Contact Us | User Login  
Program Competencies
Our Blog


PDF Version



Monday, December 10, 2012



We sometimes joke with our clients that nearly all that we have learned about how to think, we learned when we were kids. We say this because among the most helpful thinking tools we regularly use are such things as ladders (which we use to organize and link brand positioning benefits), spiders (which we use to organize and link the brand’s positioning with its key initiatives), and buckets (which we use to organize and assess a range of ideas).   If such tools sound a bit like the children’s game many of us played—Chutes & Ladders—well, that illustrates the point. Businesses are more and more complex; but our thinking about them need not be. Simple, easy-to-use tools that help us to organize and display our thinking can be invaluable.


The added-value of one of these tools—the bucket—became evident with two different clients in just the past week…which got us to thinking that it might be a good idea to remind us all again of this simple concept-tool. If you look in any handy English dictionary, you will likely find the word “bucket” listed as both a noun and a verb. But you probably won’t find in either of these definitions the meaning of “bucket” or “to bucket” that most marketers intend. That meaning is more of an idiomatic one…an expression that has grown out of common use over the years. Because buckets obviously hold things, somehow or other the idiom that has come into use means “having distinct buckets hold like objects.” Quite simply, “to bucket” means to separate and classify.


Sounds pretty easy, right? Well, yes and no. On the one hand, everyone gets the idea that buckets are a metaphor for different classifications. And, when looking at a range of ideas—innovation ideas, promotion ideas, communication ideas—most people can see how some ideas tend to group together. But, on the other hand, as we rediscovered with one client last week, reaching a common understanding or agreement on how to label various buckets can be a bit more confounding. This is especially true when looking over a range of creative concepts for, say, a new advertising campaign. 


As we discussed a couple of weeks ago in Dispatches, once the Creative Brief is approved, we clients expect our creative agencies to develop a wide range of creative concepts (that we refer to as “Naked Ideas”) and present them in “Tissues.” Assuming we see 6-9 different concept-tissues at our first session, one thing that helps us get our arms around so much work is bucketing the ideas.   Many agencies will do this ahead of time for us; they then explain what buckets of like ideas they have explored and organize the ideas accordingly, during or at the end of their presentation. But whether they do bucket or do not bucket, we clients should also be thinking in terms of recognizable buckets.


Actually, we’ve found that a bucket is only as helpful as its label—the one word or two that identifies the like ideas within it. And we’ve found that the best labels (the ones that tend to command most people’s understanding and agreement) are like genres in books or movies. So, for example, everyone conceives of book genres as being Classics, Mystery, Sci-Fi, Historical Fiction, Romance, How-To and so on. When it comes to genres of Campaign Ideas, perhaps the labels are not as universally accepted, but still, from many experiences, these are some “idea genres” that most people tend to recognize: Metaphor/Analogy; Product or Brand as Hero; User as Hero; On-Going/Serial Story; Presenter/Testimonial; and Fantasy. Such genres are not, however, the same as execution approaches…or common ways that any number of genres could be executed—such as “Problem-Solution,” or “Vignettes,” or “Animation.”


With a common “label-language” for your potential Campaign Idea buckets, there are some real value-added benefits to doing the actual bucketing:


1. You’ll be able to tell right away just how broad the range of work really is. When an agency presents, say, a dozen of so ideas, it can seem like a waterfront has been covered. But if, after bucketing, it becomes clear that all twelve ideas fall into 2-3 buckets, more breadth is likely needed. Good bucketing, therefore, enables you to figure out not merely what is missing, but what needs to be added.


2. Seeing what buckets are represented and what ones are not helps to make us clients smarter. We not only get exposure to a wide range of idea-genres, but we can more easily assess appreciate which genres seem to have the most potential.


3. Maybe most important of all, having a range of idea-buckets helps to keep us from getting “trapped” into the same bucket year after year. So many brands (and so many categories) fall into the tendency of going with the same, “formulaic” idea-genre…for many years running. Having different options to consider and check out with consumers or customers forces us all to be more conscious of going with what’s always been “safe,” or with what everyone else is doing.

And therein lies the beauty of the bucket!



1. Prior to your next Campaign Idea exploratory with your agency, have a sit-down discussion with them and compile a listing of as many idea-genre buckets as you can. Even better, ask the agency creative teams to show an idea-example (from their historical work) for each bucket.


2. And make it a practice in your copy development process for the agency to consistently identify the idea buckets they have explored prior presenting any ideas; they should also state what bucket a given idea falls into.


3. To make assessing of the buckets even easier, find a big, blank wall to group ideas on…to literally display the various buckets. 


Richard Czerniawski & Mike Maloney



Richard Czerniawski

430 Abbotsford Road

Kenilworth, Illinois 60043

tel 847.256.8820 fax 847.256.8847

reply to Richard: or



Mike Maloney

1506 West 13th

Austin, Texas 78703

tel 512.236.0971 fax 512.236.0972

reply to Mike: or

© 2003 Brand Development Network (BDN) International. All rights reserved.

  Home | About Us | Contact Us | Site Map | Help

© 2007 Brand Development Network Inc. All Rights Reserved.
Site Web Master: Vincent Sevedge. Designed by
Call us: 800-255-9831
[Print Page]

Open 5-2008 BP&MCC Online Assessment