The Musings Of An Opinionated Sod [Help Me Grow!]

Big Ideas Are Everywhere …
July 6, 2006, 11:11 am
Filed under: Comment

Many people in marketing and advertising are on a constant quest for what they call the ‘big idea’. 

It’s like the Holy Grail for business and yet, in my experience, most organisations wouldn’t know what one was if it came up and smacked them in the face.

You see, I truly believe big ideas are all around us all the time … it’s just we have to take the blinkers off to see them.

In the US, the Bank Of America has launched what I think is a truly big idea … and it’s an opportunity any bank could have had if they’d looked abit harder.

Research showed people on a budget tended to mentally ’round up’ their purchases to the nearest dollar to ensure they never overspent on their weekly/monthly allowance. Infact, doing this meant they’d often have abit of money left in the budget which they could use in the next period of spending.

So what have the Bank Of America done?

Well they’ve simply launched a program where every purchase made is AUTOMATICALLY rounded up by the bank to the nearest dollar, with the difference being immediately placed into a special savings account. Suddenly people who find it hard to save money are building a little nest egg without even having to consciously put money aside … which results in the Bank Of America not only being differentiated from the competition, but also offering consumers a real reason to change their financial organisation, let alone making their existing customers feel they’re with a bank who actually does give a shit about them. Brilliant!

I remember having countless arguments with the folks at Apple about this sort of thing because at the time, they were obsessed with innovating their way into a big idea … and yet, you could argue their biggest successes over the last few years [iPod and iMac] had little to do with the innovation of new technology – and more to do with the exploitation of old opportunities. 

Well, that’s what we keep arguing about with them anyway, ha!

26 Comments so far
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Thats a great little idea that could have a big effect, and also a perfect example of how you SHOULD use research.

iPod was a new answer to an old problem; a big big big idea answers a new question, or even one that hasnt been asked yet!

Comment by Rob Mortimer

iTunes was the big idea for Apple – iPod was simply a well designed delivery mechanism. Yes … yes … I sound a cock speaking like this, but we were involved in it and had those words shoved down our throat. PLUS Andy and Fun are ‘out-of-town’ so I am safe in writing it. Ha.

Status Quo

Comment by rob

I agree with that for sure. The initial selling idea for iPod included programs and other data; and it evolved into a media only concept after launch.

iMac did nothing new, it just repackaged a tired product in shiny new clothing. Thats a simple idea that worked a treat though.

Andy and Fun, Rocking all over the world… *cough*

Comment by Rob Mortimer

Actually I think iMac did abit more than just ‘shiny new clothing’, [and not just because we were involved in it] it realised most people don’t like PC’s in the house because they’re plastic, boxy and black – hardly suitable for most lounges.

So by changing the look, feel and texture of the machine [and wrapping it up in a message about empowering personal creativity] it changed the markets attitude to the home computer [especially with people who previously would never of felt they needed one] as well as Apple’s sales.

Jeez, if my Dad was alive, he’d say …

“Robert, stop talking insight-waffle … that Mortimer chap is right, they repackaged a tired product in shiny new clothing”

Comment by rob

And he’d be right too 😉

Actually, I do agree with what you said, but it was still (well planned, well targeted, well strategized) shiny new clothing of sorts!

Comment by Rob Mortimer

Smart arse. Ha.

Comment by rob


Thanks for the pointer

I think there are too many definitions of what a big idea is. For now, maybe let’s keep it in the area of does the idea have legs to travel long distance, a marathon idea, perhaps. You know brands have typically looked at stuff and said, “Ah! This one can be my brand promise for long”, ‘Good things come to those who wait’, ‘Real Men of Genius’, etc. Or execution ideas like Absolut, United Colours etc.

I read somewhere (Russell Davies?) that maybe brands need to have a character and not a rigid idea and have different manifestations of the same. Something like the ‘Velcro Strategy’ (God this is so full of jargon) that Nike has adopted. Where the character manifests itself in so many ways…

I don’t know if this is a good place to have a discussion on this one, if you mail me your id, maybe we can catch up in a chat room or something

Great, nah, big idea that BankAm one


Comment by Nishad

Surely the brand character is there, and the idea builds on top of that?

A good idea won’t be as effective without a brand character, and a brand character won’t be as effective without a good idea…

Comment by Rob Mortimer

I think Brand Ideas are very important – the best ones are built from a fundamental ‘truism’ about the brand – the trouble is that in today’s ‘bottom-line is the bottom line’ corporate world, they are after cheap sales, not real consumer support.

