I’ve run plenty of B2B branding workshops over the years. Big Ideas come out of them, whether they’re team-building or educational exercises for corporate marketing departments or brand creation/makeover projects of all sizes – but it’s all about picking the winners.

Energizing ideas
One thing that never ceases to amaze me, however, is just how many ideas workshop participants can come up with – if, that is, they are promised a no-pressure context and they have the skilled direction of an external facilitator who can help with exercises and tools to encourage ideation.

Given free rein in this way, workshop participants get highly enthusiastic about the way their company’s key stories could be told. That’s great energy, for sure. But throwing more and more ideas on the table can quickly develop into a problem. Which of the ideas will work? Which might not? Which can most easily be expressed in words and visuals? And will they work in an international arena?

Picking winners
I guess if there’s one skill that’s particularly useful when sifting through all those ideas, it’s the ability to almost instantly pick the winners, saving time and possibly money in doing so. And, frankly, that’s not something the in-house marketing team is used to doing – not for something as important as a corporate brand, at least.

It’s impossible to say, in any systematic way, what it is that characterizes a winning brand idea. Would anyone in a B2B marketing department have approved “We’re No. 2 – we try harder”? How would that be likely to resonate in an engineer-dominated industry sector, for example? But sometimes, just sometimes, something unexpected might turn out to be a little gold mine.

Powerful story
In perhaps the most extreme example I’ve been involved with, a workshop for a large pharmaceutical company came to the conclusion that the most meaningful and powerful story to tell would, in fact, involve completely banishing the key disease the company was set up to address. Removing the disease from the planet would, effectively, leave the company without further purpose. It was a bold move that was ultimately (and surprisingly quickly) approved by the company’s board as a key branding message.

There’s more to come
This post is the first in a three-part series about the benefits of interactive workshops to inspire effective B2B storytelling, create strong creative concepts and develop your skills. Next up is exploring whether a branding workshop is your next team-building event.