There is a rising demand for the “Big Idea.” Sometimes-allusive, but always results-delivering. The Big Idea is the move you make that generates more press for your product than ten PR firms could have accomplished. The Big Idea makes your product or service more in demand. And in some cases, The Big Idea makes your product or service possible.

We’re all working in a hyper-competitive space trying to get our product or service noticed. We know that the model of traditional advertising is broken. It just doesn’t work the way it used to when it was the only game in town. Enter the social mobile web. Now, I bet you think I am about to extol the virtues of social marketing. Well, not really, no.

Here are some examples of Big Ideas in action:

Challenge: How to have a successful salon?
Big Idea:  Become a customer experience expert and speaker

John DeJulius runs a successful spa called John Robert’s but he receives more attention than any spa owner would because he has a second career as a customer experience expert.

His speaking engagements, best-selling books (What’s the Secret: To Providing a World-Class Customer Experience; and Secret Service: Hidden Systems That Deliver Unforgettable Customer Service) and consulting on the topic provide him with a lot of exposure. Rather than DeJulius buying exposure through traditional advertising and PR efforts, he is being paid for receiving more exposure.

It makes you wonder, which is his first career and which is second?

What expertise can you develop that would increase your product or service’s exposure?


Challenge: How do you market a book?
Big Idea:  Start a movement.

I was sent a request to participate, as part of the creative community at large, in “a speed innovation challenge, calling on the creative industries to concept ideas that can help the creativity crisis happening in U.S. schools today.” There would be one challenge issued per year the first one focused on education in the US. The url is quite

Right Brains? Where had I seen that phrase? Right Brains! Dan Pink wrote a book called A Whole New Mind: Why Right-Brainers Will Rule the Future. And I do not know for certain if Dan Pink, or his marketing team, had anything to do with this initiative. But still, the idea was plain for me: if you want to market a book in this era of the social mobile web, start a movement!

Now, that said, I don’t believe that anyone can actually ‘start’ a movement, but you can create a space to allow one to build. Or better, you can identify where the emotional pulse button is that is connected to your audience.

The term ‘right brains’ received a lot of play it might not have received without the site. And for one year, it fueled the buzz propelling the phrase – the phrase that Dan Pink is counting on working to help drive interest in his book. If his marketing team didn’t think this one up, they should have.

(Note: In year two of the site, there was no brief or challenge topic. When it first went live, I scoured the site for names. I was wondering who was behind this. There were only two names mentioned anywhere, they were in attributes for testimonials, one was Daniel H. Pink. Just saying…)

Is there a movement you can identify that would help bolster your product or service?

Challenge: How do you have a best-selling book?
Big Idea:  Start by giving it away for free.

Maybe this will never work for anyone again, not even for Seth Godin who is the one who achieved one of his biggest selling books by giving it away first.

Inspired by reading an advanced copy of Malcolm Gladwell’s The Tipping Point, Godin wrote Poke The Box in record time (I think it was 10 days!) and gave it away on his blog. The downloads were slow at first, but then, irony, it tipped! Downloads grew exponentially and eventually there was enough demand for a printed copy that Seth printed the book. And if I recall correctly, it was one of the most expensive business books I recall seeing!

The story of Godin’s success illustrates that we need to abandon assumptions and think differently. And that can be quite hard because assumptions don’t announce themselves, they infiltrate our memories and understandings and they limit us.

What can you give away to create demand for or interest in your product or service?


Challenge: How do you start a music festival?
Big Idea:  Start a chain of restaurants.

Sweetgreen defines itself this way: a salad and frozen yogurt restaurant that sets the bar in sustainable practices. Their food is locally-procured, and all of their stuff – their containers, plastic cutlery, “everything Sweetgreen,” as they call it, – is recyclable. The space feels “green.” They have their finger on the pulse of what a certain type of person likes to eat and what appeals to them in a corporation. And while they probably want a demographic younger than me, I am in one of their segments certainly. I feel that I am eating healthier when I eat a salad filled with vegetables. I like the no-frills simple interiors, the materials and the look/feel resonate with me. I find the happy people who work there very appealing, making me even question what happened to the skeptic in me!

Their salads are great, I might be a bit addicted. And their marketing is so good it doesn’t feel like marketing at all. One marketing effort that always catches my eye and captures my imagination is their SweetLife Festival. I have always wondered, did they start a music festival as a Big Idea for their retail business or did they start a retail chain in order to start a music festival. I thought I would never know, but one of my design team told me that she knew the answer because she worked for SweetGreen as a freelancer!

So, which was it? She said that the plan all along was to open doors to realize their dream, a music festival.

Imagine hiring a marketer to help promote your service or product and the idea they return with is a bigger initiative than your business itself. Would you see the potential?

What new business could you develop that will make your business better or more in demand?


Challenge: How do you fund and gain access for a complex initiative?
Big Idea:  Create a movie.

I read that James Cameron made Titanic as way to do and fund the deep sea exploration of the famed sunken ship. Making a movie as a way to accomplish a goal? That’s certainly a Big Idea!

Sure, it costs a lot to make a movie, but it made a lot of money. Titanic was the first film to gross over $500 million domestically and $1 billion internationally. It also won the Academy Award for Best Picture in 1997. While not my favorite, it was an unprecedented success.

The movie definitely reignited interested in the old lady and likely increased the value of a Titanic Collection that was recently announced as going up on auction.

What Big Idea will help your dreams come true?


I am going to keep adding to this article as I come across Big Ideas.

I just learned that Amazon made a small adjustment to its site which resulted in $200 million more in revenue. They placed the single top ‘most-helpful’ positive review and the single top ‘most-helpful’ negative review at the top of the product reviews. Shazam!