Monday, March 15, 2010

Taking the edge off

If you’ve been following Black Sheep on this blog, Twitter or Facebook, you’ve probably noticed that we are constantly pushing our clients to be “edgier.” The problem is that the definition of that word is often lost in translation… or misinterpreted…  We’re not quite what happens, but it’s not good.

So today, we’re setting the record straight and perhaps, coming up with a better word.

What do we REALLY mean when we say “edgy”?

Unique. We mean that an edgy campaign is one that hasn’t been seen, replicated or served as a template in a marketing 101 textbook since 1992. (Got Milk? campaign copiers, we’re talking to you). There’s something to be said for recognizing quality work in a competitor and striving to emulate it, but that hardly works. Be first, and let the others copy you. However, finding inspiration in vintage works, or putting a fresh spin on something old can be just as worthwhile. Whatever you do, make it your own.

Unexpected. Whether it’s the timing, location or the execution of an event or campaign, choose parameters that aren’t typical, and you’ll get more attention. That doesn’t mean it has to be scary or vulgar – just a surprise that makes people look up from their text messages and pull out their earbuds for a few minutes.

Clever. If you’re brave and ready to do something different, realize that it still has to be meaningful – not just off-the-wall. If it’s silly, put some thought into it and make it genuinely funny. If it’s sexy, make it really smart. Every bold element must be balanced with enough intellect to ensure the audience knows you’re not trying to be offensive, mean or crude.

What are we NOT saying when we say “edgy”?

Profane. We’re not against throwing around a few “bad words” every now and then, but it has to be appropriate, and it can’t be rude or angry. The test is pretty simple: would you say it or show it to your grandma, your co-workers and in a job interview? If you wouldn’t, then it’s probably not okay. Keep in mind, though, that just because it may not be something your grandma totally “gets” or would put on the wall of her home, it doesn’t mean it’s necessarily inappropriate for your audience – you just don’t want her to cringe at the sight of it.

Gratuitous. Silly for the sake of being silly. Sexy for the sake of being sexy. Gross for the sake of being gross. Yes, it might get attention, but if there’s no substance, that attention won’t get results.

Grungy. There’s no specific look or feel for something to be edgy. Hip and up-to-date can be a lot of different things, so your look doesn’t have to look dirty or unkempt. Just awesome. J

So what’s a better word for “edgy”? Hip? Progressive? Current? Witty? Whatever word resonates with you, use it and live by it. Your audience will thank you.

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