HEY! WHAT'S THE BIG IDEA?
Do you have one?
No, we're not talking about some Big Idea that's going to make you a million bucks overnight.
Like a Flowbee or a Ginsu Knife.
What's the Big Idea in your marketing?
This question is stirring in my gray matter this morning because of a tweet by Ogilvy & Mather.
Last week, they tweeted a graphic excerpted from Ogilvy On Advertising.
Yes, "That old chestnut." If you're one of those people who laughs off that book, you a) haven't read it or b) don't understand it, and c) you probably wouldn't be here if you're one of the laugher-offers anyway.
Following is the quotable Ogilvy liberated from that graphic...
WHAT'S THE BIG IDEA?
You can do homework from now until doomsday, but you will never win fame and fortune unless you also invent big ideas. It takes a big idea to attract the attention of consumers and get them to buy your product. Unless your advertising contains a big idea, it will pass like a ship in the night.
Big ideas come from the unconscious. But your unconscious has to be well informed or your idea will be irrelevant. Stuff your conscious mind with information, then unhook your rational thought process.
It will help you recognize a big idea if you ask yourself five questions:
1. Did it make me gasp when I first saw it?
2. Do I wish I had thought of it myself?
3. Is it unique?
4. Does it fit the strategy to perfection?
5. Could it be used for 30 years?
"HEY, BIG IDEAS! LIKE A GUY KITEBOARDING IN A HUGO BOSS SUIT!"
If you follow your relentless scribe in Facebook, you may have seen a share of a blog post from a relentless marketer, Great Circle Sails of Marblehead, Massachusetts.
Great Circle is very good at sharing all kinds of sailing information that would be of interest to its core customer.
In this case, we're talking about a video from Alex Thomson Racing, a professional offshore sailing team sponsored for many years by Hugo Boss.
As team and sponsor, Hugo Boss and Alex Thomson have enjoyed a very tight relationship.
Among their marketing tactics are videos of skipper Alex Thomson doing extraordinary things aboard a big, dangerous, Hugo-Boss emblazoned racing yacht.
Naturally, he does them all while wearing a Hugo Boss suit.
Like walking along the keel of the boat as the boat sails.
Or walking up the mast.
Or, most recently, in what has to be the most over-the-top example of waterborne insanity, sailing alongside the speeding Hugo Boss yacht on a Hugo Boss kiteboard, hooking into a line attached to the top of the boat's mast, and flying that kiteboard to 200 feet in the air.
All while wearing a Hugo Boss suit.
IT'S ALL VERY JAMES BOND
Fast action. Designer suits. Consummate cool. And while it gets Hugo Boss and Alex Thomson racing a lot of attention, no--this is not a Big Idea.
It's a big stunt.
Yes, by the Ogilvy criteria, it makes you gasp when you first see it.
You might wish you had thought of it yourself.
It is unique.
It might even fit the Hugo Boss strategy to perfection when contrasted with their "Mystery Man" branding for menswear, epitomizing style, a relaxed attitude, nothing to prove, purpose, strength and cool.
But could it be used for 30 years?
It really can't be maintained over the long haul.
And therein lies the challenge with finding the Big Idea.
THE BIG IDEA IS OFTEN A SMALL GEM
The Big Idea doesn't need to be shot out of a cannon every day for 30 years.
The Big Idea is as Leonardo da Vinci said of the cat: the Big Idea might be small, but it is a masterpiece.
Don't believe it?
"We'll leave the light on for you."
2016 marks 30 years of Motel 6 using that pearl of an idea as a way to convey the modest genius of Motel 6 to its budget-minded core customer.
Capt. Alex Thomson sailing 200 feet over the water at a high rate of speed and potentially to his death is a circus stunt.
Eventually, it's going to lose its charm.
Tom Bodett leaving the light on for you is a modestly-couched Big Idea that can live on through decades--and has.
DON'T DISMISS A BIG IDEA JUST BECAUSE IT SEEMS LIKE A HOUSECAT INSTEAD OF A LION
There are plenty of remarkable housecats.
Recently, The Fabulous Honey Parker and I were on the phone with one of Slow Burn Marketing's first clients, Dr. Sam's Eye Care.
Dr. Sam himself echoed the power of the tiny gem as Big Idea.
In a nutshell, Dr. Sam's Eye Care came to us as United Eyecare Specialists.
Business had been flat for years, and they knew a change was necessary.
They needed a Big Idea.
Re-branded as Dr. Sam's Eye Care, offering commonsense, straightforward and affordable eye care, we helped them harness the folksy and approachable Dr. Sam persona in an ongoing campaign underpinned by the tagline, "Straight talk. Better vision."
Business exploded. Dr. Sam became a local celebrity virtually overnight.
Seven years after it was launched, patients still come into Dr. Sam's Eyecare, repeating the tagline back to him: "Straight talk. Better vision."
In the conversation, Dr. Sam said...
"WE WOULD NOT BE WHERE WE ARE TODAY WITHOUT YOU"
And while it's a generous sentiment for which we humbly thank him, he means more than he's saying.
He means that, without his brand and a subsequent "Straight talk" campaign, he would not have experienced such growth.
And the business' growth is less a testimony to Slow Burn's work than it is to Dr. Sam's insight and commitment.
He quickly recognized the power of his Big Idea, and has no problem using it for 23 years.
He'll continue riding that pony into the sunset.
He understands its value as a Big Idea and puts it out into the ether at every opportunity.
But in Ogilvy's advice, there is a key directive that many folks will gloss over.
"STUFF YOUR CONSCIOUS MIND WITH INFORMATION...
"...then unhook your rational thought process."
This is where the genius comes from.
When working with a new client, we always tell them that they can't possibly give us too much information.
For example, we've recently finished a project with a major national bank.
Slow Burn was hired on the down low by someone in a kind of fintech skunkworks division to brand a tech product they're rolling out this year.
For weeks, we'd been speaking to the people involved with this product.
We researched fintech until it was dizzying.
We dug deep into the bank's heritage, which dates to the 1800s.
And just when we thought we'd hit on three Big Ideas...
After extended due diligence, all our work imploded.
That's because there is almost nothing as difficult as branding a financial product or service--except for branding a tech product or service.
Everything you come up with has already been used.
When working on such creative, there is a predictable pattern.
At some point, there's a lot of running in circles and patting one's hair as if it were aflame, crying "What do we do?! What do we do?!"
Then, after weeks of simmering away in the unconscious, which has been packed with information, bubbling up from the muck and mire come little gems.
You find them to be gasp-worthy. Something the Fabulous Honey Parker thought of I find I wish I'd thought of myself. They are unique. They fit the strategy to perfection. They could it be used for 30 years.
THESE LITTLE GEMS ARE THE BIG IDEAS THAT WERE SO ELUSIVE
Frequently, creative people fear the Big Idea will never come.
But it will.
The Big Idea happens.
Unfortunately, in our instant-gratification, digitally-accelerated culture, it requires that one thing nobody ever wants to endure.
At Slow Burn Marketing, ours is a thoughtful process.
We recently made a presentation to a company with a packaged good who couldn't endure a thoughtful process.
They said, "Yes, we understand that's the right way to do it. But we don't have the time for that."
That's right, a prospective client said out loud that he didn't have the time to do the job the right way.
Make the time, my friend.
That's how you find the Big Idea that serves you well for a lifetime.
Blaine Parker is prone to ranting about any and all things related to brand. In many ways, he is a professional curmudgeon. While there is no known vaccine for this, the condition is also not contagious. Unless you choose it to be so.