Crafting creative ideas for marketing campaigns is challenging. You need to know your audience, understand their interests, and deliver a consistent message that connects your product to their problems. That message also needs to stand out amongst the overwhelming number of brand messages consumers see every day.
However, the day-to-day pressure of being on-the-spot creative can be tough to shoulder. Some days you might feel like a genius. Others, you might wonder if your creative well has run dry.
What you need, then, is a consistent process for delivering quality work. The kind of stuff that drives KPIs, makes stakeholders happy and earns your paychecks. If you knew you could generate those kinds of ideas ease, how would your life be different? We imagine it feeling something like this:
In this post, you’ll learn everything you need to:
- Be creative, even when you don’t feel like it.
- Save time on ideation so you’ll more time for execution.
- Be successful in executing those ideas.
Here’s how to tap into your inner David Ogilvy and plan some killer campaigns.
Download Your Free Marketing Campaign Planning Kit
Get Your Free Marketing Marketing Campaign Template Kit
Getting Started: 12 Marketing Campaign Ideas to Spark Your Inspiration
Before diving deep into the creative process, this post will start off light with some simple ideas to get your creative gears turning.
Building Campaigns Around Content
Any piece of content you've created can be promoted with social media and email campaigns. Consider the following content types:
In short, if you have content, you can create campaigns to promote it. Running a campaign for each piece can dramatically improve results.
Run a Contest
Contests can be more than cliched "like this post to win a free iPad" campaigns. Follow this guide from Vertical Response to get started building out a creative contest.
Share Your Research Findings
Creating original research is a great marketing tactic. It can provide tons of unique findings and statistics you can use to build a campaign around. CoSchedule's
Email List-Building Campaigns
Email drives an incredible return on investment. But, in order to get results, you first need an email list. So, consider building a campaign intended to increase your email subscribers.
This could include a multi-pronged approach:
- Create an email sign-up page on your website.
- Include content upgrades in blog posts and on landing pages.
- Run a series of social media posts promoting your sign-up form.
Lots of companies run campaigns around obvious holidays.
So, how's about finding one that's little-known yet related to your business? It's a great way to catch people's attention.
Use NationalDayCalendar.com to find relevant holidays. Then, leverage them to promote your products and services.
User-Generated Content Campaigns
Anyone can hype up their own brand.
The best about user-generated content? It carries additional weight because it comes from an actual customer.
For inspiration, check out these UGC campaigns on the HubSpot blog.
Events can take all different types of shapes. Here are some to consider:
- Fundraising events.
- Grand openings.
No matter what type of event you're running, building a campaign across your website, social media, and email list can help turn it from disaster to success.
Product Launch Campaigns
Shipping a new product or feature onto the market can be an exciting yet stressful experience. Tilt the odds of success in your favor by planning a complete campaign ahead of time.
"Ditch Your Old Product" Campaigns
Why should someone choose your product over the one they already have? Create a campaign that leans on hard facts, demonstrating what you can do that your competitors can't.
Partnering with a charity can be a great way to help your audience feel good by doing good. Here are some places to find charities:
Brand Awareness Campaigns
Creating entertaining content and ads that reinforce your brand awareness and perception are perfect for building up an audience and a customer base. This is particularly true when you're new, going through a major rebranding, or are going up against entrenched competition.
If you work with other companies, or use software or products from third-party vendors, consider reaching out and do some co-marketing.
Developing the 'Big Idea' Behind Your Campaign
Successful marketing campaigns drive meaningful change. Their messaging moves mountains and motivates audiences to take action. And the best are built on a big idea. A "Big Idea" is an overarching concept designed to leave a lasting impression. David Ogilvy, the godfather of modern advertising, once said:
This doesn’t mean a good idea needs to be grandiose.
It simply needs to be memorable and focused on conveying one clear message that will inspire the desired action.
Ideas like this don’t arrive by accident though. They’re the result of hard mental labor, extensive research, and a little bit of serendipity. Ultimately, your goal to find a concept that hits the following checkboxes:
- Delivers something your audience finds interesting ...
- ... while connecting back into your branding, products, or services ...
- ... and drives your desired change.
Easier said than done, but this process makes it possible.
Know Your Audience: Leverage Social Media for Audience Research
Who are you talking to? This is the first thing you need to figure out. Here are two easy ways to do this.
