How unspecial are you?

Image courtesy of Lufitoom

I was taking afternoon tea with the man-legend Russell Davies this week and amongst many random things we chatted about was the idea of Unspecial. I suppose at its heart Unspecial is about how similar we all are. While we all have our idiosyncrasies, we aren’t that special or unique as human beings, we like being part of the herd. Segment away you direct marketers but the truth is that more unites us than divides us. That’s why we have been able to take the Food Lover strategy authored in the UK for Lurpak and take it right round the globe – it turns out that while the food people love is culturally distinct a love of good food is not. People are Unspecial and so are you.

And I want to try and apply this idea to planning – perhaps we might call it Unspecial Planning.

I am a fan of real insight, the revelations derived from real I life not research. And the truth is that the very best place to start in deriving real insight is yourself – so called planning from within. Your forensic understanding of your own behaviour and attitudes is your best first step in understanding how to change that behaviour and those attitudes.
This technique involves starting every project not with a vast data trawl or a few groups but with a degree of self-examination. Its one of the reasons that I have long held that anxiety maketh the planner. It takes a dose of anxiety and introspection in order to really unpick why you do the things you do. By way of example I used this technique on Visa where the aim is to replace cash for small and medium value payments across Europe. I simply worried out why I paid for stuff by card rather than cash and how I feel when paying by card is not accepted or unacceptable. Forget convenience, speed or any of that rational stuff, the reason I use my card is to save my cash. And it turns out that I’m not so special.
Unspecial planning therefore is an approach about looking within yourself to find real behavioural or attitudinal insight and then figuring out exactly how Unspecial you are. That’s when research is brilliant, to check out your level of specialness. If you turn out to be rather special it probably best to dump that sparkling new strategy you are about to unleash on a waiting world. However, if you happen to be a deeply unspecial human being then you may just have hit pay dirt

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11 Replies to “How unspecial are you?”

  1. Nice.
    The fact is 99.9% of people are ‘unspecial.’ We’re all the same. Some people may live in Hull and some may live in Dalston, and some may eat chips and some may eat Pho but basically we’re very very similar. There are a few things that make us slightly different but in the great scheme of things we’re interchangeable.
    I touched on it here:
    We’re very much the same but do have little quirks. Why don’t agencies focus on the quirks instead of the bits that are the same?

  2. Nice post. Agree on the idea of trusting your un-specialness first before you contaminate your thinking with research. I wrote an article about the fallacy of individuality here

  3. I recall your own post about lumpers and splitters echoing this same sentiment. You were right then and so it is now.

  4. I think Saatchi & Saatchi called this finding a ‘Single Universal Relevant Human Truth’ in the 1990’s – but ‘Unspecialness’ is way cooler…

  5. Ello!
    “If you put the pictures of two different faces side by side, your eye is struck by everything that makes one different from the other.
    But if you have two hundred and twenty-three faces side by side, you suddenly realize that it’s all just one face in many variations and that no such thing as an individual ever existed”
    Agnes in Immortality, Milan Kundera

  6. Same, same but different! Differences are what marketers try to exploit to sell sell sell. They sell the idea of being unique, standing out in a crowd, having ‘stuff’ that others covet this is capitalism at it’s best. Modern living lusting after ‘things’. But it’s all smoke and mirrors, humankind hasn’t changed much in our emotions, fears, goodness, evils. Think about how many billions of people have crossed the earth since humankind first roamed the earth, surely we can’t all be unique! The journey is the same, the end result is the same it’s just the ‘stuff’ that keeps us ‘entertained’ on the journey that differs between us.

  7. From the creative floor, may I say that publicizing this approach isn’t very helpful. It’s what we do on our own and what we did before planning ever calved off into its own discipline. Which is to say that unspecial planning sounds like creative minus the craft.
    Of course your instincts are useful. But clients now expect a sort of pseudo-anthropological process to drive the process. Even if you/we know that it doesn’t always add much value.
    This is a problem of planning’s own creating and it’s why many creatives are skeptical about the discipline of planning – but appreciate the people in the planning department. You’re smart, insightful and frequently have good ideas and instincts. But too many of you spend your days making what we do seem more scientific, methodological and measurable than we all know it really is. It all feels like a tragic waste of some marvelous brainpower.

  8. Your story is not different from the rest of the world….its the same…..solicits the truth in the theory of unspecial

  9. I just love this line “to check out your level of specialness”. There are a lot of things that makes us different and its for us to find out what they are.
    I found your article interesting, I will be updating my article MLM List – What You May Not Know

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