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How to Unlock Creativity in Your Marketing without Going Mad



I have a confession to make. I am an associative thinker. Being part of western society, my type of thinking can appear disorganized or non-methodological. Rather than fight the linear thinkers and attempt to change my personality and thought patterns, I learned that I was not alone and that my associative thinking is the basis for my creativity, which I need for my job. But when people ask me what the creative process is, and can I teach people how I come up with ideas, I had to put on a linear thinking cap to define the process:

Define your goal

What is the project you are trying to achieve?  A catchy headline that someone will click on? An idea for a blog post?  A name for a product? A slogan for a website?  A gimmick for a conference?  Who is the target audience?  What are the demographics?  Will they understand your references? Language? Does your headline/slogan/ad copy need to be translated into other languages?  It’s important to be clear about this before you start the creative process.

Do not censor yourself

Look at little children. They are so spontaneous and creative. That’s because they don’t filter themselves and aren’t (yet) worried about adults censoring or criticizing their ideas.  They are less inhibited in their physical movements and in their voice projection.  In the initial stage of the creative process, you need to let it all loose…but don’t tell the world yet..Start making a list of all your ideas, as they come associatively.

Sir Ken Robinson even has a Ted Talk about how school systems are killing the creativity process, so I am not alone in thinking that children’s ideas are squandered by the education system.  He claims that children learn to be afraid to be wrong so then they do not remain artists as they grow up.  “We grow OUT of creativity,” he claims.

But I’m not here to solve the whole education system in the western world, rather to tell you how to put some creativity into your marketing writing.

Associate Freely

English Language and Life Skills Training Specialist, Patrick Tay breaks down the associative thinking process into four categories:  memory, colors, ideas, patterns.

Here are my own categories: cultural and professional references, visual images, and audio:

1 Professional and cultural references

In my brainstorming sessions, I think about the professional terminology and the words that will be appealing, or create a sense of familiarity with my target audience. If I add a pun or play on words, this can give me the basis of a catchy headline.  The word play itself can be done through antonyms, inverted sentences, rhymes, homonyms and alliteration.  If your audience is English speaking, then the idea will be understood but if it needs to be translated, it may be best to stay with a conservative headline that will explain what your blog post/article/website is about rather than being cute or funny.

2  Visual images

I will sometimes close my eyes, think about the subject matter I am trying to get across and see which visual images pop into my head.  Or I use google image search and see what it will yield. Sometimes the visual image will lead me to a whole group of related images and ideas that I can implement into my headline/name of product/etc.

3 Audio

Songs, jingles, television commercials, classical music, the sound of traffic outside, the wind, hail or rain, birds chirping. What does this make you think of? Can you link these sounds at all to the essence of your writing? As you listen to these sounds, they may invoke visual images or texts that may produce related concepts or catchy slogans.  This is all part of the brainstorming process.

And remember to have fun!

Imitate without copying

You can look at similar ideas from other industries or your own and then change the wording to come up with original concepts for your brand/company. But beware: sometimes looking at the competition or partner sites first will give you some preconceptions and interfere with your free thinking process.

Sort and make Short lists

After your brainstorming session, how do you choose which idea is going to work best for you?  Here’s an example of how I used Headline Analyzer to choose a title for this blog post.

I use the headline analyzer called  which is a “free blog post headline analyzer will score your overall headline quality and rate its ability to result in social shares, increased traffic, and SEO value.”  Coschedule also describes the power of emotions and how more emotional headlines are shared.

First of all, I simply wrote the idea:

1 How do you come up with creative ideas in your writing?

My first attempt yielded a nice score of 70 and a B+ but 0% for emotion.  Even before looking at the score, I realized that the headline was too common and not specific enough for marketing writing, or B2B writing particularly….

So I tried this one:
2 Creativity and marketing: are there methods to the madness?  – this gave me a score of 75  and a B+.  I am writing about B2B marketing writing, not simply marketing, so I thought I would get more specific:

3 Creativity and B2B marketing: are there methods to the madness?

This gave me a lower score, of 71 and a B+ – presumably, because I used more words….so I tried to shorten it to:

4 Methods for creative B2B marketing madness
I only got a score of 65 and a B+.  The analyzer told me my headline was too generic.

At this point, I decided to be more aggressive and wrote:

5 B2B marketers:  stop censoring yourselves

This time I only scored 38 and a C-:  “Your headline is missing important words that will be necessary for readability and sharing”

I decided to change to a mysterious approach:

6 Secrets of the marketing writing creative madness
76  “Nice work.  Your headline contains a good balance of word types” with a 43% score for emotion but a C-.

I felt I was still missing the point of connecting this back to business.

7 How to unlock creativity in your marketing without going mad

I scored 73 and a B+ for this one with 30% for emotion.

Here’s the summary of the above:


Headline number Numerical score Letter score Emotion score
7 73 B+ 30
6 76 C- 43
5 38 C- 0
4 65 B+ 20
3 71 B+ 22
2 75 B+ 22
1 70 B+ 0


Wanting to use a headline that had a good numerical, letter and emotion score, I chose one that scored well in all categories, headline #7.  
How to unlock creativity in your marketing without going mad

If I had a few more hours to spare, I could have continued to test more headlines in pursuit of an A+ headline, but even in creativity, sometimes the 80-20 rule applies.

To recap the creative process in a nutshell:

–Define your goal
–Do not censor yourself
–Associate freely
–Imitate without copying
–Sort and make short lists

Creativity is one tool in the marketer’s toolbox, but even the most creative concept is not a guaranteed success. Make sure not to sacrifice clarity, company messaging or marketing goals in your quest for originality.


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