What’s the big ideal? Why brands need a higher purpose
Chief Executive Officer
Ogilvy & Mather
David Ogilvy once said, “Unless your advertising contains a big idea, it will pass like a ship in the night.” More than 50 years later, this remains true; but perhaps a bit of evolution is healthy. Brands have traditionally been built on big ideas, but for brands to be truly powerful, they need to go beyond big ideas, and be built on big ideaLs. It’s easy to miss the difference, but it has huge implications.
As its name implies, a big ideaL connotes a higher purpose. Brands are much stronger when they have a unique belief, philosophy or point-of-view about the world, and the role that they can play in it to make the world better.
Coca-Cola is a powerful brand because it isn’t just about refreshment, it inspires people with optimism. For more than half a century, the brand has rallied people to look at the glass as half full, rather than half empty, especially in challenging times. The famous Coke ‘hilltop’ ad from 1971 gathered people from all over the world to sing “I’d like to buy the world a Coke and sing in harmony”, at a time when all eyes were on the conflict in Vietnam. It established Coke as an enduring source of optimism and inspired the belief that, despite people’s differences, we could always find common ground.
Dove, meanwhile, is not just about beauty; it’s about self-esteem. The brand has continually found ways to show women that they are much more beautiful than they think they are. The idea engages and provokes; the brand’s 2013 film “Sketches” has received 163 million views because it offers a point of view of the world that is uniquely Dove’s.
Indonesia’s own SariWangi tea became all the more relevant to a new generation of women when it proposed that tea should no longer be a time to serve, but become a time to share. It understood that women wanted more equitable relationships with their husbands, and provided a platform from which they could influence change. Even more than five years later, the “Mari Bicara” campaign (Let’s Talk) that launched this idea is memorable.
A big ideaL represents a philosophy and a point of view of the world that the brand believes in. And because of this, it can generate much more support than a brand positioning or a brand benefit would. It works on the basis that when a brand authentically supports a point of view that people can truly believe in, it makes it all that much easier to rally support for the brand.
In 2006, when the concept of the ‘big ideaL’ was first formed at Ogilvy & Mather, this was relevant. But in today’s digital world where consumers have real power over brands and how they are perceived, it is absolutely essential. It recognizes that consumers have become increasingly involved in ensuring that the brands they use are in line with their personal beliefs.
A big ideaL is also essential in ensuring that a brand maintains its consistency and authenticity amidst the demand for real-time communication and the need for a seamless flow of communication across channels. Digital acceleration has revolutionized communication, and with the increasing fragmentation of channels and messages, with both internal and external parties now involved in developing and evolving a brand’s message, it can be difficult for a brand to stay true to its DNA. This makes it all the more important to have a big ideaL that informs and influences all communication.
Indonesia has the scale to build brands that have international stature, and the current conditions – economic, technological and social – provide the right climate in which these brands can foster big ideaLs. While brands can make gains by emphasizing their functional benefits, availability and price, they have an opportunity now to establish themselves as leaders, carrying greater significance than their rivals, by creating cultural impact, and influencing norms and beliefs.
Ogilvy & Mather is one of the largest marketing communications companies in the world, providing specialist services in advertising, digital communications, public relations and activation.