Mindset Creative Planning is a company specializing in consumer insight research.

We are market research specialists who have a strong strategic sense and a bent toward communications research. We do focus groups, mini-groups, affinity groups and one-on-one depth interviews, on-line surveys and brand and advertising tracking studies.

We have met face to face with thousands of people to cover a wide range of subjects: brand strategy, new product development, customer service, communications auditing, advertising strategy, creative testing, theme and logo development.


Our job is to find insights into consumer attitudes and behaviour, into the way people relate to your particular company, brand, policy or service.

How do you get such insights? What disciplines are involved? Is it simply a process of analysis? Or are there intuitive and creative techniques that can help? Mindset provides answers to these questions.


Mindset also facilitates ideation sessions. You have a problem that needs fast, workable solutions? A communications problem? An advertising problem? A new product design problem? A problem with sales, packaging, distribution, service? Mindset's ideation process, based on the Synectics model, can help in many surprising ways.



Today's consumers are completely media literate. They not only understand advertising and marketing terms, they also understand the conventions, techniques, pretensions and tricks of the game. You can't fool them anymore. If your message doesn't resonate, they won't co-operate. You need to get inside their minds.


You need an insight. Says business guru Mark McCormack, "Insight allows you to see beyond the present. Suppose you had a way of knowing everything that was going to happen over the next ten years. That information would not only make you wise; it would also make you successful and wealthy. Yet it is your insight into people that gives you the ability to predict the future."


Searching for a critical insight is a bit like looking for lost treasure. It is at once practical and mysterious. And often filled with false clues and reversals. Just asking people what they think in focus groups, seldom yields insights. Most of the time, people can't tell you what they're thinking.


At Mindset, we use a variety of projective and enabling techniques designed to get beyond the literal and the obvious. Picture sorts, word associations, role-playing, completion exercises, bubble drawings, psychodrawing, projective questioning and other games and ploys. These are not only enjoyed by respondents but often reveal inner attitudes and values they find difficult or impossible to articulate. Finding an insight demands opening up all the senses, talking less and listening more. Listening, not just to what people say but what they mean.


At Mindset, we give a lot of thought to the questions we ask respondents.

We believe that in seeking to uncover consumer values, attitudes and motivations, everything depends on asking the right questions.


It's a common fallacy that all questions are neutral. The truth is, every question has a natural bias built into it and, to some degree, determines the answer.

Says Neil Postman in his book, Technopoly, "The form of a question may ease our way or pose obstacles. Or, when even slightly altered, may generate antithetical answers." Postman goes on to tell the story of two priests who, being unsure if it was permissible to smoke and pray at the same time, wrote to the Pope for a definitive answer. One priest phrased the question, "Is it permissible to smoke while praying?" and was told that it was not, since prayer must be the focus of one's whole attention. The other priest asked if it is permissible to pray while smoking and was told that it was, since it is always appropriate to pray.


In its research to determine the motivations underlying car purchase for Subaru, the ad agency, Weiden and Kennedy (justifiably famous for its Nike commercials) asked the wrong questions and got the wrong answers. People told them that they didn't buy a car for image purposes. (Who in their right mind would admit to needing an image anyway?) They just bought a car, they said, to get from A to B. Taking these responses at face value, Weiden and Kennedy produced an anti-image campaign with the prosaic theme, "What to Drive." The ads and commercials were beautifully written and art directed. They picked up many prestigious awards. But they failed to persuade consumers to get behind the wheel of a Subaru. Subaru's sales nose-dived and the agency lost the account. Everything depends on how you ask the question.



Anyone involved in communications knows that each medium, be it TV, print, radio or whatever, alters the message slightly; each medium affects the meaning of the message. Marshall McLuhan said it best, "The medium is the message."


At Mindset, we believe that the mind isn't just a neutral receptacle for whatever message comes its way. It's a medium. And, like any other medium, the mind alters the message according to the cultural and value systems stored in its circuitry. In other words, all the impressions, experiences, predilections, prejudices, values and beliefs act as an interpretive screen and change the message before it is accepted and acted upon. Of course, most of this happens at the subconscious level and isn't immediately accessible. But the implications for media communications are obvious: If we want to make sure our messages are correctly understood, we'd better learn more about the mind as a medium.

How are the words, pictures, symbols interpreted by the people we're trying to reach? The extent to which we understand these things and can predict responses, is the extent to which we will be able to create communications programmes that work. And that's part of Mindset's ongoing quest.



