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Idea recycling – good or bad? Discuss.

29 January 2014 Jim Harrison,

Marie-France van Heel writes.....

A little while ago, the Heavenly team were brainstorming some ideas, trying to solve a particularly challenging branding brief. No matter how hard we tried, we couldn’t seem to arrive at a simple brand thought with true ‘pennydrop’ appeal. Were we going to renege on our longstanding mantra just a few months after announcing our own re-brand to the world?

Just as we decided it was time to wrap up the session, one of our creatives quietly piped up: “Do you guys remember that speculative initiative we did a few months ago? The one that never came off?” We all looked at him blankly: but our MD knew exactly what he meant, and briefly explained the inspiration and context of that particular gem of a thought. It wasn’t entirely right for this brief, but it definitely had the essence of something really powerful. It needed unpicking, crafting, re-working and reassembling, but it could certainly tick all the right boxes: it was true and authentic, intelligent and shareable, and could help the brand in question have both commercial and cultural impact. Then the bombshell: “Is it OK to re-cycle an old idea?”

We sheepishly cast guilty glances around the room, but quickly realised, in the words of Mark Twain “all ideas are second-hand, consciously and unconsciously drawn from a million outside sources”. Most brands are built on one or more of a set number of core pillars: trust, power, value, originality, utility, etc., but is how you interpret these core pillars that makes an idea unique & special.

So what of creative recycling? This is not something we do when we are stuck for ideas, desperate to solve a conundrum or when we’ve hit a creative block. It is something we all do everyday, consciously or unconsciously. Yohij Yamamoto wrote “Start copying what you love. Copy copy copy copy. At the end of the copy you will find yourself”. And remember – we don’t mean plagiarism.  It is about remixing ideas not ripping them off. It is about transformation not imitation, it is about adding not aping, emulation not imitation.

And finally, through the course of this process, what we all discover is that great ideas that went before often leave completely new ideas in their wake. We never went with that old idea – but it did inspire a completely different, genius thought. Watch this space...

('Inspired' by "Steal Like An Artist" by Austin Kleon)

 Header image courtesy of Flickr user 'telstar'

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