Ideas are getting a bad name

Chris Mitchell
By Chris Mitchell | 2 July 2021
Chris Mitchell

Chris Mitchell is executive creative director at creative consultancy ChrisandGeoff.

Clients should kill bad ideas before they have a chance to become embarrassing. You owe it to your customers and to your staff, and to all the people you didn’t know would be watching.

Every time you run an ad that is frivolous, lame or pointless, guess what your audience remembers about your brand? It’s frivolous, lame and pointless.

There are some stinkers out there. Most of them thankfully, nobody will see because they only appear online. But for those that do happen to make it into the mass arena, for goodness’ sake, think about what you are trying to achieve.

The term ‘idea’ has become an embarrassment when it used to stand for something inspiring and imaginative.

It seems anything can pass for an idea these days. The latest example is for a chocolate milk brand where a woman with a basket of fruit is waiting to pay at a checkout counter. She takes a swig of chocolate milk and suddenly she’s playing the saxophone on a tropical beach? Huh? And the relevance is? Who bought this? Or worse, who sold this stinker in?

Not all ideas are perfect. I’d like to say it takes years of experience to come up with a simple idea, but it doesn’t. However, it does take experience to know what makes an idea work. Furphy’s works. Katmandu could work if they made the executions more relevant. But some ideas just can’t be justified by any measure. And this is precisely why ‘ideas’ are getting a bad name.

Dear clients, if you are trying to differentiate your brand from your competitors, what advantage will you gain by being irrelevant? Why do you continue to settle for mediocre when you can cut through? Are you scared of getting noticed? Don’t you believe in your brand’s potential?

Remember the ‘Use by date’ idea for Tontine pillows? Brilliant idea. Simple, relevant and it not only changed pillow buying behavior but also increased the frequency.


Imagine if you were presented with such a game changing idea, would you see the value in it? Would you buy it? Why not?

Ideas are getting a bad name because we don’t stick up for the good ones, or we readily give them away, which undermines their value.

It’s time to stop thinking of creativity as some mysterious, ‘off with the pixies’ approach to marketing but rather as a powerful asset for your brand.

Creativity generates GOODWILL

Building a successful brand takes effort, focus and consistency. It means developing a relevant strategy and then having the backbone to stay with it. That comes from having a clear sense of purpose and then, always behaving in a way that builds goodwill.

The best ideas generate goodwill.

Why is goodwill important? Ask your CFO. Goodwill is an intangible asset that is associated with the value of your brand and justifies the premium price people will pay for your goods and services. It’s the end result of why you advertise to begin with.

A creative idea in the short term, creates more impact, is more cost effective and generates higher awareness - but most importantly it endears people to you and that leads to increasing sales over the longer term - that’s Goodwill in action, and it is almost impossible to put a price on.

Harvey Norman has a huge advertising budget – but it’s all just yell, yell, yell. As the nation’s largest advertiser, I’d argue there is very little residual goodwill to show for it.


Advertising has never been so easy to ignore. If you’re idea is not creating goodwill, you’re wasting your money.

So how do we make ideas great again?

The best ideas are always relevant and simple. The best ideas don’t have to be wacky to stand out. The best ideas always come from a great insight. The best ideas have at their center, a tangible or emotional benefit, sometimes both. The best ideas cut through by changing perceptions.

So, the next time someone tries to sell you a stinker, remember it doesn’t cost any more to buy a good idea, but it is a complete waste of money if you buy a bad one.

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