Are You Chasing The Big Sexy Idea?

For as long as I remember I have been attracted to the “big sexy idea.” Based on what I see online and from conversations with clients, I’m not the only one. 

The problem is that the big sexy idea can become a distraction. It leads you away from the things that can have a sustained impact over the long run. 

For many, it ends up as only fantasy –  something you’re chasing but can never attain because it’s simply not realistic. 

So, what is the big sexy idea and why can it be dangerous to chase it? 

What is the Big Sexy Idea?

You may not have heard this term before but I’ve used it for years. Mainly because I’m a sucker for it. No matter how many times I’ve been burned, I eventually have at least one big sexy idea pop into my head that convinces me it would solve all my problems. 

The big sexy idea is that grandiose thing that will provide off-the-scale results. Results you didn’t think you might reach in your wildest dreams. 

This idea will make you look like a genius. You’ll go from barely known to a superstar and the money will come pouring in. 

Just reading the last couple of paragraphs has me shaking my head. It seems ridiculous as I read it. 

Years ago, I played drums and, although I never verbalized it, I wanted to be a rock ‘n’ roll star. It was a big sexy idea. 

It would solve every problem I had. I was going to have money, respect, and I was finally going to be popular. I was never going to have to worry about anything ever again. 

I was part of the MTV generation, and my goodness, the videos that came out went a long way towards romanticizing the idea of being a music star. 

I thought these people had it made. They did something they loved, became big stars, and made a ton of money. 

They demanded respect and, even if you didn’t like them, there was an attitude of, “Who cares what you think? I have a mansion overlooking the ocean and I’m leaving next week on my private jet to play on my latest sold-out tour promoting my record-breaking album.”

Around the age of seventeen, I bought a book called The Platinum Rainbow: How to Succeed in the Music Business Without Selling Your Soul. It was written by two people who worked in the industry for years. 

As I read it, some reality started to set in. 

I never considered the time spent by these musicians learning how to play their instruments, how to write songs, or the art of playing live and in the studio. 

I didn’t think about how many years they played in clubs or cycled through band members trying to find the right chemistry. 

I never heard all the awful songs they wrote as they learned how to craft a good song. 

It never crossed my mind how demos they made or how many times a music label or a management company told them they weren’t interested. 

What I saw was a result of hard work and some luck. 

It turns out that making it in the music industry is the exception, not the rule. The artists I heard on the radio and saw on MTV were the one percent of the one percent who managed to make it. 

And for the tiny percentage of people who made it, the number of people who prolonged their career beyond five years was just as small as it was for those who managed to make it. 

On top of this, most of them didn’t make nearly the amount of many I thought they did. 

My big sexy idea was a fantasy that I had constructed and was about as realistic as winning the lottery…every year…for the rest of my life. 

What Does This Have to do with Marketing? 

The big sexy idea is certainly alive and well for those seeking help with marketing and public relations (PR). 

I’ve seen it over and over again, and I understand why. 

Just like I thought being a rock star would solve all my problems, people think a certain marketing or PR tactic will solve all their problems. 

“I just need you to get me into the New York Times.”

“We just need to go viral.”

“If I could get this influencer to retweet me or share my product…”

I could go on and on. 

The problem is that much of the time it ignores reality. 

Going viral isn’t a commonplace occurrence. If it was easy to do, everybody and their dog would be going viral. 

Getting into the New York Times, Wall Street Journal or any other high-profile newspaper or magazine takes a lot of hard work and often takes months to happen. Not to mention the topic has to be something that these publications believe are relevant to their audience. 

I remember a marketer talking about how his company was mentioned by an influencer in the industry and how little impact it had.

Even if you achieve your big sexy idea, it doesn’t mean it will have a lasting impact. 

Yes, sometimes something that nobody saw coming hits at just the right time and becomes a cultural phenomenon that has a major impact on the world.

Star Wars. Titanic. Harry Potter. The Beatles. Nirvana. The iPhone. 

It’s likely that the impact diminishes over time. Remember when Cabbage Patch Kids were all the rage? Beanie Babies? MySpace? The iPod?

Part of the allure of the big sexy idea is that it’s going to solve all your problems. The reality is, even if you win the lottery and your idea hits, it won’t solve your problems forever

And this is when the reality hits that the big sexy idea, while it can have an impact, is fleeting. What do you do then? Chase the next sexy big idea?

I have something realistic to propose to you. 

Focus on the Unsexy

Chasing the big sexy idea isn’t a good strategy because it relies heavily on hope. 

A much better idea is to focus on the unsexy ideas. These are the things that are smaller in scope but add up over time. 

It’s because they take time that causes people to ignore them and instead dream about the big sexy idea, but they get results. 

When I played drums, it was the less exciting activities like practicing my rudiments and learning how to apply them around the drum kit. Working with a metronome, working to make grooves feel good, and listening to the types of music that I was playing so could better understand the nuances of different styles of music. 

Seriously, one time, to prepare for a jazz band concert, I listened to Van Halen. To no one’s surprise, it didn’t work because these forms of music are incredibly different from each other (I was 13 and didn’t know any better). 

For you and your marketing and PR, it’s things like:

  • Having a strategic marketing plan
  • Executing your strategic marketing plan
  • Setting up Google Analytics and analyzing this data on a regular basis
  • Creating content that your audience cares about 
  • Creating a website for your audience instead of yourself
  • Talking to your customers 
  • Talking to your sales team to understand the issues they are seeing in their conversations with prospects 
  • Talking to your customer service team to understand customer pain points 
  • Showing up consistently on social media (I struggle with this one) 
  • Analyzing the data coming from your marketing and PR programs 

In other words, it’s the stuff you should be doing every day. 

No, it’s not sexy, and it may be boring compared to the sexy big idea, but it will get you consistent results.

*Photo by Sebastian Ervi on Unsplash

Shane Carpenter