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The Uniform Project: A Great Idea Executed Brilliantly

February 16th, 2011 · No Comments · Ideas

Big Ideas:

  • The four S’s of a great idea are: Simple, Story, Surprising and Social Good.
  • The Uniform Project, started by Sheena Matheiken, is a great example of the four S’s. (Wear the same dress for a year to raise money for disadvantaged children.)

The Uniform Project Sheena Matheiken

How is this for an idea – Wear the same dress for a year to raise money for charity? You might be thinking, “Yeah right. How about I sleep everyday to raise money for charity?”

There is an elegance in a beautiful idea rooted in simplicity and generosity. The Uniform Project is one of those ideas. Everything was (is) perfect about the execution. Here are the four S’s of a beautiful idea:

Simple

A great idea has to be simple, otherwise it is too difficult to communicate, spread and understand.

Wearing the same dress for a year is easy to explain and communicate.

Story

People relate to stories, not platitudes or sales pitches. Here are two quotes from The Uniform Project’s about page, which is more inspiring?

“Revolutionize the way people perceive ethical fashion and place social responsibility at the center of consumer culture. Use fashion as a vehicle to make acts of charity more inspired and playful, enabling individuals to rise as role models of style, sustainability and social consciousness.”

OR

“The Uniform Projectâ„¢ started in 2009 when a young woman realized she was drowning in the doldrums of an advertising career. To counter the uninspired demands of the corporate world, she came up with an unusual creative challenge; to wear the same dress for an entire year – but, and this is where the real challenge came in, she’d have to make it look unique every single day and do so without buying anything new. The challenge was also designed to be an online fundraiser, raising money to send underprivileged kids to school.”

Too many companies focus on USP’s (Unique Selling Propositions) and then use meaningless words like “quality, excellence, highest standards, customer service, stakeholder value,” etc. Everyone says that garbage, tell us stories instead.

Surprising

Doing the same thing as everyone else, but a little cheaper, faster or better is a recipe for mediocrity. You have to break the rules to stand out. Wearing the same dress every day for a year is a shocking idea. People take notice. If Sheena Matheiken had said that she was going to donate 10% of profits from a new company to charity, it would have been a yawner. Few would have cared. The same dress for a year plus 100% of the proceeds go to charity, now that is a big idea and the press picked up on it quickly.

Social Good

People are motivated by much more than money, we want to do good in the world. Great ideas have to be good for society, more so than just a bank account. In fact, I argue that profits impede social initiatives. If you really want to do good, why have a profit motive at all? Pay yourself enough to live comfortably and reinvest in the organization, but beyond that, why not devote all profits to good causes? How much do you really need to consume?

Check out this amazing video of the first year of The Uniform Project.

Action Items:

  • Do something big. Make the world a better place. We don’t need anymore mediocre businesses.
  • Simplify your idea to its most basic element. Do one very simple thing and do it very, very well.
  • Forget long sales pitches and marketing babble, just tell an authentic story.

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