Appetite For Spice
PPeople are naturally wired to fit in. Our primitive survival instincts make us resist standing out from the herd. But marketing is a different game – there's no point in creating campaigns that aren’t going to be noticed. If your marketing only consists of ideas that align with the status quo, then you’re wasting time and money on campaigns that are likely never going to return that investment.
At the same time, creating campaigns that are spicy for the sake of being spicy runs the risk of alienating your audience or muddling your brand’s image. Spicy ideas come with risk, and your decisions have to be strategic in order to manage that risk.
The Spicy Scale is a tool we created to help us talk with our clients about the importance of being bold and giving us the ability to deliver better options for them. As an agency, we believe that we should scare you from time to time – we should push boundaries and present you with ideas that are fresh while still aligning with your goals. Even if you ultimately choose a milder option, you can rest assured that an agency that presents spicy ideas is giving you their best.
How Does It Work?
Have you ever been to a restaurant and noticed three pepper icons next to a dish to indicate how spicy it is? We use that same system to rate our ideas. A “safe”, low-risk idea might be one pepper (mild) while an idea that’s totally outside of the box would get three peppers (spicy).
The scale also serves as a way for brands to tell us their tolerance for risk. Every brand is different, and there’s no right or wrong level of spice in marketing. There are, however, pros and cons with each.
The lowest level on the scale represents the safest and simplest option. These ideas are sometimes regarded as “guaranteed wins” in marketing – they've been done before, they don’t rock the boat, and they’re easy to get approved by management. Companies that manage their marketing in-house often go for these ideas because they’re familiar and easy to replicate.
However, these ideas often lack differentiating factors and are ineffective, especially in saturated markets with a lot of noise. Your audience has no reason to remember you, let alone engage with you.
Medium is the middle-ground where a lot of people like to live – not too mild, but definitely not spicy. Ideas like this occasionally go against the norm, but they’re rarely differentiated enough to make a real impact in the market.
The main benefit of being medium is that it’s a reasonable target for brands that were previously stuck in the mild zone. However, they’re not the best of both worlds – they're more likely to be noticed than bland ideas, but they haven’t got the wow factor of a truly spicy idea.
Spicy ideas are the ones that stand out. They’re markedly different from other things in the industry, powerful enough to stand out against the background noise. Truly spicy ideas get noticed – they stick in your audience’s heads. They disrupt the marketplace and show people something new and exciting. Spicy concepts carve out new spaces in competitive landscapes and give brands something that they uniquely own.
These kinds of ideas are inherently risky. You could create something that alienates your audience or that isn’t aligned with your brand’s normal image. Spicy campaigns have the potential of getting the wrong kind of attention, or simply being a waste of time and money if they aren’t properly aligned with your brand and your objectives. Ideas that are merely spicy without strategy aren’t going to get you anywhere – aim for a balance between spice and a concept that truly answers the brief.
When Should You Be Spicy?
Knowing where you fall on the Spicy Scale is invaluable – it allows you to interpret your marketing initiatives through a new lens and determine where you could use a little more (or a little less) spice. Maybe the level changes depending on your audience, or perhaps you just use it to experiment and see what could take your brand to the next level.
The Spicy Scale fosters a sense of awareness that’s critical in making strategic marketing decisions. Spicy ideas carve out your space in the industry, but not every idea needs to be blazing hot. Look at where your customers are in their buyer’s journey and where you need to be disruptive to get their attention.
Keep your own tolerance level for spice in mind when you’re evaluating these ideas. It’s OK to acknowledge that you’re a little milder or sitting on the edge of spicy. Entertain ideas that scare you, even if you never end up going through with them.
Think Of Your Brand
Your brand should be the north star of every campaign that you run – it should inform your planning and strategy at every stage. Who is your target audience? What are they expecting from you? Should you be catering to those expectations or subverting them? Your spiciness level should enhance these goals, rather than interrupting them.
Are You Getting Enough Spice?
Your agency should respect and be aware of your tolerance for spicy ideas. Their goal should be to push the envelope and provide a range of ideas at different spice levels. If they aren’t giving you top ideas that scare you, they’re not doing it right. Your agency should push the envelope, surprising and delighting you with unexpected ideas that engage your audience in different ways.
At Think Shift, we use the Spicy Scale to evaluate our clients’ preferences and the spiciness of our own ideas, allowing us to provide you with a range of options and keep your marketing fresh.