Did you know that since the time you started reading this article, approximately 175 ideas have been executed?
Some of them were born and raised with such hope, such prosperity, by parents who had such grand plans for them. And others sucked and deserved to die.
But nonetheless, there are people out there, people you and I see everyday, similar to you and I in physical appearance, who kill ideas for a living.
It’s scary I know. But it’s real.
What’s scarier is that those idea killers are not actually professionally trained in how to test the validity of the life they exert so much power over. They just go off a ‘gut feeling’ of what gets to live, and what gets to die.
By now, the massacre has increased into the thousands.
OK I’m going to snap out of the dramatic setup.
Some ideas are great and see the light of day. Some ideas are great and get shut down. Some ideas suck and somehow get a lot of money thrown at them, and some ideas suck and get shut down deservingly. And then there’s everything in between.
But is there an objective science to good ideas?
Of course there is. I’m just not a pro at it so not going to try writing about that.
I’m just going to tell you a tale of two ideas that are somehow linked in my mind.
I’ll start with a massive fail, because who doesn’t love a fail story.
Sociabl. Heard of it? Probably not.
It was (actually still technically ‘is’) an app that planned to connect anyone with money to A-grade celebrities to engage in (awkward) Skype style video calls. It had a incredible million dollar launch in mid January followed by an equally incredible fail. At this point you should hit the link to the story here or for the fun part go straight to the awkward interview that bought the whole thing down here if you don’t know what I’m talking about. Entertaining fail content for all.
Ok, you're back? Or if you never left, the point is they never had any of these ‘A-Grade’ celebrities lined up at all and just claimed they did in the hope that the hype around it would convince them to join (spoiler alert: it didn’t).
Before I get to the punchline of why this idea is worth the time of day (it isn’t), I want to get us away from the cringe content and offer you a far happier 'idea' story.
It’s a campaign from Brazil in 2014 called ‘Bentley Burial’ and you can check out the 3min case study here. I'm loving the hyperlinks today.
The beauty of the idea with the Bentley Burial campaign was that it hooked people in with a villain, got people emotionally engaged, executed a good ol’ switcheroo to perfection and made him the hero.
What a rollercoaster of emotion.
But it was more than that, it was a truly well executed piece of art that relied on predictable reactions of the public. Without that, the ‘idea’ wouldn’t have worked.
So what do these two lessons in media / PR / marketing / communications, whatever you label it as (a) teach us and (b) have to do with each other at all?
I’ll start with (b).
Nothing. Except in my mind.
When I saw Sociabl’s launch fail and all the PR it got, my mind went to one thing and one thing only: Media Stunt.
Surely, this was a really really clever way to get people talking about the app. To make people think ‘you two 20 year old's could never get all those names on that app’, see it fail, but then reveal that the celebs were in on it all along.
People like me so ready to slag it off (who held off writing this article for 3 weeks in case it actually happened) would have eaten their words, then considered downloading the thing if for nothing more than to see which celebrities actually signed up.
Just like Bentley Burial.
What an ‘idea’ that would have been.
Which now leads me to point (a) - what do these pretty much unrelated case studies teach us.
Well the most obvious is that even if an idea is good, poor execution will kill it.
I still don’t think Sociabl’s idea was that good, but it definitely wasn't that bad.
But I think the bigger lesson is in risk and bravery. I’m only really talking about the Bentley Burial now, but my heart goes out to those in idea heaven when I think how many ideas I’ve seen murdered in the womb because a client has 3 ideas on the table and they easily kill one because it contains any risk.
The irony with the risky options, is that the risk levels are extremely easy to calculate, as humans in the masses act in very predictable ways.
The Bentley Burial campaign simply capitalised on this predictability, and the Sociabl company launch execution failed to account for it.