Use Facebook’s Built-In Analytics
Facebook provides powerful analytics capabilities. Simply visit your page. Then, click Insights, and find the People tab in the left-hand navigation:
Analyze Your Twitter Following With Followerwonk
Followerwonk is a great freemium Twitter audience analysis tool from Moz. For our research purposes, follow these steps:
- Visit Followerwonk and enter your brand or company’s Twitter handle.
- Select Analyze Their Followers (see below):
You’ll now have a report full of useful demographic data for your Twitter followers. This includes:
- Geographic location
- Most active hours on Twitter
- A word cloud based on followers' Twitter bios
- Inferred gender
- Audience breakdown by age group
- Languages used
This information can give you a clearer picture of who your audience is.
Use Twitter Polls
Twitter polls are an easy way to get fast feedback. Here’s how to run one for audience research:
- Log into Twitter via its mobile app or desktop website.
- Compose a new tweet and click the Poll button:
- Think of two to four topical areas of interest to your audience.
- Craft a question asking which is most interesting to your followers.
- Click Tweet and you’re on your way.
Surveying Your Audience
This option will pay massive dividends for your marketing, both on and off social media.
- Choose a survey platform. Polldaddy and Survey Monkey are two reputable options.
- Write good questions focused on finding out what your audience wants. Some examples could include questions about:
- Their general interests
- Which tools they use
- Their toughest challenges and pain points
For an example of what kind of insights you can get from a survey, read the findings from our State of Marketing Strategy Report.
Consider Creating Personas
A persona is essentially a fictional character description that fits your average audience member. They can be immensely helpful for visualizing and understanding the target of your marketing campaigns. Read this detailed guide on how to build them the right way.
Know Your Enemy: Do Competitive Research
The public nature of social media makes competitive research relatively easy.
Manually Monitor Competitors' Social Accounts
A quick look at your competitors' social accounts can tell you a lot. Pay attention to the following:
- Their creative messaging
- Their visual style
- Their engagement levels with their audience
Use Social Media Monitoring Tools To Track Industry Keywords On Social Media
Tools like Mention make it easy to see what's being said around any given keyword on social media.
Review Competitor's Marketing Materials
- Review their blog or website.
- Sign up for their email newsletter.
- Watch their YouTube videos.
- Analze their social media presence.
- See if they have any printed marketing materials you can obtain.
Know Your Battlefield: Rock Your Industry Research
This doesn't need to be too complex. Just follow these tips on a consistent basis to ensure you're always on top of what's happening.
Read Industry Publications
Follow reputable magazines, websites, blogs, and news sources related to your industry. This may seem like obvious advice. However, it’s one of the best ways to stay current with what’s relevant to your audience.
Follow Industry Thought Leaders On Social Media
Identify and follow leaders in your industry across their social channels. Again, Followerwonk is great for finding these folks.
Obtain Industry Research Reports
Kicking Off Your Creative Campaign Ideation Process
Crafting campaign concepts is a collaborative process. Whether you’re working alone or with a team, there are ways to get the most from your available brainpower to generate awesome ideas.
Find The Intersection Between Your Brand And Your Audience’s Interests
Your audience likely has diverse interests. You know this because you’ve conducted surveys and scanned keywords from their Twitter bio boxes using Followerwonk. They hold these interests in addition to your brand.
Finding where your brand and those interests overlap can inspire amazing ideas for social campaigns.
Ian Lurie, CEO of Seattle-based marketing agency Portent, has built an excellent presentation explaining how this concept works. It’s well worth taking the time to read and digest all 150+ slides:
Here’s the short version: Target your campaign’s messaging toward where your brand’s value proposition and your audience’s interests intersect. Think of it like a Venn diagram:
Here’s how to apply this principle to creating a marketing campaign:
- Identify an interest that’s common with your audience. It bears repeating: The Twitter bio box info you can gather with Followerwonk is a great place to start. Lean on any survey data you might have as well.
- Think about how that interest overlaps with your product or service. For example, if you sell board games, you might discover your audience likes a particular type or brand of snacks (you can’t play board games without snacks).
This could open a few possibilities:
- You could reach out to that brand that makes that snack and collaborate on a campaign.
- You could build a campaign around a giveaway offering that type of snack as a prize.
- You could create a campaign that leverages interest in that snack to raise your brand awareness (eg: posting clever photos with board games and said snack).
