There is no such thing as a new idea

By Mercedes Harvey - Brands Account Manager

According to Mark Twain; “There is no such thing as a new idea.”

Working in a creative industry, it’s our job is to unravel the next BIG idea. A hero campaign, a world first or brand new, never-seen-before concept. Can there really be no such thing as a new idea?

From brand campaigns to chart hits, through to buying a new top after you saw your best friend wearing it - some might say we’re a living, breathing society of copy cats. Drawing idol inspiration from a risk free formula to spark the next big idea. Pure and simple plagiarists.

Recently, Ed Sheeran tweaked the credit list to his number one song Shape of You, days after fans suggested the lyrics had been copied from TLC’s No Scrubs. In 2015, Mark Ronson added Oops Up Side Your Head writers to to the credit of Uptown Funk; and there have been countless legal cases filed against artists, supposedly pinching one another's ideas.

From a brand perspective, influencer engagement, celebrity ambassadors or breaking a Guinness World Record - all form part of the PR armoury. The same idea rehashed in bigger ways, with a relevant new layer or point of differentiation weaved through the creative concept, making it the ‘best’ idea yet.

So are we all just lazy copycats or are the similarities a coincidental effect of the way in which we absorb and draw inspiration from the world around us? And, what are the chances of the next big idea, being something entirely brand new?

Twain says “it’s impossible” and that we simply take learned ideas and put them into “a sort of mental kaleidoscope. We give them and turn and they make new and curious combinations. We keep turning and making new combinations indefinitely; but they are the same old pieces of colored glass that have been in use through all the ages.”

Would grime have burst onto our scenes without the musical influence of the preceding decades? Not a straight up copycat genre, but coloured pieces of Hip Hop, Garage and Jungle, curiously combined to form one London’s greatest ever musical exports. Picture the scene, Kool Herc embroiled in an all out legal battle with Skepta, claiming his lyrics were an infringement of his idea to rap about complex issues such as race, class and urban life. It’s fair to say it would be shut down.

And, what if Fox’s sued United Biscuits over their ‘sweetest job in the world’ activation - showcasing the life of Britain's biscuit testers, with an almost identical formula to their 2009 campaign. Or if Jackpot Joy took legal action against PG tips for floating something giant down the Thames - perhaps the first person to invent a boat should get involved too?

From the evidence, it is pretty safe to say that no idea is entirely new. Instead, we draw on insight and inspiration from the world around us - allowing our ideas to grow and evolve. A butterfly effect, sparking an idea evolution, which leads us to create something shiny and brand new. The clever part, is how we actually do it.  So whether it's a superstar or super brand, at DawBell our aim is to piece together the puzzle and build a concept that enhances reputation, is newsworthy, relevant, or even worthy of a Cannes Lion.

Any ideas?