The Power of Ideation…Why Brainstorming for Marketing Campaigns

By Joe Brown

One of the first lessons I learned from playing team sports growing up was the danger of what my coaches deemed “hero ball.” Allow me to set the scenario. One guy scores 40 points in a basketball game, yet his team still loses…by a lot. Usually a player would be lauded for this type of individual performance, but sometimes a deeper look is required. For example, if he made 20, 2-pointers but it took him 50 shots, was he really helping his team win, or did his individual pursuit of excellence actually hurt his team’s chances? Basketball is a team sport that requires players working together to achieve a common goal. An individual who puts himself before the team is a liability.

It’s not a perfect correlation, but in many ways, this scenario plays out in marketing offices every single day. Whether your company has a single marketing director or an entire department, it’s easy to succumb to hero ball mentality. It’s human nature to want to be the person who solves all your company’s problems or designs the ultimate marketing campaign. Most times, however, the real marketing heroes are the ones who understand that there is strength in numbers.

The concept of brainstorming is nothing new, but from my experience, it’s an underutilized tool. Instead of trying to create every new marketing initiative yourself, consider brainstorming as an alternative method. Brainstorming allows us to overcome tunnel vision. It’s far too easy to get into such a groove within our job responsibilities that we limit our creative thinking on a subconscious level. Essentially, we can’t see outside our own tunnel of thoughts. The purpose of brainstorming is to enlist co-workers from different departments, and perhaps even outside marketing experts, to procure fresh and exciting ideas. The best ideas tend to materialize from the unlikeliest of sources – an intern, secretary, you name it – all while making your co-workers feel more valued.

Brainstorming also helps us to choose and then build on a foundational idea.  Boiled down to its essence, marketing is simply reaching the right people with the right message the right number of times. It’s reach, frequency, and memorability. Just using a bunch of different tools (radio, online banner ads, paid search, social media) might accomplish reach, but without a memorable message to tie these tools together, frequency suffers. It’s the shotgun effect – fire and hope you hit something…anything! Likewise, using just one tool might achieve heavy frequency, but your reach will be limited.

Think of brainstorming as the sniper effect. Brainstorming leads to a single, carefully chosen idea selected from the list generated in an idea session. It’s the opposite of the shotgun approach. That one idea is then developed using a cohesive message across various tools to accomplish multiple touches – in effect, 1+1=3. For example, when radio is combined with digital, brand recall increases by 4.5 times. This is only possible if the message on the radio commercial closely resembles the creative on the online banner ads. Without this synergy, the consumer might not associate the company they hear in the radio commercial with the one they see online. How powerful would it be to have your message heard on the radio, and then those same people see your ad with the exact same message on their favorite website or app? Combining creative messaging across multiple mediums often results in a greater return on investment than using a single medium or different messaging for each tool.

The next time you’re struggling to develop a new marketing campaign, or your ideas feel stale, don’t fall into the hero ball trap. Organize a brainstorming session with your trusted marketing resources along with a variety of co-workers and make a list of ideas to accomplish your objective. You’ll be amazed at some of the suggested ideas that you never would have come up with on your own. Best of all, you’ll arrive at a cool, custom and effective persuasive campaign that doesn’t just use multiple tools (reach), it uses them cohesively (frequency) to increase your campaign’s…you guessed it…memorability.


If you’d like to learn more about how to brand your next marketing campaign through the power of brainstorming, Joe Brown is a certified facilitator and can be reached at

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