I swear to God that if NIKE launched today – and there was no direct competition – their whole philosophy would not exist, it’d be some bland, overly-rational statement that was ‘relaunched’ every 12 months.

I agree with Russell – but it is important the different characters of the brand always reflect the central philosophy of the brand. [ie: Virgin and the fact they are the Robin Hood of Business, regardless of which category they operate in]

If I can help – or confuse you – anymore, please write to me at

The horrid thing about all this is that there is no definitive right or wrong answer – it is up to the individual and their philosophy. Mind you we should be glad for that otherwise we’d all have blandom as defined by the average Management Consultant.

Comment by rob

In a world of parity – personality and philosophy are the key things that lead to differentiation – quite a few more brands could do with remembering that.

What was it that TBWA said? The definition of madness is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.

Well, one thing we tell our clients is that just because they’re category conventions, it doesn’t mean they’re the only thing people will accept. Oh, and recently we told an oil client of ours that we couldn’t see the point being ‘the best in category’ when no one cares – or pays attention – to their category in the first place.

Seriously, they looked at us as if we had just found the secret of life.

Comment by rob

Just read back my 2 last comments – what a pile of poo.

I am so sorry, it’s bloody late here [I’m in Sydney] so hopefully you can make sense out the rubbish I’ve written.

I know what I wanted to say, but it certainly hasn’t come out. Sleep is needed before I head to the World Cup I think!

Comment by rob

It makes sense!
I like the oil client comment, it cuts right through the sludge.

Comment by Rob Mortimer

Bless you.

Comment by rob

what about the idea we did for the hotel group mob…voted best idea by their global board?
i know its not super high profile, but its a great idea and in a moment of humility, i am willing to acknowledge it was you who came up with it.
sell us rob, not all your mates companies! we’re fucking brilliant.

Comment by andy @ cynic

Thats some touching humility there Andy!

Comment by Rob Mortimer

He must be ill … but yes, it was an idea I came up with that was – even though I say it myself – a moment of [very rare] brilliance. Ha.

Comment by Rob @ Cynic

I’ll pretend I have a clue what it was:


I wonder when Rob will return the compliment!

Comment by Rob Mortimer

Yes … BRILLIANT! And no, I will never compliment Andy – the fact I started a company with him should be enough.

As for the idea, well I read some research that said the wives of busy executives HATED the blackberry device because they felt they never had ‘personal time’ with their husbands as they were always ‘connected’ to work.

So I convinced our client to install ‘mobile signal blockers’ at their most prestigious hotels [which stop ALL mobile signals, including blackberry devices] and then ran a DM campaign targeting these women [because they organise the majority of the family holidays] with the heading of, “Remember What It Was Like Before He Got Too Successful?”

It would seem they liked the idea of a no-intrusion, family holiday because sales increased by triple figure %’s.

Hmmmmn, writing it down doesn’t make it actually sound too smart does it. But it was. Honest. And I [I mean ‘we’] won an award, even if it was a poxy hotel industry one. See, it must be good.

Oh dear, I’ve just myself for the ego maniac I am.

Comment by Rob @ Cynic


That IS brilliant, target the fed up housewife who makes the bookings instead of the usual “male executive” targeting.

I wonder how many other ads/ideas have been successful through removing a service or benefit!

Comment by Rob Mortimer

I always go for the lazy option …

Comment by rob

Wait till you hear what we did for Hummer – that was selling cars through reckless driving. And I’m not joking.

Comment by rob

Sounds interesting!
Reminds me of when Acclaim announced they would pay all speeding fines on the launch day of their racing game Burnout 2!

Comment by Rob Mortimer

Are you my blog stalker? You write comments so bloody quickly. Very impressed.

Gotta go fly [again] so this is my last entry till Italy win the World Cup – so till then, have a great weekend.

PS: I like the Acclaim gimmick – remind me to tell you the Hummer idea. I can’t actually say it on this site as it is still to be rolled out on a grand scale and we’d be in breach of contract. Again.

Comment by rob

Nope, I just check a few blogs when im on my lunch or 2 minute tea break!

I’ll look forward to seeing the H2 madness!

PS: Apologies, but i’m supporting France!

Comment by Rob Mortimer

[…] Anyway … have a look at this simplistic genius of an idea and understand there are big opportunities everywhere if you opens your eyes. [like this great one from Bank Of America] […]

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