7.5 Tips for Becoming a Brainstorming Genius
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7.5 Tips for Becoming a Brainstorming Genius

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Katie Fetting's sermon on why what you say is rapidly becoming less important than how you say it. Learn to brainstorm content that's clearer, wittier, and cooler than your competition.

Katie Fetting's sermon on why what you say is rapidly becoming less important than how you say it. Learn to brainstorm content that's clearer, wittier, and cooler than your competition.

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  • Product topics / ideas you want ruminated on / suggestions for other people’s topics or ideas they want ruminated on… This is an experiment, but it may prove really fun and enlightening (she says hopefully).
  • Well, first of all, it’s me, but to give you a little background…
  • I was once a child (with dubious fashion sense, obviously)… My brainstorming began early when I was called upon to explain a variety of odd occurrences in our home… for example why there was a puffy Cheeto in my brother’s nose… or who was playing in the car, left it in neutral and walked off… True story. They found it in a ditch. Anyway, back then the results of my brainstorming were referred to as “lying,” but now I like to call it creativity.
  • I was a journalist from sophomore year of high school until I was about 23.I worked for a syndicate of small newspapers in the Chicago area after college – which is most noteworthy because we had very few resources… meaning I had to be very resourceful, which included a lot of brainstorming.
  • Then I became a screenwriter. I wrote two amazingly derivative sub-par movies. On the other hand, Hollywood LOVES amazingly derivative sub-par movies, so you would have thought I’d be more successful.I DID however, write some unique scripts, which I brainstormed on non-stop… I’m hoping to see them produced and released in honor of my 90th birthday.
  • And now, I’m the Brand Manager at Portent, and a Content Dynamo. (One of those titles is official… I leave it to you to determine which.)But MORE THAN ANY OF THESE THINGS… I am
  • Brainstorming is for everyone. Not just content people. And not just marketers.Brainstorming is about problem solving.
  • If you think about it, MacGyver was an amazing brainstormer, constantly coming up with new and exciting ways to build bombs out of bubble gum and paperclips. While MacGyver was a one-man brainstorm, brainstorming in groups often presents better results – a variety of viewpoints and ideas generally leads to the best outcome.
  • While brainstorming IS for everyone, this presentation will focus on brainstorming for marketers – campaigns, blog posts, branding, videos, speaking topics – because I’m a marketer and I’m guessing you are too.
  • So this is a slight exaggeration, but I come from Hollywood, remember?For every Inception, there are a zillion Pirates of the Caribbean 17’s and Ironman 43’s.
  • For example, Batman as an idea, as a character, is Batman, no matter how many times they remake it. Same alter ego, same tragic backstory, same skills, same core “product”… Even the villains are often recycled. So what’s the difference between Tim Burton’s films and Christopher Nolan’s?
  • Burton’s Batman is fairly upbeat and certainly less tortured – more in line with the 60s TV show -- and his alter-ego Bruce Wayne is downright nerdy. This fits with Burton’s bright color palate and gaudy gangsters.Nolan’s Batman is damaged, dark, sorrowful… his Bruce Wayne is a suave womanizer who seems to always know what to say… Nolan’s film is darker in tone and color and seems more rooted in reality.Same core product, different interpretation and positioning.So thereARE new ways to communicate and message, even if the idea or product or service itself is familiar or even stale. The art is in the telling, not in the subject of what’s being told.
  • To differentiate your product or service from your competitors’, you need to carve out a unique position in the market… a brand as it were. (Remember, branding is how ranchers separated their steer – products – from the others.)Christopher Nolan’s unique positioning? This is a complex, gritty take on the Batman tale for fans and film snobs alike. As people commented on at the time, he was trying to make “The Godfather” of superhero movies.Your messaging needs to support this positioning. The messaging that supports gritty Batman: The Batman character is tragically damaged and dwells in a world not unlike our own. The horrors of his world are merely heightened versions of our own.
