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Identifying Paradox

To get you attuned to looking for kinetic conflict and sources of potential energy, let's consider a couple of examples.

If our target consumers are women entering midlife, the conflict might be:

Just as my inner self is becoming visible, my outer self renders me invisible.

As a woman is leaving the intensive years of child rearing and is finally done with dirty diapers and trips to the baseball field, she is coming into herself. Perhaps she is getting to pursue her own interests-writing her own poetry, becoming a Pilates instructor, spending more time on herself in any number of ways. At the same time, when she walks down a street, where she used to garner a fair amount of attention (if only from appreciative construction workers), she now passes unnoticed. When she goes into a clothing store, the saleswomen flock to her teenage daughter and ignore her completely.

In my approach, the first step is to create boards filled with images that bring each side of the conflict to life. (See Chapter 5.) Then we gather things from different categories that resolve that paradox. In this case, it might be pictures of Susan Sarandon, Madonna, a Wonderbra, and a self-published volume of poetry. Our work is to translate their features into our client's category.

Stand back and look at elements that might cross over to whatever you're trying to develop, whether it be a hair-care product or a fast-food dinner. What could you adopt? What's inspiring? What's grist for the mill?

Let's consider another consumer group: 10- to 12-year-old boys. I know this group well, as I live with one of these delightful creatures. A conflict for this group might be:

Treat me like a grown-up, but tuck me in at night.

My son wants to be grown up: He has a phone extension in his room, but if a call comes after nine-thirty, which is his bedtime, I am supposed to say that he's 'not available,' rather than that he's 'in bed').

He goes to Starbucks, but he orders hot chocolate (or sometimes coffee with five sugars and a gallon of milk).

He still has his teddy bear, but Mr. Bear has a special bed in the closet.

He's slowly making the transition from one stage to the next, wanting the grown-up things but not wanting to let go of the boy things yet.

In addition, he's going through all the bodily changes that boys his age go through, so add an extra level of anxiety on top of everything else. He and his peers deal with the tension by making fun of it-witness the success of the 'Grossology' exhibit that toured science museums across the country, delving into the science behind every bodily function and excretion you'd ever (or never) want to know about.

So, what things resolve these conflicts? Gap Kids and Abercrombie (the younger version of Abercrombie & Fitch) provide smaller-size versions of hip grown-up clothes. Computer games touch on this tension as well-it's still playing games, but with high-level technology.

But what about the bodily changes aspect of the situation? Again, think back to my son staring at the hundreds of choices of deodorant on the shelf. If we were developing a deodorant for this age group, we'd look at the perpendicular arrows of 'I want to have what the adults have, but made for me' and 'I'm grossed out by what's happening to my body, but I can make fun of it.'

At the point where those arrows collide and the potential energy lies, you'd be likely to find something like a smaller version of Arrid Extra Dry or Right Guard, with a Sweat- ology game that you could download from the Web site and play.

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