Your creative marketing team is like a band. What sound are you agreeing to create?

Creative inspiration is a good thing. Getting on the same page as your creative collaborators is even better.

My original career goal was to be a rockstar. My plan: Drop out of college as soon as my band was discovered at a dingy bar or an even dingier frat house gig by an agent who thought that Holden Caulfield (sigh, I know) was the next big thing.

Well, there’s a reason I’m sitting here today writing this blog post instead. Needless to say, we never caught our big break. But along the way, I learned some valuable lessons that could be applied to my next career goal: being a marketer.

One of those lessons was how to work with creative collaborators. Before heading into a songwriting session, we had a trick that was helpful to get us all into the same creative headspace: We’d each make a mixtape of the tracks that were inspiring us lately. 

That way, we could see where everyone was coming from, what elements we thought should be brought to life, and what we each felt success looked like. Knowing those things helped us better understand each other and created guardrails to respect once the amps were plugged in. We collaborated better as a result, and a similar approach can do the same for marketing teams.

(Of course, all great ideas are formed on a foundation of audience data. If your audience is more complex than a college frat party — which is highly likely — you’ll want to come to a brainstorm with a mutual understanding of who your audience is and what they want. With that as a foundation, you’ll be ready to implement the following exercises.)


Even if you can agree on the insight that drives your campaign planning, bringing it to life can take many different shapes and forms. And if you’re like most marketers, it’s not a solo show; it’s a team effort — more like a band — where the input of different stakeholders with different perspectives and priorities needs to be considered and applied to the final product.

With this in mind, here are some ways your organization can emulate the mixtape approach when brainstorming your next creative campaign or idea:

  • Celebrity lovechild: If your brand could put on a talk show, and you could have three celebrities serve as the hosts, who would they be and why? It’s a simple question that often yields thought-provoking responses in terms of understanding where your colleagues see a brand going and growing. If you have lots of matches on your celebrity list, that’s great — you’re on the same page. If not, that’s great, too — you’ll have wonderful conversations and debates about voice, tone, soul and spirit. 
  • Required reading list: This one is simple. During the planning stages of a campaign or concept, everyone is asked to find relevant articles to share before coming to the first brainstorming session. Whether it’s pieces they admire, best-practices documents relevant to the problem at hand, editorial coverage discussing the issue or even a movie clip, the point is to get others to understand what is influencing you. A required reading list can get the team up to speed not only on everyone’s particular mindsets, but on what’s happening broadly in the marketplace of ideas.
  • Mood board: Think of this as the visual parallel to the required reading list. For one campaign, we went to the Hirshhorn Museum in Washington, D.C. to snap photos of what inspired us most from a visual aesthetic standpoint. And if you don’t have a museum in your backyard, spend time browsing the internet and taking screenshots to post on a slide deck. Some people on your team may struggle to illustrate their thoughts with words, so a visual exercise can be powerful and revealing.
  • Reverse-engineering: Have each person pick a brand or publication that they admire (or want to destroy in competition) and challenge them to walk the group through a reverse-engineering of its success. A critical but comprehensive takedown of a competitor — or an adjacent brand you respect —  can help your team think through details they may have otherwise missed and get them on board with what it takes to succeed in a given space.
  • The secret survey: We all know quiet people bring some of the best ideas to the table. But too often, those ideas go unspoken. A secret survey solves that by asking deep and often taboo or controversial questions in an anonymized setting so that the group can see the results — good, bad or ugly — and have a productive conversation about them. For example, “What is our organization’s Achilles’ heel?”, “What organization or brand do we secretly envy?” or “What would a startup launched tomorrow have to do to totally disrupt us?”.  Too often creative collaborations defer to the HiPPO (Highest Paid Person’s Opinion) and creative ideation suffers. A secret survey can level the playing field of ideas and get your group to the good stuff.

These exercises can go a long way in getting your team not only inspired and engaged, but thinking bigger, bolder, more broadly and more collaboratively as a team. And that will be music to everyone’s ears.

Want Revmade to facilitate our data-informed creative planning process for your next campaign? Drop us a line and we’ll get the music started. R


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