Mini-case: Blackbox by Brightfish
One of the quickest routes to market disruption
is to repurpose or reframe a product or service you already offer. It takes minimal investment. The risk of market testing is small. The payoff can be significant, and instant.
There are plenty of examples around. Some are better known than others
For example, did you know frisbees were originally pie containers made by the 19th century pie king William Russell Frisbie? His 80,000 pies a day came in plate shape tins, bearing the name Frisbie’s pies. Until Yale students figured out that once you’d eaten the pie, the container made for a great toy.
Also, bubble wrap was wallpaper, until IBM started wrapping its computers in it. And then there is, of course, the all-purpose wonder spray WD-40. Originally a lubricant for nuclear missiles (seriously). But meanwhile there are over 2,000 documented uses from helping to shovel wet snow to remove crayon from television screens.
So what if you applied this lateral thinking to cinemas?
My friends at Brightfish, Belgium’s market leader in cinema advertising, found out. They asked: “What else can we do in a movie theatre beyond playing adverts, watching movies and selling popcorn? How can we use the existing infrastructure to do something else?”
The conversation took them in many directions, but at some point it focused on the orthodoxy that cinemas typically considered their audience to be the passive consumer of information and entertainment. “What if,” Brightfish asked, "we could ask the audience to send some information back?”.
The conversation took them in many directions, but at some point it focused on the orthodoxy that cinemas typically considered their audience to be the passive consumer of information and entertainment. “What if,” Brightfish wondered, "we could ask the audience to send some information back?”.
And so - after several iterations - the Blackbox concept was born
Instead of looking at a movie theatre as a place to consume entertainment, it considers all present as a market research panel that can use their mobile phones to answer questions on any topic of interest.
These can relate to the silver screen, like whether people liked an advert, a trailer or a movie. But they can also evaluate the taste of a new snack, the look of a new logo, or the credibility of a new sustainability programme. As long as the theatre floor stays clean, anything goes.
The commercial benefits of this reframing are quite promising
Without investing in extra infrastructure, Brightfish (in partnership with research partner Buffl) can now approach its existing client base with a focused, ultra-fast explorative market research at price-points starting below €1,000 euros. A position no agency can match, as they would need to buy and organise everything from scratch. While Brightfish can simply fall back on hundreds of screens, thousands of seats and continuous flow of movies to motivate respondents.
Which makes Blackbox a great mini-case of what innovation is really all about
This is looking at reality and seeing something that no one else is noticing. Turning the pie-tin upside down and seeing that Frisbees can be a toy. Beyond that, all the rest is technical execution.
So next time you want to innovate, think of this
All the innovation workshops and customer research are only as good as your ability to change your perception. To look at your business, your industry and your available resources in a way no one has done before.
Coco Chanel saw that if she shortened a black mourning dress she was working on, it could become but an essential in every woman’s wardrobe. Percy Spencer realised that the microwaves from a radar he was working with also heat food. Brightfish recognised that people in cinemas can do more than lean back and eat popcorn.
Your mission: Have a fresh look at your existing infrastructure and resources.
Deliberately challenge the orthodoxies of your business, your industry and your business model to take a new perspective. Change your perception of reality. Instead of hunting for that next iPhone out there, you might find it’s sitting right in front of you.
For more information on Blackbox, get in touch with Brightfish here.
Disclaimer: I am a Brightfish (external) team member, so I do admit a positive bias to everything they do. But even if this wasn’t the case, I still would have considered this project a great example.
Alain Thys is an experience architect who helps organisations drive profit and transformation through experience.