If you’ve been playing along at home, you know that lateral thinking is sort of my thing. Why? Dozens of reasons. Because it leads to creative solutions. Because mental play strengthens thinking skills. Because it can introduce new life into existing narratives…
Because sometimes, it’s hilarious.
Don’t believe me? I have a wonderful new example. Let us go then, you and I, when the evening is spread out against the sky, to the fine and ancient city of Manchester in the northwest of England.
But first, a quick heads up. This story is slightly off-color. And deeply immature. Which is exactly why it made me laugh.
Like a lot of cities in the north, Manchester was hit hard by the double whammy of industrial decline and political maneuvering. But things have picked up. There’s been a lot of redevelopment since the bombing in 1996. It has the third-largest economy in the UK (and if you’re following the London real estate market, hooooo boy, you know that means something). They’ve got some great mixed-use destinations at The Triangle and The Printworks. Architectural innovation like Beetham Tower. Loads of famous and infamous musicians. The most successful Premier League football club — that’s soccer here in Texas — Manchester United.
And all of the potholes. All of ‘em. One half-mile stretch of Alders Road had over 70 of the things. That might actually be more hole than road.
Unfortunately, the Powers That Be aren’t too speedy about fixing these little killers of cars. And in a way, I get it. “Pothole repair” isn’t a very sexy budget item. Citizen’s groups and industries are always lobbying for other projects. So how to get the problem addressed, especially given how many bicyclists there are in the city? Well, one fearless hero had a solution.
He drew dicks on ‘em.
No, really. He got chalk, went out under the cover of darkness, and drew “comedy phalluses” in, over, and around dozens of potholes. Warning, at this link there are pics of his work, so don’t click if you’re faint of heart. For those of you who are, I provide the image below.
And what do you know? Potholes that had been inconveniencing commuters for ages were suddenly — nay, miraculously — fixed within 48 hours. More were fixed inside a week. Local politicians are absolutely furious, but as of this time, his Facebook fan page has over 21,000 likes. The aboslute cherry on the top is that, in a nod to art-world darling Banksy, he’s calling himself Wanksy.
Y’all, I couldn’t love this story any more if there were two of me. Not because of the crude method…okay, I can’t lie. Partially because of the crude method. I’m basically an 11 year-old so I giggled the whole time I read the article. But mostly because with almost zero investment this lone hero forced attention to and solutions for a problem that had been ignored far too long.
What does this have to do with marketing? Good question. First, let me make it exquisitely clear that I am not suggesting you go out and draw naughty bits on your problems. But I am suggesting you view this as a great example of lateral thinking. Are there unexplored ways to get around your marketing challenges? Low-cost solutions that can benefit your small- to medium-sized biz? Playful ways to address serious problems?
Attack from an angle. Think laterally. And get results. After all, if you keep doing what you’re doing, you’ll keep getting what you’re getting.