Traffic Lights

Traffic Lights

Traffic Lights Exercise.

A tool for creative marketing

As with many of the tools and techniques considered on Marketing Teacher, traffic lights is a simple and effective approach. It’s just like the traffic lights exercise that are seen in millions of streets throughout the world, and is a basic metaphor for red, amber and green. Red means ‘let’s STOP it,’ Amber means ‘PROCEED WITH CAUTION, but make some improvements,’ and Green means ‘Go’ or ‘Let’s carry on with this activity.’


Traffic lights is a creative marketing tool that can be used in a number of ways.


  • You could conduct a personal traffic lights exercise based upon your own personal or professional development.
  • The exercise can be run at any stage of the marketing planning or creative process. So you could run it as you begin marketing, during a marketing campaign, and at the end of a marketing programme as you review or control your marketing activities.

Traffic lights has a number of benefits to marketing managers:

  • It encourages a creative approach to marketing
  • Traffic lights is simple to use
  • Traffic lights is quick to learn
  • Traffic lights cross cultures, since most countries use this common approach to traffic control.
  • Traffic lights transcend interdepartmental and disciplinary differences so that it is a common platform for decision-making.

The starting point is to decide upon an activity on which to base your traffic lights exercise. Some examples include:

  • How do we improve our marketing planning?
  • How do we make our marketing communications activities more effective?
  • In what ways could eMarketing be made more efficient?
  • How could I become a better marketing manager?
  • How could I improve my grades?

Okay, now you’ve read the lesson, have a go at the exercise (with answer).

Traffic Lights, Example – Serendipity

So let’s consider a company called Serendipity that markets Ski Wear. Serendipity conducted a traffic lights exercise upon its core marketing activities. Marketing managers and interested individuals from purchasing, sales management, finance and R&D met in a training room, and recorded their views under the headings red-amber-green. The results are as follows:

Red – STOP

  • Get rid of any distributors that favour competitor brands over our own.
  • Withdraw product lines that make a loss.
  • Remove our branding from any none-ski wear clothing.
  • Stop sponsoring amateur or low ranking skiers, and enhance the exclusivity of our brand.

Amber – PROCEED WITH CAUTION, and make some improvements.

  • Reduce the number of distributors that have Serendipity agency agreements. Start backing our proactive winners that really wish to endorse our brand and make it central to their business.
  • Promote or reposition products that are mature.

Green – Go or Let’s carry on with this activity.

  • Reward our best distributors, and develop as the bases for long-terms relationships.
  • Develop and enhance products that are highly profitable.
  • Let’s continue to sponsor top skiers that enhance our brand values.

Six Thinking Hats

Six Thinking Hats

Edward De Bono. Six Thinking Hats (1985)

In our thinking, we often try to do too much at the same time. We look at the facts of the matter. We try to build a logical argument. We may try to come up with some new ideas. We may even get emotional. Marketing managers tend to be multitasking and often have many projects on the go at the same time. Marketers have deadlines to meet. Marketing is creative, and the Six Thinking Hats helps us to provide marketing solutions to marketing problems.

The six thinking hats can be used occasionally as a means of switching thinking or systematically where a sequence of hats is established in advance to enable the thinker(s) to go through each stage of thinking.

The six thinking hats is a method for doing one sort of thinking at a time. Instead of trying to do everything at once, we wear only one hat at a time. It’s a metaphor. There are six colored hats and each color represents a type of thinking.

Six Thinking Hats

Green Hat.

The green hat is for creative thinking. Creative thinking may mean new ideas, alternatives, new solutions or inventions. It could also mean making something happen. The main uses of green hat are:

1. To explore the situation in terms of ideas, concepts, suggestions and possibilities.

2. To put forward proposals or suggestions of any sort, e.g. suggestions for action, possible decisions, etc.

3. To consider further options or alternatives. The green hat seeks to broaden the range of options before pursuing any one of them in detail. Yellow and black hat thinking are used to assess alternatives.

4. To come up with some new ideas. Lateral thinking techniques can be used deliberately in order to generate some new ideas.

5. To put forward some deliberate provocations. A provocation is not meant to be a usable idea. It is a way of releasing the mind from its usual track.

Blue Hat.

The blue hat gives an overview of our thinking. It covers the following points:

1. Where are we now in our thinking?

2. What should we do next in our thinking?

3. To establish an agenda or sequence for our thinking.

4. To summarize what has been achieved so far in the thinking.

White Hat.

The white hat means neutral information. White hat thinking focuses on the available information. There are three key questions:

1. What information do we have?

2. What information is missing?

3. How do we get the information we need?

Red Hat.

The red hat is for emotions, feelings, hunches and intuition. Unlike white hat the red hat is not interested in facts, but only in people’s feelings. The purpose of the red hat is to allow us to put forward our feelings so they can take part in the thinking. The red hat provides a clear label for those feelings. Intuition is often based upon experience about a matter, but we cannot exactly explain why we have such an intuition. The red hat allows the thinker to put forward a hunch or intuition without any need to support or justify it.

