Idea-Generating Techniques for the Desperate

Here’s a general rule of thumb regarding idea-generation techniques: they’re clunky, dorky and time-consuming. Oh, and they don’t work. You reluctantly resort to one when you're under the gun for an idea, then end up wasting valuable time that leaves you even more frustrated and desperate and feeling stupid for having made the attempt. Then you have a really great idea: to never use idea-generation techniques again.

It was in this frame of mind when, driven by desperation and a low sense of creative self-worth, I latched ahold of one, locked my door and tried it. Since then, I’ve used it a ton. It’s simple and powerful and can be applied to any kind of creative assignment. By its nature, it also helps keep you on strategy.

It starts with the creative brief, specifically the part that asks, “What’s the main thing we need to communicate?” That’s the core thought we work from.

I’ll use an example from a spot in my archives. The main thought was: “Royal Farms has the biggest variety of chicken sandwiches.”

I retyped that sentenced. Then, underneath that, I revised it slightly, pushing it in a creative direction. Then again, taking it further and further, pushing it toward an extreme, until I arrived at a line that was the distant, attention-getting, creative cousin of the original core thought.

Here’s how it went:

˗ Royal Farms has the biggest variety of chicken sandwiches.
˗ We have more chicken sandwiches than there are chickens.
˗ We have more kinds of chicken sandwiches than ways to drive your wife crazy.
˗ We have more kinds of chicken sandwiches than reasons to live.
˗ We have more kinds of chicken sandwiches than there are people.
˗ We have as many chicken sandwiches as there are types of people.

That last one I could work with. Royal Farms has a chicken sandwich for every kind of person in the world.

There. I had my concept. Then the fun part, since that idea sent me in a direction that allowed me to stay on strategy while writing wall-to-wall jokes. It made for a funny, attention-getting spot (listen here) that, by the way, helped sell a lot of chicken sandwiches. Please don’t tell anyone I would stoop so low as to use idea-generating techniques. They don't work. Except when they do.

Image Courtesy of Shutterstock

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