The Voice of the Underdog®
In improv comedy, there’s one rule, but it’s absolute: when a fellow performer throws a situation at you, your response must always be, “yes, and…” No is an ending. It’s closure. A slammed door with nowhere else to go. “Yes, and…” opens doors. It allows for endless possibilities. It provides the foundation for unexpected connections to be made and for brilliant outcomes to occur. “Yes, and…” is the gateway to inspiration. And to the insights that solve our greatest problems. “Yes, and…” holds a lot of power.
For years in the media world, we were restrained by pretty rigid parameters. :30 commercials were :30. Not :28. Not :32. Thirty sheet billboards were what they were and print ad dimensions had to be precise lest they get cut off when the magazine went to press. That was then. This is now.
With every year that passes, more and more of the parameters that restricted us are being challenged and pushed. What was once a “No, you can’t do that” has become “Yes, and…” I don’t know the exact moment when that happened, but I can picture the origin of it clearly. A small group of agency people sitting together discussing their next great concept for a client. One of them says, “Can you even imagine?” to which the other responds, “as a matter of fact, I can.”
“Hey, let’s put the entire dashboard of a new Camry inside this magazine…”
“Hey, let’s take the oldest medium in advertising and do something extraordinary no one’s ever seen…”
“Hey, let’s visually bend the dimensions of an apartment like never before to mirror the way an Apple HomePod bends my emotions when I listen to it…”
Last week in Lynnwood, California, in celebration of today’s International Women’s Day, a McDonald’s franchise flipped its famed golden arches upside down to make a “W” for women and everybody noticed. Mostly because they were shocked McDonald’s would do anything to alter their iconic signage.
I can remember a time not that long ago, when the thought of doing anything to a logo as famous as McDonald’s would be blasphemy. You know how that conversation would have gone:
“Boss, we have a great idea. For International Women’s Day. What if we flip the golden arches over into a W as a sign of empowerment and the celebration of women everywhere?”
“Are you insane? No.”
“Because that’s our logo. You don’t mess with the logo.”
“But what if we did?”
“It’s too expensive. Gotta cost a couple thousand dollars to flip those arches over and then we have to put them back. Total pain in the neck. Nobody’s got time for that.”
“I’ll do it. I’ll work the weekend to make that happen.”
“Nah. We’re one location. Who would even notice?”
When you do things for the right reasons, people notice. Cynics have argued flipping the arches was a gimmick. A marketing stunt. And you might agree, were it not for the accompanying video they produced to go with it celebrating Patricia Williams, the franchisee whose arches were flipped over. Patricia Williams, who 30 years ago, found herself a divorced mother with two little girls to feed and a McDonald’s to run. Patricia Williams who, today, owns 18 McDonald’s that she runs with… her daughters.
What are you saying “No” to in your company, or in your career that maybe needs another look? Admittedly, there are challenges with saying yes, financial and otherwise. And let’s be honest – Yes, is a risk. Yes, is the unknown. No is finished. Yes is… we don’t know how everything is going to turn out. It could literally go anywhere.
But as conditioned as we’ve become to lead with “No,” it’s time to switch our default setting to “Yes” and see what happens. When a colleague or a client throws something at you – a situation, a problem, an opportunity – remember the Improv Rule. Lean into “Yes” and keep dancing. The alternative is sitting by idly while the rest of the world speeds past, doing all the things you wished you had done.
AIMEE HERRON is the media director at LOOMIS, the country’s leading challenger brand advertising agency. For more about challenger branding, subscribe to our blog BARK! The Voice of the Underdog
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