THE BIG BOOK OF
DISCOVERING THE A-HA MOMENT: WHY THEY MATTER FOR MARKETERS.
HOW TO FIND YOURS. WHAT TO DO NEXT.
We have a Strategic Objective here…
To help you convert little ideas (we call them “A-ha! Moments”)
into big results, quickly and easily.
To make marketing feel as natural as thinking.
The Goals of Thinking Small:
• Quality: Let’s make marketing faster,
simpler and more intuitive. Let’s learn to
love our work again.
• Quantity: Let’s crank out lots of little ideas
instead of betting everything on one big
• Speed: Let’s sell more stuff, faster.
Small can go big at any moment.
Our A-ha Moment: What If We’ve
Been Doing This Wrong?
Advertising uses an inherently unscientiﬁc tool
- art - in the hope of achieving measurable,
scientiﬁc results: a greater number of goods
and services sold, at a lower cost. Which can
be a bit like trying to win a knife ﬁght using a
squirrel. There must be an easier way to do this.
Today, we tend to create one big art project, and then measure every marketing goal
against it. That had better be one versatile squirrel. Perhaps a Swiss Army squirrel.
After all, marketers face multiple challenges. If we’re going to try to use a squirrel art
to solve those challenges, shouldn’t we consider using multiple squirrels art forms?
Right now, our world works like this:
You make Strategic Marketing Decisions (SMDs.) They’re reasoned. They’re well-
thought out. They have clearly deﬁned goals.
We take those SMDs and make art in the hope that our art will inspire people to
make decisions that validate your SMDs.
Sometimes, it even works. The audience sees the art and has an A-ha Moment.
These are not typically reasoned, well-thought decisions with clearly deﬁned goals.
They’re feelings. Feelings like, “Wow, that’s cool,” or “So fun,” or, if we’re really lucky,
“Man, imagine what I could do with that.”
Those feelings are great. Your audience feels inspired by our art. They buy more
stuff. Your SMDs are validated. Everyone’s happy.
A master of the deadly arts.
But there’s a problem: Strategic Marketing Decisions
move faster than Big Ideas do.
Hit the gas. Seriously. I can’t reach the pedal.
Which led to our A-ha Moment: What if we stopped relying on one Big Idea and tried lots
of small ideas? What if actual marketing could move as fast as marketing decisions do?
It’s a little weird. But intriguing.
A-ha Moments vs Big Ideas
Why surprise and delight beat spreadsheets every time.
Remember when we talked about our audience responding to the art we
create? How can we do more of that? We know people don’t respond to
spreadsheets, well-thought out rationales, or meticulous plans.
We know they do respond to feelings.
Spreadsheets produce feelings, too. Just not good ones.
When people respond to your marketing, you get a feeling too. Usually something
like, “Hey, remember that thing we did that worked? We should do more of that.”
“Show me where you’re going with this.”
So, how do we market as quickly and nimbly as we want?
• …tend to be small - “I didn’t know they made a bacon-ﬂavored ____.”
• do not require explanation - “Look. Bacon.”
• start with a customer insight - “Our customers love bacon.”
• is followed by a gasp of recognition - “Holy shit - bacon!”
• is a winning statement - “Bacon.”
• is easy to identify and support - “All in favor of bacon?”
• quick to say - “Bacon!”
• true - “Yep, that’s deﬁnitely bacon.”
• surprising - “Surprise, bacon!”
• there can be many - “Our customers also like cheese. Hey…”
• talk to a prospect’s heart - “Heart says brain can’t talk right now because
So, how do we market as quickly and nimbly as we want?
•Start with your product and POV - not your customers’.
•Require more explanation.
•Can be hard to support
•Are expensive and grand
•Are scary and challenging
•Speak to the brain, not the heart.
Don’t get us wrong. We still love big ideas. But we
can’t let them stop us every time we make a strategic
marketing decision. Which is why we’ve become
fascinated with small, nimble ideas.
Ideas don’t get much bigger than Think
But it asks the audience to take the long way
‘round to, you know, buying stuff.
