What’s the Big Idea?

Becky Morehouse

Becky Morehouse

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Part 9 of 12: What I Wish I Knew as a New Marketer

In this blog I review why, in an era of tight budgets, big ideas are more important than ever.

Before I start, however, full disclosure. Although I would never be described as a particularly creative person, I have come up with my share of great ideas because I stick to a basic five-step creative process.

Before we begin, let me make a bold statement: One of the great misnomers in marketing is that you need a big budget to make a big splash.

More important than a big budget, however, is a big idea. In fact, if the idea is big enough, a host of channels (including social media) can propel your idea into places you would never reach if you were simply relying on your budget.

Not convinced? Let me remind you of two words from a bygone era: frequency and reach. The theory was that to be noticed you needed to spend enough money to achieve a certain level of saturation.

In today’s marketplace we call that noise. In other words, you are merely adding to the din.

Read Part 8: Numerical Fluency and the Importance of Market Research

The goal today is not marketing noise, but marketplace buzz.

You want the idea to be so good that it engages the audience. It causes them to notice it and remember it and then tell—share with—their friends. That’s what big ideas do. They create buzz.

With that in mind, here are my five steps to the big idea:

Produce a Brief

Develop a creative brief that outlines, in broad strokes, what you are trying to accomplish with your creative campaign. The brief focuses on audience clarification, campaign goals, and expected outcomes. It does not offer any creative direction. It sets the broad parameters of the project.

A Deep Dive

Next, go for a deep dive. You and your creative team must spend serious time in the heads…and hearts…of your target audience. What kind of content attracts and keeps their attention? What are their social media habits? Where do they spend their time online? What do they talk about with friends? What do they read? Do they read? What fears do they have? What are their hopes and dreams? Which kinds of products (brands) do they buy? What brands do they ignore, or even ridicule?

You already know them as a market segment, the purpose of this step is to help you know them as individuals. Create a small collection of compelling personas most representative of your target audience. When the personas are done, everyone should have a clear idea of who you are trying to reach.

Use Your Subconscious

Next, turn your subconscious loose. Most of the time your subconscious is sitting around with nothing to do. Give it a project. Read, reread, and reread again the creative brief. Look over the research from step two. Internalize the audience personas. Make sure your creative team does this, too. Don’t let them rush off to create. Make them slow down and absorb. This discipline is critical. The creative technocrats call this the incubation step. Begin with insight and then add time. Give your subconscious a chance to churn.

Predictable, Surprising, Outrageous

Next, throw your creative team a curve. Don’t ask them for one great idea. Ask for three, one for each level of creative. The first level is predictable. This is the design they had to design to get the bad design out of their system. The next level is surprising. This creative causes you to sit up and take notice. The third level of creative is courageous, or even outrageous.

The fun starts at this third level of creative. When you look at courageous creative you know it is great. But it also makes you a little nervous. You turn to others for validation. Then you start showing it around. You think about it later. This is exactly what you want to happen. Creative that gets talked about will transcend any budget.

If none of the creative you see grabs your heart, then send it all back. Either you need a new creative team, or you need to rework steps one and two. Under no circumstance move ahead with creative that doesn’t truly grab you.


The last step is refinement, not revision. Do a little light testing to make sure you’re not missing something obvious. Let it percolate in your subconscious for just a bit once again. Remember, though, that courage dissipates over time. Think about the creative, but don’t think too much.

There is actually a sixth step: Execute. Develop a plan. Focus on the influencers. Multiple channels. And pull the trigger.

There you go.

Five simple steps to great creative regardless of the budget you might have.

Read Next: Great Marketing Makes for Great Messaging, Part 1

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