The Big IdeaLs in the Future of Marketing

By Ian Sung

The Big IdeaL*

Part 1: Introducing the Concept

How brands can create success in the chaos of the digital age?

Visions and practicality don’t always follow one another, but they have a relationship in our new chaotic digital age. Miles Young – the former Chairman and CEO of Ogilvy & Mather Worldwide – writes in Ogilvy on Advertising in the Digital Age that brands can form a belief through The Big IdeaL and  “use it to navigate the brand’s content throughout the digital chaos.” What he means by “navigate” won’t become clear until you’ve thought about the future marketing landscape, which we will come back to discuss later on.

A Big IdeaL is a positioning, but not all positioning are Big IdeaLs. It’s a worldview or purpose that goes beyond a simple functional benefit. It touches cultures. A belief system that drives everything a brand does and helps it attract organic support.

How does Brand X make the world a better place?

These brands have momentum and a clear sense of identity. Think Dove, Apple, and Airbnb.

The best Big IdeaLs seem to exist in the intersection between two realms of thought and experience.

Step one is finding a brand’s best self. These are moments when the brand was most successful, or in the relationship the most loyal users have with it, and sometimes even in its visual identity. When thinking about a brand’s best self it’s important to note that brands only exist in context; greatness in the past needs to be reinterpreted for a contemporary context.

Secondly, look for the appropriate cultural tension. Brands want to be “claiming” culture in the sense that they drive the conversations of the market. Leading brands need to be interesting conversationalists, which are only worth listening to when they have a valid point of view that resonates within culture. Brands may achieve this by embodying or creating a community, designing a style, or even championing a way of life.

Dove enabled women to deconstruct and redefine what beauty means to each individual.

Together, this amounts to what the brand believes in.

Part 2: Significance & Use

Does something like the Big IdeaL really matter? Ogilvy & Mather argues that it has demonstrated the power of belief.

Ogilvy ordered brands by those with a higher point of view rating and a lower rating. In other words, ones with a strong belief of the world and those that didn’t. They found that ones with a belief their likelihood of being among a consumer’s group of possible choices is heightened - a.k.a. consideration.

Then, using the Millward Brown BrandZ database (one of the biggest brand databases in the world) they found those with a higher (more concrete) point of view rating had a higher likelihood (2.2x brands with lower point of view ratings) for future market growth.

It’s an interesting concept, but how does one use it?

Use The Big Ideal to navigate the brand’s content throughout the digital chaos.
— Miles Young

The Big IdeaL’s practicality lies in its ability to be a brand’s north star in its role as the editor of our attention. What makes this so powerful for the digital age is that it provides a means by which a brand can organize itself amidst the digital chaos that surrounds it.

As Miles Young puts it, “The role of post-modern brands is to define their own space within the internet - their own ecosystem/community - which they populate with their own content. Brands act as editors, keeping what is good, junking what is bad; brands act as curators, exhibiting information in a way that is ordered and compelling. It is brands that re-assemble our attention, that provide a resort for those who are interested; it is brands that act as enablers of culture, watering holes for the herd; an enclave within the landscape of interruptions.”


How far do you agree with Miles’ perspective on brands? “Brands act as editors.”

*Trademarked by Ogilvy & Mather

Neha Saboo