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Sunday March 11, 2012




This is the final installment in a two-part examination into ideas or, more specifically, getting to BIG Ideas. Why BIG Ideas? In this “age of sameness” BIG Ideas can make the difference in gaining a competitive advantage, creating brand loyalty, reinvigorating the brand and/or organization, and fueling more rapid growth to achieve stretch business objectives.


In Part 1 we: addressed the importance of getting a BIG Idea; defined what we mean by a BIG Idea; and offered a classification consisting of different kinds of BIG Ideas, going from a Brand Idea to a Tactic Idea. In this article we will share our thoughts regarding: barriers to overcome in getting to the BIG Idea; how to recognize a BIG Idea; and, finally how to assess the value of your ideas. (Click here to revisit Part 1)


Barriers to Getting to (BIG) Ideas

While managers in most companies may claim they want, and need, BIG Ideas they, and their organizations, often thwart their development. Getting to the BIG Idea is akin to walking through a minefield, where hidden barriers can spring-up to destroy our ability to introduce new ideas into the marketplace. Being aware of where the barriers lie may help us to successfully confront and manage them so that we may snatch victory from the jaws of defeat to achieve success. Here are some of the frequently encountered barriers, which we need to find a way to resolve before we can get to the BIG Idea:

  • Busyness – With the growing rounds of streamlining going around these days fewer and fewer marketers remain to manage the business and, as such, are being challenged with doing yet more things. We’ve never been so busy: addressing scores of emails; sitting through numerous, endless meetings; conducting multiple revisions and presentations on the same subject, where little, if any, value is added; addressing random questions and/or objections from the sales force; addressing product quality issues; and so forth. With all of this on our plate who has time to think? Who has time to dream? Who has time to create? Accordingly, we have to make time or it won’t get done!
  • Orthodoxy – This is about buying into the conventional wisdom and the rise of dogma. It’s doing what your competitors do in the way they do it based upon the belief that this is what drives sales. If competitors use celebrities in their advertising then we must use celebrities to support our brands. If competitors participate in medical congresses then we must participate in the same congresses. We believe that not only must we participate in these same things but also that we must do it in the same way they do and/or the way we’ve always done it (including arming our sales personnel with 16-page viz-aids that neither get presented nor are read). This worshiping at the altar of orthodoxy may also be identified by the litany of executional “considerations” (which are really “mandates”) we use when providing direction to resource teams (such as the advertising agency) and/or using these so-called considerations to measure the value of the work.
  • NIH – This is an acronym for not-invented-here syndrome. But we do not need to be the font of all the ideas. Instead, we must be sensitive and responsive to the ideas of others since ideas can come from anyone, at any time. Moreover, NIH suggests that we may be of the disposition to look for what is wrong as opposed to what might work (perhaps, with some thoughtful and meaningful adaptations).
  • Fear – New ideas can be frightening. They represent an unknown. Afterall, no one has done it, or is doing it that way. If we champion what is novel, we are seen as, well, “different.” It makes us feel that others (particularly out senior managers) may not feel that we are “one of them.” That’s frightening! What’s more, the idea may fail. And, if our name is attached to the idea it could be career ending (at least with your current organization)! So when confronted with a new idea we react by saying “NO!” because it is safer to say “NO!” than it is to say “yes” to new ideas.
  • Target Fixation – This is as term whose origin is military aviation. It means being so fixated on the target that one is totally oblivious to what is going on around him and, inadvertently, flies into the target. Focusing on one marketing mix element, one tactic, one medium (such as what can we do with mobile phones to market our product?) could result in target fixation and cause us to overlook really big opportunities such as a BIG Brand, Marketing or Campaign Idea.
  •  Absence of a Quality Process – There are really two thoughts here. One is about making the generation of ideas an ongoing process, not an episodic event. The worse time for going after a BIG Idea is when we desperately need one and/or we are on a very tight timeframe. The pressure may prove overwhelming. And, the time constraint will lead the organization to settle, or do something that has not been checked for productivity prior to execution in the marketplace. We need to build a pipeline of proven ideas. The second thought is about not having a quality process for generating and assessing ideas, essential to leading us to choose those that are strategically appropriate and productive in stimulating desired customer behaviors, and building the business.
  • Focus on Idea Fragments versus Complete Ideas – Idea generation sessions, or our individual creative thinking, generally lead to idea fragments as opposed to complete ideas. In other words, the details of the idea are missing. While idea fragments may inspire us (and there is nothing wrong with that) it is merely a first step. We need the details to get to a complete idea. We do not need the details for all the idea fragments we generate, merely for those that meet pre-established criteria. (And, by the way, being truly excited about the potential for an idea is a valuable criterion.) Without a complete idea we are unable to give full wings to the idea and any attempt to assess the idea (e.g., with a concept) will likely lead to false results.
  • Absence of Standards – So, why do we think we have a BIG Idea? Have we pre-established criteria and measurements, as in achieving measurements for results? It’s not about merely “liking” an idea because, for example, it is “creative” (remember, “It’s not creative unless it sells,” which, we’ve been informed was proclaimed by David Ogilvy, not Bill Bernbach as stated in Part 1). Instead, we need to establish standards for ideas (as we should establish standards for all our initiatives) and inspect that our ideas meet and/or these standards.


