where are you looking for your next big idea?

Great brands ignore trends” is one of the principles in my new book, What Great Brands Do, that has consistently been coming up in the interviews I’ve been doing about the book.  It’s just so counter-intuitive.  In fact, just last Friday, Jim Blasingame of The Small Business Advocate show, asked me about it in his radio broadcast that is nationally syndicated by The Small Business Network.  (Listen to a part of our conversation here.)

I explained to Jim that conventional wisdom may suggest that following trends is a smart strategy, but great brands don’t usually take the conventional route and they certainly don’t follow anything — they lead!

Great brands get out in front of trends and get others to follow them.  To identify their next big idea, great brands don’t tap the sources that everyone else is looking into.  They don’t look backward and sideways; they do look forward and upward.

Many companies won’t admit it but they spend far too much time trying to replicate successes they and their competitors have had in the past.  When they look backward, they see how certain trends have fueled growth and so they seek out ways to replicate that trajectory – but that’s rarely a productive approach since the context is always changing.  What worked even a few months ago, probably won’t work today.  They also tend to pay a lot of attention to what their competitors are doing. The problem with this sideways view is that everyone is looking at the same things and so you can never truly get ahead.

iStock_000021779385LargeInstead, great brands look forward – they look for powerful ideas far out on the horizon and discover ways to advance them. They look for emerging consumer attitudes and behaviors and try to discern how they might be relevant to their brands.  And they keep an eye out for innovations in seemingly unrelated fields to identify movements that might influence their products. 

Great brands also look upward – they engage in “blue sky” innovation practices that reveal entirely new ideas that they can own.  They understand that oftentimes there is no reference point today for what will succeed tomorrow and so they’re better off seeking disruptive innovations that make what other people are doing irrelevant.

The next time you’re looking for your next big idea, get out a pair of binoculars!

P.S.  Check out my entire interview on The Small Business Advocate here.

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