Relevant, Resonant, Different: A Framework for Pitching Creative Ideas

Over the years we’ve learned a lot about what makes for a successful piece of content. It’s fair to say that most of those lessons were learned the hard way.

We created this, which received over 105k Facebook likes:

But a few years before that, we created this, which got just 31 Facebook likes:

The biggest lesson? Coming up with a good idea is paramount.

But what do we mean by a good idea? In truth, an idea can only be deemed ‘good’ or otherwise after the fact. A good idea is something that appears to have worked.

It’s incredibly tough to figure out whether something is a ‘good’ idea or not before launch.

Whilst you can never be 100% certain that you’re on to a winner, you can increase your chances of success. The framework we originally adopted at Distilled was from Made to Stick.

The Made to Stick framework

Back in 2011, our Head of Creative, Mark Johnstone wrote a post about making content sticky, which referenced Made to Stick by Chip and Dan Heath.

Made to Stick explores why some ideas survive (or stick) and others die. The authors identified six factors which make an idea ‘stick’:

  • Simple

  • Unexpected

  • Concrete

  • Credible

  • Emotional

  • Story

For a detailed explanation of each of the factors, refer back to Mark’s original post.

Whilst this framework is great, and is something we still use today, it does have its drawbacks.

Made to Stick is a useful tool, but it can be used as a weapon

It’s very easy to fall into the trap of using the Made to Stick framework to shoot ideas down, rather than build ideas up.

“Good ideas rarely seem like good ideas at their inception, that’s what stops the majority of people from having them.”

~ Drew Gummerson

If you use the framework as a weapon, you’ll quickly find yourself out of ideas.

Rather than using the framework to dismiss ideas as unworkable, instead focus on how you can develop and improve an idea. How can you make it more simple, more unexpected, more concrete, more credible, more emotional and more story-driven? You don’t need to hit all six factors, but you do need to know where the strengths and weaknesses in ideas lie.

But there’s another issue…

One of the toughest problems we face as a creative team is client sign off.

A good idea is worthless without this. If we don’t get the green light to move from concept to production, all our ideation efforts are for nothing.

Whilst as a creative team we appreciated the value of the Made to Stick framework, we found that it wasn’t always appreciated by our clients.

In part, the problem is the abstract nature of these factors - if you follow the framework and work hard to develop an idea that fulfils each of (or the majority of) the factors, it’s a ‘good’ idea with a decent chance of succeeding.  However, it’s only a ‘good’ idea in the abstract sense.

There’s insufficient onus on why this is a ‘good’ idea for the client.

As a result we found that some of our best ideas weren’t getting sign off. We needed a better framework for pitching our ideas.

How is this idea relevant, resonant and different?

Today we use the following framework externally - when pitching ideas to clients, whilst simultaneously using the Made to Stick framework internally.


Within our framework, relevance is primarily concerned with ‘brand fit’. We aim to answer the following questions:

  • Why is this the ‘right thing’ for this company to do?

  • How does this fit with the brand offering or messaging?

  • Does this idea seem credible coming from this brand?

  • Does it avoid seeming too self-serving (pushing their products/services)?

  • Will this appeal to the brand’s target audience?

  • How does this fit in terms of brand values and tone of voice?

  • (Bonus points) How might this lend itself to a series of content?



Resonant refers to both people and target publishers (the sites we’re seeking coverage from). Questions here include:

  • What evidence do you have to suggest that people really care about this topic?

  • What evidence do you have to suggest that publishers cover this topic?

  • What other similar content pieces have received coverage?

  • Would someone look good sharing this?



Questions here include:

  • How is this different from what’s already out there?

  • How does this difference add value?

Using the Relevant, Resonant, Different framework

I recognise that it can be difficult to imagine how this might work, so here’s a worked example from one of our own creative pieces, The Daily Routines of Famous Creative People which we created for a client called Podio who make project management software:


Using data from Daily Rituals, visualise how creative people structure their days.


Podio’s strapline is ‘empowering you to work the way you want’ and they target people in the creative industry. This piece places Podio in the conversations people are already having about how best to work, without being self-serving.


Creativity and productivity are perpetually hot topics which attract shares at volume.

This received 1.4m Facebook likes:

This received 177k Facebook likes:

Furthermore, the publishers we’re seeking coverage from, feature this sort of content. This is an excerpt from a BuzzSumo content analysis report:

Finally, people will ‘look good’ sharing our piece because it:

  • makes them look smart

  • makes them look cultured

  • makes them look interested and interesting

  • makes them look like they care about being creative


Whilst this data has been visualised before, the original execution was a poster - it wasn’t built for the web:

The original execution doesn’t allow you to easily compare and contrast the creative routines of the people featured, or filter the data; our execution will.

A little more rigour, a lot more sense

Using the ‘relevant, resonant, different’ framework alongside Made to Stick means our ideation process is more rigorous, and it forces us to think harder about whether our ideas really make sense for our clients. It also makes getting sign off from clients easier.

Incidentally, if you’re curious about our creative processes you may find one or more of the following interesting:

And so, dear reader, over to you: I’d love to hear how you approach pitching creative ideas, and your thoughts on this framework. Do let me know via the comments.

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