How to Find Your Next “Big” Idea?

Advertising gurus David Ogilvy and George Lois pioneered the term “Big Idea” in advertising. Ogilvy said,
“You will never win fame and fortune unless you invent big ideas.” It’s true. My first exposure to a truly
great “Big Idea” was working on the Avis account at Doyle Dane Bernbach where, “We Try Harder
Because We’re Number Two” took Avis to number one. However, these days, it seems to be getting harder
to find “Big Ideas” whether it’s advertising, public relations, social media or new product development.
One reason is that we’re all suffering from “time famine” and information overload. Another is that
marketers are looking for “Big Ideas” in the wrong places, including the Internet. The Web is useful for
many things, but finding “Big Ideas” there is like looking for a needle in a haystack the size of Mt. Everest.
Big Data doesn’t mean “Big Ideas.” So how can you find them?

One way to find winning ideas is to hold a team meeting and “blue sky” for a “Big Idea,” but this is not
reliable. Focus groups and panels are other ways, but they’re expensive and not statistically reliable either.
Still another approach is to conduct user research to find an idea, or validate a hunch.

That’s how George Lois convinced a reluctant Aunt Jemima (Quaker) to produce syrup, not just pancake
mix. He proved through a consumer research question he designed that 90% of Americans thought they
had bought Aunt Jemima syrup in the past year (even though it didn’t exist). How could Quaker’s product
group pass up a “Big Idea” like this? Sell people something they already think they’re buying. Slam dunk!
George Lois just got himself a new multi-million-dollar account.

You might even consider inserting a postage-paid questionnaire into the product package or box. That’s
how we helped Rockport Shoes uncover a highly successful new product, a dressy, yet lightweight, wingtip
(DressSports). Our EmotiveSCAN analysis of customer verbatims revealed the interest in a formal shoe with comfortable, lightweight running shoe construction inside

We’ve found that the most efficient place to search for “Big Ideas” is in the minds’ of customers and
prospects because their spontaneous verbatim answers reveal powerful trigger words which can meld or cluster into a “Big Idea.

Shown above is an example of this process we used for public TV/Radio. W&W’s EmotiveSCAN analysis
of potential donor verbatims revealed the emotional power of the word “think.” Analysis of the words
surrounding “think” revealed that viewers weren’t aware of the true need for greater support. The new solicitation was changed from, “Join the Growing Family of Viewers and Listeners,” to “If You Think Your Pledge is Unimportant, Think Again. Fewer Than Two Out of Ten Viewers Give.“ The beauty of this message is it includes emotional power supported with logical fact. The marketing director told us that within four weeks the “Think Again” campaign had increased “white mail” donations 91%. (That’s checks mailed in envelopes.)

To conclude, finding “Big Ideas” is easier than you think, providing you have the right tools and
methodology. For details contact us to view a 15-minute, case history presentation including some winners we’ve probably uncovered in your industry (

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