How Brands are Like HS Seniors


Imagine your Super Bowl spot airing the same commercial break as 35K other ads from competing brands

That’s about how many essays admission counselors at my son’s first-choice college will be reading.

Here’s a brainstorm hack that helped him write a more original response to a typical essay prompt. For those not in application hell, try using it to spark fresh content ideas. Just pretend your brand is the “applicant “and “the essay prompt” is the topic you need to creatively communicate.

What are the 10 most common ways to answer the essay prompt?

  • My son made a list of 10 ways the prompt could be answered by others in his senior class. Content Creators: List 10 common story lines on the desired topic. No cheating via Google, until you’ve listed at least five on your own.   

What are 5 interesting ways you could answer the essay prompt that wouldn’t describe you at all?

  • Again, he wrote a list – because I believe writing down vs. just thinking out loud clears an idea from your head, making room for the next. This is especially true when solo- ‘storming. Content Creators: List 5 story lines that wouldn’t be right for your brand. Think in ways that are too provocative, too conservative, too modern, too artisan, too something…

How might you have answered the essay prompt differently when you were a freshman vs. senior?

  • This question helps re-frame the prompt in a way that mines for own-able experiences and perspectives not easily considered. In my son’s case, it reminded him of a funny dilemma he has dealt with his whole life.
Content Creators: What type of content – both in story line and delivery methods would you have created 5 or even 10 years ago? Think how your brand, products, technology and audiences have evolved. Be sure to write it down.

Why it Works? The process of quickly generating such a variety of specific, but “not perfect” ideas, boost creative confidence, while giving subconscious more time/stimuli for an authentic, unexpected response. After answering the three questions, throw awayyour list and start brainstorming your solution for real.

Did it Work?  I’ll let you know in January, but I did love the resulting essay. And you let me know if the questions speed your content creation brainstorming.

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