In fact, creative brainstorming is the reason most of your creative team got into advertising in the first place. It’s the lifeblood of innovation in your agency. Why wouldn’t you take full advantage of it? Surprisingly, most agencies don’t.
Fighting Inertia with Creativity
Stagnation is an advertising agency’s greatest fear — and for good reason. Despite how smart and committed your team is, the daily grind can wear down their inspiration, making your entire agency seem stale and unmotivated.
Established clients’ daily demands take time, energy and money — and those are all scarce resources in a busy agency. In fact, many agencies leave the task of developing new products to summer interns. This strategy almost always fails; even if an amazing idea surfaces, there’s no leadership to bring it to life.
Brainstorm for Empowerment
To combat this, you need to institute weekly team brainstorming sessions focusing on new products and ideas — not simply solving existing problems. By bringing all your team members to the table with an open mind and no expectations, you’ll ignite a truly creative conversation. Here’s what these weekly meetings — and the ideas that come from them — help you do:
- Build a stronger, more empowered team. Creating and developing ideas and products for you, not your clients, means that your employees don’t have to hold back. And since there are no briefs, brand books or legal approvals, they can make the projects their own.
- Develop and expand your skills. Web development, mobile platforms and niche markets are all places your employees can explore when they’re brainstorming new products. The truth is that you will rely on your team to support and develop these ideas, and to do that, many will need to build upon their skillsets. For example, our media planner helped produce our Yenta video series. It was a new experience for him, which resulted in a more robust toolbox and increased knowledge about production.
- Build “street cred” with clients. Firsthand experience gives you the expertise to launch a product in a compelling way. Launches are adventures in trial and error, but when you’re trying to convince your client to buy a product idea, there’s nothing more assuring than real-life experience — and real-life success. Street cred has become the selling point sealing the deal for many pitches; people want to invest in proven entities.
- Create new business opportunities. Since a client roster isn’t limiting your team, you can dive into a new, exciting industry. With this newfound expertise, you can find new clients in this space. Plus, when you develop insightful, unique products, you’ll position your agency as a leader in the industry.
Sparking Innovation: A How-To
Here’s one way to start: Each week, bring your team members together, and set out to solve a problem in the general marketplace or the world. Starting from scratch, your team can innovate and build a culture of strategic thinking and ownership — all while freely brainstorming dozens of products that they’re truly excited about.
Sometimes, it’s helpful to think of products that fit client needs, too — even if they’re unrealistic, off-strategy or just too risky. Whenever you stumble upon a lingering idea that simply doesn’t fade away, you should try to find ways to invest in it and produce it yourselves. That’s the benchmark of a powerful idea: If it doesn’t go away, you should not only pay attention to it, but you should see if you can make it work.
When you’re ready to develop some fresh, innovative ideas, here are a few tips to keep in mind:
- Get together. When it comes to product brainstorming, more voices mean better results. You need a team to generate truly great ideas.
- Start small. Don’t set out to create something revolutionary. Instead, focus on solutions and projects that are attainable. You’ll find a great sense of achievement from simply completing a product and putting it out into the universe.
- Don’t let the excitement fade. Many elements will be against you: staffing, budgets, deadlines and more. That’s why it’s so important to set realistic, achievable goals.
Believing is Half the Battle
It’s vital that your team believes in the idea you’re producing. They have to be passionate about learning, doing, redoing and waiting to finally see the fruits of their labor. That’s why it’s hard to succeed in product development if you’re not fully engaging your team by concentrating on something they care about.
Sometimes, your product will be successful; other times, it will fail. Either way, it will teach you lessons about production, marketing and development that can build empathy with your clients. And it will give your team invaluable, real-life experience on how to bring an idea to life.