[Podcast] How to Develop BIG Brand Ideas (Secrets Revealed!)

[Podcast] How to Develop BIG Brand Ideas (Secrets Revealed!)

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We’re diving deep into the realm of BIG Brand Ideas – those game-changing, magnetic forces that breathe life into brands and propel them to greatness.

Join your hosts, the dynamic duo of branding, Matt Davies and Jacob Cass, as they unravel the mysteries behind these mighty ideas. It’s a rollercoaster of insights, anecdotes, and aha moments!

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Discover what it takes to craft a brand idea so compelling, it becomes a rallying cry that unites, excites, and drives your brand to new heights. But beware – these gems are not just lying around waiting to be found; they’re hidden treasures that demand a masterful touch.

Feast your ears on real-world examples from major brands that have harnessed the power of BIG ideas, and get ready to have your mind blown. Matt and Jacob will also share their own experiences, giving you an exclusive peek into the art of unlocking big ideas for clients.

By the end of this electrifying episode, you’ll be armed with the knowledge and inspiration to supercharge your brand-building process. Don’t miss out – tune in now and let the sparks of BIG Brand Ideas ignite your brand’s future! 🔥🚀

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Transcript (Auto Generated)

Hello, and welcome to JUST Branding. Today is a special episode with JUST Matt Davies and myself, Jacob Cass.

Don’t say JUST Matt Davies and myself, like I’m useless, and like we just got Matt. Like this is a special episode, folks. It’s me and Jacob.

Listen, this is the truth of the matter, right? Can we be open, Jacob, we can be open with our audience. Our guest, who shall remain nameless, a guest didn’t show up.

Now, you know, for me, that’s a bit sad. It’s like 10:30 p.m. here in the UK.

Jacob’s been up early and our guest, you know, just didn’t show. I’m sure there’s a very good reason for it, but we didn’t want to waste the time. We wanted to fill the time, make sure that we create something of value, but we just wanted to, I guess, caveat everything that’s about to follow with the fact that we’re doing this kind of off the cuff.

So forgive us in advance.

And I introduced the show, saying JUST Matt Davies, and Matt Davies got very upset. So that’s why I have the giggles this morning. But we have an exciting show.

We came up with this on the fly. It’s about big ideas. So we’re gonna be talking about how to create big ideas, what they are, how to use them, the process of how we come up with big ideas and how you can use it for your own brand or your clients’ brands as well.

So Matt actually has a presentation on this in a few days. So it’s top of mind for him. I’m gonna be asking some questions and I’m gonna share my process as well.

So let’s dive in, Matt. What’s a big idea?

Yeah, well, I think it’s probably worth just rewinding and starting right from really basics as we like to do on the podcast. I think the first thing is obviously like, as everybody knows who listens to this podcast, we don’t just see the brand as the logo and the fonts. The brand is the meaning people attach to you and your offer.

That’s my definition. Other definitions are, it’s the gut feeling that people have when they come into contact with your service or product. Jeff Bezos, I think, says it is what people say about you when you’re not in the room.

So the brand-

That’s what comes to mind every time. It’s either your definition, because I hear it every time on the show, or that one from Jeff as well.

Yeah, and the other one for complete clarity was from Marty Neumeyer, of course, the legend that is Marty. But the thing is, is when you have that perspective, okay, then you’re thinking very strategically about the meaning you want people to attach to you. As a business.

And what I find is, is that when businesses scale and they get to a certain size, you get a leadership team in place. And one of the massivists, well, one of the massivists is not a good word, but one of the biggest challenges that then a business faces is how to really simplify a concept so that everybody in the business understands what it’s about, okay? And that’s really what a big idea is.

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Some people call it brand essence. It’s like the kind of the simplified concept of what the brand stands for. It’s the reason the brand will be attractive to its audiences.

And the primary reason why businesses need to think about kind of consolidating what they’re doing from a brand strategy perspective into a simplified big idea is so that they can communicate that effectively internally, all right? So from my perspective, the big idea really, it should fuel your kind of your purpose, your vision, your mission. It should fuel the concepts around all of your strategic intent, including your commercial strategy, why you’re here, how you’re gonna make money, how you’re gonna grow, how you’re gonna win in the market.

It should fuel your communication strategy. So how you’re gonna communicate out both to customers, but also internally, the big idea should be baked in to everything that goes out. Of course, it needs to be baked into your sales and marketing strategies, how you’re gonna kind of win new business, attract new business.

How you’re gonna look after customers, your customer experience. The big idea should be flowing throughout all the thinking that your teams are going through in relation to customer success. Your people strategy, HR, human resources, how are you gonna attract, develop and inspire employees?

Your big idea should also be relevant internally. And finally, innovation. When you come up with new product strategies, your product development roadmap, the big idea should be something relevant to them.

So really the big idea, Jacob, from my perspective, is at the heart of brand strategy. It’s basically just a way of expressing everything that we normally think about as strategists, all the different components, market positioning, purpose, as we’ve talked about, vision, all of that stuff, into something simple that people can use, that people can understand. And key to this is that they can ladder their initiatives and their decision-making into it, so it makes complete and utter sense.

So that for me is the essence of a big brand idea. It should touch on all those things. What are your initial thoughts on that, Jacob?

You got any thoughts on that?

Yeah, absolutely. You mentioned brand essence, and I just wanted to state that there’s many different names for this. So there’s brand DNA, brand core, brand heart, you said.

The soul of the brand is another one. So it’s basically, as you said, the essence, it’s basically what’s inside. And we think about this like a human, right?

We all have souls. There’s not a literal handheld thing that you can hold, but it’s within us, right? So if you think about the idea as that, that’s what we’re gonna be talking about.

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How do we actually find this big idea that is like the glue for the brand? And this is, it’s powerful stuff. It can lead the employees internally.

