Thinking outside the box can produce many different results. Some of them have changed the world – Nikola Tesla’s many unsung inventions, for instance – while others are a bit cringe-worthy. Great ideas float adrift in a sea of mistakes and missteps. The key to developing an innovative, exciting new content marketing campaign lies in taking risks and braving failures.

This bubble map is outta control.

You never know where a bubble map might take you!

Brainstorm

Brainstorming is always the starting place, but since we’re thinking outside the box, let’s take a departure from the norm. First, compile all the nouns relevant to your subject. Nouns are what will provide the concrete for your new ideas. Next, create the perfect (brain)storm: grab a whiteboard and make a bubble map. Don’t discount any ideas or words you may come up with; you never know when a bolt of inspiration might strike. Print out images of all the nouns you’ve compiled, and piece them together like a puzzle. Try pulling three of the images out of a hat, blindly, and finding a way to fit them together. Now you’re already starting to think about your subject a little differently; you’re teaching your mind how to hop out of its rut onto a brand-new path.

Exercise Absurdity

Be sure to embrace any ludicrous ideas that might be born of your brainstorming session. Absurdity is what catches the eye; it’s what drives shocking, oft-clicked headlines; it’s what we, as humans, are drawn to, and it’s what we like to share with one another and discuss. Skittles Canada launched a campaign encouraging consumers to share their content in exchange for virtual Skittles – the grand prize of one million Skittles being somewhat ludicrous. But it’s a genius idea, really: not only were people encouraged to make the brand’s video go viral, but with this strategy, Skittles equates its candy with commerce. The customer begins to associate the product with something of great value – money – and the brand benefits in every way. Such a haughty move might seem dangerous to the untrained eye, but this purveyor of fruity candies took a weird risk that paid off.

Stay Open-Minded

You’re guiding your brand into unknown territory, and it may make you feel anxious. You’ve never gone this direction before; what if it fails? Keep in mind that unless your path is a controversial one, it can’t go that badly. Feel free to start slowly – a blog post here, a social update there – and measure the impact and response it garners.

Look for Inspiration Everywhere

Don’t wait for inspiration to find you; go looking for it! Research emerging trends for your target audience. Conduct covert espionage missions on your competitors and consider how you can tweak and improve their strategies. Check out what’s on the New York Times Bestsellers list; your research doesn’t have to be done at your desk. Inspiration can strike at any moment, so put yourself in as many unfamiliar situations as possible to seek it out.

A.) Brainstorm. B.) Refine. C.) Deliver!

Don’t Be Afraid to Experiment

Inbound marketing doesn’t drain the bank account in the same way expensive outbound marketing campaigns can. Social media marketing is one of the most effective ways to market your product, and it’s completely free. Try out a few of your ideas to measure the response. With a few well-placed and coordinated blogs, emails, and social updates, you can get a good idea of how your new scheme is working – and if it’s not, trying a new tactic doesn’t result in a huge loss.

Keep Your Goals in Mind

The entire point of content marketing is to attract and engage your potential customers. You’re luring them into your world quietly, not shouting at them from billboards; if all you offer is the same-old same-old, how can you entice them toward your product or service? Take some time to think outside the box, do what you can to stand out, and broaden your mind to reach your target audience in a new and authentic way.