A continuing debate on the relevance of The Big Idea in the age of several small utility digital ideas

Ana Andjelic made very compelling for and against arguments about the relevance of “the big idea” in the age of digital branding where the paradigm seems to have shifted to executing several, small, utility ideas so they just work and bring simple delights – in her blog [i love marketing]. You really have to read that post (very comprehensive), the comments (very intelligent), and the sequel to that post before this one. (this started as a comment and turned out too long).

After all that I was pretty convinced big ideas with their strategy pitch lines are completely irrelevant. I can think of two cases where they are still very relevant though.

A big idea is very relevant for a new brand whose story (brand purpose) nobody knows yet.

Big Ideas seem like Big Lies as Alan Wolk points out in the comments for well known brands, such as Dove (evolution was so 😛 imho) because not only do we know every aspect of their epic that they put out every year, but with internet we hear a lot about other people’s experiences, the details of the product, the history of the corporation, so on. When we compare factual information with the next Big Idea, there’s a risk it might seem disingenous.

But new brands need to wave us their banner. If all they did was periodically put out small ideas without a bigger story, we wouldn’t bother to assimilate that message very well.

For instance, at Modea (friend works there) they are working on Lenox tools. Never heard of it before. Their banner is “cut something”. Perhaps a less adrenalin-rushed version of “just do it” in the context of tools, yet very straight forward and exciting (who don wanna cut somethin?). Makes their purpose pretty clear. They have a website too http://www.cutsomething.com.

When I heard “cut something” for the first time, I created a directory in my mind by that name, and every little web thingy they do – be it competition blade cutting comparison on youtube, or an sms contest, I file it in that directory.

The same goes for Barack Obama. He was a new brand and his big idea was change. Then he did many a web thingy & non web thingy that helped support that banner of change.

Now BO is a well known brand: people know the story, the purpose. Now people will judge him on the basis of the utility things he does that people interface with. The next time he runs for office it is going to be difficult for him to script a new big idea because if it departs much from perception it will seem like a big lie.

Corollary: A Big Idea is also relevant when you are looking to add a lot of people to your market. Case in point: Dos Equis, The Most Interesting Man in the World. I don’t usually drink beer (I don’t usually drink any alcohol) but this dude makes me want to drink Dos Equis.


3 thoughts on “A continuing debate on the relevance of The Big Idea in the age of several small utility digital ideas

  1. I believe that agencies and their customers must “execut[e] several, small, utility ideas” on a constant and iterative basis. While not the “big idea” they provide opportunities to both conceive big ideas and, more importantly provide a means of executing on that big idea when it comes.

    So, I don’t think it is an “either / or” argument.

    Thanks for blogging!

  2. Truth be told David, I am very excited to discover myself if it is an either/or, an AND, or an IF>THEN by entering the advertising workforce and spending some good time there 🙂

    I am curious to know why you chose to say big ideas as opposed to big idea. By that do you suggest the idea inventory is categorized as big idea, big ideas, small utility ideas? Can I ask you, with reference to Lenox, what would you say cutsomething is?

    Also, please feel free to stop me if I am over complicating what I had started to oversimplify.

  3. I wouldn’t look too much into my (s) on “big ideas” as I was thinking of multiple clients at one time (as I constantly do). For me an idea will only be big if it truly fits with the brand and the mission to promote the brand (or a product).

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