A Big Idea:
A fast, cheap, repeatable A-ha Moment. It’s instantly understandable.
Differentiated. It even sells hard.
Holy shit. The lights just went out at the Super Bowl.
Holy shit. The lights just went
out at the Super Bowl.
That little idea
How do I ﬁnd my A-ha moments?
No, they are not in your other pants.
Ask yourself one question:
Is your product, service or thing particularly
relevant right now?
Be honest. Of course everything you do is
relevant right now…to you. (And your mom.)
But A-ha Moments really come to life at the
times when what you do really matters to your
“Do I seem like I’m in the mood for a brand manifesto, punk?”
“Why yes, I am interested in your tire sale.”
“Note to self: Get slip-ons for the TSA line…hey!”
So, how do I do it?
• Step 1: Reality check: Are our customers currently
experiencing a moment where we might be particularly
relevant and useful?
• Step 2: Let go. We’re not saying you should throw your brand
standards out the window. But tying your resident brand cop
to a chair might not be a horrible idea.
• Step 3: Finish this sentence: “Wouldn’t it be cool if____?”
A-ha moments reside in the responsive portion of your brain.
The part that says, “See cookie? Eat cookie.” There are always
a million sober, sensible reasons not to pull the trigger on an
A-ha Moment. Ignore them.
“Me have problem. Me know.”
Go big on small.
You never know when an A-ha Moment will strike. Here’s how to
1. Queue up your toughest marketing challenges. Prioritize them.
2. Put them to the “Wouldn’t It Be Cool If___?” test. (Your agency
can help here.)
3. Fire when ready. Iterate. Test. Listen to feedback. Amp up the
stuff people like. Kill the stuff they don’t. Repeat.
Small, not scared.
Want to think small? Start with your boss.
Small ideas. Big potential.
How small goes big.
Three reasons small ideas make big sense.
1. They’re versatile. Got multiple challenges? Deliver
multiple answers. Segment them. Tweak with reckless
2. They’re fast and easy to implement. Digital marketing
demands immediacy. A-ha moments deliver. And you
don’t have to change your entire brand strategy to
3. They’re easy to live with. Small ideas show up fast.
They’re easy to test. And if they don’t work, you can
dump the bodies, fast.
Can you even?
A-has at work.
How a small A-ha changed how you order pizza.
Eat24: Throw spaghetti at the wall. Cash $134
When a small group of former restaurant workers bootstrapped their online food
delivery service, they were wildly underfunded, and late to market with a parity
product. Fortunately, there’s nothing like Impending Doom to focus the mind.
Eat24 started with a crucial Strategic Marketing Decision—deciding who the key
audience was not. They weren’t families, foodies, or hip yoga instructors
coming home to cook organic, free-range, hyper-local meals from scratch. They
were young, urban professionals who were simply too busy, too baked, or too
damn lazy to cook. Or shop. Or put on pants.
Eat24’s A-ha Moment? Embrace the laziness. Their slogan, “No shopping, no
cooking, no pants,” became their mantra. They ran it on TV. Tweeted it. Buried it
in the legalese at the bottom of their emails. Advertised on PornHub. They ran
with what worked. Killed what didn’t. And built a brand people love beyond
reason. Fast. With a minimum of meetings, pain or anguish. Just a lot of:
“Wouldn’t it be cool if ___?” “Sure. Let’s try it.”
The results? #1 on West Coast for online food delivery. #1 in market share despite
over $300 million in rival funding. Acquired by Yelp! for $134 million in 2015.
Small thinking. Big ﬁnish.
You’ve got multiple marketing challenges. Technology has made your
audience more demanding than ever…which makes your challenges
harder to overcome. Maybe the answer isn’t a single, grandiose
project. Maybe the answer isn’t even one answer. Why not move
faster? You’re not pouring hot lead. It’s a web banner. A lightning-
quick guerrilla stunt. An email campaign. If it doesn’t work, you dust
yourself off and start again - without blowing your budget. And if it
does work? You’re a hero.
Want to know more? Ping us firstname.lastname@example.org
Punch above your weight. We can show you how.