We’re often asked for case studies that feature our work and last week I was asked by a potential client whether I could send through an example of us ‘thinking outside the box’.

I started by thinking about what ‘thinking outside the box’ means.

I went to Wikipedia.  The origins of the phrase are obscure but it became popular, apparently, when the nine dot puzzle started to be used widely in the late 1960s.  Here’s the nine dot puzzle.  It’s good.

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The dictionary says that ‘thinking outside the box’ means ‘to think differently, unconventionally or from a new perspective’.

According to Google NGram, thinking outside the box became a really popular phrase in the 1990s.  Look at this chart.

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My reading of this is that (a) a lot people aspire to think outside the box or (b) are thinking outside the box or (c) are selling books about how to think outside the box or (d) don’t think thinking outside the box is a good idea and are writing bitterly about it.

I suspect it’s more of a combination of the first three than the last one.

Anyway, it’s a well-known phrase.  The next challenge was to try find an example of us doing that for a client.

I thought about how we launched life insurance for Virgin Money by announcing some of the weird risks that are not excluded in the small print (Dalek invasion, Godzilla attacks, etc).  It’s a good example, but it wasn’t quite what I was looking for.

I thought about announcing the death of various bits of top-selling technology for Dixons, Currys and PC World, creating the perfect opportunity to talk about what’s coming next and to be benefit from the Heinz Salad Cream effect.  But no, that didn’t feel quite right either.

I thought about the giant bicycle we put in a field in Sheffield for the Tour de France Yorkshire leg to celebrate the work of Professor Krebs in the field of sports science.

I thought about rewriting ‘Make Do and Mend’, the wartime austerity booklet, for John Lewis, to show shoppers how to save money by not spending unnecessarily.

There are loads of others, but none of projects were about boxes.

The I remembered sitting watching my son eating cereal at the breakfast table before school and reading the back of a cereal box (Thiamine, Niacin, Riboflavin and Iron) – and how this led to an idea for Asda.

We brokered a partnership with Puffin Books and the Roald Dahl Foundation.  We put extracts from Roald Dahl’s books on the back of Asda’s own brand cereal.  We called it ‘Facebox Time’, the only time in the day when kids are not distracted by consoles, tablets, mobile phones, TV and social media.  We did a bit of research and discovered that most kids think Rudyard Kipling bakes cakes and the Phileas Fogg makes crisps.  We worked with Asda to get the story extracts onto ten million cereal boxes.  We announced the project.

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Asda’s own brand cereal outsold Kellogg’s for the first time in their trading history.  They sold a lot of books via their book aisle.  A lot of kids got hooked on Dahl and hooked on reading.

Oh, and we won an award for it.

I think that’s the best example I can give of us actually thinking outside the box.  Well actually, we thought outside ten million boxes.

Do you have any boxes (literal or metaphorical) that you’d like us to think outside of?

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