It can also guide external communications and everything about the brand. So it’s really, really, really important. So now that we’ve defined what it is and why it’s important, should we share some examples of some big brands?

I think that’s a really, really great idea. Just before we do that, I wanna get to that. I’ve got a little list that I’ve started to pull together around what I think a big idea consists of.

And then we can see how that shows up in perhaps some big brands, if you want to recognize. And the other thing, Jacob, I think we should do, if you’re open to it, is perhaps share how we’ve used big brand ideas in our own work. I personally, and I’m sure you’re the same, Jacob, I can’t share the detail of all the clients, but I can share the type of business and then the big brand ideas that I’ve used and where appropriate, share a few thoughts on how we kind of came about that.

I think that would be helpful to folks. So first off, what is a big brand idea? Well, here’s some criteria.

I think it’s obviously simply expressed, okay? It’s not complicated. It’s in English that everybody understands.

It’s simple.

When you say simple, is this like a few words simple? Is that what you’re referring to?

Yeah. I don’t think it’s, well, it’s short. It’s not overly complicated.

It’s not like, you know, it’s not using language, which you’d have to define again, right? So jargon, it’s not got jargon in it. It’s something that you could sort of talk to the average person about.

You might have to explain what you, you know, how you go about fulfilling that big idea or what the brand, you know, what the brand’s really kind of doing in terms of specifics. But the big idea should be sort of super universal, easy to understand. And I think it needs to be shared by ideal customers and ideal employees.

Like it’s my good friend, Ashley Hansberger, from Motto in New York, she says that big ideas should always be omnidirectional. In other words, you know, whether you’re a customer from the outside looking in, you’re like, yeah, that’s awesome. That’s what I want to be part of.

And if you’re an employee, you’re super proud to be part of making that idea of things. So it’s omnidirectional. I think the other thing is that it’s social.

In other words, it’s not about making money. It’s not commercial in its kind of essence. It’s about adding value beyond money, right?

To customers, to society, to the world, think big. It’s a big idea, so it’s got to be big. And on that note, I think it’s bigger than a goal.

So it’s not like to fill the world with electronic cars or something like that, like by 2025. It’s beyond that. It’s huge.

It’s sort of visionary. And then I think the other thing is that really the big idea has to be truthful, right? The business has to be committed to that thing.

And really it should be evidenced in the products and the services that the brand actually is dedicated to providing. And finally, I think one other great thing, although I think this is slightly optional, but I really like this about Big Ideas. I think they should be ideally a call to action.

In other words, you’re calling ideal customers to come behind you as you march forwards, you’re flagging your hand towards the top of the mountain. And you’re calling, it’s a call to employees to join you in that quest. That’s what a great brand Big Idea is.

It rallies people, it excites people, unites them around something bigger than their own little sort of piece in the puzzle that contributes towards it. So that’s what I think. Have I missed anything there?

Is there anything else you would add?

No, you say it’s simple, but when we define all these things, it’s definitely not simple. It’s not easy to get to the essence always. So I guess we’re gonna get to that of how you can actually find that rally cry, if you will.

So I think you really defined it well. So let’s get into it.

No, it’s a good point about it. It should be expressed simply, but this is where I think strategy kind of, it’s hard, isn’t it? If I was showing you a product I’d created, like, I don’t know, through various machines and stuff, you’d be like, whoa, that’s so complicated.

And you sort of see a product at the end of it, you can touch it, you can hold it, you can see how well it’s made. When you’re a strategist and you’re coming up with ideas, it’s kind of a bit like creativity. You don’t see the enormous amount of work and effort that goes on in the background.

And the biggest and most complicated effort that goes in, I would say, is actually working with the leadership teams of a business and their personalities and their contexts and their dynamics, because to co-create an idea that they’re all super happy with, and I think I will say that, you know, late in a minute, I’ll go through some of my ideas that I’ve created, but I’ve not done them on my own. Like, I’ve been the energy to help leadership teams get there, but it’s very much based on what they’ve expressed in workshops that we’ve tailored and worked and crafted together to get to those outputs. That is not simple, that is not easy.

That is where the hard work of a strategist is done. And that’s where the value is, because if you get it right and it ticks all, if not most of those boxes, you’ll find that you’ve got a potent idea, you’ve got energy to really drive your brand and your business forward, as we say across all those strategies that we mentioned before. Basically, like you said, Jacob, it becomes the glue that sticks everything together.

So I’m just going to recap. I wrote some of those things down as you mentioned them. So it’s a simple thing that people can get behind, it’s universal, it’s omni-directional, it adds value.

It’s not a goal, it’s truthful. It can have a call to action, it doesn’t have to. It should be exciting, it unites people, it rallies people.

To get there, it’s a collaborative effort, and it should have some energy and this big potent idea behind it. And ultimately this aligns the whole business and the customers and the marketplace, I guess, with how to align with the brand and the direction of where the brand is going. So that’s a big idea to find.

And now we’ll get into some examples.

Yeah, okay. Well, I mean, it’s always quite interesting to think about this because as I say, as strategists, we’ve got a never-ending role of jargon that we like to use. And I’ve read tons and tons of strategy documents.

Even on our podcast, we have guests and everybody has different frameworks, different phrases. And sometimes it can, particularly, I speak to a lot of people entering the strategy space, the brand strategy space, both entrepreneurs and kind of strategists themselves, freelancers, designers, looking to add value to their work. And it can feel like super overwhelming, can’t it?

Like, what do I do? You know, everybody’s got a course that they’ve been on and a certification or whatever. And what I’ve realized, having played in this space now for many, many years, is that basically I think we can all be in danger of over-complicating things, right?

Really, we can. We can produce decks of like 60 plus, 70 plus slides. The thing is, is the big idea should boil it down.

