Better in Beta
At Guy & Co, ‘be agile, think beta’ is one of our agency values. This approach helps us to get where we need to be faster and more efficiently.
So, what does ‘thinking in beta’ mean? It means being in perpetual test mode and constantly asking how we can do things better, crucially even when things are already going well. It’s an approach that software companies have been practising for some time – starting by identifying a customer need and following an iterative process of development.
Some of the biggest global brands live and breathe this approach too. Burger King, for example, is currently trialling a new plant-based whopper, aptly named the ‘Impossible Burger’, in 59 restaurants in St Louis, US and is causing quite a stir.
The principle of responsiveness to change is crucial for clients and agencies alike, given ever-changing consumer trends and attitudes. Our system, Guy & Co creation®, challenges us to constantly search for a smarter way of doing things to accelerate many of our core and leap projects across different categories.
Staying in beta has become part of the fabric of our agency and it runs through everything that we do, so let’s look at a few examples.
It starts with our planning team who set out the strategic mission and gather key insights. Then we use productive creativity techniques to develop ideas, from safe-ish, to pushing it, to brave – all rooted in a consumer need. We then test and refine them, instead of immediately looking for that silver bullet.
We followed this process recently with ASK Italian where we’ve been developing new experiential touchpoints that add to the overall diner experience. We developed over 50 plausible ideas, tested them against consumers and worked with the client on tactical parameters to refine the final concepts which will roll out across their restaurants later this year.
To limit costs and de-risk investment we like to keep things lo-fi initially. We’ve even been known to experiment with chemistry sets to make things happen. On this occasion we were creating a new signature serve for 1888, where the brief was to practically heat and theatrically serve the super premium rum at a balmy 24 – 26°C – the optimum temperature to bring out the character of the liquid, as it’s served in the brand’s Dominican Republic home. What started out as experimentation across basic prototypes, ended up as a leading ‘linterna’ serve mechanic for lighthouse accounts across their global markets.
Whether it’s propositions, packaging or even websites, rapid research and consumer validation is at the heart of what we do. We have the ability to run research amongst any target audience, in any location, to validate concepts and crucially capture learnings ahead of a commercial rollout.
During the development of luxury bottlings for the Whisky Illuminati we were able to test our packaging designs against a panel of Chinese High-net-worth individuals to establish what resonated with them. This allowed us to take on board many key learns and optimise the creative prior to launch. Turns out a craft aesthetic is more appealing to young Chinese HNWI consumers than our assumption of old-world traditional luxury packaging cues. It paid off, with the first series selling out within 6 months.
We don’t advise wasting money on expensive advertising campaigns if the brand isn’t ready. We like to start smaller and learn everything we can. Our test markets allow us to test the product as well as simple promotional materials and mechanics to maximise learnings ahead of a broader rollout. This is something that paid dividends for us with Spice Hunter rum, born through Guy & Co-Creation in 2018 and just launched nationally this month. Following a series of online consumer research, test market activation in a handful of on and off-trade outlets provided a clear picture for national marketing support.
To embrace thinking in beta, I have had to unlearn years of my agency ‘spit and polish’ approach. Trying to make things perfect – there’s a time and a place for that. Instead I now love the ability on projects to pivot at pace and optimise ideas to make them truly great – ones which we know will really stand out and sell.
Luke Di Rollo