Brainstorming Your Headline, Tagline or Slogan

Guest post by Jake Poinier

Writing a compelling headline, tagline or slogan can cause anxiety in just about anyone, no matter how creative. You don’t want to be boring, you can’t always be funny, and you always have to keep your audience and their motivations — as well as your corporate brand — in mind. Here are a few strategies for brainstorming sessions for your next great idea.

“Yes” sessions. My favorite boss at a magazine used to tell us about the heyday of Warner Bros. cartoon days — think Bugs Bunny, Elmer Fudd, and Yosemite Sam — and how they’d to foster creativity. The gist of it was that they’d gather the team together in a room to throw ideas around. The only rule? No use of the word “no” or similar negativity allowed. To start, try it for 15 minutes with a blank whiteboard and an appointed scribe who writes down everything…and isn’t allowed to selectively edit. Think quantity, not quality, which can be addressed afterward. (I had to laugh when a web search turned up this “Yes Session” iPhone app!)

Stepladder Technique. If your environment isn’t quite free-wheeling enough to try a “yes,” session, the Stepladder Technique offers a more traditional approach. Basically, it’s a process that starts with presenting the task to the group, then forming a core group of two members who discuss their opinions. A third member then joins, adding their thoughts before hearing the other pair’s ideas, and then discussing all three opinions. The process repeats, adding one new person each time, until all of the group members have participated.

Individual Brainstorming. Now for a contrarian view. In a New Yorker article last year, Washington University psychologist Keith Sawyer said, “Decades of research have consistently shown that brainstorming groups think of far fewer ideas than the same number of people who work alone and later pool their ideas.” So…don’t feel obligated to work as a group! As with the Stepladder, you can start with a group discussion of what needs to happen, but don’t begin by sharing ideas. Leave everyone to their own time and space, and agree to reconvene at a later time, with all ideas written down. This can also help bring quieter but equally creative team members into the mix, who might get lost in a no-holds-barred discussion.

As a final thought, there is plenty of good headline, tagline, and slogan fodder to be mined in the advertising world or from competitors, but sometimes it can help to research from more unlikely sources. In fact, I’d argue that some of the best headline writing—and therefore brainstorming triggers—can be found in supermarket tabloids. Think of it this way: It’s your guilt-free opportunity of a lifetime to grab a copy of the National Enquirer!

What’s your favorite, most productive way to conduct brainstorming sessions?

Find out how Eileen and her team at Burick Communication Design can help B2B marketers like you implement an integrated campaign with stunning digital design that connects your marketing and branding with business results. Download your BCD Fact Sheet here.

Jake Poinier

About Jake Poinier

In addition to running the Dr. Freelance freelance advice blog, Jake Poinier is the owner of Phoenix-based Boomvang Creative Group and, as mentioned above, More Cowbell Books.

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