How to Recognize a BIG Idea

The late David Ogilvy, a lion in the history and development of advertising, stated “Unless your advertising contains a big idea, it will pass like a ship in the night.” We want to take this one step further and relate it to ideas. If your brand does not contain a BIG Idea it will pass like a ship in a moonless, overcast night, with its lights out. In other words, customers will neither notice the brand, nor be moved by it. He is also quoted as saying, “It is horribly difficult to recognize a good idea. I shudder to think how many I rejected.” This is coming from someone who was in the idea business. This is an individual who was incredibly creative in his own right. What chance then do we have to recognize whether we have a potential BIG idea? Well, here are seven questions, the first three of which Mr. Ogilvy asked himself whenever he assessed advertising, that we’ve amended for recognizing a BIG Idea:


1.     Did it make me gasp when I first saw it? (David Ogilvy)

2.     Do I wish I had thought of it myself? (David Ogilvy)

3.     Is it unique? (David Ogilvy)

4.     Does it fit the Brand Idea to perfection such that it will contribute to building brand equity? (BDNI)

5.     Does it address a key business issue such as overcoming a problem or exploiting an opportunity? (BDNI)

6.     Will it motivate a change in customer behavior (consistent with our Marketing Objectives) and lead to more rapid sales growth? (BDNI)

7.     Will it endure as a campaign or contribute to energizing a campaign? (BDNI)


How to Assess Ideas

Recognizing a BIG Idea is subjective. While the aforementioned questions help us identify what are potentially BIG Ideas from, hopefully, a plethora of idea fragments that have been generated, we need to quantify their value. This requires us to gain feedback from customers regarding their merit, as measured by the likelihood of motivating the behavior (e.g., switching, adoption, etc.) we seek from these customers. Marketing research personnel can assist you in conducting the appropriate customer research. But there are steps we need to take before and after marketing research too. Here a five steps following the generation of ideas (regardless of the method used to create them):


  • The first step is to transform idea fragments into complete ideas, for those ideas that generate affirmative answers to the seven questions noted in the aforementioned section, and meet internal screening criteria. The complete idea contains target-customer definition, customer insight, benefit and details (which could be reason-why support, product features, how it works, etc. – depending upon whether the idea is for a positioning strategy, product or tactic).
  • The second step is to rescreen the complete ideas to ensure each continues to pass your internal screening criteria. It is very helpful to get team members (from different functional areas) to rate and rank each idea.
  • The third step is to develop a concept that translates the complete idea into a format that customers can appreciate and respond to appropriately and reliably. This can take the form of a prototype, white card concept, etc. The format is informed by the idea itself. (For example, a product idea may lend itself to a prototype. On the other hand, an idea for positioning strategy may benefit from a white card concept.)
  • The fourth step is to undertake marketing research to gain customer feedback. This will aid in decision-making and may even lead to adaptations to help make the idea more productive.
  • The final step is in-market testing of the execution. We should validate the marketing research and measure real world results to determine the return- on-investment (ROI) that we may expect from executing it on a broader scale.



1.     Break down barriers – Identify the barriers you face in getting to the BIG Idea. Then figure out what you need to remove these barriers. For example, if your management is reluctant to adopt new ideas get the research support you need to get them onboard. Make it easy for them to accept and buy doing something different or in a different way.


2.     Make idea generation a priority and on-going process – One of the marketer’s many responsibilities is to build the brand. Yet we spin so much of our time doing those urgent, non-important tasks, crowding-out time for those non-urgent, critically important tasks such as developing new ideas capable of growing the business. Make time for this critically important task and get it on your calendar. Make an appointment with yourself and/or your extended brand team to spend time ideating. We might consider devoting the first Friday of every quarter for idea generation.


3.     Think BIG – Yes, we want to ideate regarding ways to overcome barriers and ways to exploit perceived opportunities. But we should think BIG as in ideating around the Brand Idea and the development of a Marketing Idea.


4.     Demand the Unexpected – Don’t even think about doing the same things, in the same ways that they always been done. Think and act different.


5.     Develop Complete Ideas – It’s important to take those idea fragments that pass internal screening criteria to the next level – complete ideas. This will contribute to the further development of the idea, and provide a basis for yet additional, more reliable screening.


6.     Set Standards – This is not about having ideas but developing BIG Ideas. While we’ve offered a definition of a BIG Idea (see Part 1) and identified objectives, set standards for your brand and/or organization. This will provide a basis for investing our limited resources against ideas that are likely to deliver a very attractive return-on-investment.


7.     Develop an Idea Pipeline – We all recognize the value of building a rich new product pipeline in generating future growth. It’s a mark of a healthy company. Likewise an idea pipeline will serve to generate future brand growth. It’s a mark of a healthy brand.


8.     Measure the Impact of All Ideas – We should strive to measure the ROI on all the ideas in our pipeline. This will enable us to predict with greater accuracy and reliability the impact on the brand. It will serve to enable us to manage the achievement of the brand’s business objectives of sales, market share and profits.


9.     Incentivize Idea Generation – Put together a program for recognizing business building ideas, and those people that created them. This doesn’t have to be anything expensive. It could be an annual awards ceremony, a luncheon, a company-wide (or brand team) email, anything that recognizes the individual and her idea. Do what it takes to demonstrate that ideas and their generators are valued for making a difference. We should also consider incentivizing adoption of an idea developed in another geography or sector that has been proven to work. But ensure it works for your brand in your geography before executing it on a broad scale basis.


10.  Get Help – Go from zero to filling your idea cup to overflowing. We, at BDNI, can assist you in building an idea pipeline in a fraction of the time of conventional methods. We can design and facilitate a special idea generation session for your team to generate hundreds of ideas, help you develop complete ideas, translate those ideas into winning concepts and measure their impact on a just-in-time basis. To learn more just reply to this email, or call Richard Czerniawski at 847-256-8820.


Make your marketing matter more! Lets get to BIG Ideas!!


Richard Czerniawski and 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

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