And so it seems to me that we have, you know, purpose statements, right? Which is like why the brand exists. We have vision statements, which is like the future state that the brand is trying to bring into fruition.

We have mission statements, which are all about how every day we’re gonna move the dial towards that vision becoming real. And all of those statements, by the way, have an absolute good place and purpose. But it seems to me that the big idea sort of encapsulates everything in a much simpler way.

So let me give you some examples. Like, and these could be, you could argue these are slogans, you could argue these are purpose statements or vision statements. To me, it doesn’t matter.

It doesn’t matter, they encapsulate a big idea. So think about this. Amazon’s classic statement, purpose statement, be Earth’s most customer-centric company, right?

It’s a big idea. We are gonna design everything around the customer, we’re gonna be able to become customer-centric. That’s the big idea.

Now, whether that, you could argue with me, Matt, that’s a slogan, that’s a purpose statement, that’s an internal comms strategy. I don’t care. The fact is it’s simple, it’s easy to articulate and it’s useful.

And I’m telling you now, Amazon will leverage that in all of their initiatives and it will ladder into that core idea. So for me, it’s a big idea. I’ll give you some more and see what you think of these.

So you’ve got like Airbnb. Their big idea is about belonging anywhere. Now, you think about that, that’s omnidirectional.

They’ve got multiple audiences. They’ve got people that wanna go on holiday or hire somewhere to stay. That’s relevant to them, belong anywhere.

But they’ve also got people who are sort of renting out their properties and they need to belong somewhere. Like I wanna belong to a business that will look after me and make sure that my tenants, if you like, will come to my property and look after it. And I need to feel like I belong.

So it’s a big idea. It’s beyond making money. It’s beyond the goal.

It’s this concept of humanity, of belonging and it’s huge. So I love that from Airbnb. I think it’s powerful.

How about this one from Tesla? Accelerate the world’s transition to sustainable energy. So that is a big idea.

I think you could argue that this is kind of around a goal because once the world has transitioned to sustainable energy, maybe it’s dead. Fair play, but that’s a big way off. We’ve got a big world to go through.

And so it is a big idea. And I think it’s something that rallies employees and it also rallies customers. So there’s another one.

And do you want to throw any into the mix? I’ve got a load more.

Yeah, there’s Never Stop Exploring with North Face. It’s a big idea.

North Face, that’s a huge idea. Evergreen, like never stop exploring forever. Be curious.

It’s beautiful, isn’t it?


I mean, how about the classic ones, like think different? I know that was a campaign slogan from Apple, but that’s a big idea. Just do it.

It’s kind of a call to action, right? Nike or Nike, depending where you are. Couple others that come to my mind.

You know, you’ve got Google, organize the world’s information. Again, a massive idea. Like we’re gonna be the place that’s gonna sort all that information out and organize it.

Huge concept, particularly when it was sort of coined, you know, many years ago. So I think that’s massive. There’s other ones as well, like Coca-Cola.

You could argue there’s a few ideas around Coca-Cola, but the one that I’m gonna, the slogan I’m gonna sort of pick on is that one of open happiness or the idea of enjoying. That’s a big one as well. That’s, these are big ideas.

They’re simple. They work in an omnidirectional way.

Should we unravel a couple of them just to show how they use this big idea in, you know, to rally internally and externally, for example?

Yeah, sure. So you could take JUST do it. Let’s take that one for a second, you know, from Nike’s perspective, okay?

Now that literally applies to a number of things, doesn’t it? Like, you could apply that internally to, you know, we’re going to expand into Asia, you know, JUST do it is the big idea. We’re going to take that concept and we’re going to do it in Asia, let’s say.

Obviously that was done many years ago. But the point is, is that you can use it there to ladder then your thinking into it. So you can say, we’re going to open a new branch, we’re going to open a new type of store.

And the point is, we’re doing it, right? So it’s still relevant to that sector, to that marketplace internally. And so that’s because it’s such a big idea, you can do that.

But you couldn’t sort of say, never stop exploring, you know, Nike in Asia, because that doesn’t work for what Nike’s about. Whereas the North Face, it might start, you know, giving a different tinge to it, different flavor internally, as well as externally. So I don’t know, I don’t know if that’s enough, obviously.

Another way to look at it is like, with Nike, right? It’s about becoming the best version of yourself. So a lot of the, it’s very aspirational.

And you, the slogan or the idea is about just get on with it, just do it. And that’s how you become the best version of yourself. So it aligns with everything they do as a brand.

And it’s the number one slogan or idea in the world that everyone remembers when it comes to tagline. So I think it was a great example that everyone could relate to.

Yeah. Imagine you work for Nike and you want to further your career, right? And you want to grow as an individual or professionally, you want to make a transition to a management position or something like that.

That slogan is relevant and motivational to you, a call to action to you as an individual. But then imagine you’re a customer, you’re looking to become a better athlete, better version of yourself as you said it, Jacob, it works. It works in both directions on multiple levels.

That’s why it’s a powerful big idea.


Before you were talking about mission, vision, purpose statements, and the differences between them, like we can argue the nuances, but as you mentioned, it’s summarizing these attributes into one simple idea. It’s like a couple of words, right? If you work on your mission and your vision, your purpose, like how do you make that into one to say five words max?

That’s what you should be getting down to. That’s what you should be boiling your idea down to. It should be that simple.

So that’s what we wanna really communicate in this episode is that these big ideas should be simple to communicate and get behind.

Right, because people can’t remember 12 different things. Even strategy decks that are 15 slides long, that’s a lot of information that people are kind of trying to grapple with. And that’s a short one, 15.