Positioning ideas, advertising ideas, promotional ideas, packaging ideas, new product ideas, sales ideas. Mindset is in the business of helping people come up with new ideas.


To most people, the creation of ideas is a mysterious process filled with fear and insecurity. Many books have been filled with conflicting theories of one kind or another. Creativity has been elevated to a level beyond ordinary mortals, the private preserve of those who call themselves "creative." The truth is more pedestrian. We are all creative to some degree; we are all capable of coming up with original ideas. What we need is permission, the right environment and a process that helps unlock the creativity that's in all of us.


Mindset's ideation process, based on the Synectics model, is a way of getting new ideas out on the table in an unstructured, free-wheeling, fun-filled way.


Every creative idea has it's origin in a problem. So, the first thing to do is get an accurate definition of the problem. Problems come in two forms; the stated and unstated. For example; "We have a tremendous opportunity to do breakthrough work on this brand. The client's really excited about the possibilities and want's to see some ideas by the end of the week." That's the stated problem. The unstated problem goes something like this; "Help. We've been unable to crack this one and the client's really mad. If we don't have solutions by the end of the week, she's yanking the account."


Once the problem is properly defined, the next thing to do is create an environment in which critical thought is banished and the risk of looking foolish in front of one's peers is eliminated. In fact, participants in an ideation session are encouraged to look for the seemingly foolish solution. Thus freed of the necessity of coming up with the right answer, it's amazing what happens. People you'd never think of as creative drop their guards and begin to play. Creativity and play are inseparable.

Mindset's ideation sessions are lots of fun and usually very productive.

While we recognize that the creative process is best when it's unstructured and can happen anywhere at any time, there is a great deal of evidence that a free-flowing process in which people are relaxed and encouraged to have some fun, laugh and not take life too seriously, gets surprising results.



Creative people don't argue with input research. They will use all the input they can get, especially if it contains a gem of an insight.


But hackles rise, and so do tempers, when pre-testing is brought up. There's hardly a creative director in the country that hasn't got a sorry story about the death of a great idea at the hands of research. As a result, daggers have been drawn between creative people and researchers for years.

Is it even possible to pre-test creative? Isn't it tantamount to infanticide?


Even the best ideas are vulnerable in the hands of an inept presenter or an unsympathetic researcher. If, for example, the work is badly presented to a focus group, you may be left wondering what's being tested, the work or the moderator's clumsy presentation of the creative. At Mindset, we know just how fragile creative ideas are, especially in the early, half-formed stages. So we take the time to sit down with the creative people and thoroughly understand the strategic context, the story, metaphors, symbols and executional values that will eventually be applied to the concept.


Sometimes, if an idea is truly original, respondents will need a conceptual anchor or point of reference to understand what is going on.

The hugely successful Freedom 55 campaign failed in the first couple of focus groups because the moderator had trouble explaining the idea of visiting yourself in the future. It wasn't until we gave respondents a reference point from Star Trek ("Beam me up Scotty.") that they grasped the idea.



The British invented planning back in the early seventies. They called it Account Planning. And it was credited, by many, with the creative revolution that swept those cramped, damp isles during the 70s and 80s.


Creative Planning, as practiced by Mindset, is based on the British model, modified to suit North American needs. It emphasizes the qualitative aspects of consumer research over the quantitative. That's not to say it ignores the need for quantitative information. Indeed, one of Mindset's strategic partners specializes in the quantitative side of things and is damn good at it.

Creative Planning demands an unusual and often disparate mix of skills:
Intellectual ability plus down to earth common sense. Analytical thinking plus intuitive leaps. Objectivity plus passion. Naive curiosity plus healthy cynicism. Verbal facility plus good listening skills. Tolerance for ambiguity plus a capacity to summarize concisely.


There are two significant acts of the imagination in the creation of great advertising:

1) A critical insight that leads to a powerful strategy. Or what your advertising should say.
2) A big idea based on that strategy. Or how your advertising should say it. Creative Planning is an approach designed to provide a greater degree of discipline to the first stage of creating advertising. In many ways it's as creative as the second. That's why it's called "Creative" Planning.

British researcher, Alan Hedges put it best, "Devising an advertising strategy is an act every bit as creative as designing an ad... It is an act of imaginative business judgment to select the crucial pieces of information from a mass of source data and weld them into an intuitive framework which will direct without constricting subsequent advertising development."

2003 Mindset Creative Planning Inc. All Rights Reserved.