These are generic examples to get your mental gears turning.
Develop An Easy 30-Minute Brainstorming Process
We use a simple brainstorming process here at CoSchedule. It's broken down into three phases:
- Ten minutes of silent brainstorming. Write down every idea you can think of. At this point, these can be simple campaign titles, tag lines, or basic one-line descriptions at this point.
- Ten minutes of weeding out duds. Score every idea on a three-point scale. Threes are keepers, twos are maybes, and ones go in the trash.
- Ten minutes of winner-optimization. Take all your threes, and decide which ones you'll run with.
This process can yield awesome results fast. Devote 10 minutes to each step, and you’ll have plenty of creative ideas to choose from.
Mind mapping is one of the best ways to capture your thoughts and bring them to life in visual form. Beyond just note-taking, though, mind maps can help you become more creative, remember more, and solve problems more effectively.
The easiest way to get started is to select a mind mapping tool. Here are some popular options:
This video from iMindMap demonstrates how to put one together (it’s specific to their tool, but it’s informative enough to apply generally):
Get Out The Whiteboard Markers
If you’re a visual thinker, then a whiteboard can be an indispensable creative tool. It’s likely you have one somewhere in your office (and if not, you can always order one).
- Get some markers.
- Free-write thoughts and ideas related to your potential campaign.
- Sketch out rough drawings of what your visuals could look like.
There’s no secret formula here. If you’re used to doing all your work on a computer, a whiteboard offers some advantages. These include:
- Getting you away from the screen.
- Allowing you to move around as you think.
- Forcing you to create with something other than a keyboard and mouse can motivate and inspire creativity.
Putting It All Together: How to Create a Marketing Campaign Proposal
You now know how to do your research, brainstorm ideas, and develop campaign concepts. Now, it’s time to put this all together into a cohesive campaign proposal. This document is what will help sell your campaign idea to your stakeholders. If you're working in-house, that could mean your boss. For agencies, that means your clients.
Give It A Name
A catchy campaign needs a catchy name. A good campaign name should:
- Be directly related to the topic of your campaign.
- Be memorable.
- Be concise.
State Your Objective and Target Audience
To once again quote Ogilvy, “If it doesn’t sell, it isn’t creative.”
In this section of your template, describe all of the following:
- Your goals and the purpose of your campaign? There should be a clear goal for launching this campaign. Whether you're promoting an event, launching a contest, or reinforcing your branding, this should be articulated here.
- Which audience is this campaign targeting? You'll need to explain who this campaign is aimed at.
- Which social channels will it encompass? Your audience and goals should impact this.
Outline Your Channel Strategy
Not all campaigns may be appropriate across all your social channels. Some may be best oriented toward one particular platform. Others might have more opportunity for cross-platform promotion, especially if you’re adding a social component to an existing campaign.
Narrow your channel selection by asking these questions:
- Which networks is our brand strongest on? You might have strategic reasoning for focusing on certain networks.
- Which are we weakest on? If you're looking to build a following on a network where your struggling, a coordinated campaign could help.
- Is the idea for this campaign best suited to one particular network over another? Use your best judgment. If your brand is highly visual, then visual networks may be best. If not, you may need to consider how you will create graphics, or choose less visually-intensive networks.
How Will You Measure Success?
Once your campaign has run its course, you'll need to report on its performance. So, know which metrics and KPIs you'll track and measure ahead of time.
6 Creative Marketing Campaigns That Worked (And Why)
So, what does a successful marketing campaign look like in real life? Let's highlight some examples. Each of these showcases a company going beyond the status quo to create something unique, engaging, and connected to their brand.
Honest Tea: "#RefreshinglyHonest"
Our current culture pressures people to perfect. Marketing and social media can often exacerbate people's feelings of being inadequate. That's probably why people often tend to only show their best selves, carefully crafting posts that make their lives seem a little more put together than they actually are.
Honest Tea is pushing back against this trend with their #RefreshinglyHonest campaign. They encourage people to share honest stories on social media using the hashtag #RefreshinglyHonest. Then, they share some of those stories on a dedicated campaign landing page:
GoPro: "Didja The Skateboarding Cat"
Cat videos make up 99% of all online video content (Note: This statistic is completely made up). That may be an exaggeration.