I think you’ve got to remember that most, being blunt, most employees don’t care about what goes into a lot of these documents, right? Even some leadership teams, they struggle, I’ve found, to see relevance in some areas, but you give them a simple idea and you say, look, when you go out to your team as the product, CPO, the Chief Product Officer, take this big idea with you, ladder your thinking into it when you’re creating your initiatives for next year, when you’re looking at your objectives for Q1, Q2, Q3, Q4, before you go into those, open and lead your team and talk about the big idea because that’s what’s gonna rally and excite them around what’s happening. And I think that’s the thing because people can remember the big idea and then they can see the relevance of their piece of the pie in it.

And if, as I say, that’s used externally and it’s powerful for customers, you’ve got the recipe for success because you don’t have to explain everything once for your people and then everything again for customers, it’s all, you know, laddering, as we say, into that spear point of an idea that kind of really drives a brand powerfully and simply forward. So yes, about simplification.

So Matt, so let’s say that we wanted to communicate this big idea to, you know, a leadership team, for example. You can’t just come in and say, never stop exploring. Like that’s our big idea.

Like how do you get the team aligned with this big idea?

Yeah, so I’ve got some sort of lesser known ones that I’d love to share in a minute, but let’s talk about getting there first. So with all my work, what I believe in, and I don’t know what your thoughts are on this, I’m sure you’re similar, is the concept of co-creation. I mentioned this at the start.

If, you know, I think it’s extreme arrogance of strategists to kind of come in and impose their own idea upon a business. Like that never works. That never gets the buy-in.

That is required. What you have to do, in my view, is co-create, is collaborate with the leaders, particularly in the business. That doesn’t mean you do it exclusively with leaders.

It depends on the context. It depends on their appetite. It depends on their knowledge.

Some leaders are acutely aware that they don’t have the sort of customer-centric knowledge that they need to make really nuanced decisions. And in that case, then you include in the workshops, which is where I’m getting to, through workshops we co-create, but we would include other people, even sometimes customers in those conversations in an agile kind of way. So you’ve got to co-create with the leaders.

The leaders have to be there because ultimately they own it. They make the decisions around it. They have to embody it and embrace it.

So they need to be fully aware and involved in the process. But here’s the thing. I found like there’s some agencies particularly, what they tend to do is lean on what the leaders know solely.

And I’m not always sure that’s the best approach because as we say, leaders can kind of be very inward looking. Now branding is about the meaning that other people attached to you. So yes, part of that is sort of a vision for the future that the leaders want to aspire to, but there’s also a reality, particularly for established businesses that has to be at least appreciated.

And so what I believe very much is that you need to go into this sort of strategic work, having good insights into that reality. And simply put, that is about listening, right? That’s about listening to your customers and trying to understand like right now, why do they buy from us?

What value do they see in us? What do they really want? What do they need?

You’ve got to put the customer upfront and center of your strategic thinking, or you will never be able to sell anything. So that’s the key thing. So insights from customers is crucial.

So just to put it into practical terms, Jacob, like you’ve got to speak to the customers, you’ve got to do customer surveys, you’ve got to get feedback from them. I find one, as a consultant, like I always try and get involved personally and say, look, can I talk to your top five to 10 customers? I want to interview them so I can get under the skin of why they buy.

Sometimes that’s not possible with every context, but that’s the sort of thing you want to do. Don’t overcomplicate it. Just ask them, why do you buy from this company?

When did you start? What made you start? Find out the value that they’re adding.

So that’s the first thing. The second thing is about competitors. So you need to do a bit of competitor research.

You need to understand what else is in the market. And I think you need to tie that with some customer insights because one of the questions you should ask customers is, okay, what problem do you see this brand solving for you? And what other options do you have to solve that problem?

And they will start talking about the true competitors to the brand. It might not be how we segment a market traditionally as marketeers. They might think of other things, one classic one in B2B, I do a lot of work in B2B.

And some people say, well, I could go internally and use one of my internal teams to do this. It’s like, well, that’s a massive competitor, but you would never put that on the segmentation of a market analysis. But that’s a big one.

And then you need to ask the question, well, why don’t you? And why would this be a better option coming to this brand? So you need to get those insights in there and you need to understand your competition.

And then the final sort of bucket, these are the classic three Cs by the way, is your company, right? We’ve probably touched on this a couple of times in the past, but it’s the company. What do your employees say about you?

Why do they join you? What is exciting them? Where are they hoping the business goes?

And even just look back into the past, why did the business start? What was the idea at the beginning? What was broken that caused this brand to be born?

You’ve got to understand all of those components. And then, as I say, I would say take those insights into the leadership team and work with them through typical brand exercises, but definitely get to a point where you’re working on the big idea. I’m gonna share some thoughts on that in a minute.

But just for now, what do you think about that concept about insights, Jacob? You want to add anything to that?

Absolutely. And the collaboration and facilitation is really key here and coming in prepared, right? So that’s exactly what you’ve described there.

And I follow a very similar process as well. I generally start with the company and talking with the leaders first, just to get aligned with their business and to get up to speed. Then looking at the customers and their customers, as you mentioned, and finally the marketplace or the category that they play in.

So looking at who they’re up against. And like you said, going deeper on who they actually say their competitors are, because, or a lot of the times they say they don’t have competitors, which is crazy when you just type in like one thing into Google and you’ll find hundreds of different competitors. So it’s a very similar process.

And I think what you said there about insights, coming prepared into a meeting or wherever it is that you’re discussing this is crucial because it will help guide the conversation and will help uncover new insights. And through those insights or that information, I often call them ingredients, you can find, you can cook up something amazing, right? You can cook up that big idea or unravel it.

So there’s so many different ways to do it. And sometimes it’s very quick, other times it takes some time. But ultimately, you want to make sure that there is something that glues all these things together, the customer and the company, but also stands out in marketplace.

So it is that big idea.

Yeah, no, absolutely. And I think you’re right. As a strategist, your job is to orchestrate that process, but not just as a sort of a bystander, right?

