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Posted: October 28, 2011

Five tools to help break out of the creative box

How brewers, sports retailers and others are doing it

Scott Esmond

When it comes to brainstorming your next creative marketing strategy, companies use a variety of tactics to uncover their next big idea. While it might happen during a brainstorming session or over happy hour, successful brands know how to inspire new ideas and continually drive their business.

During a recent Red Door Interactive Speaker Series, well-known brands shared their insight on exercises and tools they implement in an effort to get the creative juices flowing. Here are five tips to help you inspire your company's next creative solution.

1) Incorporate tools: For Red Door's Executive Creative Director, Lisa Schiavello, an old-school favorite tool is the Creative Whack Pack. Each of the 64 cards in the box offer strategies and techniques to provoke and inspire new thinking, and coincide well with Red Door's core values. In addition, Candyce Johnson, Vice President of Merchandising and Marketing at Eagle Creek Travel Gear, says their company uses Watizit, a fun and free idea generating exercise. Whether you're devising ideas for an upcoming project or trying to solve a problem, this game helps individuals think outside the box.

2) Immerse yourself in the brand: When companies are attempting to create new concepts or expand on an idea that's already in place, one of the best ways to accomplish this is to immerse yourself in the brand. When it's time to get the creative juices flowing, Stone Brewing Company does just that. "It doesn't hurt the creative process when you have an award-winning beer garden attached to your office," says Mike Palmer, Creative Director, Stone Brewing Company. The company incorporates their products while brainstorming in hopes it might help spark some ideas. How else do you think they came up with the name Arrogant Bastard Ale?

3) Play together: Some companies find success by removing themselves from their work environment and engaging in fun, group activities. Adrian Glasenapp, Brand Activist Man at New Belgium Brewing, says their company hosts a variety of off-site events throughout the year that include retreats, mountain biking outings, trips to art galleries, ski days and more. They believe this time spent out of the office is when the best ideas surface. By engaging in activities and getting to know one another outside of workspaces, New Belgium Brewing has developed a culture of confidence and trust, which allows their creative ideas to thrive.

4) Include others: To brainstorm creative solutions, Eagle Creek Travel Gear understands that you can't always uncover ideas with just designers in the room. That's why it's important to invite members from the marketing or sales team to participate in brainstorming discussions because they most likely see things through a different lens. Having an engaged and diverse team will lead to better ideas that trace back to core business goals.

5) Get educated: In order to accomplish creative goals, sometimes it's necessary to start from scratch. If you're tasked with brainstorming ideas for a new product or service that your team isn't familiar with, ensure you learn as much as you can before moving forward. For example, Todd Bronson, Brand Creative Director at Sports Authority, says the company was expanding its lacrosse line, but wanted to ensure they truly understood the sport in order to market it accurately. The company brought in experts and educated the Sports Authority team on lacrosse lingo, current trends occurring on and off the field and more. This enabled the company to push ideas forward and this same strategy can be implemented for all sports and activities. It's important that you truly walk, or run, in your consumer's shoes to connect in a real and impactful way.

It shouldn't just be the job of the creatives to uncover ideas, but the marketing leaders, account directors and others should be involved in devising concepts. If you're struggling and are in dire need of a creative refresh, consider these examples from successful brands.
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Scott Esmond is the Director of Business Development at Red Door Interactive, an Internet Presence Management firm with offices in Denver and San Diego that helps organizations profit from their Web initiatives. Clients include PETCO, Garden Fresh Restaurant Corp, California Avocado Commission, Rubio's Fresh Mexican Grill and Cricket Communications. Connect with him at sesmond@reddoor.biz.

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