April 15, 2013


Posted by Fifth Ring

The capacity to create and understand ideas is a defining feature of human beings and the world we live in today is a result of those ideas. Thinking is just as much an organ of perception as our eyes and ears. Just as the eye perceives colour and the ear sounds, thinking perceives ideas. 

A simple idea can change our entire way of life much as the internet has done, and in a relatively short space of time.

In the world of marketing, ideas are currency. The origination and expression of ideas are the products and these are what provide a brand with real value. If you imagine the world of marketing communications without ideas it would look grey and dull and purely factual. Worst of all it would be homogeneous and every business would be indistinguishable from its competitors. The brandscape of the world we see today is infinitely varied and full of colour and excitement all as a result of creative ideas.

The expression of ideas takes many forms, but ultimately its purpose is predominately to solve a problem and meet an objective. It may be about finding the best way to deliver a message about a new product or simply to attract somebody’s attention but it has a specific job to do. So is there a science behind idea generation? 

Well, yes, in a way, there is. With regard to the ‘scientific’ principles which underlie the production of ideas, James Webb Young, ‘Ad man’, copywriter and professor, suggested there are two really important ones, the first – that an idea is nothing more nor less than a new combination of old elements and the second – the capacity to bring old elements into new combinations depends largely on the ability to see relationships. Webb suggested that this is where minds differ the most; some see facts or elements as separate bits of knowledge, while others see them as links in a chain of knowledge. So what makes an idea, a great idea? Well, it’s a combination of things, but the two most common criteria people judge a ‘good idea’ on are uniqueness and effectiveness.

Uniqueness is probably the most challenging, because it depends on how you define ‘unique’. If you were to take the dictionary definition – ‘there is one and only one’, then it’s likely that no idea is truly unique. Instead, as per the process described by James Webb Young, it is simply a new combination of old elements and it’s the more ‘creative’ of us who are able to do this successfully, time and time again.

So how can we guarantee an idea’s effectiveness? Well this is where, objectives strategy and measurement all come into play. Being able to ‘prove’ the worth of an idea through the strategic thinking that preceded it and the measurement tools that follow it has not only made it easier for business managers to see the real value of creative thinking in relation to their own business objectives but has also allowed creative teams to produce ideas for marketing communications that really accomplish what it’s supposed to. Inform and influence. When it comes to a buying decision or a brand preference the idea has to persuade people towards a specific course of action or perception. Wally Olins, renowned practitioner of corporate identity and branding, describes this as “seduction”.

So in summary, the partnership of sound strategic thinking and good creative ideas is a powerful tool and it gives a new and exciting approach to marketing communications that produce results not just uniquely, but more importantly, results for the business that actually does have a positive effect on the bottom line. Simply put, ideas without strategy is not enough and will not necessarily have a positive effect on your profits.