You’ve got to get to grips with as well. And I think when you go into a workshop, particularly with senior C-suite leaders of big companies, you need to be equipped, like you were saying, you need to be prepared yourself because, and you don’t do this in an arrogant way, like I’m going to tell you how to run your own business, but just in an inquisitive way, like, huh, it’s interesting that you believe that about why customers buy from you. Because when I actually spoke to the customers, do you know what?

No one mentioned that. So what they did mention, though, was this. What do you think about that?

And is that sort of adding of an external perspective, a fresh pair of eyes on things, and a new sort of an objective way of critiquing, perhaps some of the things that leaders think, I found adds huge value to the process.

And it disconnects you from the opinion as well. It’s not me saying this. It’s literally someone else has said this about you.

Yeah. And if you can add it to a survey with some data and some market research and stuff like that, even better. You can really help leadership teams spot problems that perhaps they haven’t seen before.

So the first thing, I guess then to get to the big idea is you need to do the work, unfortunately. You need to do the research and that’s really important. And when you get into the leadership team sort of situation, I like the way you said that you speak to the leaders.

I like to speak to all of the participants of a workshop individually before we get into a scenario where everybody’s together, because politics can play out.

Is this like a form or like a call or, are they together or individual?

So initially, first off to get some insights and to get to know them, I will do a virtual call, right? Usually. And then when we actually get into a situation where we’re collaborating together, we can do that virtually, particularly if the leadership team is across regions or across a lot of sort of distances.

That’s really helpful because if you’ve got a leadership team, you can do workshops on consecutive days through that. I’m finding now a lot of teams, particularly post pandemic, really wanna get together, even if they’re far away from each other, they wanna do offsites. I’m getting loads of inquiries personally for those.

They wanna do the workshops in person. They want that energy, that spark. They wanna see each other.

Cause a lot of teams are hybrid now. They value that time together. And usually it’s coupled with a meal and a couple of drinks and so on.

So they’re keen to get a bit of social activity in. That’s what I’m finding, but it’s not exclusive. So you can do them virtually.

I do find though virtually, you can’t really set a leadership team down for seven hours virtually. Like I’ve just find they just lose the will, even if you can provide the most exciting workshop and energy on the planet. It’s just sat in front of a machine.

Like, you know, you need to split it up across a few days. And also they’re so distracted, you know, I find on screen, cause anything can pop up at any minute in time. Whereas you get them in a room, you can say, right, everybody, rule, shut your laptop lids, right?

That’s it. We’re gonna really focus on the task in hand. We’re gonna verify afterwards, but we’re gonna collaborate.

We’re gonna work together. You can easily split them into teams to work in smaller groups and then come back together. So you’ve got to design your workshop, you know, around the business, around the dynamics, around the specific context that the company’s in, but you want to make sure that you co-creating together.

In simple terms, I’m not gonna go through all the detail of what that might look like, so to say it changes per business for me, but what I find is that usually I’m kind of opening up, kind of, it’s like design thinking, you know, you’re opening up possibilities and then you’re focusing in on solutions and you’re doing that over and over and over again in a workshop situation and you’re trying to get to a conclusion somehow around each kind of element of whatever you’re looking at. So for me, a lot of people know this, I’ve got my kind of big brand strategy triangle that I use, the big brand questions, why do we exist beyond making money? How should we show up?

Who do we exist to serve? What’s our offer? And there’s nuances and details within those, but ultimately on each of those, I’m opening up possibilities and then I’m helping them make a decision to progress with.

And you know, you can do that multiple ways, but in essence, that’s what we’re trying to do. But what we’re driving at, what we’re trying to get to is at some point, having really explored lots of those thoughts is to boil everything down, usually towards the end of a workshop, I tend to run an exercise specifically on the big idea. And so I have a little framework that I like to sort of deploy sometimes in relation to this, which is kind of, you know, it’s a statement with blanks in it, right?

So it says, our big idea is to blank, so that blank, because blank. So, you know, our big idea is to make a contribution so that there’s some sort of impact because there’s a passionate reason to do this. And that still isn’t the big idea because that’s quite long winded.

But what I do is I set that to the leaders, I get them to kind of contribute and put up on a wall what their thoughts are in relation to that towards the end of the workshop, as I say. And then, you know, we would vote on the best one. And then what I even get them to do is then, is to kind of go away and maybe either they could, you know, reiterate it in three to four words, or I would, as the strategist, take responsibility for that and come back to them with some suggestions summarizing their own, you know, their own big idea that they’ve started to kind of craft.

Cause the craftsmanship of it and the simplification of it is absolutely crucial to the process. And that’s something sometimes you do need someone who can wordsmith a little bit to get it to that really simple state. But the ideas itself, the idea and everything it means has to, I believe, come from the people that are gonna take this idea forward into the future and own it and stand on platforms with it, you know, blazing behind them and make sure that their initiatives are gonna kind of ladder into it.

So what are your thoughts on that, Jacob? Would you do something similar or do you have any other?

I’ve never done an actual segment on the big idea, like finding a couple of words with everyone involved. My process is more, I start with the company at first, and I send a questionnaire around, you know, let’s say there’s 10 liters, I’ll send a questionnaire around that has 10 questions. The 10 questions I ask are kind of similar to yours.

It’s like, who you are as a business, why do you do what you do? What do we want to achieve here? How are we gonna do it?

Who are we serving, basically your customers? What’s the niche that we own or the position? And just, I want to make a note here is that, not everyone’s gonna have the right answer or know all of these things.

It’s just to get an understanding of where people are in the business. So the marketing team has this idea and then the CEOs have this idea and so forth. That’s the purpose of this, which I should have said before.

What are our values of the company? What’s our brand’s personality? What’s our brand’s tone of voice?

And what’s the cool message that we have about our brand? So if it’s a pre-existing brand, you can start to see where the misalignment is within the company. And this is really good fuel for a discussion in a workshop.

