Make Marketing History

The views of a marketing deviant.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Don't Just Focus On The Big Idea?

Last week, Faris (a big thinker) asked me "What's the Big idea?" We were in a pub - where such questions often get asked - and it was the day of the UK ad industry's Battle of Big Thinking where a number of mutual friends (including Amelia and Katy) had, no doubt, spoken eloquently and brilliantly about a variety of ideas.

But were they big ideas? Is social media a big idea? Is branding? Faris and I agreed that fire and alcohol might both be classified as big ideas, but we weren't sure about the rest.

Big idea are big because they are so rare and yet businesses are obsessed with having them, be that in their product range or their marketing. That seems like a futile effort to me. The only important big idea for business is their underlying strategy which should underpin everything they do - though, of course, the search for the big idea often causes them to ignore that fact.

That aside, it's much better to focus on having a lot of arguably smaller ideas: small ideas that can have immediate impact, small ideas that can generate further small ideas and small ideas that might just turn out to be slightly bigger than you first thought.


Anonymous ainainoslo said...

But doesn't the small ideas often come up in the chase of the big ones? To quote Leo Burnett: "If you reach for the stars, you might not get one, but you won't end up with a hand full of mud either."

5:26 AM, December 01, 2009  
Blogger john dodds said...

Fair enough - I'm not saying don't aim high, I'm saying you can reach that altitude without having a big idea and that if you spend all your idea looking for a big idea, you might never take off.

Reaching for the stars is not the same as reaching for a big idea. The forme is focussed on the customer, the later I would suggest is sometimes focussed on internal ego.

1:57 AM, December 02, 2009  
Anonymous Angus said...

Maybe a cluster of small ideas is a big idea?

2:25 PM, December 02, 2009  
Anonymous Niko said...

perhaps some more binary thinking makes for more clarity?

Will executing this idea make me go broke beyond repair (as in risk, or customers allienating etc)? No?..proceed..

Does this idea have potential to generate repeat sales? Yes? if answer to Q1 is No..proceed..

As long as your ideas produce positive cashflow and healthy margin, you live to figure it out another day

just ask Hermes

2:54 AM, December 03, 2009  
Anonymous Cecilia said...

I think it is fine to be on the hunt for a big idea, just not with a myopic focus. People often tend to overlook the small gems that they run across each day. Those could very well be the key to their long-term success.

Not all big ideas start out as big ideas. And many big ideas are very simple things that most people thought of yet ignored as trivial.

After all, to paraphrase someone from IBM years ago - Why would anyone want a computer in their home?

3:33 AM, December 03, 2009  
Blogger john dodds said...

@Angus wise counsel as ever.

@Niko if it's a small idea and thus not too costly - it might not even have to generate immediate positive cashflow.

@Cecilia - welcome, this blog is sadly lacking in rocket scientists. As cliched as it has become, the only focus should be on meeting the customers' needs. IBM have shown that by shifting their focus to custome support - not a huge idea in itself but one that has transformed their fortunes.

3:50 AM, December 03, 2009  
Blogger Unknown said...

Actually businesses aren't generally obsessed with big ideas at all. They're really only interested in selling more stuff and beating their competitors.

Then you have some people in those businesses obsessed with the big ideas. Usually what they are really interested in is having bucket loads more admiration from their peers and have semi-naked groupies (male or female) feed them grapes.

I agree deinitely agree that fire and alcohol are big ideas. I'd add grilled meat as another one. I often think about the first human being who thought it might be interesting the try throwing that food in the brand new fire.

Aspiring Rocket Scientist

3:57 AM, December 03, 2009  
Anonymous niko said...

Willem, kerel..

You say that like it is a bad thing..

7:59 AM, December 03, 2009  

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