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Brand Management

Marketers Must Fight For Their Brand Ideas

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2 Keys To Activating Brand Ideas

As we all know, there are two sides to every argument or debate. When developing a brand, whether it’s the identity, positioning, or marketing, differing points of view will often collide.

Everyone is searching for the “big idea” in our business, and the reality is that the best use of budget, the cleverest strategy or the most efficient media selection may not win the day. It will often come down to who is the most passionate and most convincing with the better argument … or whether an argument is even waged at all.

If you’re tasked with pitching an idea to management or to your client, the first person who has to believe in it is you. I once worked with a creative director who was known for the sign over his door that asked one simple question, “Is It Great?”

To him, only great ideas need be considered, so don’t waste his time with anything but your best effort. The rationale was simple: If it’s not great, you won’t believe in it and if you don’t believe in it, why should I? Trust me, you didn’t want to go in there unless you were ready to believe in it … and fight for it.

In Gene Wilder’s 2005 interview with “Fresh Air’s” Terry Gross, he recalled his fight for one of the most memorable scenes in all of movie comedy: The “Puttin’ on the Ritz” song and dance in the film “Young Frankenstein.” In the scene, Wilder’s character (Dr. Frankenstein) is demonstrating how his “Creature” (played by Peter Boyle) could actually be a “man about town” to a packed theater of skeptical Transylvania scientists.

When co-producer Mel Brooks read Wilder’s pages scripting the soft shoe number in the film, his reaction was anything but flattering. “Are you crazy? This is frivolous.”

As Wilder recalls, he argued for the scene for 20 minutes to the point of screaming at the comic genius. Then Brooks says, all of the sudden as Wilder recalls, “Ok, it’s in.” Exasperated, Wilder asks, “Why did you put me through this?”

Brooks replies, matter of fact, “I wasn’t sure if it was right. I thought if you didn’t argue for it, it was wrong. And if you did, it was right. So, you convinced me.”

Gene Wilder believed in his idea and was willing to face down a very intimidating talent in Brooks, go to the mat and not take no for an answer. But Mel Brooks’ strategy is equally intriguing. He was actually testing the merit of the idea by means of his challenge. Simply because he initially dismissed the idea didn’t mean that he wouldn’t accept it. He just needed Gene to convince him. Had Wilder abandoned the scene after Brooks’ “Are you crazy?” comment, we all would have been denied one of the classic comedy scenes in cinema. As it turned out, we’ve had a lot of laughs!

Like Mel Brooks, ad man Bill Bernbach had to review and pass judgment on countless ideas for his agency DDB or his clients. Legend has it that he always had a piece of paper in his suit coat pocket that simply said “They might be right.” Even a genius like Bernbach knew he didn’t have all the answers. He also had enough wisdom to know that he needed to remind himself of that fact from time to time, especially in moments where opposing views emerged. Bernbach also knew that great ideas may come from anywhere, that is if you’re smart enough to listen for them.

Bill Bernbach’s example means one should never assume that your client or management team will not give your next great idea, the one you’ve worked hard to develop and are passionate about, a fair hearing. But it doesn’t stand a chance unless you do two things:

Believe in it.

Fight for it.

At The Blake Project, we want your brand ideas to succeed. That’s why we share insight like this and offer guidance in building brand insistence.

The Blake Project Can Help: The Strategic Brand Storytelling Workshop

Branding Strategy Insider is a service of The Blake Project: A strategic brand consultancy specializing in Brand Research, Brand Strategy, Brand Licensing and Brand Education

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