Fifty years ago David Ogilvy spoke about the need for marketers to think bigger. His goal on every project was to create something so special that the brand would still be famous for it 30 years later. It wouldn’t always work out (he estimated that he came up with about 10 great ideas in his career) but at least he’d give the brand a fighting chance of becoming something extraordinary. And if it fell short, well it would still probably out perform its less ambitious competitors.
Few marketers operated that way then and few operate that way now. Instead, particularly in digital, we obsess over tactical minutiae, and spend more time worrying about individual channels (which by the nature of digital are constantly evolving) than the actual content we feed them with.
This inability to think big is not only strategically damaging, but also bad news for tactics and operational efficiency. There is no upside.
Go big or go home
First of all, let’s consider the strategic implications.
The very nature of brand positioning is that you identify an audience that you will engage with in a way no other brand can. This undivided attention cannot be expected by being a fractionally better version of your competitors.
Being 5% better than the competition is not a strategy. You need to be 500% better or do something else entirely.
The ultimate efficiency driver
I bet when you started reading a blog post about ambitious brand ideas you hadn’t anticipated reading about anything as mundane as operational efficiency, but time is all we have. Squeezing every last drop of impact out of it must be at the front of every marketer’s mind, and big ideas help you do exactly that.
Your big idea(s) should be able to spearhead almost all of your activity. For example, a big idea might be to collate unique data that shows shocking trends within your market. You may then display that in an attempt to shine a spotlight on what’s wrong with the industry whilst making it your mission to change it and set higher standards for the sector as a whole.
This one strategy can then spearhead ALL of the following tactics:
– It can be used on the website to increase engagement
– It can provide great unique content for distribution on social and email
– You could hide certain parts of the data behind a lead form to generate emails
– It can provide the basis of a quarterly press release that both increase brand exposure and attracts links for SEO
– You could even ask key influencers to comment on the data (and they will do so as the subject actually matters), allowing yourself to benefit from their credibility whilst getting your brand in front of their audience.
Focusing on a small number of big ideas is SO much more efficient than relying on endlessly changing tactics. If each month you have to start from scratch, coming up with that spark of inspiration all over again, that’s seriously hard work.
Build an asset
If you focus on big ideas then with each month that passes you have the peace of mind of knowing that you are developing an asset and becoming famous for something of substance. Something that another brand would pay good money for.
The alternative – a relentless focus on tactics – may result in lots of little wins, but its disjointed nature means you are never actually building anything. I suppose it’s a bit like my relationship to my local golf course. Over the last 15 years I’ve birdied just about every hole, but if it’s not all on the same scorecard then it doesn’t count for much.
How do you find your big ideas?
Unfortunately there is no simple answer to that. If David Ogilvy only managed 10 in his lifetime then it clearly isn’t easy. What I can tell you is that big ideas do not come from sitting around on bean bags, drinking mochaccinos and waiting for lightening to strike. They come from tireless research into the business, the competition and the audience. You need to find a form of content that you know the audience will be captivated by and that nobody else is delivering, and then execute it so emphatically that nobody else would even dare attempt to catch up.
You need to come up with two or three ideas so audacious that if you achieve them then you believe the market will be permanently and irreversibly affected. And even if you only ever get half way there, you will still have delivered a pretty damned good (not to mention efficient) strategy for your brand.