Black Hat.

The black hat is generally the most used of all the hats. It is the one that prevents us from making mistakes and doing silly things. The black hat is concerned with the truth, reality and critical thinking. The key questions are:

1. Is it true?

2. Does it fit?

3. Will it work?

4. What are the dangers and the problems?

Yellow Hat.

In general the yellow hat is optimistic and looking forward to the future. It can however be used to review the past but from the perspective of what we can learn from past experiences i.e. being positive and looking on the bright side. The key questions are:

1. What are the benefits?

2. Why should it work?

Restaurant Game

The Restaurant Game

Being creative using the restaurant game exercise.

The restaurant game (Green 2008) is an exercise that you can use as a student in order to generate some really interesting and innovative creative ideas. The basis of the restaurant going is that you think of your product, concept or brand as a restaurant, and you ask yourself a series of questions about the restaurant. It starts like this:

    • What is the product?
    • What is it service?
    • What is its price?
    • Where is it located?
    • How is it promoted?
    • What is the customer experience?

So you would answer these questions as if your brand were a restaurant. It’s that simple. Let’s have a look at a couple of examples.

The Apple Restaurant, Head Chef Tim Cook.

1. What is the product?

The Apple restaurant serves a smorgasbord of tasty treats which are adored by its very loyal customers. Head Chef Tim Cook is the kitchen’s creative driving force and specialises in amuse bouche that delight his fans.

2. What is it service?

The level of service is very much focused upon each individual customer and their perceived need for the Apple brand. Some would say it is almost ritualistic and religious. Waiters and other staff are very enthusiastic about the food and the restaurant and this is communicated through their attitude.

3. What is its price?

The Apple restaurant is notorious for being rather expensive in comparison to similar restaurants. If you can’t afford it, don’t go into the restaurant. If you have to ask the price of the food you cannot afford it. Don’t expect any discounts.

4. Where is it located?

The Apple restaurant is located in secondary areas. It doesn’t depend on footfall for its visitors, since anybody that is into this kind of food would know where to find it.

5. How is it promoted?

The business would depend again on effective word-of-mouth. However, you would expect to find it in famous guides such as Egon Ronay or Michelin. You’ll probably read a review from a restaurant critic in the New York Times or Le Monde. You certainly would not see it advertised in the national press or any mainstream media. Reputation is everything.

6. What is the customer experience?

The customer experience is almost like visiting a church. The Apple restaurant delivers a religious experience, especially for the most loyal believers. The experience is wholesome and individual. No two visits will ever be the same, and the anticipation of a new and tasty treat is always on the mind of the Apple consumer, and no sooner have they left the restaurant, but they are planning their next pilgrimage.

Other metaphors

The restaurant game is useful as you can see from the two examples above. There must be a whole series of metaphors that could be used in this creative process. For example, if my brand was an animal, what would it be? If my brand was a rock band, what kind of music would it play? If my brand was a movie, what kind of movie would it be? Metaphors can make fun learning and teaching tools.

The Facebook Restaurant, Head Chef Mark Zuckerberg.

If Facebook was a restaurant, what would it be like?

1. What is the product?

The product which is offered by Facebook Marketing Mix is a social media experience. Individuals stay in touch with friends and keep them up to date with their activities. You can post messages, pictures, and so on. Facebook is immensely popular all the way around the world, it is currently free, although Facebook markets pay-per-click advertising and there are products and services which you can subscribe to. It is perceived as being a highly valuable company, although it often faces criticism because of privacy issues. The Facebook restaurant serves food (its product), which is simple and appeals to most people. It is tasty, value for money and is there a shared with friends.

2. What is it service?

The service provided in the Facebook restaurant is efficient. It is quick and easy to use, and the restaurant itself is clinically hygienic. This is a fast food restaurant. It is not à la carte and everybody gets the same level of service regardless.

3. What is its price?

The food in the Facebook restaurant is very competitively priced. Pricing strategies would include value strategies, and economy pricing.

4. Where is it located?

The restaurant would be located in primary areas, and the Facebook logo would act as a call to arms for any of the global Facebook customer population. There would be a lot of customer walking past the doors of the Facebook restaurant that might drop in on impulse.

5. How is it promoted?

Obviously promotion would be through word-of-mouth and reputation. The Facebook restaurant would not use mass marcoms media such as TV. Instead, it would invest wisely in focused public relations activities, as it did for its 2012 flotation.

6. What is the customer experience?

The customer experience would be rewarding. Customers would spend a lot of time in the Facebook restaurant, maybe more chatting and socialising rather than spending money on food. You would not get to know the maitre d’, and the experience would not generally be a personalised one. You would go again, and you would recommend it to friends. However, the Facebook restaurant is currently very fashionable. Marketers need to ask themselves how long this will last?