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  • Will Hanus

Whatever you think, think the opposite.

Updated: Oct 8

Two people have taught me what advertising is. The first of the two is Yoda from Star Wars, who said, “Unless your advertising is built on a Big Idea, it will pass like a ship in the night*”.


Well, that’s great and all, buy how do you actually do that?


Enter the second person, Paul Arden, author of the world’s bestselling books It’s Not How Good You Are, It’s How Good You Want To Be and Whatever You Think, Think The Opposite. Arden makes the point that nothing is more dangerous than playing it safe, and that the straight and narrow path may lead you right off a cliff. Instead of the usual boring advice, he offers daring quips, aphorisms, and paradoxes—all seeking to revise what we habitually hold as our “common sense”.


For example, he submits two storefront signs. One says, “Sale”. The other says,

“Pre-Fire Sale”.


You’ll forget the first, but not the second.


His point is don’t be afraid of silly ideas. When we have a mental block, the way to get unblocked is to lose our inhibitions and stop worrying about being right. The comedian John Cleese puts it rather more eloquently, ‘High creativity is responding to situations without critical thought’ (playfulness).


If you are in a deadlock here are a couple of tricks you might try.


1. Do the opposite of what the situation requires.


As an example, Arden submits a real wine called Fat Bastard. (Arden: “It is the daft and inelegant name that has made this French wine an international success in just six years.”)


2. Look out the window and whatever catches your eye, a bird, a television aerial, an old man on crutches or whatever, make that the solution to your problem.


I’ve used these tricks. They work and they’re fun, so I feel Arden has a point. In order to have Yoda’s Big Idea, you need to think illogically. So, I encourage y’all to check out Arden’s illogical words of wisdom. I hope he helps you like he’s helped me.


*Dennis Ogilvy actually said this.


PS: Instead of paraphrasing, most of this text I copied word for word from Arden’s books. “Steal from anywhere that resonates with inspiration or fuels your imagination. Remember what Jean-Luc Godard said: ‘It’s not where you take things from—it’s where you take them to.’


I stole this from Jim Jarmusch” (Arden, 2006, p. 94).



Sources:


Paul Arden, It’s Not How Good You Are, It’s How Good You Want To Be (2003).


Paul Arden, Whatever You Think, Think The Opposite (2006).


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