Successful brands are built on the foundation of an idea.

We’re all familiar with the brand stories of Nike, Starbucks or Circ du Soleil. Whether they started from their tailgate or in a small marketplace in Seattle, the three have at least one thing in common: they had a unique positioning concept that set them apart. They are enduring because they have adopted a compelling idea that their competitors didn’t. They were all successful brands.

When you develop a brand with a big idea, it helps everything else fall into place in support of something. The logo, tagline, color scheme, look and feel, and even the voice of your greeting stand out, become easier to design, write, decide and select. This is because the ‘what’ and the ‘how’ intersect to create something amazing.

What’s My Big Idea?

What’s the idea that connects people to your brand? Can you express it clearly in a few words? It’s essential that you can, especially if you want your brand to communicate effectively for you. But please, for the love of your brand, if words such as: high quality, superior service or market leader pop into your head, let them go as quickly as they came. These ideas are actually values that hold no value at all, since they’ve been used by everyone else in your industry since the nineties.

Big Idea Thinking

But how do you get to the big idea that helps your brand become a success? Most of the time when we put on our uber creative hat, we don’t get much past the hat. But other times, while we’re at the gym or away from our busy lives on vacation, we can more easily tap into big ideas that may help us create the Nike of our industry.

The ability to think bigger is what separates average thinking from creative thinking. It’s generally what builds successful products and brands and moves people towards them. The opposite, of course, is small thinking. These thinkers tend to be second to market, following the thought leaders that got there first, and generally are happy taking a smaller piece of the pie. Not for you? Me neither. So let’s get in the big idea mindset.

Get in the Mindset

Step one to figuring out the best area or way to position your brand is to learn everything you can about what it is that comprises it. Who is it trying to reach? What does it need to accomplish? How is it being done now? Is anything there that’s unnecessary? A great example is Circ du Soleil I mentioned at the beginning of this article. Circ created its positioning by thinking beyond the industry and creating something entirely new. They analyzed what was and wasn’t working in their industry, and simply removed the fat by taking out the elements customers either didn’t want or were not needed. They created a blue ocean for themselves by creating a big idea that was bigger.

So once you figure out the status quo, do some thinking as to how you’re going to redefine it. If you’re stuck here, start writing some generalizations. What stinks? What do people tend to complain about? What’s missing? Once your creativity is flowing and you have some ideas for momentum, try a few of these simple steps:

1. Get Outside

Your ah-ha moment most often comes when you step away from your thought process and do something different. Get outside and have fun. Your thought process will still be working in the background. You may end up making new connections or seeing things from a new perspective.

2. Get Together

The best ideas often come from multiple thoughts, eyes and perspectives. Many of today’s leading companies use team thinking for invention and innovation with success. Some companies use a technique called conceptual blending, where they rotate team members in and out of team environments. This seems to be successful because the new team members tend to look at a situation from a fresh perspective, many times bringing forth new and novel ideas when the others immersed in the situation simply couldn’t see them. They needed to get outside. But when this isn’t practical, getting together is a good solution.

I have friends who avoid hanging out with people with similar traits or interests as them. These people seek out others that have different perspectives, ideals and abilities to strengthen and supplement where they lack. The big thinking process isn’t much different. When you embark on any big thinking process, try hanging out with others who are different from you. Tap into their thinking. You might together create something big.

3. Create a Creative Environment

The big idea, or unique positioning of your brand is one of the most fundamental pieces that will pave your path to success. Many of us don’t realize, however, how important our environment is when we’re exploring new ideas and creating new things. When we’re in an environment where everything is the same, that similarity sticks in our minds. It limits our ability to see other things outside of our usual framework. Try using color or switching up your workspace. Work from the coffee shop for a bit to engage your senses and get outside of your element. Try working in the park or brainstorming on the treadmill at the gym. You’ll be surprised at what a shift in environment can do.

4. Set a Timeline and Break it

It’s helpful to set parameters for your thought process. Set goals for when you’ll have something to work with but give yourself plenty of flexibility. Nothing creative was ever forced. You’ll need time to think, rethink, test the waters, think some more, discuss with a team, and then sit with the big idea you’ve come up with. If you don’t meet your dates, give yourself a week and then see where you’re at.

Remember, nothing exceptional was ever created overnight. Have fun with it. You never know, you just might create something amazing.

What do you think? Is there anything I left out?

– Christina | Savy Agency