3 places to find fresh ideas

Are your brainstorming sessions just pumping out the same tired messages and tactics? Here are some tips for helping your team think outside the box.

Most PR pros classify meetings as a waste of time.

Teams go off-track (or in circles), and don’t identify next steps. This is even more likely with a brainstorm, since the very nature of the activity is the absence of an agenda.

The stakes get especially higher for businesses that trade in creativity. Whether it’s pitching an ad campaign to a new client or rejuvenating a stale marketing content strategy, the end product will only be as good as the brainstorm that birthed it.

So how do you improve idea generation, especially with more obscure brands or products (can we get people to care about bobby pins?). Here are three tactics to inspire fresh thinking:

1. Get nostalgic.

Don’t just look back on your brand’s founding history–look back on the role its product or service has played in people’s lives from the very beginning.

Take shoe polish brand Kiwi, for example: the company went on a mission around the globe to photograph shoes of historical figures, emphasizing the ways footwear has helped us change the world of sports, fashion, politics, and more (like Muhammad Ali’s well-cared for boxing shoes).

What a way to bring humanity to shoe polish!

2. Make it pop with pop culture.

Think about how your brand can capitalize on popular culture, from beloved cult classics like Rocky Horror Picture Show, to “of-the-moment” societal issues like equal pay.

One example is Denham, a blue jeans brand that prides itself on their attention to product detail. To push this market differentiator and attract fans of world-class craftsmanship, they tipped their hat to the infamous business card scene in “American Psycho”—but you won’t find a pair in eggshell.

Connecting a brand to societal issues (and even further, taking a stance) worked for Nike, who has made nearly 10 billion dollars since their ad featuring Colin Kaepernick, who has been vocal about racial inequality in the United States.

 3. Seek diversity.

Frito-Lay’s best-selling product was conceived by a janitor employed with the company, who represented a large demographic that the company wasn’t listening to.

It’s impossible to think of new ideas if the same people are always in the room–and they are often outsiders looking in. To find where the stories are hiding in a business, seek out different perspectives from non-traditional sources.

Don’t limit conversations to the boardroom. Try chatting with everyone from assembly line workers salespeople. Dove did this successfully when it spoke to a diverse group of women for its “real beauty” campaign—like moms too tired to cook, instead of models with personal trainers. Dove was able to connect with a wider customer base because female consumers could better identify with its brand.

You never know what might inspire the next best advertising campaign or viral video, so it’s important to get creative with your brainstorms to make sure you don’t miss out on unique angles for brand positioning.

 Jane Callahan is an account director at PressFriendly.

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