Going beyond the TVC: How to develop real strategic thinking



By Amanda Unegbu

Content Marketing and Ideation Consultant

Albert Einstein once said, “I never made one of my discoveries through the process of rational thinking” and I would venture a guess and say neither has it produced brilliant ideas.

That’s the thing about ideas. In an unrestricted environment, they seem to flow freely. Creatives talk about the “incubation period” of ideas, and how easy it is to be a philosophical genius ready to take on the world’s problem over a glass of wine or whatever takes your fancy. But what happens when you have a one-week deadline, a pitch to write and the most innovative creative idea to come up with? Well, this is where strategic thinking comes into play.

Strategic thinkers explore possibilities. They ask “what if” questions, think, reflect and plan, but most importantly, they challenge conventional thinking. They search through a myriad of human behaviour looking for that consumer truth to hone in and develop. That kernel of brilliant insight that allows for that proverbial light bulb moment.

Ahh, insight. The act or result of apprehending the inner nature of things or of seeing intuitively. It is that fundamental truth about human emotions or behaviour that is leveraged to build a brand. Often confused with observation or facts, the main difference is its ability to answer the question “why”. Moreover, it brings unconscious consumer motives to the conscious level and gives brands new opportunities to grow consumption and business. Without insight, it’s hard to come up with an original idea, or as the advertising community loves to call it, “The Big Idea.”

The Big Idea – the umbrella idea that delivers the “single-minded proposition.” It’s not a tactical idea or a media buy suggestion, but rather would answer questions such as, “What is the unifying thread throughout the campaign?” “Does the idea connect on a culturally relevant human level?” and my personal favourite, “Does it start conversations and stories for a brand?” The idea has to be fundamentally unique, ownable, remembered and motivating.

Whilst starting with a campaign name or slogan isn’t necessarily wrong, it makes your campaign one-dimensional. The Big Idea should focus on the entire organisation. For example, take Nike. “Just Do It” is memorable and iconic, but for a brand looking to build a brand identity and brand communication, the idea reads, “Nike pushes your athletic boundaries beyond what you thought was possible, so that you can win on your own terms” – more food for thought that pushes your thinking beyond “Just Do It”, don’t you think?

However, coming up with an idea is a lot harder than it looks, especially award-winning ideas. Edward de Bono, a Maltese physician, psychologist, author, inventor, and consultant coined “the Six Thinking Hats” model used for exploring different perspectives towards an idea, and which falls under the umbrella term known as Lateral Thinking.

six hat

Important for when you can’t see the woods from the trees. Consequently, being able to stand back and judge your idea is just as important as coming up with the idea. Try it – and see what come out of your session, I promise, you might just get to push that idea even further.

So does strategic thinking work? I believe so, especially if you start by looking at consumer truths that lead to that piece of insight that helps shape your big idea. And then, and only then, can we start talking about creative ideas and then start to figure out what platforms to use.


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