Why I am tired of the big idea debate

You’ve heard it before.  ‘The big idea is dead.’  ‘It’s all about lots of little ideas now.’

I just read yet another article about it and felt that it was time to say something again.

I am of the impression that we work from ‘brand platforms’ – sets of values and messages which they use to connect with their audiences, and that we can use these platforms as means of creating work based around ideas of all different sizes.  (Whatever ‘size’ means.  I think it means that a big idea can do lots of things, whereas a smaller one doesn’t go as far.)

However, the debate about the big idea still goes on.  I believe that this is because there is a wee backlash going on.  This is based on traditional planning vs the new planning.  People like me who have made the transition from making above the line campaigns in agencies where TV was the pinnacle, to digitally led agencies where we can do whatever is best for our clients because we have every channel at our disposal.

Because planning in digital seems so different, we feel the need to redefine what we do.  However, after doing this myself for a while, I now feel it is a complete waste of time.  What I do now is essentially the same as it has always been:

  • understand the audience
  • identify insights
  • agree what we want people to understand about the brand
  • agree what we want people to do with the brand
  • come up with good ideas about how we can make that happen

I’ve been criticised on the blog for this in the past.  And that criticism was fair, so I had a go at trying to explain why I wasn’t totally old school about it.

Big ideas are sexy.  They take ages to come up with.  Wouldn’t we all like to come up with one now and again?  On the other hand, lots of little ideas can be greater than the sum of its parts.  Horses for courses.  It’s up to us to work with our clients to do what is best for their brand.

I’d really like if the big idea debate could just die, rather than the big idea.

Rather than go on about it any more I’d suggest reading the following articles and making up your own mind.  (And then let me know what you think. Or don’t bother.  If you don’t reply I will assume you are getting on with having good ideas.)

 

The big idea is dead:

Think small

Why small matters

The big idea is dead

Rethinking the big idea

The elusive big idea

Simple ideas, well executed

Why it’s time to move away from the big idea

 

The big idea isn’t dead:

The big idea isn’t dead, it’s just smashed up into millions of pieces

Why size matters, big ideas aren’t dead, and ‘think small’ is dangerous advice

The big idea is alive and well

The big idea ain’t dead

Are big ideas dead?  Here’s one to watch out for

 

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