August 24, 2022
    Reding_icon 4 MINUTE READ

    BRAND DAY, Episode 10:

    What's the Big Idea?

    Turning Your Brand Identity Into Successful Marketing

    “It takes a big idea to attract the attention of consumers and get them to buy your product. Unless your advertising contains a big idea, it will pass like a ship in the night. I doubt if more than one campaign in a hundred contains a big idea.” - David Ogilvy, the father of advertising.

    In our last article, we wrote about Apple’s iconic “Think Different” campaign from 1997. It salvaged Apple’s brand from near bankruptcy, eventually sending it on to become one of the world’s most valuable companies.

    “Think Different” is emblematic of a concept in advertising known as a “Big Idea” (creative name, right?). A “Big Idea” is a single idea that forms the backbone of a given marketing campaign. It works like a hook to grab prospects’ attention and get them interested in learning more.

    Why is it so powerful that the father of modern advertising, David Ogilvy, believed that advertising without one is a waste?

    The human brain processes so much information that, when it encounters anything that seems repetitive, it learns to ignore it. That’s why so much of digital advertising is struggling to get responses today: consumers are so used to seeing the same things in the same places online (“banner blindness”) that their brains automatically tune it all out.

    But when something new comes along, it can have the opposite effect. It can jar them out of whatever routine their brain is currently in, triggering curiosity and, possibly, even challenging their thinking. This penetrates through the brain’s defenses and opens up their minds to the rest of your marketing message.

    The Big Idea and Your Brand

    The concept of having a big idea in your advertising message goes back to the days of mail-order businesses, where each new promotion would seek to present a new big idea to the audience to get people to read the long form sales letters.

    The problem is that these direct response publishers were so zeroed in on generating sales that they rarely, if ever, built a brand. Meaning, the extent of whatever “relationship” they had with their customers was based entirely on coming up with new big ideas to get their customers’ attention (i.e., they had little to no brand loyalty).

    What Apple’s “Think Different” campaign did so profoundly was that it crafted a big idea that was rooted in Apple’s brand identity, and creatively expressed that identity into the marketplace in a way that got people’s attention and made them think, but didn’t even directly connect to any specific product.

    (In fact, the whole idea came from a previous campaign run by archrival IBM around the phrase “ThinkIBM.” “Think Different” cleverly played off of IBM’s concept but also positioned Apple against IBM as the computer brand for the visionary.)

    It wasn’t a big idea based on a specific product or promotion, but one based on the brand as a whole. This lent it more enduring power - to the extent that years after the line stopped being used by Apple, in 2002, the idea is still associated with Apple’s brand.

    Based on Apple’s example, the true power of a big idea is that it can be the thing that links your brand position and DNA (personality, values, unique selling proposition) to your tactical marketing efforts. It communicates who you are to your audience in a creative and attention-grabbing way.

    How to Come Up with a Big Idea

    Keep in mind that a big idea can be a single idea that your brand stands for, that comes through in all marketing communications, and that a customer would identify with your brand (that is rooted in your positioning). Or you can develop multiple big ideas that serve to creatively express your brand identity in slightly different ways. However you choose to use the concept of a big idea, here’s a simple way to think about developing one.

    Imagine that you needed to create a TedX talk around what your brand stands for. Its driving purpose, its vision, its values and beliefs, its unique approach to solving whatever problem you solve for customers.

    Every (good) TedX talk is structured in a similar way: a single, unique, organizing idea that conveys a different way of thinking about the given topic, supported by a blend of data (to lend credibility) and stories (to be easily memorable and emotionally impactful).

    If you were to create a TedX talk about your brand, what would that single idea be? Remember: it needs to embody your brand identity, but it also needs to creatively express it in an engaging way that is interesting to consumers.

    David Ogilvy provides some advice on how to recognize when you have a powerful idea. Ask yourself these questions:

    • Did it make me gasp when I first saw it?
    • Do I wish I had thought of it myself?
    • Is it unique?
    • Does it fit the strategy to perfection?
    • Can it be used for 30 years?

    Getting Your Big Idea Out

    Apple’s big idea was promoted in the way that many advertising campaigns of the day were: across TV, out-of-home, and print - the mass media. Today, of course, we can build in all sorts of interesting online elements to our campaigns to help get attention, but getting a big idea out to the public as part of a long term branding strategy requires maximizing attention in a way that is hard to do with just online media.

    While TV and print are struggling to retain audiences, out-of-home has shot to the top to become one of the most trusted, engaged with, and impactful media types of any kind (including online). Integrated along with online media, it’s a perfect vehicle to get your big idea to the market in a way that will grab attention and attract customers.

    Between Adkom’s new Brand Lab and its efforts to make the out-of-home world more easily accessible to all brands, we’re able to help you across this entire process: from brand building and messaging strategy (through our content) down to execution (through our media network and platform).

    To keep up with all the branding content we’re releasing, sign up for our newsletter in the form at the bottom of this page. And to talk to a representative about taking your big idea outdoors, reach out today.