3 Old School Copywriter Tricks for Finding New Ideas

by Derryck Strachan · 22 comments

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This is a guest post courtesy of Derryck of BigStarCopywriting.com. (Love the spelling of his name, don’t you?)

He approached me about writing a guest post for BGB, and when he offered this particular topic, I thought it a great fit and so immediately agreed.

I’ve been struggling a bit myself in the creativity department, not really from lack of ideas, but lack of motivation.

However, I know MANY who struggle in the idea department as well, and so… Derryck’s tips just might help you find a break through!

If they do, or you have tips of your own, I invite you to share them in the comments area below and make Derryck feel welcome. Peace dorks!

Everyone producing web content eventually hits the idea wall.

You know what I’m talking about.

It’s that moment when no matter how hard you bash your head against the problem, the ideas just won’t come.

It happens whether you’re blogging, writing landing pages, or sending out monthly e-mail newsletters.

And boy, can it hurt.

Fortunately for us copywriters and bloggers, the advertising writers of yore figured out some cool ways to find new ideas without the lumps and bumps.

Rules for Ideas

You don’t have to rely on random inspiration or wait for a Eureka moment to arrive. Creative thinking and creative copywriting are possible to achieve regularly and during working hours. You just need practice and discipline.

Here are some rules to follow when trying any brainstorming technique:

  • Be quick and get out all your ideas before you think about them – over thinking kills good ideas.
  • Reserve judgement – trying to decide if an idea is “good or bad” is a creativity killer.
  • Have fun – stressing about your deadline will dry up your ideas faster than Arizona sun; have fun while coming up with the concepts and save the worry for when you are editing your writing.

Now that we’ve got some ground rules down, let’s look at these three “old school” copywriter tricks to find ways of breaking new ground in your business, your creativity, and your writing.

Combine Ideas & Cross-Breed Unrelated Concepts

As we Brits say, do what it says on the tin. Bring together two ideas or concepts, or even normally disassociated things.

Take Danny Iny’s post Desperate Housewives on Writing, Storytelling, and Selling here on BGB. I don’t know Danny personally, but I can tell that by combining Desperate Housewives with “writing and selling”, Danny found a previously untapped idea vein and writing that post was probably pretty easy once he’d found the idea.

Combining works well for using up the folder, notepad or drawer filled with half-ideas and one-liners that haven’t gone anywhere. Take two, combine them together and see what comes out. Fun and productive!

If you’re struggling to find interesting ways of describing your service or product, try combining elements and fill in the blank in a quick brainstorm. Write out a grid and add your product attributes to one axis.

Then write an opposite or unrelated attribute on the other access. Look at each box in the grid and quickly combine the concepts to get a bunch of answers. Speed is of the essence here, so don’t over think it.

We’re going to try this for coffee.

What did you come up with?

In the first row I had: (nothing); wood smoke; apple
Second row: Eggs; candy floss; water
Third row: (nothing); dark chocolate, peanuts; banana

I must be hungry!

The point here is that I found some new and interesting creative routes for my coffee brand. Perhaps instead of the usual “pleasant aroma” thing, I could write about how “the first scent of a CoffeeBrand morning brew lingers like campfire smoke in your coat.” Or that it’s so mild it’s “like candy floss at the carnival.”

Oh! That’s given me a new product idea: coffee-flavoured candy floss!

Adapt and Find Another Hit

Most creativity blogs will tell you to look at your most popular posts or those of your favourite blog and to adapt those topics to suit your own purposes.

Thus “1001 cake recipe ideas” can become “101 gift giving ideas”.

Look at your previous blog posts that have done well or email newsletters that had a high conversion rate. Can you adapt those pieces in a way that brings out a fresh idea?

Is there a new twist you can put on an old idea? Going back to the coffee; what if we adapted the traditional attributes so that instead of “pleasant aroma”, our coffee had a “pleasant bitterness”? Or “tasteful aroma”?

Substitute One Attribute for Another

Imagine if Danny Iny had used Grey’s Anatomy instead of Desperate Housewives? How would his post have differed? (Could be an interesting re-write experiment Danny.)

Try replacing all or part of your product or service description with something else. If you normally describe how to operate your product, do the opposite and describe how not to operate it.

Take a great previous blog post idea and substitute the situation and topic. This post I’m writing today could then be “4 Business School Lessons for Finding Success”. There are endless substitutions you can make and endless possibilities.

Forget the Wall and Go Around It

I hope this has helped you find some new ways to go around your creative walls rather than trying to go through them.

Remember, finding interesting ideas for writing is supposed to be fun, so enjoy the process. If you aren’t finding good material, then keep trying until you do. I promise, ideas will come.

Word. 🙂 A’aight, so if you liked this post, found it useful, or just have a blog crush on me (or Derryck!), feel free to share this post with your pals. I make it easy with all the share buttons, and it only takes a minute. ‘Toodaloo!

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