Brainstorming tips pro marketers use
In marketing, there’s nothing better than hearing the account manager say “the client loved the campaign!”. But coming up with the perfect idea (whether as part of a creative team or by yourself) is a big step in a marketing campaign that must not be overlooked. Creativity is fueled by data, knowledge, and brainstorming. Here are some brainstorming tips pro marketers use.
The former is a core technique used by every marketing team worldwide, both big and small. That’s why today’s blog post is dedicated to one of our favorite activities that have been bringing teams closer since the dawn of time.
Brainstorming is a problem-solving technique used in many industries: computer science, marketing, art, you name it. Whenever a team faces a challenge, designing the right plan of action is vital to overcome it.
But how does it work in marketing? One might think that brainstorming is just a group of creatives and strategists talking around an idea, writing whatever comes to their mind. Phrases like “thinking outside the box” became extremely popular in recent years, and while many marketing professionals do strive to reinvent the wheel there’s more in a brainstorming meeting that meets the eye.
Traditionally, brainstorming is used to ideate new concepts and problem-solving solutions. But if done correctly they can have a greater impact that goes beyond fostering and nurturing ideas.
It brings teams together and boosts morale as each participant interacts with each other creating bonds in a supportive environment that effectively eliminates isolation. Another benefit is it promotes creative thinking to escape working just for work’s sake. Brainstorming provides us with a moment to take a breather from tedious, time-consuming tasks that might make us feel numb. Lastly, it yields a large number of ideas that can be used later as starting points to increase the quality of solutions created during brainstorming sessions.
Although there’s no established guide on “how to brainstorm an idea”, there are a few tricks up our sleeve that can apply after, during, and after a brainstorming session to come up with the golden idea that will make your marketing strategy a success!
Tip 1: Brainstorming is a data-driven technique
We know, that doesn’t sound creative at all. But bear with us for a second. Understanding the what’s, who’s, and how’s of your strategy is the first step of a successful marketing brainstorming round.
When brainstorming an idea, every participant must have enough information to think in the right direction. Remember to ask and answer the following questions:
- Who are we trying to reach?
In marketing, knowing the why behind the buy provides creatives with the right insights to come up with the right idea that’ll effectively appeal to the audience’s emotions and drive action.
- How has our audience reacted to previous messages?
Thomas Edison once said: “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work” when asked about his failed lightbulb prototypes. Knowing how your audience reacted to a previous communication effort is key in finding the right one. Negative or no responses at all should not discourage you, they should be one of the main things to keep in mind while coming up with the next idea.
- What channel are we going to use?
A message that works on a video might not work on a billboard. Every channel has its pros and cons, think about them when discussing your ideas with your team. In brainstorming sessions, there are no bad suggestions but knowing the limits that restrict an idea can help you nail it on the first try.
Tip 2: Do your homework
Coming up with a million-dollar idea on the spot is extremely difficult, even for the most creative of people. Make sure to communicate to your team in advance about the meeting, the objective, and any relevant resource that can be helpful during the brainstorming session.
We suggest reaching out, one full day before the meeting is scheduled to give them enough time to prepare and start thinking about it in the back of their minds. Who knows when inspiration might strike? It could be during the drive from work or as a famous “shower-thought”.
Tip 3: Multiple perspectives on the same challenge
Marketing teams are made up of professionals of different capabilities. Copywriters, designers, strategists, account managers, and more come together with their perspectives and experience. If you are planning on scheduling a brainstorming session we suggest inviting people with not-so-similar backgrounds so they can contribute where others might not.
Keep in mind, having the same team chipping in new ideas over and over can make the suggestions stale and redundant. To avoid this, shake things up by inviting new people to participate.
Tip 4: Establish a Fast Round
If during your brainstorming sessions everyone is just staring at each other, implementing a fast round where everyone writes down the ideas that come to their mind in the first 5 minutes can get the ball rolling and get rid of any awkward silence. But keep track of the time as it might fly without anyone noticing it.
After the 5 minutes are up one-by-one present their ideas and let others discuss and vote on their favorites. From there, new ideas or suggestions might arise until you and your team find the right one.
