When you don’t have an idea for a marketing campaign you need on the calendar already, finding a topic or an angle is a stressful line item on your to do list. But it doesn’t have to be. That’s where brainstorming comes in.
The key to generating new ideas and encouraging collaborations is starting with thoughtful, open-ended questions.
That’s why today we’re sharing 11 brainstorming questions to get you started:
- What are we promoting?
- What are the benefits?
- Who is this for?
- What are they worried about?
- Why are we doing this?
- Why does our audience care about this?
- Which channel works best?
- Why now?
- How does this compare to other campaigns?
- How can we improve?
- How can we make this happen?
But first, let’s talk about what brainstorming is and why brainstorming questions are the key to making your next session a success.
What is brainstorming?
Brainstorming is the informal process of generating ideas. This can be solitary—I brainstorming ideas for blog posts on my own often, and it’s usually just me sitting at my desk writing through possible ideas with pen and paper. More often for marketing campaigns, though, brainstorming is a team activity.
With a group brainstorming, it’s important that everyone’s on the same page about what a brainstorm is—and maybe more importantly what it isn’t. This isn’t a time when you’ll land on a campaign idea, it isn’t going to lead you to a go-to-market plan, and it isn’t where you’ll divvy up the tasks for your pre-launch marketing.
Instead, a brainstorming meeting is where you’ll all get together to think of possible campaign themes, angles, designs, and more. You’ll share ideas, build on ideas, and get a chance to think creatively. Maybe you’ll collaborate remotely with a Google doc, maybe you’ll drag a whiteboard into the conference room, or maybe you'll repurpose a window like the people in the image above. Regardless of your method, you’ll need to start with brainstorming questions.
So why are brainstorming questions essential?
Brainstorming questions are essential to foster creative thinking.
Let’s think about it this way. Some problems that have simple solutions. The answer to a math problem, the definition of word, for instance.
Complex problems, on the other hand, have lots of different solutions—the key isn’t figuring out the single one that works, but settling on what works best considering your resources.
Determining the focus for a marketing campaign isn’t a simple problem. There are lots of different directions your company could go in, and likely lots of different directions that would work for your brand and your audience. That’s why focusing on questions works best for inspiring the creative thinking you need for brainstorming.
In fact, if you’re looking for bonus points, you can even have a brainstorm for questions. But to help you jumpstart your next marketing meeting, here are 11 brainstorming questions you can use today.
Brainstorming questions to add to your next team meeting
Now, let’s go through a list of brainstorming questions to get you started with your next marketing planning session. Note that this isn’t a list you should go through one by one every time—instead, think of these as a bunch of different options for starting points. Ideally, you’ll throw one of these questions out to your group and you’ll start talking and generating ideas that lead you somewhere else.
Here we go.
1. What are we promoting?
This is the basics, but it can be an important place to start. Sometimes, marketing campaigns have the goal in mind before getting to the offer.
If you need more leads to hit your quarterly target, for example, you might know you need some kind of campaign to get there, but you don’t have anything to promote yet. It could be a whitepaper, a webinar, or a paid ad campaign.
Or your goal might be to grow your social media following and you need to figure out how to get there. You could improve your hashtags, run a contest, or start a series—that’s up to your team to start brainstorming.
This pet series might be our favorite social media campaign example.
2. What are the benefits?
Whether you’re launching your SaaS startup or running a webinar marketing campaign, you need to identify what your offer is—then you need to go a step further. In order to make a compelling case for any offer, you need to know how it benefits your audience.
Take this example from Vrbo, a vacation rental platform.
The first 32 seconds of this minute-long ad features a canoe on a peaceful lake, a snowy lane, and a pair of beach chairs in front of crystal clear water. Not a vacation rental in sight.
Instead of focusing on the product—a platform to rent houses—or even the primary benefit—a vacation house—Vrbo emphasizes a more meaningful benefit here. This ad sells time with loved ones and making memories. A brainstorming session devoted to finding the benefits can help your marketing campaign similarly impactful.
3. Who is this for?
Your audience is so important—that’s why buyer personas are such a useful tool. But your specific audience also changes from promotion to promotion. Some of your webinars might be focused on one buyer persona; some of your content downloads might be focused on a single vertical. And if you’re launching a new product or tool, you might want to define a new audience entirely.
When you already have an offer that you need to build a marketing campaign for, taking the time to brainstorm who you’re focusing on is worthwhile. You might start by throwing out which persona or which industry, but if you get talking you can get more specific. Which job title would be most interested? Where are these people located? What social networks are they using?
Having a brainstorming session to figure out these details will help you come up with a targeted, effective marketing campaign—just be sure to follow up by checking your metrics and your content analytics before committing to any directions.
4. What are they worried about?
A few years ago, I ran a persona-based content brainstorming session. We considered our personas and I asked a few leading questions to come up with blog posts and guide ideas. One of the questions that I asked all of us to consider was this: What’s this persona worried about?
