How to make your ideas bolder and better

Whenever you express excitement about an idea that inspires you, you’ll often find your party pooped upon by something called BDD or Brand Detachment Disorder.

I’d never heard of Brand Detachment Disorder before, until Carla Johnson (co-author of “Experiences: The 7th Era of Marketing”, a must read!) mentioned it in in a great Content Marketing University Talk, and a blog. (Thank you, Carla!)

It’s an affliction most of us content marketers suffer from.

Most Boards of Directors suffer from it as well, which is not helpful.

But what is it?

Brand Detachment Disorder is the tendency to dismiss the relevancy and application of great ideas – put forward by other marketers or brands – because ‘we’ think ‘our’ brand or product is different or unique.

A telling symptom of Brand Detachment Disorder is that glazed expression you can see in people’s eyes when you mention an inspiring example – be it by Lego, Red Bull, Salesforce or any other marketing poster child – or put forward an idea of your own inspired by it. I’m sure we’ve all been there, several times.

It usually comes with a number of replies, such as:

“That’s B2C, we’re B2B.”


“Impressive. But we don’t have that kind of budget.”


“Good for them, but that won’t work for us. We’re different.”

Or (my favorite)

“This is funny. We’re a serious business. We’re not supposed to be funny.”

And so on.

It’s a reaction we’re all familiar with, but not all of us are prepared for. It turns out we content marketers are very often guilty as charged too. That’s when we go: “That is so cool. But they’re this huge brand (or more creative brand, or more daring brand, or whatever) and we’re only … we. I’d never be able to pull off something like that here.”

Brand Detachment Disorder is the tendency to dismiss the relevancy and application of great ideas – put forward by other marketers or brands – because ‘we’ think ‘our’ brand or product is different or unique.

The thing to do, according to Johnson, is to perform what she calls a “brand transplant”: you take the brilliance behind a provocative or great idea and transplant that into your own writing or marketing program. She has a methodology for this which you can read about a little more here and here.

A brand transplant boils down to:

  • careful observation of what appeals to you
  • looking for the essence and patterns
  • finding out how the essence relates to your own world
  • generating your own ideas from there on

But to be able to do that, you need to deal with those joy killers that suck the life out of an idea as soon as it is on the table.

Here’s how I do that:

Building a case for an idea usually includes providing some kind of ‘proof’ that similar ideas have proved successful. So even if your idea has become manifestly different from the original idea that inspired you (because you did the brand transplant, and you worked with the essence), you can revert back to the case that got you thinking in the first place.

I often start off with a great B2C example, because I find this easier. For instance: I use The Red Bulletin by Red Bull (a subscription magazine) to explain that you can charge your audience money for consuming content. And for illustrating that forward-thinking manufacturing companies are changing into media companies. And for proving that print is not dead, at all.

This might elicit the “This is B2C, we’re B2B” remark. So I make sure my next example is along the same lines, but B2B (Arrow Electronics is a favorite). Which, in turn, might get me the “Okay, but we don’t have that kind of budget” remark. So I make sure I have a low(er) budget example. And when people then say “They sell services, we sell products,” or the other way around, I try to give them an example in their own line of business (if it exists). 

I basically drill down a few times like that until “This is not a great idea” makes no sense anymore. It takes some research and scenario thinking. But it illustrates that other companies (and not only the famous ones), have gone ahead and were successful because of it. And to make clear that many of the “Nah, not for us” remarks are often based on preference and assumptions. Not always on facts.

I find this usually clears the air.

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Photo by Clark Tibbs on Unsplash