How to deliver better brainstorms


I’m going to delve into how you can be more effective with your brainstorming and I’m specifically going to link that to how you can better define audience-first solutions.

I’m doing this for two reasons: 1) the challenge of yielding business-impacting ideas has been shared by marketers globally, since Madison Avenue ad exec, Alex Osborn, pioneered the approach and published his philosophies in Applied Imagination back in 1953. And 2) Audience-first, rightly, is hot topic. Social Media presents ‘noisy opportunity’ to brands. The ‘noisy’ element resulting from below average content offering no value to audiences, with ‘look and feel’ all too often, being similar. The ‘opportunity’ being, there is so little standout content that truly lives audience-first – addressing and answering the challenges our customers face.

Regular readers of our blog will know we’re passionate about living audience-first. The incremental commercial results available to your business are staggeringly impressive. We could connect you with an extensive list of B2B and B2C brands who have and continue to benefit from boldly living audience-first.

But how do we land on audience first solutions? What does that mean to my business? How do I move my organisation from pushing product and service messages to delivering audience-first solutions? Most importantly, how do I track and measure results ensuring audience-first isn’t the latest fad doomed for failure? These are all very smart questions that we can easily answer for you, with evidential results, but some of those answers do go beyond this blog post.

Let’s start with how we should be brainstorming to effectively define what audience-first means:

  1. Preparation is key

You cannot run a brainstorm on the fly. They don’t work. One person needs to be elected to run the brainstorm. A clear agenda with a simple goal must be defined and rules of engagement presented to participants. For example purposes, if I were running our brainstorm, the agenda would say: “our end-game: to define our audience-first solutions”. The rules of engagement are simple: be positive – no negativity! If someone shares an idea you don’t agree with, you cannot chastise it. Use it; evolve it; improve it; but never berate it. Doing so will result in more attendees not sharing ideas for fear of being ‘called out’. Senior staff and those with charismatic and forceful tones and personalities must work hard to check themselves. The best ideas come from a group building on each other’s input.

  1. Select the right tactic to trigger ideas

A visit to the knower of all, Google, will result in a list of about 20 tried and tested tactics that have stood the test of time. Again, for the purposes of our example, I’m going to focus on ‘Reverse It’ or ‘Reverse Storming’. This is a tactic that lawyers, politicians, media and crisis PR professionals love. How does it work in context of audience-first?

  1. Be negative first. List all of the ‘sleepless nights’ your customers experience. What are their problems? What are their challenges? What do they hate? What do they want, but can’t get? What are the common complaints you’ve had as a business? What do they need?
  2. One idea per post-it note. Each individual problem, issue or headache, gets written on a separate post-it note and stuck to a wall, board or window
  3. Timed activity. As Challenge Anneka did and Countdown does, ‘start the clock’. Have a defined time period of 10 or 15 minutes to list your negatives.
  4. Reverse It. Now the fun begins and again, do this against the clock for 10 – 15 minutes. Sequentially, move around your wall of notes and define the opposite of each negative. What’s the solution to each problem? How do you solve each headache? Again, each solution written onto a single post-it note and pinned to your wall.
  5. Grouping. Rather expectedly, there will be some solutions that are similar. Group those together, moving the relevant post-it notes into circles.
  6. Audience-first solutions. Stand back and look at your groups. You’ve now got a number of audience-first solutions. Now you know how your product or service solves customers ‘sleepless nights’ in their eyes
  7. Ensure your copy and creative live audience-first. Don’t stray from your audience-first solution. Make sure the copy and visuals live the solution you’ve identified. Don’t stray back to a product or service message
  8. Test and measure your content performance. At the risk of straying into another blog topic, if you don’t know how to affectively track content performance (lining up to funnel or sales journey) and tracking from social channel through to conclusion, then call us. Smart use of data is key to evidence success of audience-first. You will need this to take channel, sales, media and field teams on the audience-first journey with you. Audience-first will be alien to them. They’ll be used to seeing a sales message heralding product or service. Stay strong, trial audience-first and prove performance and impact with data and then evidence this to your sales teams. They’ll love you for doing this – in the end.

Remember, this is just one of around 20 proven brainstorm tactics that work. Learn them and use them in context of your business problem and goal.


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