I ran the Amsterdam Half Marathon on Sunday. It was really enjoyable, but it was also really tough.
I wasn't 100% happy with my preparation. I was ill a week or so before and to be honest I didn't put the miles in on the road beforehand (and I have a couple of injuries now which are fully deserved).
I've found my natural range.
When I run lots and prepare properly I can still only manage a very mainstream time of 1:44. And when I don't prepare properly I can still struggle to a mainstream 1:49.
I'm the epitome of a mainstream runner. I don't have the skills or the inclination to be elite.
This is because I fit running into the other parts of my life. It doesn't dominate my life, but it does play its part.
I'm not prepared to sacrifice the comfort of other parts of my life for my running and that's why I'll never be amazing. In that respect I'm a lot like a lot of brands.
These are your high street banks; your pharmaceutical brands; your global campaigns for some FMCG products. They very rarely produce work that is compelling, inspirational or has much longevity. It's there's to do a job, and breaking new creative boundaries isn't really on their radar.
If they were a runner: They wouldn't even run. They'd do as little exercise as they can possibly get away with.
These can span most sectors, and are probably the most visible of the brands we see each day. The activity that epitomises these brands will be kinda OK, kinda cool, but pretty unmemorable. They try not to offend anyone. They'll probably talk a lot about wanting to push boundaries and create amazingly memorable work, but in reality they want to see others do that and they'll just copy them a few months later.
If they were a runner: They would be me. They'd fit running into their life, but wouldn't be prepared to be at the cutting edge risking things - they'd be comfortable with it... but talk about it incessantly... as my friends can testify.
These brands here are memorable. These are Zappos; Absolut; Old Spice; BrewDog and as much as it pains me to say - Ryanair. These are the brands that stand for something and push boundaries. They're polarising and don't mind if they offend some people so long as they've got a niche in the market. Their whole being stands for being something. Working hard and being unique.
If they were a runner: They would be an elite runner. You've seen one - the sinuous, bony, only-ever-eats-pasta and only-has-one-drink-a-week people. Their whole being is based around their running and they very rarely partake in anything that is detrimental to that.
So which should a brand be and how can agencies help them?
That all depends on their motivation levels. Do they want to be one of the pack and not stand out? Maybe they'll want to be one of the pack as a lot of them will see standing out as a bad thing. They'll expose themselves and for some that's unsettling.
For others they'll want to stand out and stand for something. They know it's polarising but they'll be happy making some people very happy instead of trying to make everyone a bit happy.
It's interesting being an agency and working with clients that belong to these groups too. Knowing how far to push a client and to understand their real motivations is a real skill, and the agencies that can do it well are the ones that are the elite and not the mainstream.
The brands and agencies that are happy with their natural range being mainstream should be happy with that, but the brands and agencies with the potential to be amazing should aim for the elite - the unique and the memorable. It's not achievable by all so those that can be it should grasp the opportunity with both hands.