by Laura McLoughlin | Featured Contributor
Marketing, despite its technical reputation, is largely a creative pursuit. SEO and web optimisation aside, it’s about framing your brand and business in the right way – hooking onto current conversation and making them both relevant and favourable.
But the thing about creativity is that it can be fickle. One week, you’re hitting lightning strike after lightning strike, and the next, you’re numb – if there are any ideas out there, then they’re out of your reach.
It could be that you have spent too long with your subject, and it just feels like you’ve run out of ways to spin a particular product or service, or that your business just isn’t that exciting. It can be fun to spitball ideas for perfume and car companies, afterall, but what if you’re trying to attract customers to…insurance policies? Stairlifts, or towbars? That’s when you’ll really have to stretch your creative muscles to find something to get people talking about you.
If you feel like whatever creativity you once had is now just a bland lump of grey, never fear. Be assured by the fact that all creatives go through periods of drought, and lightning will strike again.
In the mean time, you might have a look at these five tips on how to kickstart your creativity and start thinking outside the box for your next marketing campaign.
1. Partner with other brands
If your own brand is feeling a little stale, why not link up with another company? The combination of your branding and stories could make for an interesting campaign, and force you to think beyond the limitations you had normally set yourself.
For example, you might have an idea for a social media campaign that would fit perfectly with what your brand is trying to communicate, but your social following is poor and you’re worried it’ll not gain the traction it deserves. This is the perfect opportunity to find a likeminded company with a larger or more focused following to raise both of your profiles and create something special.
We might take Cancer Research UK’s summer campaign with youth media outlet Pretty52 as an example. The #ownyourtone message, a call for better sun care and avoiding dangerous tanning methods, works so much better when communicated through the voice of a fun, young brand, and they can tap into the younger generation, too.
2. Get help from somebody else
If you’ve run out of ideas for content, consider bringing aboard someone who is just as knowledgeable and enthusiastic about your industry or message as you are.
For example, wedding media brand Wedding Journal Online sought the advice of real-life wedding planners to build their guide to wedding planning careers. Both Wedding Journal Online and this variety of full-time wedding planners are experts in weddings, but occupy different spheres and so are able to benefit from the sharing of information and experiences.
You might be a dog walker who calls upon a veterinarian to contribute to a blog about canine health, or a vegan cafe, who asks a personal trainer for a great protein-rich recipe, but regardless of who you call upon, make sure they are on board with who you are and what your company stands for.
3. Support another cause
If you’re a commercial business, this might be a great opportunity to stop talking about yourself and start a conversation about a worthy cause. Not only does research show that 88 per cent of customers say they are more likely to buy from a company that supports and engages in activities to improve society, but this can be a way to really give back.
For example, in 2016, Patagonia, the outdoor clothing brand, donated the entirety of its Black Friday sales to environmental nonprofits. Customers were so impressed with the initiative that they received five times the sales they anticipated – a hearty $10 million to a predicted 2.
However, it’s important to make sure your charitable support is in line with your current messaging and values, or else the whole campaign could come across as either confusing or shallow.
Patagonia is an outdoor clothing brand and so it makes sense for them to support environmental efforts. KFC, unfortunately, got their charitable campaign all wrong in 2010. The fast food company came under fire for selling fried chicken in pink buckets as a way to raise awareness about breast cancer, which was a confusing link at best. The campaign provoked anger amongst the public and the US’s Center for Media and Democracy called the campaign “pinkwashing”.
4. Spin current content
Are you out there searching for something new, when your current content would do just as well?
This isn’t a suggestion to slap a new headline on an old blog, but rather to dig deeper into research and surveys you may have conducted in the past, or data you may have gathered without quite knowing what you would do with it.
For example, My Own Stationery had previously conducted research into best HR practices for welcoming new employees. Taking that information, they created a brand new infographic, for readers to digest their tips more quickly and easily. Even more serious businesses can turn top tips or info into graphics, such as Stanley Security, who compiled a list of safety tips they already advise business owners on into a handy infographic.
5. Let your audience help you
Have you considered user-generated content? Sometimes your customers can surprise you with the quality of their content, which could include personal stories, pictures, jokes, competition entries or surveys.
For example, Quinnstheprinters.com has a sizeable following of graphic designers on their Facebook page, so when it came to digging up new research about the education of graphic designers in the UK, the printing company knew just who to ask. The survey was quickly completed by over 600 of Quinnstheprinters.com’s Facebook followers who identified as full-time designers, without any incentive.
Similarly, you can tap into your audience by hosting a competition which would ask them to send you their photos, which you can later share like Shoeboxed did with their Messy Desk contest.
Being a professional creative can be pretty draining, but the good thing creativity is that it doesn’t run out. There will always be more ideas and new lightning strikes, even if it takes a few exercises or basic prompts to get them going again.
Laura McLoughlin is a Digital PR with past experience as a website editor and writer. Away from the keyboard, you can find her binging nature documentaries and dreaming up travel plans. Laura works with Glaze Digital in Northern Ireland.