Ogilvy’s Big Ideal

Using tools is part of a planner’s daily work and skill-set. Ever agency has a set of tools that are claimed to be unique but in most of the cases they are neither unique nor a secret. And as a good friend and planning colleague once said: “A fool with a tool is still a fool.” In general I am quite skeptical about tools although there are some that are really useful. During my time at Ogilvy, I came across many tools, that became part of my skillset. The Big Ideal is not necessarily unique but is one of those practical thinking exercises that help to define the essence of a brand.

I just found this video which reminded me of many great discussions that we had back then. And I am actually still working with it today.

The concept was developed by the UK colleagues in 2008 and is still a nice example of smart planning thinking as it simplifies the actual brand planning process itself. The concept of the Big Ideal originated from the 360° communication approach and the fact, that brands should be driven by a unifying thought. This might also be called the brand essence. But having an ideal binds the brand to one aspirational thought and clearly defines the attitude, the tone of voice and provides a plattform from which to inspire creative execution across multiple channels. It is a framework to encourage  and direct powerful ideas.

The whole idea of the ideal was strongly driven by the Dove case, that can easily be described as one of the most successful international brand campaigns of the last decade. The discussion about corporate social responsibility and sustainability was also an important factor to rather talk about ideals than ideas.

Dove is also a good example to describe the simple structure of the Big Ideal. The brand’s ideal or aspiration is practically summarized with a sentence that starts with “the brand xy believes the world would be a better place if …”. In the case of Dove this might be something like “Dove believes the world would be a better place if women were allowed to feel good about themselves.”

The big ideal is at the intersection of a cultural insight and the brand’s best self. The cultural insight might be a conflict and tension in the consumer’s cultural environment that provides an opportunity for the brand to address. The brand’s best self describes the context in which the brand’s skills and personality are given free rein. For Dove the cultural insight that was used, is the tension of false media stereotypes that are impacting women’s self esteem. The fact that Dove has always been about natural beauty, was the platform for the strategic thought to add a relief function to the brand value and the springboard for the campaign for real beauty.

Here are two more examples of how this logic can be applied:

Cultural Tension: Today’s culture of negativity is impacting people’s quality of life
Brand’s Best Self: Coca-Cola is at its best when it plays the role of ‘cheer leader’
Big Ideal: Coke believes the world would be a better place if people saw the glass as half full, not half empty

Cultural Tension: Young people are losing touch with their physical selves
Brand’s Best Self: adidas is at its best when it revels in the spirit of competition
Big Ideal: adidas believes the world would be a better place if people considered failure essential to success or if people went beyond their normal boundaries

More cases on the big ideal including a downloadable presentation on the topic can be found here. As you can see their are more than just one possible big ideal from which to build the brand communication. The exact phrasing of a powerful big ideal is the tough part and the real challenge for a planner because a fool with a tool is still a fool.


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About aschauerte

Marketing, Media, Communications and Business Strategist.

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