I’d get run out of town if I said nothing has changed in marketing in the last 25 years. Or 10 years. Or 5 years. Heck, marketing has changed a bunch since last year. But one thing that hasn’t changed is the importance of a big idea.

Think Small.jpg
"Think Small" by Source. Licensed under Fair use via Wikipedia.

The top advertising campaign of the 20th century (which ended 14 years ago) was the one above. A huge idea developed by one or two guys, premised on zigging when everyone else was zagging.

The agency that created Ad Age’s current Digital Campaign of the Year didn’t even do the work; they got consumers to do it for them (well, sort of). The “98 Days to Shine” campaign was built around a photo challenge on ESPNW’s Twitter and Instagram accounts. Speaking as a non-woman, it’s a pretty cool, inspiring campaign.

Case Study: espnW 98 Days To Shine from Concept Farm on Vimeo.

It’s a big idea that, like Nike’s “Just Do It,” makes everyone an athlete-- a participant and not just a spectator. And that builds a kinship with the brand.

Continuing the sports metaphor, the Big Idea has to be muscular, but it’s more like a “fitness model” muscular than “bodybuilder” muscular. Because today’s market doesn’t want to be hit over the head with your “advertising.”

They know when they’re being advertised TO and talked AT, instead of talked WITH.

The model on the right is a weight lifter, it’s safe to say. The model on the left probably does CrossFit. She takes a well-balanced approach to fitness, just as we take a well-balanced approach to marketing. Digital and mobile are huge and growing, but our work has shown that they do better when combined with other ways to interact with a brand.


Because the University of Central Arkansas needs to reach a diverse target audience that includes high school seniors, college transfer students and parents, it takes a well-balanced approach to marketing. UCA fields video ads for mobile devices (I was excited when one popped up on my “Words with Friends” game), on-campus posters, and traditional media in feeder markets. The efforts are aimed not just at potential students, but parents of those prospects, as well.


UCA’s Big Idea recognizes that those audiences are smart, have a sense of humor and still want hard, cold facts to make a decision about their education.

The takeway: have a Big Idea and CrossFit marketing for a healthy bottom line. During the most recent recruiting season, UCA’s advertising campaign and efforts by the university’s recruiting team increased traffic to the microsite by 79 percent.  After learning more about UCA, students were interested and wanted to experience the UCA community.  The university experienced a 78 percent increase in the number of students visiting the campus.  In August 2011, the class of 2015 arrived at UCA, and residence halls for incoming freshmen were over capacity.  Housing officials reported an occupancy rate of 100.69 percent. Temporary spaces were established to accommodate the larger class.  Overall, UCA’s incoming freshmen class increased by six percent – the second consecutive year the freshman class experienced an increase.