If you are reading this, I will bet you a nickel you work in advertising (or are a very, very good friend). Since good advertising differentiates itself from other messages, it is a given our industry demands a great deal of creativity. Our job is to inspire potential consumers to modify their behavior and purchase our clients’ goods and services. It can be a tense process when creative inspiration has a deadline and sometimes we’re left staring at a blank screen waiting for our muse.
With that in mind, here are a few tips and tricks we use at Alter Imaging to get the ideas flowing:
Wait for the “penny to drop”
The etymology behind this phrase is somewhat obscure. Most online references (and the OED) refer to it as “a belated realization of something after a period of confusion or ignorance” but I’ve heard it mentioned in reference to one of the greatest idea men of all time: Benjamin Franklin.
According to the story I heard, Mr. Franklin would sit in his study at night contemplating the day’s activities. While he did this, he kept a coin pressed tightly between his knees. Under his feet, directly under the coin was a metal pan; next to him, a journal.
During his rumination, Franklin’s mind would relax…and his body would soon follow. During this period of relaxation, the coin would drop and make a clanging sound on the metal pan below. That metallic clank was Franklin’s cue to write down whatever he was thinking in his journal.
You can’t rush inspiration…but you can make sure you are ready for it. The operative word here is serendipity - the ability to make unexpected discoveries by accident. You don’t need a penny pinched between your legs, either. Simply keeping a journal nearby (or using your phone’s voice memo functionality) should suffice. I personally use my phone’s voice memo function as my “idea journal” whenever I’m driving. Focusing on the road while commuting seems to free up my mind enough to let the ideas flow.
Third Mind Meets vs. Good Cop/Bad Cop
Whenever my team and I are going over content ideas for a client’s internet marketing campaign, we usually start by drawing a line down the middle of the whiteboard. One site is labeled “expansion”; the other, “contraction”.
We start with the “expansion” side….the good cop. On this side, there are no bad ideas and anything blurted out is written down. Once completed, we switch to the “contraction” side of the board, put on our “bad cop” hats, and point out what was wrong with each of the “expansion” items. If an idea makes it past the “contraction” phase, we typically run with it.
This typically works best in a group. The concept of “mastermind” has been around a long time. Benjamin Franklin had his “Junto”. In his 1937 book Think and Grow Rich, author Napoleon Hill states:
A Mastermind is a unique concept that leverages the collective power of the group, creating a Third Mind.
An Exercise in Empathy By Using Yo’ Mama Jokes (and Other Put Downs)
Let me first say that everyone here at Alter Imaging loves their mothers and would never actually insult anyone. We primarily use this technique as a warm-up activity to try and get us to think like our customers. We ask, “What would our client’s find extremely insulting?”
- If they are a landscape maintenance company, an insult might include “Your lawn is all crabby (full of crab grass).
- If they are a naming and identity company, “You couldn’t even brand a cow.”
The idea here is twofold. It forces us into the client’s perspective while helping us relax…and when we relax, the penny drops.
It’s All About the Open Mind
We all have activities we do that allow us to think more freely. Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes smoked a pipe (in the modern version currently on PBS, he uses a nicotine patch) because it increases blood flow. A healthier alternative – take a brisk walk to increase blood flow. A quick survey around the office yielded these ideas:
- Listening to music
- Disconnecting – stepping away from the computer and phone.
- Playing…Chess, with Legos, Sudko, etc..
Do you have a unique or special method you use to get your creative juices? Share them below in the comments!