Let me start by asking you a question.

“What is harder harder. Succeeding in business today or succeeding in business 50 years ago?”

Before you answer, think about this;

  • 50 years ago businesses faced less competition
  • 50 years ago marketing was far simpler
  • 50 years ago your prospects had no choice but to engage with you or your staff to get the facts
  • Today every business has more competition than ever
  • Today marketing is more confusing than ever
  • Today your customer has more choice than ever and can bypass your office, your sales people and any phone calls with the tap of a button.

This makes growing a successful business a challenge at best. Which got me thinking; how, as a business owner, can you tip the scales to your advantage when establishing and growing your brand? What tool could you use to help convince your sceptical buyers they should buy from you and not your competition?

That’s when I had a flashback to my Ad Agency days (and no I’m not quite from the Mad Men era if that’s what you’re thinking). When we were developing ideas for our client’s campaigns pre-computer days we often began the process by creating what we called the ‘Big Idea.’ 

It’s primary function was to distill a product or service down to a simple concept that summed up how it differed from the competition. This big idea then became the central driver to the advertising experience and all creative sparked from it.

A Perfect example is Apple. Their big idea is “Apple makes technology so simple that everyone can be part of the future.” This principle guides everything Apple does, from software design and product development to retail stores, advertising campaigns and advertising phrases such as “Think different.”

So it hit me, why not resurrect the Big Idea concept. It would be a great way for business owners like yourself, to distill the essence of your brand as Apple has. Or even push you enough to change something in your business and create a point-of-difference.

See, if you’re currently claiming that you’re a “market research company,”  or you “supply IT services” it’s not a Big Idea because some thousands of people say the same thing.

When you put the right amount of thought into your Big Idea you will see how it functions as an organisational totem pole around which strategy, behaviour, actions, and communications are aligned. When a Big Idea hits its mark, it acts as a powerful driver of the internal choices a brand has to make as well is a clear guide for developing external marketing messages.

The Big Idea formula

To arrive a killer Big Idea you have to work through a process. The following is my favourite.

1. Articulate a powerful insight: When the powerful insight you develop is an incontestable truth in the form of a problem that needs solving, it grabs your consumers attention because they want to see it solved. This cleverly sets your brand up as the provider of the solution.

These insights are short relatable stories that tap into a stirring truth, and, when expressed succinctly in consumers’ language, can easily be remembered and retold by them.

2. Associate it with your brand: If the insight works as intended, your brand can deliver a bold solution to that challenge or need. As you are in the market category already, you’re easily be seen as the one most capable of solving the problem, or even exceeding the need for the consumer.

3. Create a succinct expression: And finally, with the insight and association established ta variety of messages can role out as needed in the form of anything from a short video script through to a powerful one-line phrase. The resulting messaging will trigger recall of the brand moment for the consumer. It could even, further down the creative line, provide inspiration for a tagline or sub-tag.

Here is how this format might work for Snickers.

1: Powerful Insight: When you’re hungry it’s hard to concentrate and hard to focus on what matters. You don’t perform to the level you normally do because there’s something missing.

2. Brand Association: Snickers is the perfect way to get back to feeling yourself. Packed full of peanuts, caramel, nougat and milk chocolate, Snickers satisfy your hunger, all in a quick and easy-to-carry pack.

3. Succinct Expression: Here are a few they can use based on their insights and brand association:

  • You are not you when you are hungry.
  • Snickers satisfies
  • Packed with peanuts, Snickers really satisfies

And here’s how it works for my platform Plan2Brand.

1. Powerful Insight: In today’s crowded marketplace many SMEs struggle to realise their vision because they fail to offer a meaningful alternative to their competitors. The World’s most successful brands rise above the noise because they employ a strategic planning process that informs and guides every aspect of their point-of-difference.

2. Brand Association: Plan2Brand helps SMEs to lift themselves above the commodities, competition and chaos by simplifying strategic planning. Based on the same process every outstanding brand follows, we help users create a meaningful point-of-difference and the actions, words and phrases that support it.

3. Succinct Expressions

  • Realise your vision
  • Make your life changing vision a reality 
  • Secure your competitive advantage and make your vision a reality
  • Craft your point-of-difference and rise above the noise
  • Standout in a world full of noise and distraction

See how the concepts and phrases used in the insight and brand association can be used to create a variety of strap lines. The beauty of this process is it helps you associate your brand with a clear and simple thought that relates to a problem.

A word of caution however. By simplifying the process, I’m not suggesting that developing your Big Idea will be easy; quite the contrary. Your Big Idea has some heavy hauling to do. It exists to inspire and drive everyone in your business as well as successful creative marketing. Therefore it must be distinct, clear, and powerful enough to drive cut through in hyper crowded marketplaces.

Rules to follow when you’re creating your big idea

To help you develop a powerful Big Idea follow these rules. The more you stick to these the better the ourtcome: 

1: Your big idea must matter to your ideal customer. This might be obvious but as a business owner myself, I know we all have difficulties putting ourselves into our customers shoes. So make sure you step back. Even survey a few customers to see if they think your Big Idea is important to them in a significant way.

2: A great Big Idea has an enemy. The tension that can be set up when you pit good against evil is universally compelling. Your brand must be the “good” in the fight against “evil.”


Plan2Brand helps SMEs to lift themselves above (good) the commodities, competition and chaos (evil).

Or Snickers…..

When you’re hungry it’s hard to concentrate and hard to focus (evil) on what matters (good).

3: A Big Idea turns convention on its head. You know you’re onto something when it challenges the way we think, feel, and behave. Microsoft wanted to see a computer on every desk. The idea disrupted the computer world and created the hyper profitable niche of ‘PCs.’

4: A Big Idea pushes your brand. If your Big Idea sits nicely into your business’s comfort zone; it’s back to the drawing board. In my mind a Big Idea exists to challenge your business to be different in a big way from your competitors. To deliver on it you might need change the way you deliver, communicate, and interact. Are you up for that? 

Just because Apple is currently three times the size of IBM they know they must constantly push technology and create new devices with advanced capabilities. They understand it’s a competitive playing field and to hold onto their market share they must continue making their products easy for customers to use and still looking good.

5: A Big Idea should be a simple concept. You final Big Idea expressions must not exceed a sentence. To distill an idea down to its essence is deceptively difficult and requires great control on your part. The folks behind the Life is Good brand put their Big Idea into their 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.

6: People talk about a Big Idea. Lastly, done well your Big Idea should create a buzz. Do you think “a strategic planning process for SMEs based on the same strategic process every outstanding brand follows” is something a business owner might tell a peer about? I certainly hope so.

Creating a Big Idea for your business that is easy to understand and shareable is a great way to push your business to stand apart from your competitors. But more than that, if it’s powerful enough it will go a long way to transforming your business and driving success for the longterm.