3 surprising business secrets that created a Christmas smash hit

2. Take something already existing and update or twist it to get a new idea

Just like Madonna, Lady Ga-Ga or Miley Cyrus, you and your company must constantly reinvent yourself and your offerings. And one way of doing this is simply to take something that’s gone before and just tweak or update it slightly so that you take it in a marginally different direction – and thus you end up with a new idea.

With my billboard as my starting point, I thought about the concept of a ‘speech bubble’ being used as a physical prop. It struck me that whilst the billboard had worked well, it was inaccessible to most people and impractical to move around. Therefore, I needed a way to replicate the same core idea of giving someone a ‘speech bubble’ to pose with. Of course, these days most people in the western world have a camera in their pocket, so what I needed was a way to create a speech bubble that anyone could get their hands on and then they could easily take a photo of it.

Like a thunderbolt of lightening, inspiration hit. Eureka! Maybe I could make an actual bubble – a real-life 3D shape in the form of a cartoon speech bubble. That was it! The idea of the ‘speech bubble balloon’ was born. I imagined that maybe I could create a range of speech bubbles with various slogans on them (or even blank ones for a ‘write your own’ speech bubble) so that anyone could blow up the balloon and use it in a photo to make it look like they’re saying something.

I immediately sketched out some rough ideas and then proceeded to get my new balloon legally protected with the best lawyers I know. Now, at this point, even though I believed my new idea would work well, I was fully aware that simply having an original concept wasn’t enough if I wanted to persuade anyone else it was a good idea too. What I needed was proof.


An idea in your head is very vulnerable to other people knocking it down…
So, to give it instant strength and power – you must bring your idea to life in some way…

I jumped on the net and phoned lots of people in the balloon industry, searching for a factory that could help me make a great prototype. It took a while, but eventually I found a brilliant guy called Roger who had over twenty years experience in the balloon industry. But it wasn’t all plain sailing. Even though the idea for a ‘speech bubble balloon’ may seem simple, we had various hiccups on the way to producing a finished working prototype. First off, I spent ages trying to make the balloon from traditional latex material, but the economics and practicalities just wouldn’t work. 

Then, we switched to ‘foil balloons’ and our first prototype had too much of a rounded ‘mouth bit’ so it didn’t look right. Another version showed us we needed to alter the valve design too. Eventually, we produced a working basic blank prototype speech bubble balloon (in fetching ‘flesh pink’ – whoo hoo!) that was good enough to perfectly convey the idea.

This was a huge leap forward, but I still had numerous challenges to overcome. I needed to mass produce the idea and get it out into the world. And for that, I used another technique I’ve successfully used in the past too.

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