The Art of the Brainstorm


Everyone at the office receives the email notification informing them of a brainstorming session tomorrow. Attached is a brief that everyone is asked to review before the brainstorm takes place.

This happens a lot at the office – and that’s not a bad thing. Brainstorms, which are often overlooked, are a key component to generating top-notch strategies and suggestions for clients in the experiential marketing field. After everyone notices the notification they accept the invite to the brainstorm and call it a night.

Fast forward to the next day around 2:00PM: it’s brainstorming time. Everyone has read the brief and has done some background research on the brand. Still, we start off with going over the brief to reach a common understanding of what the brand values are, what the motivation behind this exact experiential campaign is, and how we should start approaching the situation.

Even after going through so many brainstorms, people can still start out a little shy. Soon they realize that being shy and only sharing regular ideas won’t get the client the extraordinary campaign that we strive to deliver.

It’s been 10 minutes. Everyone is looking around at each other. Alright, is it time to throw out the crazy ideas yet? Sure enough, as if on cue, someone stands up and says “Okay, I got a crazy idea here, so you guys will just have to bear with me on this.” He walks up to the whiteboard and starts drawing something that we can’t make out yet.

The brainstorm has officially started.

After hearing this idea the team goes to work.

“Well, what if instead of using this type of vehicle we used this one?”

“What if instead of making it 55sq ft. we were able to bring it down to 40sq ft. and still keep the core of the concept together?”

“I love it! What if we made this red instead of blue?”

So on and so forth.

Although some ideas may sound completely impossible at first (and indeed, some are just infeasible), they can be tailored to perfection with the help of the team. The crazy idea that was thrown out only 20 minutes ago has now become something not only feasible but something out of the ordinary.

But we’re not done. That’s just idea number one. Now it’s time to come up with a few more concepts to pitch.

The cool thing about brainstorms is that another idea for an experiential marketing concept can sprout from the idea that was being discussed before. Once the team gets the ball rolling, suggestions start coming in quickly and people start building off one another in a way that doesn’t seem possible at first. This all may sound a little chaotic, and sometimes it can be. But in the end it’s always a blissful chaos created by a number of individuals coming together to collaborate in order to create the best possible idea for a brand.

It’s important to keep in mind that a brainstorm is a lot like word vomiting. When you’re starting to write you don’t write the perfect copy right away – you write down the main frame, fill in the blanks, correct the errors and then you edit it. Then you edit it again. The same goes for brainstorms.

Judging a fresh idea right off the bat as impossible is a surefire way to kill a blossoming idea. Fresh ideas are always working concepts. They’re working because they’re not done. Just like copy needs editing, so do ideas. At a brainstorm, all ideas are valid. Once the ideas are laid out on the table and everyone has pitched in and “edited” the ideas by making a few amends here and there, then it’s time to screen.

So what’s the secret behind the art of brainstorms?

Honestly? There’s no way that’s foolproof.

But what I can tell you are some things that help perfect your own secret formula to the perfect brainstorm.

The first thing to keep in mind is that all ideas are valid at first. Accept them and edit them, only throw them away later if they really don’t fit in.

Don’t get too attached! Ideas morph into other things during a brainstorm – and that’s usually for the best.

Be comfortable and don’t be scared to throw out ideas that may seem silly or unintelligent – sometimes something that seems so obvious (or completely whacky) to you is something that’ll wake up a sleeping brilliance in one of your team members that will help you reach the idea’s final form.

Most importantly – have fun with it. Great ideas often sprout from fun suggestions and funny comments. Maintain the professionalism but bring out the playfulness that allows creativity to flourish.

And just remember – it may be chaotic, but in the end – it’s blissful.