There are plenty of free or almost free tools available on the web to the resource strapped marketer innovate their brands, products and even marketing programmes.
Here are a few I have stumbled upon. I have categorised them according to their role within marketing planning.
The first set of tools help ORIENTATE around the challenges and open up spaces to identify opportunities.
1. ANCHORING OURSELVES – WANT CARDS
Before you can go about solving or imagining solutions it’s important to get under the skin of what’s wrong and the best clue towards discovering what the brand or business problem is ,is to ask a simple question of the brand marketing team. WHAT DO YOU WANT?
It’s not always apparent to marketers what needs fixing, at INVITRO we have a set of 50 cards with common WANTS stated on the cards. WANTS range from broad strategic WANTS such as “To be more dictinctive” to the more tactical “to reduce the cost of customer acquisition”. Whatever the WANT, the Invitro cards help marketers get to grips with their true priorities.
2. INSPIRATION TOOLS – PSFK and Springwise are in similiar businesses, they scout the world for new and interesting ideas in a multitude of categories and share these with their user base. Simply sign up to their weekly newsletter to learn more. In fact I believe I discovered many of the innovation ideas listed here on either one of their weekly newsletters.
My only wish is that they would allow me to cache the ideas I find inspirational, in the same way Youtube allows you to put videos in your favourites or on a playlist. This would make it easy for the reader to sort ideas according to a personal meaning or inspiration rather than according to the publishers system.
3. BRAINSTORMING TOOLS FOR BRAND DEVELOPMENT
There are 3 key input areas for Brand Development. The Consumer. The Brand. The Future. We have borrowed from some fairly standard brainstorming tools and applied them to opening up our understanding of these 3 areas as they relate to the business.
For example in exploring THE CONSUMER have tools such “Day in the Life of the Target”. This exercise asks that we capture the story of a day in the life of that target from when they get up to when they go to bed. What they do, who are they with, what are they thinking & feeling, what are they needing, wanting or wishing, what makes it a bad day, what makes it a good day etc. More in these tools here.
The second set of tools start to define the strategic space the brand can live in.
4. CATEGORY / BRAND INNOVATION TRIGGER CARDS
This set of tools are used with an INVITRO process for applying imagination to the design of the brand or experience so as to create something highly compelling. The objective is to drop category assumption and find new space for the brand. The Trigger Cards are designed to provoke or brand thinking. For example: How might famous people or brands manage our brand? What if we broke all the accept rules of our category? And so on.
The third set of tools help generate ideas which will have a medium and short-term impact on the business.
5. PRODUCT INNOVATION TRIGGER CARDS
Product Innovation should be on the agenda for every business. Not just a one-off but an ongoing cycle of searching for inspiration, ideation, evaluating ideas and then executing the best.
INVITRO’S Trigger Cards attempt to mine for new ideas in 3 general areas. Firstly, from the consumer world. We go looking for consumer inspiration to force a connection with our offering to generate an Idea Headline. Secondly we “Borrow Brilliantly” from the best ideas out there in other categories. What if we embraced an unexpected user group? Or we embraced a known negative? And so on. The third area to when we conduct some “Free-wheeling” or more random exercises. What if we paired our product with another product in a different supermarket aisle?
More on these tools here.
6. IDEA MANAGEMENT – NOVITATE
Novitate is a free Innovation management tool. As innovation almost always involves multiple stakeholders, Novitate helps the group keep track of ideas and improvements, and this is all done online.
The fourth set of tools help generate ideas of a more tactical or promotional nature.
7. OPEN SOURCED IDEAS FOR A SMALL FEE – IDEAS WHILE YOU SLEEP AND FRESHLY BRANDED
The new service by Ideas Culture called Ideas While You Sleep is very intriguing. A client sends them a challenge by 4 pm client’s time and a group of brainstormers all over the world will work on the challenge using Ideas Culture’s creativity tools (very smart) and by 8am the next morning the client will have a mountain of ideas. This all for a promotional price of AUD495 (UP AUD880).
Freshly Branded allows anyone to post a request for ideas and anyone can respond. The difference being that the person seeking ideas will pay a stated sum for the best ideas. Freshly Branded offers this service to idea-seekers at USD99.
8. CHILD’S PLAY MARKETING CARDS
Australian ChildsPlay Marketing aims to help business owners create their own marketing campaigns without spending an arm and a leg hiring experts. They offer a set of cards containing 125,000 different marketing ideas. The first deck helps businesses identify the target audience for their campaign. The second offers a variety of potential offers such as promotional sales, samples or new services. The third deck helps business owners choose a communication vehicle. I havent used the cards myself but think at AUD 69 they are worth trying.
The fifth set of tools help make sense of all the ideas generated. These tools assist in refining and evaluating ideas.
9. CONCEPT REFINEMENT – CONCEPT FEEDBACK
Conceptfeedback.com offers free professional feedback on your ideas. Originators of web-sites, brand logos, and other communication materials can post their ideas online and have a group of professionals post feedback on the ideas. All for free. I have both posted ideas and received feedback and provided feedback on other people’s ideas. This crowdsourced feedback really works!
10. ONLINE SURVEY – SURVEY GIZMO
Online survey tools have been around a long time and have some neat new features. I find surveygizmo very useful for testing idea concepts as they allow the loading of images (concept boards). This feature becomes available with account upgrades which are $19 per month.
11. IDEA EVALUATION – NOSCO
Nosco is a software and service company specialized in idea management. Nosco offer an unique idea management tool Idea Exchange. An online suggestion box, where staff can buy shares in ideas. On Idea Exchange, participants can easily publish ideas, read the ideas and buy shares in them. Idea Exchange engages employees in innovation in a fun and relevant way. Participants publish ideas and identify the best through trading. It is about buying shares in the ideas you think are the best. Buy the right shares and you will earn ‘money’ and do well in the competition. People are more honest when they invest, therefore they put more effort into determining which ideas they believe in.
This is certainly not an exhaustive list of tools available, simply ones I have found useful or ones I have generated myself in our Innovation facilitation business.
I am always on the look-out for tools to empower marketing thinking. Do share if you stumble upon any.