There are some guidelines that marketing strategists follow and think about when they are staring at a blank piece of paper looking for the next big idea. Anyone who has been on that side of the desk knows there are times when you need some solid principles to keep you on track. Here are 6 questions that can bring clarity to the project at hand.

1. What is the primary brand story you are delivering?
The story should be based on the brand’s primary benefits that your customer wants. If the program is going to have real impact you need a concept that can spawn many renditions, like the Got Milk? campaign from the California Milk Processor Board or Nike’s Just Do It campaign that has gone on for years. If your idea works only with the headline and visual you envision keep thinking.

2. What is the primary brand visual for the program?
The visual should add something new, interesting and arresting to the overall communication. If all it does is repeats what the headline has already said you have a weak visual on your hands.

3. What is your competition been saying?
Knowing what your top competitors are promoting is essential to developing a winning marketing program. Without knowing can be very dangerous, particularly if you start on a me-to track that you could lose.

4. What hooks do you want to make available in each promotion?
Every promotion needs at least one primary call to action and a couple other requests, like more information, sales call, download, etc., to choose from. This allows the communication to become two-way and grow into a real conversation.

5. Do you really understand who my best target customers are and what they want?
A common mistake marketers make is not knowing enough about their best customers because they don’t spend enough time asking them what makes them happy, and unhappy. A good place to start is simply asking them straightforward questions. You might be amazed at what you will learn.

6. Does my idea intrude or copy someone else’s?
It’s amazing how many campaigns copy other campaigns. They look the same, sound the same, read the same, and even present the same. If this is you, stop it! The only company you’re helping is your competition that branded the concept in the first place.

If you’ll follow these simple guidelines the next time you create a marketing program you are more likely to create a new campaign, as opposed to copying an existing one.