Defining Your "Big" Idea…

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If you intend to set your brand apart, you need a big idea. “I am a coach” is not a big idea, because thousands of people can claim the same thing.

In Designing Brand Identity, Alina Wheeler defines a big idea like this. “A big idea functions as an organizational totem pole around which strategy, behavior, actions, and communications are aligned. These simply worded statements are used internally as a beacon of a distinctive culture and externally as a competitive advantage that helps customers make choices.”

Don’t you just love that? I sure do. Alina is basically telling us that big ideas have specific, defining characteristics. Let’s take a peek at some of them.

Based in customer insights—Your big idea must matter to your ideal customer. Whether your target is moms with small children, fellow entrepreneurs, or widowed women over 65, your big idea must be important to them in a significant way.

Fights an evil—The battle between good and evil is universally compelling. Your brand must be the “good” in the fight against “evil.” Women battle with their self-image on the scale (evil) and Special K gives them non-scale victories (good). Technology is complicated and frustrating (evil) but IBM makes technology accessible to everyone (good).

Turns convention on its head—A really big idea challenges the way we think, feel, and behave. Nintendo’s Wii set out to involve everyone in playing video games: grandparents next to grand kids. The idea disrupted the gaming world and created a profitable niche for Nintendo.

Pushes the brand—If your idea fits neatly into your business’s comfort zone; think bigger. Big ideas will challenge the way you deliver, communicate, and interact with your own brand. Even though Apple is currently the most-recognized brand in the world having a brand value of $145 billion second to IBM with only a brand value of $69 billion, Apple must constantly push their talent to create technology with advanced capabilities while continuing to make their products easy for customers to use and still looking good. Why? They want to hold onto their market share and know it’s a competitive playing field. That’s big.

Is simple—Big ideas must be expressed in words or phrases not to exceed a sentence. To distill an idea down to its essence is deceptively difficult and requires great control on the part of the brand team. The folks behind the Life is Good brand put their big idea in its name “Life is Good.” The brand simplified its mission, which is to spread the power of optimism. They believe that what you focus on will grow and they wish to grow optimism. Big idea—three little words.

Creates buzz—A big idea must create buzz like the Wendy’s 1984 ad campaign slogan, “Where’s the beef?” That campaign was Wendy’s “grand slam, home run, bottom-of-the-ninth-in-the-World-Series” attack against McDonald’s. And it worked. Wendy’s pulled in a record $76.2 million in sales in 1985.

To evaluate your big idea, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Have you considered all the pros and cons of your idea?
  • Have you pinpointed the specific problem your idea is expected to solve?
  • Have you tested your assumptions of the need for your idea with your target customer?
  • Is your idea fresh, original, and compelling to your target?
  • How does your idea compare to what your competitors and alternative offerings to your company offer?
  • Is your idea timeless?
  • Can you express your idea simply?

When you are satisfied with your answers to the questions above, you can congratulate yourself because you’ve done your due diligence on the core of what will set your business apart.