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    From the Gaping Void

    Food for thought

    « Why small matters | Main | How to think and make small »

    May 18, 2011


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    It ties back to the point about placing little bets and is about managing portfolios rather than playing roulette.

    Charles Frith

    Doesn't this just tip toe around the elephant in the room that 20th century branded consumerism is a disaster for the planet and in need of a neutron bomb place in its financial artery?


    Hi Gareth

    I've read this whole series of post with great interest, some fascinating points. I've a couple of questions:

    1. The examples you mention in point 2 are all great ideas but I'm wondering what sort of reach they will have achieved? For the Vail example it doesn't matter so much due to the captive and attentive audience but with bigger, perhaps more global brands, how do small ideas go about having a big affect on brand equity?

    2. My other question was on the relationship between the long idea and the small idea. What's the difference between a long idea and an overarching brand strategy? I'd love to hear more on that.

    Hi Charles - still dealing with the big questions, good to see :)



    Hey Tom
    Good questions. Here's an attempt to answer:
    1. Well first I'd question whether reach is a valid objective? Isn't today more about brands establishing depth of relationship? I guess what lies at the heart of your question is about scale. I guess my answer would be that they are scaleable if you use advertising (paid, earned and owned media) to amplify and communicate the small things that are done. In fact, the idea for Battle of the Cheetos was for a huge mainstream brand and was about doing something small in people's natural flow rather than trying to get them to 'go' to something 'big'. SO I think you can still 'do' small and have impact at scale. In fact, thinking about making small changes to the product or experience is often the best place to start I think nowadays; it's about thinking how you can turn those people who engage with your brand into media, not just customers (sadly, that stuff isn't measured in most media plans).
    2. I think the difference is twofold. First, long ideas are built from the bottom up (actions) rather than the top down (brand vegetables, manifestos and mission statements). They're built from action not words. Second, long ideas tend to be about doing lots of stuff. Overarching brand strategy tends, sadly, to be about doing one or two things everywhere. It's more about repetition than addition. And that, to me, tends not to create momentum.


    Hey Gareth

    Thanks for those answers - you're right, what I was groping for was a consideration of scale.


    To pick up on the second point, because I find it fascinating, how do the people "doing the doing" know whether what they're doing will work/be appropriate (for wont of a better word) for the brand or not?

    What I'm groping for is how do you create a sense of direction or purpose with no reference points or strategy?


    Good question. I think there's an assumption that 'doing' is done after strategy by a different group of people. My experience has been that the really great work, and especially the small or long stuff, is about a messy process of iteration where you have to get your hands dirty to do the strategy. You work it out through doing. Adrian Ho at Zeus Jones makes this point far more eloquently here
    I guess to your point about direction, often these ideas fall out from a company's purpose. That provides coherence. But often this is discovered along the way (the Little Bets point also played out brilliantly in Tim Harford's new book Adapt). The one thing I think though you do need is a razor sharp problem (best defined behaviorally) to solve. That's what really gives direction.

    Make any sense?


    Hi Gareth

    More fascinating stuff. On that presentation, slide 69, it refers to "strategy guided by vision" - perhaps this is another name for company purpose. Another reason why companies have to stand for something that isn't just making loads of money.


    Indeed. There's a brilliant quote by Dave packard (the P in HP) from 1960: “I want to discuss why a company exists in the first place. In other words, why are we here? I think that many people wrongly assume that a company exists to make money. Whilst this is an important result of a company’s existence, we have to go deeper and find the real reasons for being. As we investigate this we inevitably come to the conclusion that a group of people get together and exist as an institution that we call a company so that they are able to accomplish something that they would not be able to accomplish separately - they make a contribution to society, a phrase which sounds trite but is fundamental…”
    Interestingly, HP is also one of those companies that discovered their purpose through doing stuff.

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    Trying to wrap my head around all of this, new to branding myself but am finding your page really useful.

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    Thanks Brand New. I like your small ideas.

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