  • Content is then generated around that messaging.In this case, the content is the film itself – the script, art direction, lighting, cinematography, editing, music, you name it. It’s a unified delivery of a newly positioned Batman product.But it all begins with brainstorming… trying to see something similar in a new light. It should be noted, in case of the Batman narrative, Nolan didn’t do the positioning or messaging all by himself – he based his version largely off “The Dark Knight” Batman comic books…
  • Remember when I said brainstorming was basically problem-solving? Well, for marketers, that problem is often: how do I separate myself from the pack? How do I convince consumers that my widget is the best widget, all widgets being fairly equal?A fresh position or message is oftenthe only way to differentiate yourself from your competition – which leads to greater visibility, likeability, and sales.
  • Open-minded: willing to hear others’ opinions and evolve their ownCreative: Able to see things from fresh perspectives and develop connections other people may not seeEducated: Not necessarily in the academic sense, but in that they have a wide and broad background of experience to draw on – theirs or other peoples.Collaborative: Isn’t overly obsessed with “putting their stamp” on everything… this is the enemy of good brainstorming. More on that to come. (Incidentally, one of the reasons there are so many disjointed movies in Hollywood is everyone’s desire to put their stamp on it.)Secure: Goes along with open-minded and collaborative – doesn’t see every amendment to their initial concept as an attack on their intelligence or talent.Curious: Curiosity may have killed the cat, but it keeps man constantly evolving and striving for something new and better… and the impression of new and better are two core necessities for brand positioning.
  • So what makes for a bad brainstorm session? Well, avoid the following and hopefully you’ll never find out.
  • Yes, some of it may seem stupid. Or whacked out. Or downright unhelpful. But it all is – you don’t know what will jog an idea loose from someone else. And if you don’t try something, you don’t get the failure out of the way.Like our boy Tom Edison said: “I have not failed. I've just found 10,000 ways that won't work.”
  • You have to be open-minded. Coming into a brainstorm with fixed opinions on what will or won’t work for your brand defeats the purpose entirely.This happens a lot in Hollywood… People all come in with such a fixed idea for what they want, that they are unable to consider other possibilities. For example, sometimes it’s just as easy to make your main character a woman as a man… And you might want to do this gender flip if you can get an actress rather than an actor to commit to your movie. If you’re so entrenched in how you see the movie before it’s even filmed, however, you lose this opportunity.
  • Brainstorming is a democracy. If only the top exec in the room was entitled to voice their opinion, the brainstorm would be unnecessary. Let everyone’s ideas breathe… Then evaluate and categorize them LATER.
  • No one likes someone who hogs the conversation and talks over others (ironic, given that I’m having a one-way conversation right now).
  • Don’t get caught up on details. Follow what people mean, not what they say.Now is not the time to filter. That comes later when you’re in a more analytical mindset. So if someone gives a specific example – like saying something is a horse when you think it should be a dog – go with the spirit of what they’re saying, not the specific.
  • Don’t be intimidating. Don’t inhibit a free exchange of ideas by being overly critical or condescending.
  • Somewhat like being down in the weeds and making someone feel dumb… Blocking is when someone just refuses to engage and puts up unnecessarily road-blocks to the detriment of the brainstorm. It comes from comedy improv… when you’re working with a partner – and ‘with’ is the key term – you need to feed off each other. A block would be when one person begins a story or character and the other person refuses to support them. For example, one guy says “hey, remember when you got arrested last year?” and the partner says “I didn’t get arrested. What are you talking about?” That’s a block.GO WITH YES AND!
  • I don’t mean literally. Basically this is just about moderation.Participate don’t dominate – Allow yourself to be flexible, but not ridiculous.
  • As I was thinking up a story to tell here, I got blocked.Every story I brainstormed didn’t seem to really fit my topic… I mean I could tell you about the time I forgot what ketchup was.Or why my roommates in college put a roll of toilet paper outside their closet with the sign “this is not a bathroom.”Or the time I was pitching a movie to some executives and I could tell on page 2 of a 20-page pitch that they were bored… and I had to keep going anyway.Or the time I told CharlizeTheron I didn’t write a script for her, but if Nicole Kidman passed she’d be great.Or the time I was hit by a car while sitting in a chinese restaurant.I could tell any of these stories… but none seemed to fit. That’s my story.So the point is, sometimes self-referential works. There’s almost always something you can write about – even if it’s just writer’s block.
  • Without further ado…
  • And coming up with unique ways to approach content and deliver singular value.
