Youngme Moon, author of Different, defined idea brands in a Harvard Business Review article:
The most successful companies and leaders don’t just try to outcompete their rivals at the margin. Instead, they aspire to redefine the terms of competition by embracing one-of-a-kind ideas in a world filled with me-too thinking. They aim to create what Professor Moon calls “idea brands,” products and services whose performance and personality in the marketplace challenges the limits and assumptions of entire categories. Cirque du Soleil is an idea brand, a circus that reimagined what a circus could be. So is Harley-Davidson, which invented the concept of the white-collar, weekend “biker outlaw.” And Dove soap, whose Campaign for Real Beauty challenged preconceived ideas from the worlds of fashion and style.
In Different, she adds to the definition:
Idea brands are not perfect brands. Far from it. They are polarizing brands. They are lopsided brands. They are brands devoted to the skew …They may not make much sense on paper, but they make perfect sense to us.
The most striking idea I came across in the book Different is what Professor Moon thinks that idea brands will have tomorrow:
The third characteristic that I think these brands will share is that they will be intensely human. Which is to say that they will have been conceived by individuals who are acutely sensitive to the complexities of the human spirit.