Marketing: New Ideas from Simple Activities
Creativity isn’t a science; it’s a habit involving the use of a loose collection of flaky behaviors. Like soaking up information, questioning the problem, tossing ideas back and forth with an associate, and then setting the whole issue aside to incubate in the back of your mind while you do something else. So plan to work in different ways when exercising your creativity.
Here’s a list of great activities that spur you to engage your imagination in new and unusual ways:
Seek ways to simplify. Can you come up with a simpler way to explain your product or your business and its mission? Can you cut your two-page brochure down to ten words? Can you reduce the length of a headline in your print ad from eight words to one?
Most marketing and advertising is too complicated and can stand to be simplified. Creative insight can help simplify and clarify all aspects of your marketing. Simple is good because simple helps make your message bold, attracting attention and zapping the key idea immediately into the customer’s mind.
Think of a famous person from history and imagine that he or she is your spokesperson. How would this person change your packaging, advertising, website, and so on? For example, what would George Washington do to sell more of your product? Can you tie your brand into Washington in some way?
Might his famous crossing of the Delaware River become a metaphor for competitors’ customers who need to be led over to your new and better product? “Follow me, customers. Victory awaits us on the other side of the river, where the new XYZ Brand has set up a more comfortable camp for you!” (Yes, that’s a silly idea, but you’d be amazed how often great marketing starts with silly ideas.)
Cut out faces from magazine ads and look for one that expresses an appealing new personality for your product. See whether you can use that personality in packaging and advertising or on the web. The process of matching people to your brand can help determine the look, feel, or tone of your branding.
Come up with ways to advertise or communicate to customers with really small messages. This constraint forces you to clarify and codify your message in interesting ways. Try designing stamps, stickers, one-second TV or radio commercials, lapel pins, bumper stickers, or a miniature book that comes with a magnifying glass.
See what else you can imagine. One of these ideas may actually prove useful for you. Even if you don’t use any of them, the exercise may get you thinking in fresh ways about marketing communications.
Brainstorm ways to advertise or communicate to customers with really big messages. Forcing yourself to change the scale of your thinking can free creative ideas, and if you communicate in unusual ways, you may attract more attention from customers.
Could you advertise with dirigibles, oversized billboards or murals, or a message in which each word appears on a separate sign, spread along a one-mile stretch of road? (You can adapt this old-fashioned concept to e-mail with a series of one-word messages.)
How about renting a large truck or bus and covering it with a marketing message or your brand name? Or maybe something simpler and zanier — like sponsoring a contest for who can bake and eat the largest cookie and then inviting the media to cover the event? Why not make the largest alligator in the world into your mascot? Think big. You want to have a big impact, right?
Come up with interesting but inexpensive gifts you can give customers. Everyone gets pens with the company name on them — that’s boring. But what if your branded pens are different and better?
Perhaps they’re the only ones that glow in the dark? Or maybe they have riddles on them and consumers can win a contest by entering their answers on your website? Try to think of some novel gift ideas. Focus on items that make the customer say, “Wow!” or “Hey, that’s cool; I can really use that.”
Find new places to advertise. Can you think of places to put messages to your customers that nobody in your industry has used before? An auto insurance agency could run an infomercial on the televisions that have been installed at some gas pumps.
A men’s health clinic could display its business cards in men’s public restrooms. A computer repair service could offer a free laptop clinic under a tent in an urban park as a way to build awareness of its brand and abilities. The possibilities are practically endless.
Think of at least ten ways to get a famous person to use your product. Go ahead, give this one a try. Maybe you can come up with an idea good enough to actually pitch to the celebrity. Celebrities can bring media attention to a new product if they decide they like it.
Cut out five stunningly beautiful, strange, or otherwise eye-catching pictures from an issue of National Geographic magazine. Write a headline for each one that relates that picture to your product.
This exercise may lead you to a great new ad concept that you can then turn into a finished design by obtaining the rights to use a similar photograph from a stock photography company.