It’s like, well, these are the insights I found within the company. If you guys are this confused, what about the customers, right? We need to simplify this.

So this is really good fuel. And then we can have a discussion. In the workshop, we’ll often talk about, well, why are we here?

What is the problem that we’re solving? Which kind of aligns to what your statement purpose was before. It’s like, well, why are we here?

And how are we going to achieve this? And what do we do? Or what is our offer or offerings?

So yeah, fairly similar. However, I just come in with a question here beforehand. I found doing individual surveys took up a lot of time and people weren’t always available, especially being in Australia, it was even more difficult.

So the questionnaire helped me a lot with this process and it really helped facilitate, well, improve that workshop because I had more fuel for it. So.

Yeah, sometimes I do that. Sometimes I do both actually, which is kind of sometimes, you know, if you want to go crazy, you can do both. I think any way you do it, right, getting that information just crucial.

And I love the way that you asked those questions. I think it’s super helpful. Yeah, so what do you tend to do then after you’ve had those workshops go away yourself and work on the sort of simplification of it?

Like, is that how you see it?

It’s a bit of both, right? So there’ll be some things that we know we need to work on and either the marketing team or whoever I’m working with will go off and either provide some more research or do what I ask of them. And obviously I will be going and doing some of my own work as well, but it is that collaborative process.

So they know they may have access to their customers or other insights that I don’t have access to. So it’s about requesting that, working together and then coming back to the drawing board and working those things out. So yeah, it’s never as linear as you’d hope.

It’s just like getting bits and pieces from everywhere and seeing how we can align it to create you know, number one, a strategy and then the big idea after that.

Nice, it’s never straightforward. I work with a lot of agencies, and they always try, bless them. I love it, I love it.

We always try and productize and force clients into our predefined runway. But the truth is, every business is different, every leadership team is different, the dynamics are different, the CEOs are different. I’ve kind of given up trying to crowbar everybody into one streamlined process.

I’ve embraced the chaos personally, and I design my things bespoke, maybe that’s just me. I can’t make it work by putting everybody through a standard process, it always changes. Obviously, it’s good to have a standard structure and make sure that you sort of stick to…

Yeah, if you know the process, you can adapt a little bit. You can cut corners in some places and focus on the areas that are going to accelerate the process. There’s no point going through a super extensive process if you can come up with something quicker, right?

Yeah, it’s more valuable that way, right? It’s more valuable. And I think that’s the trick is to know that if I’m going to cut this, I need to ask these sorts of questions in the workshop to ensure that that’s covered, or I need a good reason to adapt certain things in order to get to where we need to get to.

And as long as that’s clear and you clarify that with businesses and say, look, we’ll take that out for the time, but I’m a little bit worried that we’re going to miss something. Are you sure that we can cater for that later down the line? I think you’re okay, but it’s being aware of it, isn’t it?

That’s the key.

Yeah, and adapting the process, right? So as an example, I’ve gone into a workshop and used an interactive whiteboard like Mural or Miro. And I got into the workshop and the client just hated it.

They stifled their creativity. They didn’t like learning it. They weren’t a computer person.

So we just scrapped it and had a regular conversation. Whereas I’ve had other workshops where we’ve had 10 people in like a Miro board and it’s like 10 coasters going around. It’s absolute chaos, but everyone’s having fun.

And there’s a good energy in the room. So you really need to play the client and read the room, if you will, to figure out the right process to uncover those insights.

Yeah, absolutely love that. That’s great. I mean, so some of the, I just wanted to give folks a bit of an idea of some of the work, perhaps as I say, I can’t mention the clients for confidentiality reasons, but it’s kind of helpful to know the types of things that a perhaps lesser known business might use.

So for example, I was working here in the UK with a big research lab and we came up with the big idea collaboratively of creating a better tomorrow. And they just loved it. It had energy.

We created a video that was firstly an internal launch to kind of set a new chapter of the business forward. And then that’s sort of gone and been used by their sales teams. And they came up with five or six, I can’t remember exactly what it was, kind of big company goals for the next five years.

And at the heart of their goals was creating a better tomorrow. Like this is how we’re going to start to do it. And so all of their initiatives ladded into that big idea.

And it all added up and made sense. So internally, and they could use it externally when their sales teams went across the world. In fact, it was, that’s how big that idea was.

And they were selling it in and in their industry and their context, it was really powerful. And so that’s what-

Yeah, the industry and context you mentioned is really important. Cause if you applied, we’re creating a better tomorrow to just any other business, like it’s very dry, right? But in a research lab, you are literally creating a better tomorrow for other people and the world.

It can be really slow in that industry. So having that motto or rally cry to like create a better tomorrow, it’s really a driving force. And I can see how that’s aligned with like a research lab.


And what we found was, I mean, when you looked at the context of the category that they were in, people weren’t talking like that. They were talking about what they could do in the technical scientific aspect of what their competitors were doing. They were talking about the types of equipment, the type of tests, the type of scientific processes that those competitor labs were going through.

So to step it back and say, well, we’re not gonna talk about what we’re doing or even how we’re gonna do it. We’re gonna sort of really rally around why we’re here, our purpose to create a better tomorrow was really amazing and that’s opened lots of doors for them as they’ve gone through. So, super scaling business, it helped them recruit new people into the business as well, top talent.

And so their recruitment and onboarding processes became orientated all around this idea. So yeah, it was a great strategic play by them and it was an honor to be involved. I’ve got a load of other ones.

So I did some work with a product innovation consultancy. So this is a business that helped other businesses come up with ideas. And their big idea was do great things.

So again, it fitted nicely. It was a rally cry. I did some work in the building industry.

And this was with a really innovative building contractors who had a way of creating modular buildings offsite. And they had a whole suite of those that they could build in a factory basically, and then come to site and drop them in. And so their big idea was a better way.

