What we don’t know, is worth knowing

As a brand agency, we’re in the business of selling success. Whilst it’s impossible to offer a ‘dead cert’ to clients, they will at least look for an ‘almost definite’ when appointing an agency to manage their brand. A proven track record in the category in question is (more often than not) a key part of the decision making process, so it would be foolhardy to fly in the face of this tried and tested philosophy and promote naivety as a winning formula…wouldn’t it? Hear me out, there’s some method to the madness.

Consider today’s less than casual customer, increasingly switched on and sophisticated in our consumption patterns, we expect a certain level of engagement and interaction with our favoured brands. It’s no surprise then, that any whiff of insincerity or try hard rhetoric is called out and cast aside as fast as you can say ‘Boaty McBoatface’. And this is where a lack of guile comes into its own. Those who claim to be experts in a particular category can sometimes be overly familiar and immersed within it to see the wood for the trees and be impervious to change. Applying what Adam Morgan of eatbigfish calls ‘Intelligent Naivety’ in our approach, allows us to ask the questions that those seasoned experts might not.

Take the now legendary case of Southwest Airlines in the US who, back in the day, changed the face of the airline industry by instigating a 10 minute turnaround time between getting passengers off and on their two remaining planes (a situation borne of necessity to stay in business). The existing turnaround time in the industry was one hour and those in the know insisted it couldn’t be done. The CEO’s response was simply ‘why not?’ and his naivety towards the entrenched attitudes of his team not only changed the fortunes of the business but positioned them as the reference point to the industry as a whole with the 10 minute turnaround soon becoming the norm.

So it’s with this in mind that we consider some of our recent successes. We’d never worked in beers, wines and spirits before, but that didn’t stop us putting one-man start-up, Vocation Brewery on the brewing map and on the shelves of Tesco, The Co-op, ASDA and M&S. We had no experience in Health & Beauty but created, designed, formulated and launched the Electric Ink brand which has gained immediate traction in a hard-won category. National listings in Superdrug and global listings in Urban Outfitters are the results of a positioning strategy that clearly resonates.

This is not to say that we’re not experts at what we do. We apply the same methodology and process to all our projects, we just don’t allow ourselves to become entrenched in the expectations and norms of others. When you’ve got a formula that works, we believe that ‘experience’ doesn’t come into it. It’s a simple approach born of curiosity and an inability to accept the status quo.

Robot Food itself is founded on a heady combination of intelligent naivety and sheer determination (along with a clear vision of our own sensibilities, not those of the industry). Our founder, Simon, had no previous agency experience which allowed him to create his own vision of what an agency should be; one that challenges the norm and offers a different perspective from our peers. When you don’t know the rules, you’re often not aware you’re breaking them.

And maybe you could think that to be ignorant, but we consider it a strength – it’s this kind of ‘ignorance to caution’ that Paul Arden champions as the ‘young golfer’s edge’ (Whatever You Think, Think The Opposite). “Old golfers don’t win” because experience tells them to play safe, take the extra shot and ultimately costs them the victory.

Experience encourages people to settle for par, but it’s also inevitable. The trick for us remains to stay naïve now we have gained experience and proven success. We do this by keeping our feet on the ground and staying true to our fundamental philosophy. Questioning and optimistic, curious and never complacent, for our continued success (and that of our clients) a certain amount of ignorance is bliss.