  • Anticipate criticisms of your brand and head them offUse FAQsUse complaintsAsk yourself, what is it people don’t like about your product? Or think they don’t like about it? Is there a way to turn that into a positive?We have a client who is only accessible to Seattle-ites via ferry. Many people find this annoying – they want to drive. It seems like a hassle. So we’ve crafted content around how fun ferries are – best board games to play on ferries, X reasons ferries are romantic, etc.Answer questions and issues before they are asked.
  • Basically, it can be your mom, your plumber, the weird guy standing in front of you at the Shell station. What would appeal to these people? My boss Ian Lurie says when he’s brainstorming he thinks about the last person he saw walking into work that day. Well, we work in Pioneer Square, so that person may be a lawyer or a homeless fella, a bailbondsman or a sandwich ‘engineer’ at Subway – or, of course, some combo therein. Generally, I start with my target market and a goal relating to it and work backwards.Target: working momsGoal: social sharesWhat is a hot button topic for a working mom?Which channels should we push it through and on? Facebook? Pinterest? What do working moms look at? Where can we find them?I try to enter her mind… If I were a working mom, what would make me interested in X. Craft your message around this.Sounds basic. It is.
  • Little kids are marvelous. Just look at the AT&T campaign running right now. (I mean, I want a puppy brother to take to show and tell too.) Kids’ ways of looking at things are so unique, they can’t help but inspire some out-of-the-box thinking.I mentioned in my blog post how my 7-year-old cousin said she wished she had a magnet in her back so she could sleep on the ceiling. Amazing. Kids love to be asked things, and unlike adults, will give you their unfettered, apolitical opinion. For example: Me: Do you like my haircut. Kid: No.
  • Use metaphors. A great metaphor can make even the most tired topic seem fresh.
  • So we had a client who wasn’t grasping a concept our Director of Accounts was trying to explain. She asked me how I would explain it to a layperson.The concept was 70-20-10… a content strategy that gives an ideal ratio for creating various types of branded content:Basic standard stuff that appeals to your core customer. That should be 70% of your content.20% should take that standard stuff but push the limit a bit… Still be relevant to your audience, but reach out to others – have a solid point of view or challenge conventional wisdom.Then 10% should be revolutionary, explosive and have the potential to go viral. Something that’s outside of your comfort zone on occasions… Or maybe it appeals to a different demo altogether. This is where your content (and company) grows.So I looked for a metaphor – an easy one that most people have in common.
  • Tom Cruise.And he is a risk-taker on occasion, but truly someone who generally sticks to his core competency – which fit our message.Turned it into a infographic for two reasons: 1.) couldn’t get the rights to the photos themselves and 2.) we knew more people shared infographicsAnd what happened?
  • Sorry. This still just blows me away. I had a Top Gun poster on my wall when I was 8.
  • Whenever I’m jammed up for ideas, I start surfing. Ideas build on each other… Staring at a blank Word doc on a monitor never helped anyone. Browse the news sites, bounce around Wikipedia, read your clients’ sites… You never know where the inspiration will come from.When I was a kid, I had an Encarta CD-Rom (that shows you how old I am)… I would get lost for hours clicking around… It’s amazing how much you don’t know you don’t know… until you look. How else would I know that Adolf Hitler wasn’t from Germany and Catherine the Great and Stalin weren’t actually from Russia?
  • There are plenty of tools out there to help writers unjam. Two of my co-workers (Isla McKetta and Rebecca Bridge) wrote a book of writing prompts for blocked novelists and poets that suggest things like eavesdropping on strangers for inspiration or using a piece of clothing to describe a character's backstory…There’s no reason marketing content folks can’t do the same. At Portent we’ve created a “Content Idea Generator” that allows you to enter a keyword which creates a crazy title. A lot of them wind up being silly, but they can be great jumping off points. And it’s fun to boot.
