One of the most daunting parts of a project can be the brainstorming, or copywriting concepting, process. Concepting can feel like a mystical process, conjuring brilliance out of nothing or mixing a magical potion. (I suppose in some ways it is kind of magical, since you’ll use just three ingredients—you, your design partner, and the brief—to produce your ideas. Sometimes it may just be you!)
Don’t like this idea of it being magical or mystical intimidate you. Sure, you’re trying to come up with great, new, unique ideas, but there’s also a process you can follow to help generate those ideas.
1. Start with the Creative Brief
To begin with, you can’t concept without a good creative brief. Absolutely everything you come up with is going to be based on the brief and the benefits, audience, business objectives and other elements laid out there. Think of the brief as a road map: If you don’t have a good road map, how on earth are you going to actually get anywhere new?
So, to start: Read the brief very carefully. Make sure you understand absolutely everything in it. Missing a key point in the brief could lead you to come up with a great concept…that doesn’t deliver on what you were asked for.
2. Ask Yourself These Questions
Ask yourself what the main message you need to convey is. Don’t worry about perfect language, just identify what you need the audience to understand. Next, you want to approach the message from several different angles. This is where the real concepting process begins.
To start opening up your mind and coming up with ideas, ask yourself and your design partner any (or all) of these questions:
What’s the expected way to convey the message? Unexpected?
What is the funny/clever way to convey it? Serious? Sad? Upscale? Absurd?
What angles can approach the message from? What are elements of this message that lend itself to a story or a narrative?
If you had to explain it to a child, how would you do it?
If you had to come up with a metaphor for it, what would it be?
What are other words for the words you’ve been using?
What’s the most outlandish way you could convey it?
3. Bounce Ideas Off Your Collaborators
Concepting with your design partner should be entirely 50/50. You should both be contributing equally and, at the same time, you should be coming up with ideas for images and your design partner should also be coming up with ideas for phrases or lines. The concepting process is very loose and open and you should welcome all kinds of ideas from both of you.
If you’re working on a project without a designer, it helps to have a community of fellow copywriters you can bounce your ideas off of! Comprehensive Copywriting Academy students know they can share ideas and get feedback on coaching calls or in the student-only Facebook group.
4. Keep All Ideas on the Table to Start
Try not to rein in your ideas too much at this point. Especially at the beginning of your concepting session, you’re really just throwing out anything you can come up with. Don’t be worried that an idea isn’t a good one, just get it out there. You want to start with big, wild, push-the-boundaries ideas and then hone them in later in your session.
It’s always much easier to start big and then rein an idea in, than to start with a little idea and try to make it bigger.
At the very least, at this point you should have some interesting ideas. More likely, though, these questions will have helped you to pursue a few tangents and generate more and more ideas.
5. Focus on Your Top Ideas
Toward the end of your brainstorming process, you’ll need to review all of your ideas and compare them against the brief. Which measure up best to the needs of the project? If you’ve been tasked to come up with a few different concepts, you’ll probably want to select a few along the spectrum from “safe” to “out there.”
You may opt to choose two or three concepts to explore. As you dig in, you may find that one idea is the strongest and present that to your client. Or you may find a couple of ideas are strong and present your client two options. You always want to go to your client with your recommendation. Remember: you can always save the others in your back pocket if a client asks if you explored other angles!
Then, when you’ve decided on your concept(s) it’s time to split up and get to your copywriting…and let the next phase of magic begin … outlining the copy and then writing it!
Your turn! Are there any other questions you always ask yourself while brainstorming/concepting? Let us know in the comments below!
Last Updated on May 12, 2022 by Kate Sitarz