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7.5 Tips for Becoming a Brainstorming Genius

Open your Mind written on a classic "Open" restaurant sign

Am I a brainstorming genius? Well, I came up with this post!

The World Wide Web has robbed the world of mystery.  Its epic reach into the far corners of the collective conscious has placed long odds against unleashing amazing new information – and with every blog post and product description, these odds get longer.  As a result, it is imperative to creatively impart information to differentiate your message, and consequently, your brand.

But just how do you do that?  If it were easy, everyone’s blogs would be as clever as Oscar Wilde, tidy as Ernest Hemingway, and lyrical as Gabriel Garcia Marquez.  And yet… they’re not.

The secret to making a splash in this brave new world is repackaging and refining existing ideas in a palatable, engaging way.  Consequently, brainstorming may be your best friend when it comes to molding an attractive delivery for your core message.

Below are 7.5 Tips for Becoming a Brainstorming Genius.  Use them with careless abandon.

1.     Be self-critical

Use this perspective to anticipate criticisms of your brand, and then write content that addresses them proactively.  FAQs are a great source of topics (as well as a portal into your more discerning customers’ heads).

It is important to note this is not being negative – but “going oppo” on your product or service will expose you to a fresh perspective, and hopefully, fresh content ideas.

2.     Think about your mom

Your mom, my mom, all moms… What does she like?  What turns her off?  What confuses her?  What would the average Joe think of your product?  What message would appeal to him?  Yes, this is Marketing 101, but, while it’s amazing to imagine, many marketers exist in their brand cocoon, convinced their perspective is The Perspective.

Ultimately, ‘thinking about your mom’ is content as user experience: Consider the audience when crafting the message.

2.5 Ask a little kid

How would he or she view your product?  My seven-year-old cousin once said to me she wished she could have a “magnet in her back so she could sleep on the ceiling.”  If your content is even half as creative, you shouldn’t have a problem attracting readers, and subsequently, customers.

3.     Think about Tom Cruise

Yes, he’s Maverick.  And Jerry Maguire.  And Rain Man (technically).  But he’s also a metaphor.  And what better to make a stale topic fresh than with an out-of-the-box, extended metaphor?  “7.5 Ways Sales Meetings are Worse than Giving Birth.”  “Why Dating is the Original Contact Sport.”

Metaphor is also a great technique for explaining complicated or heady concepts, processes, products, and services.

4.     Research everywhere and everything

Knowledge begets knowledge, so be curious!  Learn things!  Explore trending news topics, check the calendar for holidays, browse Wikipedia (or yank out that old Encarta CD-ROM – ha), see movies, listen to lectures (or Rihanna… or lectures ON Rihanna), make a trek to the site of Amanda Bynes’ latest crash…

The point is, you never know what’s going to inspire, but you need to open yourself up to being inspired.

5.     Use a tool

OK, really use one tool.  Our Content Idea Generator should get you off and brainstorming in no time flat.  Props to whoever posts the craziest headline in the comments.

6.     Change your world

Most of us don’t consider it, but environment affects inspiration.  Looking at the same four walls – the same wall art, computer desktop and agro co-workers – inhibits a free mind.

Ideas can be visceral, originating from all of the senses…   The smell of popcorn might inspire you to write about your brand’s favorite movies; feeling hot pavement on your feet might translate to “7.5 Places You Should Really Wear Reeboks.”

So remember: offices are stodgy.  Many of the best ideas come out of left field… wouldn’t it be a lot easier if you were already in left field?

7.     Borrow…

Steal, plunder, abscond with… then MAKE IT YOUR OWN.  No one likes a plagiarist.

Example: remember the Alamo.

OK.  You should always remember the Alamo… but also here are some specific examples (and free content ideas for my favorite rental car company!):

  1. FAQ from the Alamo site – “Appeal a toll or citation”
    Potential post: “The Alamo Guide to Avoiding a Citation”
  2. Your mom – “7.5 Most Comfortable Cars for a Cross-Country Trip”
  3. Metaphor – “7.5 Reasons Alamo is Better than a Lion” – 1.) We rent cars.  Lions do not.  2.) Lions will eat you.  Alamo will not.  Etc.
  4. Research – “Why Alamo Would Never Rent to Amanda Bynes”
  5. A Content Idea Generator result – “A World without Rental Cars”
  6. Environment – I can’t really give you a specific title, but I will say I’d be sitting in my car during the brainstorm – or – “Why You Should Brainstorm in Your Alamo Rental Car”
  7. Borrow – Take THIS painting and have a graphic designer put some cars on the road, with a thought bubble above the main subject reading “$10 off weekend rentals!!!!”

I also gave a webinar on this topic; consider it the live, extended, slightly R-rated version:

Check out Portent's Free Digital Marketing Training Library

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  1. Nice! 🙂 Okay, okay, I’m signing up for the webinar. Unless I get a free ticket for:
    “20 Unexpected Ways Royal Babies Can Give You Better Hair”
    Anyone want to get Rogaine on the phone??

    1. That sounds like it would be an AMAZING post! And I would certainly understand my webinar taking a back chair to it 🙂
      Thanks for reading (and hopefully listening). Feel free to Tweet some craziness (topics/brands/recipes/whatever) at me during the webinar. #PortentU

  2. Awesome post! You had me hooked at 7.5. This is my first time here, will be back for more. How about a post in the near future on:
    “Internet mar-cat-ing: how cats have taken over the Web”

  3. Good post thanks Katie.
    I spent 18 years working in the manufacturing environment and by the end was sick of “Brainstorming” or MindShowers as they liked to call it.

  4. When you’ve done everything, done brainstorming and still nothing? Go with tip number 5. Use it! You’ll never go wrong with a content generator tool. It opens up the door for your creativity, seriously.
    Nice list, Katie!
    Riza, contributor

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