  • Get it? There’s change… and a world… Stock art is amazing.There was an ad agency that used to covertly switch everyone’s desk every week or so to keep them from becoming too entrenched in one spot, and consequently, mindset. Other agencies have people sitting in canoes. Or conference room tables painted like basketball courts.Why? Because your environment affects your creativity. It affects the way you see the world. To see things differently, change your perspective. Go outside, breathe the air, go to a museum, live in all of your senses… You’ll find you’ll approach your brand with fresh eyes.When I was writing a scene for one of my scripts – yet another unproduced one – and I largely write thrillers, by the way – I would try to match the space I wrote in to the scene I was writing. For example, I once had a fight sequence in a kitchen, so I sat in my kitchen, imaging all the ways I could do damage with various utensils… Sure, knives and frying pans are obvious, but what would happen if you slammed some guy’s head with a wooden cutting board?Anyway, my big finish included a can of Raid and a gas oven. Enough said.
  • Don’t steal people. That’s lame. And usually illegal. Make something your own.You wouldn’t steal this sugar from your neighbor… You’d borrow it and make something better… Maybe a cake or cookies.My movie “Homecoming” was supposed to be an homage to “Fatal Attraction” and “Misery,” but wound up coming off more like a blatant rip-off because its unique features were cut in editing.No one likes that. Make sure to stamp (and keep) your personal spin on whatever it is inspires you.He may have been an okay painter, but I have to say Picasso was wrong when he said:“Good artists copy, great artists steal.”I think great artists transcend.
  • … Also two more because I thought them up after my blog post went live.
  • This guy looks really inspirational.Note: Not a “leader” – a leader would defeat the whole purpose of the democratic exchange of ideas… but a person who can solicit opinions, write on the board and keep things moving along is A-OK.
  • Sometimes it’s hard to get the storm started. If everyone comes in with a few ideas jotted down, it’ll be easier to get the ball rolling. Even the worst idea can spark some discourse that may turn into a great idea.In screenwriting, they call it the “bad pitch” or the “bad version” – “So, this is the bad pitch, but there should be like this mean girl in the Civil War who just wants to get home, but then a lot of stuff happens.” That bad pitch is now “Gone with the Wind.”
  • So there you have it… 7.5 Ways or 9.5 Ways or 9.5 Ways plus 7.5 sins, so 17 of whatever.
  • You can also ask questions…

7.5 Tips for Becoming a Brainstorming Genius 7.5 Tips for Becoming a Brainstorming Genius Presentation Transcript

  • Katie Fetting @KatieLFetting katie@portent.com 7.5 TIPS FOR BECOMING A BRAINSTORMING GENIUS The Portent Webinar Series
  • http://portent.co/storm-genius (Yes, use .co, not .com)
  • Tweet questions now & later #PORTENTU
  • First things FIRST
  • Just who is this ÒKatie FettingÓ?
  • In the beginning... I was once a child (with dubious fashion sense, obviously)… My brainstorming began early when I was called upon to explain a variety of odd occurrences in our home… for example why there was a puffy Cheeto in my brother’s nose… or who was playing in the car, left it in neutral and walked off… True story. They found it in a ditch. Anyway, back then the results of my brainstorming were referred to as “lying,” but now I like to call it creativity.
  • Editor / Designer I was a journalist from sophomore year of high school until I was about 23. I worked for a syndicate of small newspapers in the Chicago area after college – which is most noteworthy because we had very few resources… meaning I had to be very resourceful, which included a lot of brainstorming.
  • Screenwriter Then I became a screenwriter. I wrote two amazingly derivative sub- par movies. On the other hand, Hollywood LOVES amazingly derivative sub- par movies, so you would have thought I’d be more successful. I DID however, write some unique scripts, which I brainstormed on non-stop… I’m hoping to see them produced and released in honor of my 90th birthday.
  • Brand Manager Content Dynamo And now, I’m the Brand Manager at Portent, and a Content Dynamo. (One of those titles is official… I leave it to you to determine which.) But MORE THAN ANY OF THESE THINGS… I am
  • Someone who has never given a webinar.
  • Instilled with confidence? Let us continue.
  • Notes on this webinar
  • Notes on this webinar • Brainstorming Brainstorming is for everyone. Not just content people. And not just marketers. Brainstorming is about problem solving.
  • Notes on this webinar • Brainstorming • MacGyver If you think about it, MacGyver was an amazing brainstormer, constantly coming up with new and exciting ways to build bombs out of bubble gum and paperclips. While MacGyver was a one-man brainstorm, brainstorming in groups often presents better results – a variety of viewpoints and ideas generally leads to the best outcome.
