Breakthrough!: A 7-Step System for Developing Unexpected and Profitable Ideas

Breakthrough!: A 7-Step System for Developing Unexpected and Profitable Ideas

by Paul Kurnit, Steve Lance



Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780814415627
Publisher: AMACOM
Publication date: 10/20/2010
Pages: 224
Product dimensions: 6.20(w) x 9.10(h) x 1.00(d)
Age Range: 18 Years

About the Author

PAUL KURNIT is a well-known marketing expert and marketing professor at Pace University whose achievements at agencies such as Benton and Bowles, Ogilvy and DDB’s Griffin Bacal include campaigns for Crest, American Express, and Transformers. STEVE LANCE is a thirty-year veteran of advertising and marketing and an award-winning copywriter and creative director. He is coauthor of The Little Blue Book of Advertising. Together, they are the authors of The Little Blue Book of Marketing.

Read an Excerpt


What’s a Big Idea?

A BIG IDEA is anything that can build new audiences, new customers a and new sales by mining undiscovered territory. It can be a brand-new product or service, a line extension, a related product—in fact, it can be just about anything. The only thing every breakthrough idea has in common is that after it’s come to the marketplace, everyone else turns into Homer Simpson and says, “D’oh!”

What they mean is “Dough!” As in, “That’s gonna make those people a ton of money. How come we didn’t think of that?” Because to come up with a breakthrough idea, product a or service you’ve got to break out of the box of your existing marketplace thinking. And that’s very hard to do. But, there are companies out there that are doing it all the time.

marketplace thinking. And that’s very hard to do. But, there are companies out there that are doing it all the time.

Arm & Hammer Baking Soda. This one is classic. Perhaps the granddaddy of all Big Ideas. Conventional wisdom: You should always have a box in your cupboard for baking. You use one or two tablespoons at a time. The package lasts forever—

or close to it. After all, it’s baking soda, right? Big Idea: Take the entire box and put it in the refrigerator to freshen things up.

And when it stops working, pour it down the drain to freshen your sink.

Wow! That’s three different Big Ideas in one. First, Arm &

Hammer finds a new use for the product (a use customers were already doing; the manufacturer found out about it by conducting focus groups) to increase sales. Second, the manufacturer promoted the idea by suggesting you put the whole box in the refrigerator (you only need a few tablespoons in a dish, which you can change every few weeks). And third, they suggested pouring the box—80 percent of which was still good—down the drain to “freshen your drains.” (Did you know you had a stale drain problem? We sure didn’t!) Sales of Arm & Hammer Baking

Soda took a quantum leap—it was a brilliant paradigm buster that jump-started sales of a sleepy staple.

Diet Coke/Coke Zero. Conventional Wisdom: Coca-Cola is the big gun of full-flavored cola beverages. Your brand is your brand; don’t mess with the golden goose. Big Idea: Why try to build brand loyalty for a product no one’s heard of (Tab) when you can leverage the mother-lode name into an arena people want—the Coke experience without the calories? So Diet Coke is born. And if men don’t like the idea of drinking a “diet” cola a let’s just call it Coke Zero and invite that Coke audience to the party with a brand they can call their own. Sometimes busting a paradigm doesn’t involve reinventing your entire marketing and manufacturing approach. It just takes the courage to smartly extend it!

Lite Beer from Miller. Conventional wisdom: Guys drink beer for taste and to get drunk. They’re proud of their beerdrinking ways and the number of brews they can put away in a sitting. You can’t promote light beer as a dietary drink for men.

They’re not interested in admitting they’re counting calories.

Big Idea: “Less filling” means you can drink more. It’s permission to beer binge without feeling full or uncomfortable.

Beyond that, women would drink more beer if it weren’t so fattening.

Suddenly, brewers had the opportunity to significantly increase the size of their market. The danger here is in the marketing execution: You can’t promote light beer as a drink for women; they’re a secondary target. So the first attempts to market “light” beer were a disaster (read the case study on

Gablinger’s Beer) because they missed the marketing target (and it tasted awful). But when Miller Brewing Company started using ex-jocks to promote the “less filling/tastes great” concept a they suddenly had a winner—a big winner that opened a new category in the beer business: light (or Lite) beer.

By the way, later we’ll talk more about understanding the difference between a failed idea and a failed marketing strategy.

Some ideas are just plain bad. Others are good, but they take some effort to find the winning message. That was the case with Pampers. Procter & Gamble knew moms wanted the ease a convenience, cost savings, and less-mess approach of disposable diapers, but P&G couldn’t find the winning message in launch-ing the product. None of those points—points moms themselves raised in focus groups and consumer studies—resonated with the audience when P&G took Pampers to market. It wasn’t until they hit on the strategy “keeps your baby drier”

that sales took off. Because the real value to new moms in disposable diapers is what the diapers mean to their babies. And a yes, consumers lie in research all the time.

iPhone/iPhone Apps. Conventional Wisdom: Cell phones are about the convenience of being able to talk to friends on the go. They’re the necessary hardware part of the telephone network’s strategy to sell “minutes.” Big Idea: The cell phone is just one function of the personal digital assistant, and if you open your architecture, you can create unprecedented demand from consumers for a new type of personal device. In fact, as of this writing, the Apple Store has sold more than a billion downloads of almost 50,000 different apps for the iPhone.

Prior to the “open architecture” approach of Apple, this was a nonexistent business.

