How to bypass the brainstorm for a marvelous marcom concept

Many people tell you that the best way to set about creating a marketing communication concept is to brainstorm your way through a large selection of words and phrases that you randomly associate with your project. (By project I mean project/product/service, but I’m keeping it down to one word for the sake of brevity.)

They tell you to note down every word that comes into your mind which can be associated with your project. They tell you to look up as much as you can in the dictionary and the thesaurus. Write it all down. Have a word feast and sooner or later the bones of a good tagline will fall out.

Well, I agree with that up to a point. It can be useful. But to my way of thinking there is a shortcut you can take, and that amounts to a reality check.

What really makes a good concept is how it encapsulates what the project achieves for the intended audience.

So, when I’m attempting to create a marcom concept, that’s what I look at first.

I say to myself, OK. What does this project really achieve – or intend to achieve – for its recipients? In other words, does it offer a key benefit?

Then I start writing down ideas that encapsulate that. Not what the project means to me, or to the client, or to the Board of Directors. What it means to the recipient of the project. What it will do for him/her. What its key benefit is. (I know, I keep harping on about focusing on benefits and “what’s in it for them.” But in business, what else is there to keep the wheels turning?)

And if you keep those thoughts firmly in your mind, suddenly you’ll find you’re writing concept ideas that are much crisper, more focused, and more relevant.

How to handle too many benefits

A few years ago I was called in by a chain of estate agents (realtors) in the UK to help them develop their marketing message. I arrived to find half a dozen sweaty, harassed team members all working away on long lists of genuine benefits that their company offered customers. Many of those benefits were unique to the company, and their service offering truly was excellent.

However that was part of the problem; there were too many benefits. Despite hours of brainstorming they hadn’t yet been able to see the wood for the trees. It was time for me to speak up.

Although my role here, as an external consultant, was to play “agent provocateur,” you can do this yourself provided you can step away mentally from the brainstorming exercise.

“OK,” I said. “Let’s group all those benefits together for a moment. What do they achieve collectively for the customer? What is one of the biggest negatives about buying and selling your home? And how do we overcome that?”

Gradually, I saw some light bulbs switching on over people’s heads. “Yes,” I said as they all started smiling. “We take the stress out of it.”

Not only did that get developed into a concept – it also formed the basis of their entire value proposition over the ensuing months and was very successful.

The takeout point here, is stand back and look at the tagline from different angles. Brainstorm your benefits, then ask yourselves what those benefits achieve collectively. I know this is an awful cliché, but “think outside the box.”

Want some more good ideas?

“Super Speeches”…how to write and deliver them well

“How To Write About Yourself”…how to make the most of yourself, whatever you need to write

“Business Writing Made Easy”…everything you need to know about writing for business in English




  1. All good! The key seems to be to create as many options as you can and then select from them. You were lucky though, to come in when you did! 🙂 It’s almost always easier to solve other people’s problems than your own…

    … which is great ‘cos then you can look like a genius! (Not saying you’re not, though! 😉 )


  2. Trouble is though, Simon, that when you do happen to find the needle in a marketing haystack like that, you get feeling the clients hate you for it and you should make a run for your car before they lynch you…

  3. So true!

    Clearly, it helps when your brainstorm focuses on the results clients achieve.

    • Very true, Mary – yet when people brainstorm sometimes there is a tendency to get carried away and lose focus on the results clients need to achieve, in favor of a fab creative idea. That’s especially true in cases like FMCG consumer advertising where creative teams are often great at coming up with ideas to promote the generic of a product … so expecting the clients to advertise all their competitors’ brands along with their own… trust me, it happens!

  4. Sarah Arrow says

    A great read as always Suze.
    I have a client that get confused and trying to explain to her to keep it simple and customer centric is tough at times!

  5. Marnie Byod says

    Great concept about marketing. There are some clients that do not understand and need more explanation in a certain things. Well, thanks a lot for sharing!