  • Notes on this webinar • Brainstorming • MacGyver • Marketers While brainstorming IS for everyone, this presentation will focus on brainstorming for marketers – campaigns, blog posts, branding, videos, speaking topics – because I’m a marketer and I’m guessing you are too.
  • BUT WHY THIS WEBINAR? WHY ARE YOU HERE?
  • There are no new ideas. So this is a slight exaggeration, but I come from Hollywood, remember? For every Inception, there are a zillion Pirates of the Caribbean 17’s and Ironman 43’s.
  • For example, Batman as an idea, as a character, is Batman, no matter how many times they remake it. Same alter ego, same tragic backstory, same skills, same core “product”… Even the villains are often recycled. So what’s the difference between Tim Burton’s Batman films and Christopher Nolan’s?
  • THE POSITIONING OF BATMAN Burton’s Batman is fairly upbeat and certainly less tortured – more in line with the 60s TV show – and his alter-ego Bruce Wayne is downright nerdy. Nolan’s Batman is damaged, dark, sorrowful… his Bruce Wayne is a suave womanizer who seems to always know what to say… Same core product, different interpretation and positioning.
  • Product Positioning Messaging Content To differentiate your product or service from your competitors’, you need to carve out a unique position in the market… Christopher Nolan’s unique positioning? This is a complex, gritty take on the Batman tale for fans and film snobs alike. Then messaging needs to support this positioning. The messaging that supports gritty Batman: The Batman character is tragically damaged and dwells in a world not unlike our own. The horrors of his world are merely heightened versions of our own.
  • Product Positioning Messaging Content BRAINSTORMING Content is then generated around that messaging. In this case, the content is the film itself – the script, art direction, lighting, cinematography, editing, music, you name it. It’s a unified delivery of a newly positioned Batman product. But it all begins with brainstorming… trying to see something familiar in a new light.
  • BRAINSTORMING: One method of generating a fresh position or message
  • SO WHAT? Why do I want a fresh position? Remember when I said brainstorming was basically problem-solving? Well, for marketers, that problem is often: how do I separate myself from the pack? How do I convince consumers that my widget is the best widget, all widgets being fairly equal? A fresh position or message is often the only way to differentiate yourself from your competition – which leads to greater visibility, likeability, and sales.
  • CHARACTERISTICS OF A GOOD BRAINSTORMER
  • • Open-minded • Creative • Educated • Collaborative • Secure • Curious Open-minded: Willing to hear others’ opinions and evolve their own Creative: Able to see from new perspectives Educated: Not necessarily in the academic sense, but they have a wide and broad background of experience to draw on Collaborative: Isn’t overly obsessed with “putting their stamp” on everything… this is the enemy of good brainstorming Secure: Doesn’t see every amendment to their initial concept as an attack Curious: Constantly striving for something new and better… the impression of new and better are two core necessities for brand positioning
  • 7.5 DEADLY SINS OF BRAINSTORMING
  • #1 Not verbalizing everything
  • #2 Dwelling in preconceived notions
  • #3 Pulling rank Brainstorming is a democracy. If only the top exec in the room was entitled to voice their opinion, the brainstorm would be unnecessary. Let everyone’s ideas breathe… Then evaluate and categorize them LATER.
  • #4 Not listening
  • #5 Getting down in the weeds
  • #6 Making someone feel dumb
  • #7 Blocking Blocking is refusing to engage and putting up unnecessarily road-blocks to the detriment of the brainstorm. The term comes from comedy improv… when you’re working with a partner – and ‘with’ is the key term – you need to feed off each other. A block would be when one person begins a story or character and the other person refuses to support them and go along with the narrative the first person has created.
  • #7.5 Showing up too drunk... or too sober
  • STORY TIME: LetÕs take a break As I was thinking up a story to tell here, I got blocked. Every story I brainstormed didn’t seem to really fit my topic… I mean I could tell you about the time I forgot what ketchup was. Or why my roommates in college put a roll of toilet paper outside their closet with the sign “this is not a bathroom.” Or the time I told Charlize Theron I didn’t write a script for her, but if Nicole Kidman passed she’d be great. I could tell any of these stories… but none seemed to fit. So that’s my story. The point is, sometimes self-referential works. There’s almost always something you can write about – even if it’s just writer’s block.
