Brand Strategy
By Scott Bartley

The Big Thinking Behind Big Ideas

At Bartley & Dick, we are not, by nature, prone to redundancy.

We pride ourselves on having original ideas and knowing how to put them into action to achieve our clients’ goals.

And then…we move on to the next big idea to hit the next target.

But in writing this blog, we’re kind of stymied in a way that might make us seem a little redundant.

See, the subject of this blog is big ideas. More specifically, The Big Thinking Behind Big Ideas.

And that’s essentially a big idea unto itself.

So yes, the big idea of this piece is to pontificate on the importance of big ideas. They’re like mysterious forces that captivate copywriters’ minds and shape successful campaigns. For brand directors and CMOs who want to thrive in competitive markets, knowing how to create and implement impactful big ideas is key.


The Big Idea Formula:


Todd Brown, a well-known marketer, came up with a useful formula for crafting big ideas. We see it as a way to crack the code and achieve major success.

Brown’s Big Idea Formula breaks down into this:

Big Idea = Primary Promise + Unique Mechanism + Intellectually Interesting

Let’s take a closer look: 

  • The Primary Promise is the bold claim you make about your product. It’s the transformation your audience desires and expects from your offering. For example, it could be losing weight effortlessly, looking younger with minimal effort, or getting fit without going to the gym.
  • The Unique Mechanism is what sets your product apart and enables it to deliver on the promised transformation. It’s the specific process or aspect that makes it work. For instance, think of the “muscle confusion” concept in the P-90X workout program. It was a new and unique approach that resonated with people.
  • An idea becomes Intellectually Interesting when it piques curiosity, feels like a discovery, and seems newsworthy. You want your product to align with an emerging trend and make your audience feel like they’re part of an exclusive group by purchasing it.

Bartley & Dick has used this methodology with great effect for a number of clients, including our campaigns for BBC World News America. The BBC’s challenge was they had very little awareness in the U.S. And in a market where news can often be extreme, BBC World News America had the opportunity to claim its space as a provider of award-winning journalism with a global, impartial perspective.

BBC needed to cut through all the noise. So, we created a graphically minimal, headline-driven approach that spoke for the network. In fact, the campaign embodied it. Like BBC World News America itself, the ads told the real story, taking a hard, excess-free line against sensationalism or scandal. BBC became the network with the acuity and attitude to know the difference.

The Big Idea Formula by Bartley & Dick

Bartley & Dick used the Big Idea Formula to help BBC World News America effectively break out of a sea of sensational news providers.

Again, the Primary Promise separated fact from fiction, while dissociating BBC World News America from the dominant (and sometimes biased) players in the U.S. news market. The Unique Mechanism allowed us to eliminate the stuff that really didn’t matter. In effect, we turned “Nonsense” into “Sense.” And with this Intellectually Interesting approach we helped the BBC show off Britain’s famously dry sense of humor with a wink and a nod to the current state of American news sensationalism.

By incorporating Todd Brown’s formula, we were able to create a big idea that stood out in a competitive space, resonated with consumers, and drove BBC World News America’s brand awareness in key markets.

Okay, we’ve said “big idea” eleven times in this blog (twelve, if you count the one in this sentence). So maybe we are prone to redundancy. But we don’t care. And because that’s true, we’re going to say “big idea” one more time. Because here’s our latest and greatest:

Let us help you with your next big idea. Add Bartley & Dick to the formula. Reach out to us, below.

Let’s put some big thinking behind your next big idea

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