This was great for coming up with blog post ideas, and it would work well for other types of content—videos, infographics, social media posts.
But it’s also figuring out your messaging for a campaign. If you know what your personas are worried about, you know how to frame your offering as a solution.
This is a great example from Asana.
Asana solves for lots of problems for employees—too many emails, missed notifications with changes, unclear timelines for projects, and missed deadlines. Instead of going broad about how this project management tool can help with all of it, Asana doubles down on how it helps people stay on top of their work and meet their deadlines.
5. Why are we doing this?
Having a clear idea of what your company mission is one thing. Having a clear understanding of how your day-to-day tasks further that mission is another.
You know which one yields a more engaged, more productive employee.
You can use the same idea to encourage a brainstorm about your marketing campaigns. What do employees see as the goal? How do they see this goal fitting into your overall marketing goals? How about the company goals?
Taking the time to talk about this as a team can not only help make the goals of your marketing campaigns clearer, but also give you insight into your team’s buy-in.
6. Why does our audience care about it?
This continues the “why” theme of the last brainstorming question with a different focus. Now that you and your team are clear on why you’re spending time on a campaign, you need to figure out why your audience cares.
Why is this important to do? Simple. Because you need to know why your audience would care in order to create compelling messaging.
So how are you helping them? Why’s your audience invested in this campaign? What’s drawing them in? Using this brainstorming question can help you find out different angles to approach and bring up ideas you might not have considered on your own—and spending time articulating this with your team can help you create something effective.
7. Which channel works best?
It can be so easy to stick to what you know or what’s working fine now. But digital marketing changes. Take Clubhouse. Earlier this year, I got a bunch of questions about being on the platform. Some of my friends marketing, in venture capital, or at startups were suddenly on the platform, and then I started hearing about it during our team meetings here Unstack. A month later? There are already thinkpieces and exposes about why industry leaders are ditching the platform.
Who knows whether Clubhouse is actually gone, but either way, the point is that platforms change quickly. That means you need to keep thinking about where you’re marketing. Brainstorming ideas for new channels to test with your team can help.
Our startup marketing report asked founders and about the marketing channels that work.
8. Why now?
I manage our blog schedule and our social media here at Unstack, and I help out with lots of other marketing stuff. There are times when timing matters. Our blog post announcing our new components launch? That needed to be published and promoted on social media the same day we sent out the email announcement to our audience and let our Slack community know.
But a blog post like, say, this one? Not at time dependent.
Some releases and marketing events will be tied to certain schedules, whether that’s product releases, established events, or even seasonal expectations. Otherwise, though, it’s important to discuss why it’s important now so that you can articulate this to your team—and convey that urgency to your audience.
9. How does this compare to other campaigns?
I’m guilty of checking my phone before I even get out of bed in the morning. By the time I’ve checked my inbox, scrolled through Instagram, and read over any alerts, I’ve already seen half a dozen ads, and that’s usually before 7 a.m.
With that much competition, it’s so important to make sure your messaging is memorable.
When you’re planning your next marketing campaign, take some time to brainstorm how your materials compare to others. What are you similar to? What are you different from? What makes your approach better?
Plus, when you’re brainstorming how your ideas compare to other marketing, it’s a good time to reflect on how this campaign compares to your other marketing initiatives—which leads me to our next brainstorming question.
10. How can we improve?
Maintaining brand consistency is important for businesses. Using your brand colors and style across marketing channels helps people recognize your brand, which is great.
But it also means your marketing materials can often be similar—but similar isn’t the same. Take these examples from Casper.
I used to see these puzzle ads on the T commuting in Boston all the time. They’re simple, appealing, and (the best part) they’re interactive when you’re trying not to fall back asleep on the train. Then, Casper launched another marketing campaign.
Versions of these ads also appeared on subways. These are clearly different—but they’re still recognizably from Casper. The same color scheme, the same playful tone.
So when you’re working on a marketing campaign, try brainstorming ways you can improve on something you’ve already done to double down on recognition and do something new and fun.
11. How can we make this happen?
This shouldn’t be your first brainstorming question, but it is an important one.
When you’re coming up with lots of great ideas, it’s a good idea to keep it going as far as you can before getting realistic. Great idea for a commercial? Jot it down. Awesome vision for a billboard? Save it. Even if you’ll never have the budget for those kinds of placements, you might be able to use the ideas elsewhere.
Before you rule anything out, brainstorm how you could make it happen. What would you need? What would it look like? An Instagram Reel or a YouTube ad, for instance, are both more budget-friendly that could use the same ideas.
Use these brainstorming questions to jumpstart your next team meeting
There you have it—eleven different brainstorming questions you can use to get ideas flowing in your next team meeting. With all those ideas, your next marketing campaign is bound to be a success. Good luck!