And so within their context, within their industry, they were championing more efficiency, greener solutions and faster builds. So it was a better way. I did some work with a preventative healthcare provider in London, funnily enough, a clinic basically that would scan customers.

I guess they would be patients, but they’re not ill, but they would just go in for a full body scan. I think it was a full day scan, particularly celebrities. They did and it was very expensive and they do a number of tests.

I can’t remember how many it was. It was about 20 or so non-intrusive tests on a human being. Again, the rally cry there, the big idea was be at your best.

That worked internally for their staff, but it also worked with actually what they were trying to do in the market, which was to prevent any catastrophic health issues, so that people could be at their best. There’s loads more I could bore you with.

I’ve got a few to share as well, Matt.

Yeah, go on.

This was for an innovation consultancy that works with rather large businesses, and the cry that we went after was, unlock innovation. So this was a cry to these, internally is what they do, they help unlock innovation, but it’s also inspiring for other companies, right? They help them unlock innovation in their company.

So that was the idea there, and that also carried through to the communications as well. So for the identity, there was a keyhole and sparkles, this idea of creativity and flow was part of the identity, and that tied in with the idea of unlocking it. So you can use these ideas for your brand’s identity as well.

And we didn’t really touch on that. It can also help with that.

I brought that up. Yeah, it should inform it, right? Yeah.

And a note on these big ideas, that if you could make them literal, we didn’t say this before. It’s more memorable if you can make them literal. So if you think about unlocking, you can really see something be unlocked.

If you think about something glowing, you can see it glowing. Or if you think about pineapple, right? You think of something literal.

So if you can make something literal, it’s much more memorable as well. We didn’t touch on that. Another idea, a big idea was for an aesthetics clinic.

And it was about glow with confidence, which was great for the internal comms and communications as well as externally for the customers as well. They offer services to help them glow with confidence. So this idea of the benefit of confidence was tied with the glow that you get from their services.

So that was for an aesthetics clinic. The last, oh, I have a couple more, a psychological safety coach. So we actually went through a naming process with them.

And the name we came up with for them was Rock the Boat. And the idea was that if you’re in a safe place, you’re not afraid to rock the boat and you can achieve great things by rocking the boat. So we actually went through a name change and with this company and the tagline we came up with or the idea as well was about make waves, see change.

So if you make waves, you’re gonna see change. And the only way you can do that is by being psychologically safe, in a safe work environment. So this big idea was in the name, it was in the tagline, even in the imagery of the identity, we used nautical themes.

So it was the glue, right? It was the idea of rocking the boat and making waves. It was the glue for the brand.

Love that.

Yeah. One more, it was for a coach, a brand strategist and a coach for other coaches. And the idea was to magnetize your brand and it’s about attracting the right customers.

So we actually named the business as well, magnetism. So the idea, the big idea was within the name, it was within the tagline and even the identity used elements that tied in with this idea of magnets, right? And magnetization, if that’s a word.

But you’ll notice a lot of these ideas, they’re very literal, right? Unlocking, glowing, waves, magnets, like they’re very literal ideas and that can help. So there are a few more.

I have more as well, but I’ll pass the baton on to you, Matt.

That’s nice. I mean, we could go on probably both. I know we’ve both been working in this space for some years, so we could probably go on forever, but I think listeners should get the gist of what we’re talking about when we talk about the big idea.

We are refining, simplifying, clarifying, and sort of creating a statement of intent for the brand that everything else can stand on, that they can build internal things from, external things from. It’s really, really, really is that simple. It’s powerful, but so hard.

When Jacob, when you’re going through those, and I was probably doing the same, I go through the ones I’ve gone through and you think, wow, that’s so obvious, but it’s not at the time. And here’s another question I’ve got for you, Jacob, which I think might be useful. How unique do you think these ideas need to be?

I think they need to be aligned to the business and the customer and also be differentiated in the marketplace. So those three Cs that we need to consider when you’re creating this idea.

But does it have to be completely new?

Nothing’s new, nothing is new.

I’m glad you said that, because I don’t think the big idea necessarily has to be completely radically completely different. I think what it needs to be though, is distinctive in the marketplace and for whatever the commercial strategy is that the business is seeking to use it to fuel. So, I think you’re right.

It’s funny, you said, what did you say? You had one that was for an innovation company called Unlock Innovation, right? I did some work with a European think tank that represents biopharmaceutical companies, right?

And guess what their big idea was? Not exactly the same as yours, but it was unleash biopharmaceutical innovation. So, very similar.

Doesn’t matter, because in their context, very useful, very important that that is what the idea is that they’re gonna use to move things on.

How do you use it, right? And how do you use this big idea? And there’s so many different ways to play with that idea.

And we actually use like a, it changed, right? It was like unlock innovation, unlock disruption, unlock all these different words. So we use that as like a rotating mechanism, if you will.

So it wasn’t just stagnant as unlocking innovation. It could be adapted to other services and other contexts as well.

Yeah, well, I think that’s probably worth sort of touching on like activating your big idea, right? So once you’ve got it with your leadership team, everybody’s happy, we sign it off if you like, what happens next? So I passionately believe in having, particularly if there’s a strategic change that the business is gonna take advantage of, particularly as well, I would say, if you’ve done a complete identity rebrand, you need to launch that.

You need to explain internally, first of all, why this is happening, what the meaning of that is, the relevance of the new direction to your people, and help them to kind of see themselves in that. And I absolutely think the big idea should be at the heart of any launch campaign, any launch event, all hands or whatever, it should be building up to that. So what I’ve done, I mentioned a video before, I’ve done loads of these where we’ve done voiceovers, we’ve had like beautiful video.

