Creating an Effective Brainstorm Session

Creativity is something you are born with; some have it, others don’t. But you can make up for a lack of creative bones in your body with a wealth of experience and expertise. In fact, both expertise and creativity – combined with a good mix of information – is what builds the perfect breeding ground for a successful promotion. But how do you set the stage for effective brainstorming?

The biggest myth about brainstorming is that people often think you just sit around and throw out ideas (in a brightly colored room full of bouncy balls and rainbows). If this is what you are doing when you brainstorm, you are doomed to fail. Real, effective brainstorming is enabled by someone who plans out the perfect scenario for a productive brainstorming session. Let’s pretend we are creating a football promotion to illustrate this scenario better.

First and foremost, the sharing of information is critical — offer a virtual packet of homework for everyone to review before the brainstorm and include items such as promotional history (which programs you ran in the past, whether they were successful or not and how they worked); other football promotions you saw or read about that seemed exciting, different or effective; brand guidelines and/or standards; any data that seems relevant (game schedule; important football dates, big game days, beer trends, Bloody Mary articles and drink features — anything that might fit or work); budget constraints and any other pertinent information, items and/or tools (a new football-shaped glass you saw, a tabletop football themed game you ordered, a football bingo game someone sent you, etc.).

Then you need to create the Brainstorm Team. This team should be comprised of a group of individuals from an array of backgrounds and expertise that will give you a 360-degree view of every idea. For example, a great brainstorming team for a football promotion would include: a really creative person or two (artist, graphic designer or big idea person); a brand person (someone who is the custodian of your brand); a server, bartender and manager; a football fanatic or two and a marketing person to guide them all.

Once you share your Football Packet of Information with everyone on the Brainstorm Team, and make sure they are prepared for the brainstorm, all you have to do is Guide the Group. This means telling everyone what the goal of the brainstorm is (to come up with a football promotion that will, for example: 1. drive traffic on game days, 2. increase check averages on those days and 3. reinforce your bar/restaurant as the place to be on game days). Then you can let the ideas fly, making sure to guide the conversation, reminding participants of key facts, redirecting when someone gets off track, drawing out ideas and participation from everyone. Also, everyone should have a chance to speak and play off each other’s ideas. It should last no more than 30-45 minutes, and you may need a few rounds to hone in on great ideas and finalize them, tweaking them out to be effective with input from each team member.

After it’s done, then it is your turn to make sure the promotion you pick for further development, and ultimately execution, meets your program needs:

1. Enhances or builds the brand
2. Meets “corporate” or business/sales goals
3. Meets “promotion” goals
4. Creates excitement for the brand with consumers
5. Creates energy with staff

If it does, you have a winner! You can put away your dry erase board and markers and bring out the pencil and paper.

Good luck on creating your next effective brainstorm!

Set up for Successful Brainstorming

Need to Have: Dry erase board and markers, a table that fits the team and plenty of coffee
Nice to have: Past POS, magazine articles you pulled, football items you thought were cool/interesting, football magazines, Internet access for looking up things quickly, thesaurus, dictionary, candy/sweets