However, people really like their cat videos, and GoPro knows it. That’s why they strapped one of their cameras to a skateboarding cat and let it do its thing.
The results were a wildly successful campaign that was widely cited as one of the best of 2015. It worked because it showed off an interesting application of their product, and tied it into something their audience is interested in (gotta have more cat videos).
A video posted by gopro (@gopro) on
Spotify: “Year In Music”
Spotify allows users to share a landing page that displays what you listened to in the previous year. It shows some cool stuff, like what you listened to at the start of the year, which artist you streamed the most, and more. You can then share the interactive page on your social media channels.
This campaign works well because it allows users to express their individuality on social media through Spotify. It’s also a unique feature their competitors don’t have. Coolest of all (for us data nerds): It’s all data-driven, with data you’ve generated yourself.
Eggo: Stranger Things Season 2
Stranger Things has taken over Netflix and is considered to be one the most popular original digital series ever. Eggo capitalized on the character Eleven's obsession with Eggo waffles and turned it into a giant social campaign focused on the Stranger Things season 2 premiere:
— Eggo® (@eggo) October 13, 2017
This achieves two goals:
- Eggo is capitalizing on the popularity of the Stranger Things brand
- …while encouraging people to buy their product in a subtle way.
It’s win-win and you get to binge watch Stranger Things and eat waffles.
KLM: "Happy To Help"
Airline KLM took customer service to new heights with their Happy To Help campaign. They set up a massive control room in a busy airport filled with monitors and staff. The team watched Twitter for complaints from disgruntled travelers —whether they were KLM customers or not—and then offered to help with whatever problems they were having. This included everything from helping track down lost visas to actually delivering a bed to a traveler stuck overnight.
This campaign was effective because it focused on being helpful. It didn’t matter which airline someone was flying on. KLM understands that air travel is often stressful and fraught with mishaps. By making the experience easier, they earned an incredible amount of goodwill from frustrated flyers.
ALS Ice Bucket Challenge
The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge social media campaign took off like a rocket and soared to internet stardom. In 6 weeks the ALS Association raised over 115 million dollars in donations all because people were dumping ice water over their heads.
Why did this campaign work? One was that it wasn't started by the ALS association, people could choose charities to donate to but after a few weeks of posts about ALS, the donations flooded there. The second reason it worked is that it helped raise awareness for a great cause, a key factor in many viral campaigns.
#KnowYourLemons For a Good Cause
The #KnowYourLemons campaign by Worldwide Breast Cancer is a recent viral campaign that helped walk women through screenings for breast cancer. The #KnowYourLemons campaign used lemons to simulate irregularities that women can check for in between their regular mammogram screenings.
This picture taught 2.5m people the 12 symptoms of breast cancer this week. #knowyourlemons #breastcancer #shareIt http://ow.ly/grlb305vrXn
The campaign based on four different infographics was wildly successful due to its knowledgeable nature and subject matter.
Needless to say, fans were a bit excited about getting free product and the brand benefitted with free advertising from its target audience. Companies will find that simple calls to action like this one can expand the reach of a campaign in a hurry.
Apple's #ShotOnIphone Campaign
Apple launched the #ShotOnIphone campaign to show users how the tech giant had updated the camera on the latest version of the iPhone. Amaeture photographers were encouraged to tag their photos with the hashtag and a select few were used as advertising billboards.
#venezia #venice • • • • #igersitalia #agameoftones #vscogrid #vscofeaturing #exklusive_shot #shotoniphone #exploretocreate #welltravelled #sayhello #huffpostgram #natgeotravel #framesofitaly #europe_vacations #adayinitaly #capture_today #vscocam #liveauthentic #socality #passionpassport #freedomthinkers #ilikeitaly #italia365 #instagramitalia #ig_italia #browsingitaly #justgoshoot #awesomeearth #awesomepix
The campaign garnered worldwide attention and helped Apple promote their new product with customer testimony.
Now, Make Your Next Marketing Campaign a Success
Armed with the knowledge in this post, you’ll never say, “I’m just not creative” again. You now know the creative processes and techniques used to generate world-class ideas (even if you’re a small brand—for now).
Has this post inspired you to try creating truly exceptional social media content? Is there anything we missed? Sound off in the comments below.
This was post originally published on June 22nd, 2016. It was updated and republished on Sept. 10, 2018.