You need A Big Idea. A Better Idea.

It’s time for a new loan promotion, and you need A Big Idea. A Better Idea, a capital-I IDEA that gets better results than last time. Something new, something fresh, that gets members’ attention. Something that helps them think about possibilities, then take action.

So why is your notepad still mostly blank except for a few cat doodles?

Some of your ideas may be holding you back

You may be a victim of your own thinking. An idea that comes too easily is suspect. An idea that takes awhile to hatch is too convoluted. Something that clicks between you and your friend only draws a blank look when you share it with others. Whenever you start having second thoughts, set it aside and come back to it later.

You may be getting too many opinions from too many people. But getting buy-in from everyone is the right thing to do, um, right? Unfortunately, large committees are creativity-killers. The more people you ask, the more traditional and boring your idea will become. Just ask any statistician.

You may be taking too much on yourself. Just because you were hired to be The Marketing Department at your credit union, that doesn’t mean you will always be able to seamlessly bounce from social media to a membership campaign, find time to update the website, and still come up with an amazing concept for that loan promotion. Go to a marketing conference and connect with other marketers. Get some professional help (hint, hint).

You may be bored. Something completely new has to be better, right? Well, not always. Sometimes a little structure helps.

For several years we created a series of twice-a-year car loan promotion for one of our clients, featuring everything from a monkey driving a banana to a robot driving a spaceship. Even something that unique (okay, strange — but consistently strange) meant that as soon as members saw the promo, they recognized it as being from the CU. When we finally did change things up, we moved to a superheroes theme with the same multi-year extension potential. (And they crushed their sales goal, even after setting it ridiculously high.)

So, where do great ideas originate?

Some people think that ideas happen as a bolt out of the blue. Charles Darwin claimed his theory of evolution was an epiphany. But when researchers went through his notes, they found that he had basically written everything down months before. So you could even say his theory, er, evolved over time.

While some people give credit to the caffeine jolt from coffee, others claim their best ideas happen in the shower when their mind is calmer.

Already had your shower and caffeine fix? Try brainstorming with a small group. As long as you assemble a diverse group with open minds, you can start building on each other’s ideas to come up with something amazing.

Prefer to start with something more specific? Try working through these five patterns as a way to boost creativity:

  • Delete something that seemed essential at first
  • Give a component an additional job it wasn’t designed to do  
  • Copy a component, but change it in different ways
  • Divvy it up, then add it back in a different arrangements
  • Change one part and see how it affects something else

Or maybe think about bringing in some outside resource? I know of one agency that has ideas right there in its name