Marketing communications happen, and currently they’re happening like never before, from traditional advertising to shopper marketing efforts, branded apps, jaw-dropping viral videos and a growing stream of social media platforms. As the number of communications avenues continue to grow, astound and sometimes confuse, can any of these efforts truly begin to shine without creation of a core, central idea? As Executive Director of the Insights Group at Vertical Marketing Network, for the past 10 years I’ve facilitated brainstorm sessions and led the generation of original thinking and creative solutions for our client’s businesses operating in wide-ranging industries, from home entertainment to packaged foods to casinos to toys. And as clients applaud the results of Vertical Marketing Network’s inventive conceptual work, I’m often asked what the keys are to developing creative thinking? As this week’s guest blogger, I’m going to share some secrets that generate creative nuggets and turn them into highly relevant creative campaigns.
Maybe I’m blogging out loud, but creativity is more crucial than ever. For marketers to grab consumer attention and develop relevant brand involvement in today’s overcrowded marketplace, an exciting and intentional creative approach is no longer an option; it’s an imperative.
When it comes to setting the tone to achieving the best creative thinking, make it fun, involving and rewarding. We invite, encourage and appreciate participation, and we know that the germ of a good idea can start with thoughts and insights from anyone, be they a marketing director, researcher, art director, copywriter, shopper-marketing expert or intern. All ideas should be heard and respected! Group ideation sessions are most powerful and successful when participants are comfortable and enthusiastic and when people with different vantage points can share, blend and build on their diverse knowledge and perspectives. The results are astounding.
Following are some activities we use in our ideation sessions at Vertical Marketing Network. We invite you to give them a try the next time you’re faced with the task of coming up with a new product, campaign, theme, direction, way to build a brand, or a new look at an old business:
Walk In Someone Else’s Shoes— This is a role-playing technique where participants are assigned a character (real or fictional) and then asked to think about the challenge at hand and develop an idea, approach, program, etc., based on their character. Imagine coming up with new ideas from the viewpoint of a toddler, celebrity, politician, scientist, superhero or even your competition.
Take Your Cue– This is a forced association activity where participants use assigned or self-selected pictures, words, songs, phrases, names, objects or situations as cues or jumping off points to take their thinking in new and unexpected directions. For this activity you can work in teams or individually. You can also combine cues to create even more diverse ideas.
Make It & Shake It – This works when you are building on a program that already exists but need enhancements. Participants discuss the current program details and then are asked to do one or more of the following: make it friendlier, make it more involving, make it more Hollywood, make it more outrageous, make it more musical… Well, you get the idea.
Be Outrageous – Encourage participants to come up with the most extreme idea they can to solve the problem at hand and then pass that idea to the next person in the ideation group to “make it better.” Continue the process for a few passes and see all the great ideas that can be developed from these outrageous first thoughts.
After generating copious ideas, it’s essential for you or an ideation facilitator to connect the dots, thus helping to build the best creative concepts from the nuggets and thoughts that come out of the group. (As a shameless plug for our Insights Group, we always do our homework and thoughtfully develop fully integrated marketing programs that get the brand’s message heard, understood and focused on delivering measurable results.)
There are so many additional ways of stimulating great ideas – these represent only a few of the techniques we employ at Vertical Marketing Network. I never cease to be amazed and delighted at the exciting and brilliant thinking that they produce. Let us look forward to the inventive concepts that have yet to come.