3D models, Gimini changed my perspective about these drawings, showing me that he believed that “everyone, regardless his age and job, can come up with extraordinary, wild, new and at times brilliant inventions.
- It also changed my perspective by showing me that even though I ride a bike everyday to work, I remember far less than I thought.
- Lastly, there is a tiny nugget hidden in there that also put the results into perspective by comparing them on a grander scale. It’s a tiny section where he analyzes the data a bit:
“Nearly 90% of drawings in which the chain is attached to the front wheel (or both to the front and the rear) were made by females. On the other hand, while men generally tend to place the chain correctly, they are more keen to over-complicate the frame when they realize they are not drawing it correctly.”
(More on this to come.)
Step 4: Determine Why the Idea is Successful
This will help you figure out why it works on the simplest level.
Here is Gimini’s idea broken down using the S.U.C.C.E.S. model:
- Simple: It was a simple concept. Bikes are everywhere. Try to draw one right now. I bet you can’t.
- Unexpected: I didn’t expect so many people to be bad at drawing bikes.
- Concrete: By forcing people to draw from memory and also by creating 3D models of these memories, Gimini created concrete versions of abstract things.
- Credible: Because Gimini is a great artist, it makes the 3D renderings all that more believable.
- Emotion: The thought that even a crappy sketch of a bike could be made into an amazing work of art that could lead to innovations in design is inspiring enough to make me want to consider a career change.
- Stories: For me the story is that memory is an amazing thing. Even something as everyday as a bicycle can be distorted in your own mind. The takeaway for Gimini is a bit more optimistic about the artistic powers inside of everyone.
Step 5 : Break It Down Into More Basic Ideas
Now that you know what you like and why it works, boil it down to some basic ideas to work off of. Here are three ideas I’ve come up with:
- Show that everyone can be a expert/innovator/artist
- Show how people’s memory can be different
- Create 3D models of drawings that people do
I’m not saying you need to run every content idea through a maze of rubrics. You can get to those basic ideas however you like. But, running them through a rubric like the S.U.C.C.E.S. model will help validate those ideas so that you know they work and more importantly why they work.
The more insights you can extrapolate from pieces, the more successful you will become.
Step 6: Translate These Basic Ideas Into Your Industry
To get some ideas for replicating this in your industry, take your skeleton ideas from the previous step and turn them into questions:
- How can you show that everyone can be an expert/artist/innovator in your field?
- Can you relay the takeaway in your industry that people’s memory can be different?
- Can you get drawings from people and create 3D models of them?
Obviously Signs.com’s piece fits the second bullet of showing that people’s memory can be different.
A WORD OF WARNING – Make sure your company is a fit for this new content piece. It coincides very much with the C in the S.U.C.C.E.S. method.
If you are not a credible player in the field, you will have a very hard time trying to get links and shares.
Signs.com is an expert in signage. They replicate logos and marketing messages for customers. So, an obvious port for them with this idea would be to shift the focus from bikes to logos.
If Signs.com tried to replicate this study doing bikes, it simply wouldn’t work. There would be no connection to the brand.
Step 7: Put Your Own Spin On It
This is the last step, but the most important one to understand. We aren’t out to steal work. If you are, you won’t last long in this game.
Artists don’t copy the Mona Lisa stroke for stroke and try to pass theirs off as a master work. People can spot a phony from a mile away on the internet.
What we do is pay respect to the original creator by putting our own spin on the original idea. That is how all innovation works.
In 1979, Steve Jobs was invited to see Xerox’s Alto computer. It was born out of Xerox’s innovation lab called PARC.
When you see at the Alto computer and the first Macintosh, it’s not hard to see where Jobs got the idea for the graphical interface. It was a total hijack of one Steve Jobs saw that Xerox had made years before. But, instead of copying it exactly, he put his twist on it.
He improved things he saw needed improving and made it more user friendly.
The Signs.com Twist
Signs.com put a whole new twist on the idea not only by changing the industry studied, but expanding the analysis. They built on those few sentences of analysis that Gimini did (mentioned above) and using that as the focus of their piece.
They went all in on analyzing the results of their study with great little fun facts like only 20 percent of people can draw the Apple logo correctly. (Sorry Steve.)
They got into the nitty gritty details like colors used and pieces of logos missing (or errantly added.) These types of data takeaways that they included actually help make it easier for a journalist covering your piece to grab a bite-size headline – thus making it easier for you to get links.
Then, to help add perspective, they superimposed these user-drawn logos onto shirts and other objects.
Step 8: Can You Encourage Sharing?
While step 8 is essentially step 7, as content creators, you should always be on the lookout for ways to entice users to share your content, so I thought it would be good to reiterate in its own step.
Another feature of the Signs.com piece that shouldn’t be overlooked is their interactive quiz at the bottom.
Sharing adds to exposure which adds to links.
A quick peak at the sharing metrics shows that it has over 8,000 social shares on Facebook alone.
To wrap all of this up, there is a reason you love what you love online. By diving deeper into the content and breaking it down, you’ll really understand what makes it tick. Then you can reappropriate those things for your own industry.
As I mentioned above, I don’t know if Signs.com has ever even seen Gimini’s Velocipedia, but as a learning exercise one is the perfect evolution of the other. Thanks to both of them for their hard work.
And now, I ask you again. Grab a pencil or pen and draw me a bicycle.
Break down the content that you love into bare bones of what they are doing. Then work backwards to apply to your industry.