No Recycle, No Cry
The practice of reusing and recycling is good for you, me, and the environment. But not so good for you, me, and the brands the brands we aim to assist through strategy, expression, and storytelling on a daily basis.
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Admittedly, I’m stretching my musical click-bait reference to the famous Bob Marley and the Wailers song “No Woman, No Cry” in that the song’s refrain is quite often misunderstood. The chorus actually means “woman, don’t cry“ and is a testament to strong women. It does not mean that with no woman, no one is crying.
Perhaps my ultimate point is reinforced by the fact that by recycling the chorus without any context, I am also perpetuating the same falsehood. See what can happen when information is passed along? A severe case of lyritosis or a worse misunderstanding, just to name a few.
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Back to the topic at hand. There is an argument for leveraging experience and previous work to improve something new, and I agree with this point in theory. However, I urge caution in not taking it too far. Connecting the dots is important, as it is what we do as strategists, artists, and designers. It is the value we provide. But recycled thinking can become a malady that bites us on the ass if we’re not careful. Mi cyan ‘elp yuh wit dat.
I often use a simple technique when working with clients, which I refer to as "borrowing from other galaxies." It's not anything complex or proprietary. It's simply a way of identifying and leveraging concepts, practices, and ideas from different business categories outside of the client's current industry. There are many lessons to be learned from outside the usual conventions of a specific category, and these can serve as valuable reference points to unlock new and relevant thinking.
However, it's important to note that borrowed thinking should not be the sole strategy or story presented. Each client's needs should be honored with a targeted approach every time. Merely recycling strategies with a fresh coat of paint will not suffice for delivering tangible results. Instead, it's more appropriate to seek inspiration that sparks new avenues of relevant thinking.
It's not difficult to find oneself reusing and recycling ideas and concepts that have proven successful in the past. However, when I find myself venturing into this territory there often comes a point where things feel forced. That inner voice is talking loud and saying something. What works for one situation is not a guaranteed formula for another, as they often involve different elements. Know what I'm saying?
Before we recycle ideas to the point of creating our own singular style or worse a strategic trope, consider the whole environmental mantra and its true holy grail, intentionally left off earlier: REDUCE, Reuse, Recycle. Do borrow from other galaxies to ignite your ideas or inspire a new lane of thinking. Don’t rely on recycled work to seem fresh, strategic, or even desirable to clients. Reduce your options to what is true and real for the needs of your client. That’s the most effective strategy of all.
Before we recycle ideas excessively and end up with a singular style or, worse, a strategic trope, let's connect the song’s hook with the mantra and the ultimate goal: REDUCE, Reuse, Recycle. It's okay to draw inspiration from other sources to spark your ideas. However, relying on reams of recycled work to appear fresh, strategic, or appealing to newer clients is just not it. Instead, narrow down your options to what truly meets the needs of your client—only then is it helpful to have borrowed from those other galaxies. This is the most effective way of all to be helpful.
And your client can keep singing that song however they like. Who knows? They might even sing your praises, too.
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Bound creates connection through surfacing truths and building connection. A free 30-minute consultation provides everything we need to know to put together a plan for articulating your story in a way that is true to you and the promises you wish to make and keep with others. The ones that will help you forge deep relationships that serve the long term health of your endeavor.