Tip 5: Write it down!
Pen and paper are your weapon of choice in a brainstorming session. When many things are being said left and right and out of the blue, it is important to write down anything that you might find interesting to follow up on.
Now, if you are leading the meeting we suggest using a whiteboard to write down the best ideas the group agrees on to circle back easier. One useful trick many people recommend is to use mind mapping to establish connections between ideas or relevant concepts.
Tip 6: Brain-netting?
Due to the weird times, we’re living in and its safety guidelines, creative teams had to adapt to working from home. This made brainstorming sessions difficult as they are usually done face to face. Nonetheless, technology has made instant communication possible. Through video conferencing and the instant messaging distance does not impede a successful brainstorming session. This sparked the term “brain-netting” which is just a fancy word for online brainstorming.
Tip 7: Roleplay as the Customer/End-User
Some say that to better understand the customers’ needs we (as marketers) must walk a mile in their shoes. Role-playing allows teams to become the clients and provide potent insights into the challenges customers or end-users face.
There are multiple ways to approach this. But the one we’ve found the most effective is called “Reverse Thinking”. Before working in marketing, we were users, consumers, clients. This technique puts the participants of a Brainstorming at the other end of the spectrum, as the people who are going to receive the message.
To successfully “reverse think” have you and your team answer the following questions as honestly as possible:
- What do I expect as a user/client?
- Does this idea speak to me?
- Will I remember the message?
Setting up a Brainstorming Session
Now that you know the value and the inner workings of a Brainstorming session. How do you set up one? Luckily, it is not rocket science and the steps to have a successful meeting are the following:
- Prepare the group: As we mentioned earlier, send out an email to the selected group of participants with all the information they are going to need for the brainstorming session.
- Present the problem: What is the challenge you are trying to solve and what are the criteria the solution must meet?
- Guide the participants: Define the time of the Brainstorming session and the specific moments to think, discuss, and come to conclusions. (We’ll talk about how not having a person leading the meeting can cause trouble in a bit).
Things to avoid on a Brainstorming Session
There are a lot of factors that can make a team lose focus during brainstorming, some of the more common reasons are:
- The conversations become too relaxed: Casual conversations are great for thinking of new ideas. Nonetheless, general topics can derail the meeting into something other than the main objective. To avoid this, it is recommended to appoint a person to lead the session and steer the conversation every time it derails.
- Extroverts vs Introverts: Have you ever been in a meeting where only one person is talking and the rest just nod? This is the opposite of what a brainstorming session should be. Everyone can come up with the next big thing and all participants need to speak their minds.
- Close-mindedness and idea anchoring: People have their own way of life, their own thoughts, ideas, and beliefs. This is the beauty of brainstorming in groups, discovering new perspectives. To make effective use of everyone’s time, we suggest having an open mind to new ideas and not shutting them down so quickly. Also, it is important to be able to take positive feedback looking to improve our suggestions, after all, everyone in the session is going after the same objective.
- Pressure: Teammates might feel incompetent if they don’t come up with the winning idea (or any idea as a matter of fact). It is important to remind them that as long as they are participating by providing feedback or their perspectives on others’ suggestions, they contribute to the meeting’s overall success.
Creativity is a powerful tool capable of helping any team overcome any challenge. But creativity without an objective can be a hit-or-miss solution that misses often. Fortunately, brainstorming is a technique that can be beneficial for coming up with great problem-solving ideas when used correctly.
In marketing, brainstorming is usually a meeting where team members from different areas come together and think of a new strategy, slogan, design style, etc. As new ideas arise within a session, the team becomes closer and more in sync with each other, effectively boosting morale and productivity. But beware, as using the same peers over and over might drive creativity to a dead end. It is important to switch things a bit with different participants now and then.
Lastly, many techniques can make or break a brainstorming meeting. Ultimately, it depends on how prepared the participants are, their relationship with both the challenge and their peers, and how confident they are in their ideas that spark their inner creativity. Foster a safe space free of judgment and distractions to bring everyone’s A game in the room and we’ll guarantee the next million-dollar idea will surface in no time.