by Erik Doescher


A couple of weeks ago, my wife and I decided to go out for dinner after what had been a long day for both of us. I asked her what she felt like, and she said she could go for either Thai or Mexican food. Earlier that day, I had gone to a lunch appointment at a Thai restaurant, so Thai was sort of the last option on my list, but I ended up telling her that either would be fine.

So I ended up going to Thai.

Over the past eleven years, I’ve learned a lot as a marketing consultant. One important thing I’ve learned is that, when pitching themes or headlines for a given campaign, you must feel equally comfortable with every single option you present. You can’t be iffy on any of them. Why? Because, incomprehensibly, clients often choose your least favorite option. The one you think has the least creativity, least ability to attract attention, and least chance of success.

When I was younger, I threw in additional options because I thought I needed more. I thought that I would be looked on as somehow deficient if I didn’t present 101 ideas. That someone would decide marketing just wasn’t my thing. That I wasn’t creative, strategic or smart enough to come up with more “winners.”

The truth is, however, when it comes to ideas, more does not necessarily equal better. It can often equal worse. Think about a time in the past when you came up with ideas for a new product name, headlines for a campaign, or a new company tagline – and then a manager or decision-maker above you selected what you considered the worst idea of the group. You were, no doubt, kicking yourself for presenting it in the first place.

We’ve all been there.

Here are a few quick tips to remember when it comes to generating and presenting your ideas:

  1. Push yourself to keep brainstorming past your initial ideas. Sometimes the first idea you come up with is the best idea. But many times, that idea will be the worst idea on your list after you’ve spent more time brainstorming.
  2. You do not have an “idea quota.” Do not feel pressured to present a certain number of options. Be selective about your ideas, and only choose to present those you’re 100% comfortable with (because the ones you’re not comfortable with can be chosen).
  3. Be honest with yourself. Many marketers believe they can just “make it work” if an idea they don’t love is selected. However, execution of a bad idea rarely (actually never) leads to great work, and often turns out much worse (and less effective) than they thought.  Why would you put yourself in the situation of having to “make it work” in the first place?

As marketers, we can’t be apathetic when it comes to ideas.  We need to have strong opinions and only present ideas we believe in – that we feel good about. Otherwise, someone else makes the decision for us, and we’re disappointed when they pick an option we should have never presented in the first place.

And then, we end up going to Thai for both lunch and dinner.

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