  • And weÕre back to regularly scheduled programming.
  • 7.5 TIPS FOR BECOMING A BRAINSTORMING GENIUS
  • #1 Be self-critical Anticipate criticisms of your brand and head them off – use FAQs and complaints. Ask yourself, what is it people don’t like about your product? Or think they don’t like about it? Is there a way to turn that into a positive? We have a client who is only accessible to Seattle-ites via ferry. Many people find this annoying – they want to drive. It seems like a hassle. So we’ve crafted content around how fun ferries are – best board games to play on ferries, X reasons ferries are romantic, etc. Answer questions and issues before they are asked.
  • #2 Think about your mom My boss Ian Lurie says when he’s brainstorming he thinks about the last person he saw walking into work that day. Well, we work in Pioneer Square, so that person may be a lawyer or a homeless fella, a bailbondsman or a sandwich ‘engineer’ at Subway – or, of course, some combo therein. Generally, I start with my target market and a goal relating to it and work backwards.
  • #2.5 Ask a little kid Little kids are marvelous. Just look at the AT&T campaign running right now. (I mean, I want a puppy brother to take to show and tell, too.) Kids’ ways of looking at things are so unique, they can’t help but inspire some out-of-the- box thinking. I mentioned in my blog post how my 7-year-old cousin said she wished she had a magnet in her back so she could sleep on the ceiling. Amazing. Kids love to be asked things, and unlike adults, will give you their unfettered, apolitical opinion. For example: Me: Do you like my haircut. Kid: No.
  • #3 Think about Tom Cruise Use metaphors. A great metaphor can make even the most tired topic seem fresh.
  • What we did We had a client who wasn’t grasping a concept our Director of Accounts was trying to explain. She asked me how I would explain it to a layperson. The concept was 70-20-10… a content strategy that gives an ideal ratio for creating various types of branded content (see chart left). So I looked for a metaphor – an easy one that most people have in common.
  • What we did Tom Cruise. And he is a risk-taker on occasion, but truly someone who generally sticks to his core competency – which fit our message. Turned it into a infographic for two reasons: 1.) couldn’t get the rights to the photos themselves and 2.) we knew more people shared infographics And what happened?
  • #4 Research Whenever I’m jammed up for ideas, I start surfing. Ideas build on each other… Staring at a blank Word doc on a monitor never helped anyone. Browse the news sites, bounce around Wikipedia, read your clients’ sites… You never know where the inspiration will come from.
  • #5 Use a tool www.portent.com/tools/title-maker
  • #6 Change your world One ad agency used to switch everyone’s desks every week to keep them from becoming too entrenched in one spot, and thus, mindset. Other agencies have people sitting in canoes. Or conference rooms painted like basketball courts. Why? Because environment affects creativity. It affects how you see the world. So change your perspective. Go outside, breathe the air, go to a museum, live in all of your senses… You’ll find you’ll approach your brand with fresh eyes.
  • #7 Borrow Don’t steal people. That’s lame. And usually illegal. Make something your own. You wouldn’t steal this sugar from your neighbor… You’d borrow it and make something better… Maybe a cake or cookies.
  • AND 2 MORE FOR GOOD MEASURE
  • #8 Choose a facilitator This guy looks really inspirational. Note: Not a “leader” – a leader would defeat the whole purpose of the democratic exchange of ideas… but a person who can solicit opinions, write on the board and keep things moving along is A-OK.
  • #9 Come in with ideas Sometimes it’s hard to get the storm started. If everyone comes in with a few ideas jotted down, it’ll be easier to get the ball rolling. Even the worst idea can spark some discourse that may turn into a great idea. In screenwriting, they call it the “bad pitch” or the “bad version” – “So, this is the bad pitch, but there should be like this mean girl in the Civil War who just wants to get home, but then a lot of stuff happens.” That bad pitch is now “Gone with the Wind.”
  • THANK YOU FOR ATTENDING
  • LET THE BRAINSTORM COMMENCE! #PORTENTU
  • http://portent.co/storm-genius (Yes, use .co, not .com)
  • Me: @KatieLFetting