It's not very often our humble periodical spends three weeks delivering its message directly to those at the coalface of driving change, but recently Contagious had an extraordinary opportunity.
Over the last year, our dedicated consultancy and training arm, Contagious Insider, has had a close working relationship with Kraft Foods Latin America (KFLA), which has developed into a new way of approaching brand challenges. It's time for our broader constituency of readers and partners to hear what we learned working with Kraft on Project Fly.
Initially, Kraft asked Contagious Insider to look at innovation culture. What does the concept of an R&D lab mean for a marketing company? What kinds of ideas result? We answered these questions, and many more, and KFLA began to build a lab for itself. We were enlisted to help.
Over several months, we helped to define how Project Fly would take shape. Each Project Fly garage is a three-week-long period which escorts a group of Kraft marketers away from their desks and daily routines to work on specific brand challenges or questions. The aim is to create unmatched digitally-enabled connections with consumers, working alongside best-in-class creative talent which they wouldn't otherwise be directly exposed to.
Together with the creative lead, innovation agency +Castro, Buenos Aires, Contagious Insider helped designate the right collaborators, facilitate sessions taking place inside the garage, and activate a new network of Kraft employees afterwards. Participants in our first garage session in November came from companies like Cubo, Del Campo Nazca Saatchi & Saatchi, di Paola and We Are Social. Interns from leading digital school, Hyper Island, contributed problem solving and group dynamics skills. Outside agitators from innovation studio Deeplocal and market research agency BrainJuicer kept everyone on their toes. Despite Kraft's marketers coming from different regions, and working on different brands, a garage tenet - no hierarchy - brought them all in on a level plane. In this environment, the candid conversation was king.
Revision, inspiration and discussion
After a cultural palette-cleanser and ceremonial (metaphorical) BlackBerry desecration, Contagious and +Castro facilitated the following days. We brought our specialty: best-in-class case studies and insight from the worlds of communications and technology, while +Castro led sessions around a compact creative process to evolve ideas quickly and efficiently. After two weeks, the group had whittled down a plethora of thoughts into ten solid ideas that could be implemented in various business units throughout the region.
The ideas that emerged were refined and given space to grow, or change, or were held back until a later date, when they might have more appropriate applications. No ideas were deemed better or worse on the basis of role, or job title. Everyone had to learn to take criticism. In addition to being good marketing, the ideas answer an unintended question: what is it like for marketers and creatives to collaborate on work from its inception, rather than create boundaries in the form of approval procedures?
The group left the first session in November with ten great ideas, which +Castro, Cubo and Deeplocal then prototyped and passed along to Kraft. Different business units at the company have plans to produce several of them later in the year. Partners who joined us in the first session will help execute these ideas in the same spirit they were conceived.
Tools, time and space
So what changed? People had a chance to think. Marketers who hadn't considered themselves creative, given the tools, time and space, were beginning to propose concepts and working towards one specific goal withs entirely open mind. 'In the beginning we didn't know how this mix of people could work together,' says Nico Pimentel, +Castro's founder and creative lead on the project. 'It felt like a real startup, where we were a bunch of hard workers and dreamers looking for ideas that could really make a difference in consumers' lives.' Part of the project's aim is to develop ideas through true collaboration and partnership, with many ego-free stakeholders, rather than owners and a strict hierarchy. As radical as this model may sound, the fact that a company the size of KFLA is now reaping the rewards proves it can work, and well.
A switched-on cadre
The third part of Contagious' role was to activate the sentiments of the garage through Kraft culture. Marketers born out of this program will understand the value of creativity, whether in streamlining business processes for a social world or making creative, award-worthy advertising, and spread the techniques and insight they had learned back in their day-to-day. The rewards will continue. The group has come to see its employer as making good on promises of creative empowerment. Employees also have broader hands-on expertise in solving creative problems with partners.
Here are some other things we learned:
You need drivers / While every company wants to be more creative, in reality there's a lot of heavy lifting to be done before the circumstances are right. A determined driver needs to pave the way internally for anything revolutionary to happen. For us, this is the director of the project, Kraft's Maria Mujica, also Kraft Latin America's marketing director, gum and candy, with help from her team of Marina Prieto and Nicolas Reinke.
Move to doing / 'Move to doing, without having everything figured out, because the experience in itself will teach you and complete your unknowns,' Mujica says. 'Organisations will benefit strongly by elevating the role of thinking by doing versus the huge amount of time devoted to analysis and thinking, [wrongly] assuming that it reduces risk and ensures better results.'
The world is not getting any less collaborative / The complexities of modern business and the importance of a constant influx of ideas demand a robust group of partners and input from all corners. Too often marketers feel they're stuck in profiles that don't encourage them to be creative, and seek input from many different areas as well.
External boundaries are changing / 'There are no more client-agency-external-internal boundary definitions,' Mujica says. 'It's people united, and one problem as springboard for innovation. It's taking generous collaboration to action. The power of this is unlimited.'
It needs to be scary / 'People need to be ready to be away from their comfort zone, to learn to deal with uncertainty,' Pimentel says. 'We were carving the path while we were walking. Each day was designed the day before, and was a fresh new experience with different creative dynamics and constantly changing groups.'
Empowered people win / Once the Flyers were energised, there was no going back. The hierarchy-free, multi-region, surrounded-by-talent approach brought out the best in them all. They looked for sources of inspiration everywhere, and were quick to bring the lessons learned in their time at the garage to their offices back home.
The true test of all these ideas will be how the actual advertising fares in the marketplace. Will the garages be able to create truly challenging, controversial, engaging work that creates the connections they seek? We'll be sure to let you know whether it's successful or not, so the learning experience can be shared. (And of course, expect full disclosure when we discuss a project like this alongside the regular work featured in the issue.) Already the Contagious Insider team has got new understanding of how collaboration and empowerment can create new points of light for a massive marketer.
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