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The art of campaign brainstorming

“‘Brainstorm’ means using the brain to storm a creative problem and do so in commando fashion, with each stormer attacking the same objective.”

Alex Faickney Osborn’s original definition in his book, Your Creative Power, published in 1948.

It may be known by several different terms, but the result of brainstorming remains the same: fresh, new ideas that are helping to keep businesses ahead of the curve. The best ideas can help to drive campaigns that engage target audiences and meet your strategic goals. However, the method of brainstorming has evolved since its inception in 1948.

Brainstorming has now been proven to work better when conducted in a structured way, compared to a random approach. Setting rules and switching roles is key to uncovering the best ideas, as it encourages everyone to think more laterally. Boundaries are not there to constrain creativity; more to get the best from people.

Here are three tips for effective collective idea generation:

Thinking hats

The Six Thinking Hats technique challenges traditional ways of thinking; by looking at ideas from a new perspective. It works by ‘wearing’ six different coloured hats, which can be put on or taken off to indicate a way of thinking. Only one hat can be worn at any time, encouraging people to think in a certain direction:

  • Blue hat: This person provides an overview of the entire process. The blue hat asks for summaries, conclusions and decisions.
  • White hat: Wearing this colour means having to think about data and information. Speak up if more information is needed.
  • Green hat: It’s about creativity: are there any alternatives, or further possibilities?
  • Red hat: This hat symbolises feelings, such as gut intuition or hunches.
  • Yellow hat: This requires a sunny disposition. Think only about the values and benefits of your ideas.
  • Black hat: Be cautionary: focus on the difficulties, potential problems and weaknesses, to see where ideas might not work.

Word games

A great way of coming up with new ideas is to break them down into a few different parts. Split up a larger group of people into several smaller teams, assigning each one a general theme. Using post-it notes, write down associated words to the theme. Then, each team rotates around, building on any initial ideas. This is an ideal way to generate suggestions if you don’t know where to start, as breaking them down makes themes seem much more manageable.


Despite your best work, it can still be difficult to come up with truly original ideas. The SCAMPER approach is based on the premise that anything new is an alteration of something that already exists. The seven prompts of the acronym are designed to challenge the features of the product or service to identify new angles.

S – substitute

C – combine

A – adapt

M – modify

P – put to another use

E – eliminate

R – reverse

Don’t forget, one of the most important points of effective brainstorming is making sure that everyone comes prepared – no amount of post-its or acronyms can make up for a lack of research.

At BDB, we’re experienced in marketing campaign planning and regularly work together to generate ideas – both internally and with clients. For more help in generating ideas that resonate with your audiences, contact [email protected].

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