UPS. Conventional wisdom: United Parcel Service was in the business of package delivery. It was mostly a B-to-B operation.

Stores would send merchandise to customers via their brown trucks. But customers had virtually no access to the service. Big

Idea: With the acquisition of Mail Boxes, Etc. and a UPS

rebranding effort, UPS has become an active—and friendlier—

competitor to the U.S. Postal Service. Consumers go to UPS

Stores in droves to mail their packages. And UPS delivery guys are friends to local merchants and residents alike as they make their way through numerous communities. “What can brown do for you?”

Big companies and big honking ideas, right? Well, Big

Ideas aren’t restricted to big companies or big product ideas.

They also come from independents, entrepreneurs, and small businesses.

Animus Rex. A world-class Web design firm—in a very crowded field. Their first Big Idea was to create a Web management tool called EsKort that both increased client loyalty to them and their services and also gave clients the independence to manage their own Web sites. A win-win for Animus Rex and their clients. Their next Big Idea was to solve the needs of a specific industry—law firms. Law firms were moving to online digital platforms but had huge amounts of data to store. Animus

Rex started specializing in law-firm Web design and data management a providing firms with an easy way to store and manage literally millions of pages of data.

Spam. That’s right, spam. Not the food product made by

Hormel Foods (although they probably could use a breakout idea or two), but the stuff you try not to get every day on your computer. Conventional wisdom: You cold-call via phone or by walking door-to-door. Big Idea: Use the new medium of digital communication to reach out to potential customers. A guy named Gary Turk claims to be the father of spam in a story he gave to National Public Radio in May 2008, commemorating the 30th anniversary of the first spam e-mail. According to

Turk, in 1978 there were approximately 2,600 people on

Arpanet (the predecessor to the Internet) and their e-mail addresses were listed in the directory. Turk sent unsolicited

e-mails to 400 people on the list (more than 15 percent of the entire Internet at the time) and started an entirely new form of annoying marketing. (Hey, we never said that all the breakthrough ideas would be loved by the rest of the world. It worked for him at the time and that’s all that counts.)

Scott Gutterson. A New York City–based tax attorney.

Scott realized that his client base was getting older—all his clients were over 40. He also recognized that whenever he got a new client it was because the person had gotten into financial trouble chasing “a good idea.” Scott felt it would be beneficial to all his clients if he could address those common pitfalls before people lost their money. The result was a new Web site devoted to providing financial advice for young adults a www.18-34 (You’re On Your Own Now). It’s become a high-traffic site and a great new-business tool for a new generation of clients.

WE CAN GO ON. In fact, throughout this book we’ll talk about products and services that landed on Big Ideas. You get our point. Chances are, there are half a dozen possible gamechanging ideas within your own company’s area of expertise that can revolutionize or revitalize sales for your business.

They’re there. They’re lying beneath the surface of what you already do well. You just need the commitment and the method to mine them.

So what are you waiting for? As the Texas political commentator

Jim Hightower once observed, “There’s nothing in the middle of the road but a yellow line and dead armadillos.” If you play it safe, if you don’t grow, you’ll just disappear—merged into a larger company or marginalized into irrelevance.

Companies need new ideas the way people need food. It’s the energy that grows and sustains them. But where do they come from? Many people think breakthrough ideas are a matter of luck. But we’ll show you how they are the result of careful planning, thinking, and execution.

When it comes to conceiving and launching Big Ideas, there are no guarantees—but follow our 7 steps to developing a block -

buster phenomenon and you’ll greatly improve your odds.

7 Steps Quick Start (Wallet Guide)

1. Put an end to business as usual.

2. Get business buy-in.

3. Organize the team and process.

4. Land on the big idea.

5. Build momentum for the idea.

6. Develop the plan.

7. Launch the idea.

We’ll take you through these steps, one by one, to help you build your rule-breaking team and process. Along the way we’ll answer the questions of how you create a big new idea; what qualifies as a standout product or service; how you develop marketing and marketing communication that surrounds the consumer;

how you build a team to help get you there; who the partners are and what events are that will help drive the idea;

and what the time frame is that will enable an idea to develop into a phenomenon.

When we’re done, you’ll know the secrets to success. Then all you have to do is get the buy-in (Step 2) and put together your winning team (Step 3). Then you’ll be on your way.

So what are you waiting for? Let’s get going!

Table of Contents




Overview: What’s a Big Idea?

Step 1: Put an End to Business as Usual

1 How Ya Doin’?

2 Why Rules Are Traps

3 The New Rules

Step 2: Get Business Buy-In

4 Build the Sale

5 Make It Stick

Step 3: Organize the Team and Process

6 True Believers, Consensus Builders, and Odd Ducks

7 Fire Up the Engines

8 Parameters and Process

Step 4: Land on the Big Idea

9 What Are You Selling?

10 What Are You Looking For?

11 The Competitive Landscape

12 Coming Up with the Big Idea

13 Give Every Idea a Chance to Live

14 Sifting and Winnowing

Step 5: Build Momentum for the Idea

15 Determine the Dimensions of the Idea

16 Research

17 Due Diligence

18 Budgets

19 Management Buy-In

Step 6: Develop the Plan

20 What Should the Plan Look Like?

21 Sell in the Plan

22 Who Ya Gonna Call?

Step 7: The Launch

23 Let’s Do Launch

24 Implement a Readable Test

25 Read, Roll, or Kill

26 Celebrate!

27 The End—And the Beginning


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