28 March 2011

One Big Idea, isn’t the big idea.

The demands of modern life on a product, service or organisation demand smart adaptive design thinking on multiple levels. Not just one big idea, but hundreds…

Creativity in the business of Branding does not solely or even mostly reside in one ‘big idea‘ — the age old golden fleece of marketing. They reside in hundreds of design decisions. Great brands have hundreds of great ideas, not one big one.

Ideas are now applied to so many varied things throughout the life of a product, organisation or service, one ‘big’ idea isn’t enough to unite them all.

People tire of consistent application. They crave inventive thinking, gentle surprise, decoration… we send people to ‘solitary‘ — white boxes devoid of decoration to punish them. Paradise is varied, beautiful, filled with hundreds of things to gaze over and delight the senses. Great brands do this too.

Everyone jumped on the bandwagon of the ‘big idea’ but those conceptual, blue sky, not-that-useful mantras just create a restricting jacket rather than a set of exciting principles. It’s fine to have principles… but keep them guiding rather than prescriptive… ‘always moving forward’ is the philosophy of Eurostar, not a rigid brief. It promotes diverse creativity, not a rubber stamp.

It’s widely trumpeted in Marketing circles that creativity comes in the form of ‘concept’ of one ‘Big Idea’, rather than a deeply considered, tangible, coherent and crafted feel that runs through everything.

You’re reading an article from SomeOne — a company that loves conceptual thinking! We are not saying that conceptual thinking is dead. That Big Ideas are worthless. Not at all!

More that — big ideas should be many and frequently occurring in the modern brand experience. We like to give organisations, products and services much more than just one big idea. Through the application of many ideas, an aesthetic is born and this aesthetic steers the brand.

For Eurostar — we created hundreds of ideas, hundreds of ways to touch the brand and be touched back — sure, we created a logo… but it’s one that is alive — ever changing, ready to surprise, sell, unite and adapt to new challenges.
Alongside a new logo — probably the thing most people will latch onto — we’ve also created hundreds of ideas to inspire, surprise, entertain and communicate…

» Brand strategies (not just one, but many for each part of the business)
» An extensive set of dozens of icons for the new website
» Extensive signage in the three key stations in three countries
» Bespoke headline typefaces, in the three cuts and two weights.
» Sculptures that embody the spirit of the new organisation
» Bespoke group of on-board pictograms for non-written communications
» We defined personality traits of each product, service and organisation
» Created digital interaction principles
» Primary, secondary and tertiary colour systems for multiple offers
» Developed re-craft an onboard magazine
» Created films for the staff, the launch and the company
» Worked with the advertising agencies in three countries
» Created co-branding systems for partner brands such as London 2012
» Created messaging to run throughout the organisation to keep people up to date with what’s happening, why, where and how…

…and a whole raft of ways of applying these new ideas to help create a new aesthetic to help shape a new reputation for the new organisation… and we’ve only just got started…

The demands of modern life on a product, service or organisation demand smart adaptive design thinking on multiple levels. Not just one big idea, but hundreds…

It’s more like creating a hotel, from scratch (which we at SomeOne have done several times with BabyGrand, The Scotsman, 42TheCalls, TheTownHall & now HeckfieldPlace), working out everything from how to greet guests to what kind of toweling to use for the robes in the spa and what the spa smells like and what it’s temperature is and what the lighting is like… through design, it really is possible to shape peoples experiences and in turn determine how a brand is perceived.

A brand is the experience.

It’s no wonder that large organisations are now turning to Design practices like us to help steer their brand through launches, relaunches or existing issues

Having hundreds of great ideas contribute to ‘how a brand feels’ – it relies on multiple ideas, multiple experiences, adaptive thinking, flexible applications.
Consistency is utterly misplaced as a central thought in branding.

Coherence is what is important.

Join it up everywhere, but don’t make it dull, repetitive and predictable (the very definition of consistent).

Surprise, delight, entertain, inform and inspire.

Name a great progressive megabrand and they probably do it… Nike — everywhere, Apple — all the time… they have more than a logo, they have materials, shops, sounds, films, sculptures, events, ideas, websites and people who evangelically sing their praises… why?

Because people love rich experiences.

Dharavi is India’s largest slum. It’s chaotic, does not have clean running water or sanitary arrangements. It is home to 1 million people. Yet people seek it out to be inspired. It’s chaos and order come together to enable a million people to live together. In just over a half of a square mile (1.7 km2). Everyone comes away in awe — both of the self regulating systems — and of the amazing things that happen there everyday… it’s inspiring because it is bursting with inventive thinking, of ideas that are creating millionaires who live in Dharavi. Ideas that are sparking new industry, new entrepreneurial organisations of people and amazing, sustainable systems for living. It’s the most ecologically sound eco system. Recycling is greater here than any other city on the planet. It works.

And when people make their millions (and they do, all the time) they don’t leave even though conditions are testing — because — they love it there, they love what it inspires in them everyday through one of the richest tapestry of experiences seen on the planet. People feel connected and people love that feeling.

Feelings are the emotional connections we create with products, organisations and services… How we feel about Eurostar, O2, London 2012 & The Royal Opera House are affected by design decisions. Which is why the brands that are winning are often those that place design in the board room rather than the back room.

Design is an essential part of creating, re-creating and managing a 21st century brand… yet it is often only recruited when things have gone wrong, or at the last minute.

Brands that place design thinking as a priority win. Brands that develop as they go along — win.

Brands that wait until they are tarnished with poor design thinking have a lot more catching up to do than those that adapt, flex and connect with people.

Brands that work brilliantly — in useful, successful, profitable ways — tend to be those with a deeply considered design story, with hundreds of great ideas that snuggle up together under one brand name.

That’s why we say a logo alone isn’t enough to create a world class brand.

That’s why we say the logo isn’t that important, why we think it’s a dead end to pursue it without thinking about everything else.

If a new logo can’t be useful, why have it at all?

Progressive branding is not about creating one ‘big’ idea, it’s about creating hundreds of brilliant ideas, that while seemingly unconnected, connect under one organisation, product of service to create a monopoly.

And that’s what the business of branding is there for, to ensure a product, service or organisation is chosen over another.


  1. Steven says:

    Every marketing director should read this ǃӨÜit’s spot on. Great post. Thank you.

  2. Betti says:

    What a joy to find sooemne else who thinks this way.

  3. Emma says:

    It’s spooky how celver some ppl are. Thanks!