Funny enough, that one about creating a better tomorrow, we got kids, we got kids of people that work at the company to read out the voiceover and in a professional studio. And then we had kind of pictures of nature and all sorts of things, basically video playing over the top with beautiful soundtrack. It was super emotional.

So one of my sort of skill sets is public speaking. So I got up and was the face of that, introduced the CEO who came on, did a little presentation, got all the leaders on. We played the video, rapturous applause.

We then heard from each of the leaders around the big objectives for the business. And so it really all tied in together as the leaders brought the big idea down into the relevance of their particular part of the organization and what that meant for their vision for the future. That is one massive way of using it.

Then we did a similar event out for customers, little road show around the world, around kind of launching the brand to key customers and key customer accounts so that they can understand, again, with a slight nuance as what this meant for customers going forwards into the future to partner with that particular company. So, it’s helpful and then beyond that, what you can do is tie that in to, as I mentioned, all those other strategies. So, you’ve got a big idea, you can put that at the heart of your customer experience.

And when you’re mapping out your customer experience, like I tend to do it in a circle, from when someone’s just becomes aware of the business, consideration, decision, and then they actually become a customer. So, you’ve got to onboard them, service them, offboard them and to advocacy. You’re in the heart of all those diagrams, you put the big idea, right?

Because that’s what you’re trying to achieve. And so, that sort of customer experience and communications, tone of voice, brand guidelines, all of that stuff, big idea needs to be cooked in. And then internally, so for HR teams and operation teams, when they’re talking about their initiatives, how they’re improving things internally, structures, culture design, activities, employer branding, again, big idea cooked in so that it makes sense.

And the biggest, most powerful way that I’ve sort of begun to use them is, as I’ve mentioned, when you start to work with a leadership team, and this is just something that I start to do, it’s not strictly brand strategy per se, but it’s relevant, right? Because what you need to do is help the leadership team set actionable objectives into the future so that they can truly live the strategy that they’ve decided on. And what you do again with those is you kind of bake the big idea into the pillars, the goals, whatever it is that you set.

It’s everywhere. And so you get that idea right, you can use it to really, it’s not about activating your big idea, it’s using your big idea, I would suggest, to activate your business, to get it commercially where it needs to go, but also to get everybody marching behind that flag that carries the idea and makes sense of everything going into the future. So I don’t know if you’ve got any other kind of, do you want to add any detail to that?

Like how do you use big ideas in your work? Because I know you do a lot more creative work than I at the moment. So how do you-

What you’re talking about there is like a little bit about the customer journey, right? At what touch points can you add more value based on this big idea? So as an example, let’s say it’s an aesthetics company, right?

The big idea was glow with confidence. If you think about when a user comes across the brand, how do we actually communicate this idea, right? That we will help you glow with confidence.

Or if they’ve been with you for a couple of sessions, how do you amplify that idea further? Is it the customer service? Is it about being very open and friendly?

Is it about giving them compliments about saying you look great? It’s like, how do you make them glow? How do you provide a high-end customer experience that will actually align with that big idea?

So you have to consider each touch point of the brand. And there’s literally hundreds of them if you think about it and break it down. How do we add that more value at each point of the way?

So that’s an easier way or an easy way to think about it. Just literally write the whole journey down, right? From the very start, how do they interact with your brand at each point?

And how do you make them a customer? How do you keep them as a customer? How do you make them an advocate?

And you can do that by amplifying this big idea at each point.

Love that. Love that. Brilliant.

Well, I guess that sort of starts to bring us down to the end of our discussion. Just to kind of recap, I would suggest each brand strategy is brilliant. Only to the extent that it’s usable, rememberable, useful to a business internally as well as relevant to customers externally.

So if you want to really kind of make sure your strategy begins to take root and is utilized, think about what we’ve talked about. Create yourself a big idea, simplify it down, boil it down into that essence. Where’s the power?

Where’s the force behind everything that you might be talking about in relation to your kind of market positioning, to your relevance to customers, to your purpose, vision, mission, all that stuff. Boil it down into one simple idea that you want customers to keep in their minds about you ideally, but also that you want employees and your people to keep in mind plus what you want leaders to be used, top of mind as they’re making decisions, making their plans, creating their initiatives. Keep it simple is my kind of final parting message.

If you want people aligned, keep it simple, keep it inspirational and you won’t go wrong. So that’s it really from myself. Jacob, any final thoughts to add on the big idea?

I want to share a resource that may help with uncovering these insights before you move into a workshop of your own. So if you go to brandingbriefcase.com, there are some downloads that you can use that have these questions that I send to the clients, those 10 questions. It’s called the brand strategy workbook, I believe it’s called, and you can download that for free.

There’s also a workbook in there that has some really powerful questions that you can use to uncover more insights from your client or even your own business as well. So brandingbriefcase.com is a really powerful resource and yeah, I’ll leave it at that.

You’re such a generous guy, aren’t you, Jacob? Like, you know, giving things away, I’m not doing that, like, you know, but go to Jacob’s branding briefcase, it’s a fantastic resource, it really is. But yeah, great, thank you very much.

And what a wonderful discussion, off the bat, you know, we shall not name the guest that turned us down, but in a weird way, I’m kind of pleased, Jacob, because we got to jam on something I think is very important and also very difficult. And something perhaps we don’t talk about enough as strategists, which is to how to simplify and to kind of get those threads that we can kind of tie together to create the big idea. It’s tricky, but keep on, folks, and we’ll see you again next time in the next episode, hopefully with a guest for JUST Branding.

But we hope you liked that. By the way, final point from me, if you’re enjoying the podcast, we really do appreciate all the feedback we get, the likes, the shares on social media, particularly the five-star reviews we get on Apple. So please do stop by, make sure you kind of, if you’re appreciating it, that you drop us a line and that you give us a review.

We really do appreciate it. Thank you.

Thank you guys.

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