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Stimulate Your Search Marketing Creativity With the Random Input Technique – Vitruvian Advertising
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Stimulate Your Search Marketing Creativity With the Random Input Technique

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tarot-knight-swordSearch marketing is often a logical, market-driven endeavor. We can identify our prospects’ wants and needs, survey our competition, tweak and test ads and copy, and iteratively and ploddingly improve our creativity and our results.

But sometimes we get stuck. Our tweaks all start looking the same. We obsess over punctuation rather than significant differences in messaging.

We’ve tried all the ad angles we can think of, and we’re still not making progress. What then?

When we find ourselves in a search marketing rut, it’s time to get a bit creative.

Now, I’m not talking about full-blown “Mad Men” creative: brainstorming sessions fueled by pop psychology and copious amounts of mind-altering liquids and solids. Direct marketing gives us enough direction that thinking that far out of the box usually moves us away from relevance and connection with our market.

Instead, we can inject small, critical doses of creativity that get us over the hump, that restore our momentum as we move ever closer to mind-melding with our market.

Give Your Brain a Strategic Jolt

The random input technique is by far my favorite “go-to” means of finding my way out of a mental quagmire.

Basically, I sit with my problem until I’m confident that I’m going around in circles, thinking the same thoughts over and over again.

Let’s say I’m selling a local organic vegan food delivery service. I can recite the benefits in my sleep:

  • Convenience
  • Improved health
  • Taste
  • Environmental stewardship
  • Status – be a role model for your friends and coworkers
  • Cost – cheaper than eating out or getting prepared food from a health food store
  • Break addictions and transition easily to a better diet

I’ve been writing and rewriting ads and copy around these benefits for a while, and the campaign is stalled and I’m feeling stale.

Introduce Some Randomness

It’s just like it sounds. Rather than continuing to think predictable thoughts, generated automatically and identically in reaction to the same cues, I deliberately introduce an unknown element into my thinking, and I take it very seriously.

For example, I can reach into my bookshelf, open a random book to a random page and jab my finger at a random sentence. I read it aloud, and consider how it relates to my marketing challenge.

Here’s an actual random sentence, taken from random book of children’s stories: “And the boy said, ‘He is ugly, and no mistake.’

OK, I’ve got to take that seriously now. The obvious suggestion here is to focus on vanity, to tell my prospects that they’ll look better when eating a clean, plant-based diet. So I jot that down. But I want to go deeper.

The boy said.

There’s a child’s voice inside each of us. What is that child’s voice saying about food in the deepest recesses of my prospects’ minds?

Maybe, “Food is yummy. Food is fun. Food isn’t a big serious thing, like worrying about saving the world and not getting sick and not being overweight.”

That’s much more interesting. We adults get so serious, so worried, so judgmental about food. What if I can invoke a childlike sense of fun and lightness and wonder in my marketing?

Now my juices are flowing again. I can talk about:

  • The excitement of surprising flavors and new ingredients: farro, amaranth, quinoa.
  • Discovering a whole new way of eating and relating to food, like when we were little and every day held the possibility of new tastes and textures.
  • Going back to childhood, weaning ourselves off of processed foods and cold cuts, and cleaning our palate so we can enjoy nature’s finest foods with our original taste buds.

More Ways to Get Random

You can also find random input from card decks, including regular playing cards (what are your associations with the 7 of clubs or the queen of hearts?) and tarot cards, which are much richer in visual imagery.

Another fun random input generator is the Random Article link in the left navbar of every Wikipedia page. My random page for this experiment was the Canadian politician Claude Forget. He’s quoted, “Our political system itself reaches a position of equilibrium by generating such dysfunctional incentives.”

I can use that quote to explain why people are stuck in their diets and health status because of all the dysfunctional incentives to eat cheap, low-quality foods, and that our meal plans are the means of upsetting that equilibrium and freeing ourselves.


Next time you’re feeling stuck and need some inspiration, get random to stimulate your creativity.

What’s your favorite technique to get your creative juices flowing?


(This article by Howie Jacobson was originally posted on Search Engine Watch.)

Image Credit: Sigo Paolini/Flickr


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