#FreshStorm, The Social Fresh Brainstorm


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Great marketing comes in many shapes and sizes, but often having a story to tell is the key.

A great story sparks from that first idea. An idea that drives your business, your customer, your campaign, your brand.

The problem is coming up with those good ideas over and over again.

In 1953 Alex Faickney Osborn wrote the book Applied Imagination and popularized the term “brainstorming.” The concept is simple, group idea sessions are more effective than individuals working alone to come up with ideas.

Ever since then, every marketing organization and department in the world holds brainstorming sessions to try and create “fresh” new ideas for how to market their service or product.

And yet, rarely do we venture outside our respective four-walled businesses to practice brainstorming with anyone new.

At our most recent Social Fresh WEST conference, we added a new program built around group brainstorming. A competition. An opportunity to practice, to learn from someone new.

We call it #FreshStorm

Short for Social Fresh Brainstorm.

#FreshStorm is a small team brainstorming competition.

The idea for our first #Freshstorm  came about when I was brainstorming (so meta, I know) with the very smart Nicole D’Alonzo (she deserves credit for most of my good ideas). We wanted a way for conference goers to actively use what they were learning that was not cheezy or boring.

The final concept that we landed on both is very simple and very effective.

Social Fresh picks a client. The client a couple dozen small teams about their social media efforts and goals. And then each team competes to brainstorm the best social media strategy for that client and a very specific business objective they put forth as the brief.

Our first iteration of #FreshStorm was in San Diego at Social Fresh WEST 2012 and hosted hundreds of marketers taking part as 8 person teams.

We wanted to flip brainstorming on it’s head a bit, and give our conference attendees a chance to actively think about social marketing challenges.

The Client

Our client was the socially savvy Compassion International (@Compassion), a Christian non-profit focused on helping children out of poverty around the world.

Chris Giovagnoni (@g9ine), Compassion’s Social Media Manager shared with us his first take on the event, “Beyond the association with the Social Fresh brand, #Freshstorm brought freshness to the old, comfortable process of brainstorming. Fresh perspectives. Fresh excitement and energy. And a fresh take on a few ideas that we had considered but decided not to act upon.”

They are a wonderful organization. Not only because what they do day-to-day is a great cause, but they were also perfect for our event because they had a strong base of social marketing know how.

One challenge we foresaw when planning this event is that the client would have to be experienced in social media. We wanted them to be able to take the dozens of social strategy ideas and run with them. And Compassion was ready to do just that.

The Rules

Here is the basic outline of the event:

  1. Small teams meet and get to know each other
  2. Client gives all teams a brief on their social media resources, experience as well as their organizational goals
  3. Teams break out to brainstorm a social strategy for the client over the course of 1-3 hours
  4. Teams wrap up and record a video pitch to the client
  5. The client chooses a winner
  6. Everyone rejoices =)

The event was a great success. And conference attendees had amazing feedback.


The benefits of including the #FreshStorm program were three-fold.

1. Learn through action

For almost four years now, Social Fresh conferences have built in a lot of break time, networking opportunities, and a focus on group learning. We believe that many times you learn just as much when you can talk to peers about concepts in the hallway as when you are taking notes in the conference room.

The next level of that is, of course, putting those ideas into practice. When we can stretch our brains by solving real problems, we cement lessons.

Combine group discussion with active problem solving, and the concepts we take notes on and discuss, reach a new level of education.

“Freshstorm got everyone’s brains involved midstream by breaking away from the lecture/listener pattern,” commented Ari Drougas from Oakley.

2. The value of a team

Many people attend conferences without friends, coworkers, or peers that they know personally. They might meet a few people they sit near or those they network with for a few minutes. And many do actually build professional relationships that last beyond the few days of a physical conference.

However, sitting and talking and working on a project with a handful of other social marketers makes those connections much stronger. People get to know each other better. They are confronted with differing opinions and unique work styles. And they make connections that can add to their support network when they return to their day job.

At Social Fresh conferences, our attendees are diverse. Agencies, vendors, small businesses, startups, and Fortune 500 brands all fill the room. This means our brainstorm teams are diverse as well, and cross functional. Attendees are introduced to new ideas, perspectives, and may even be working along side competitors that they would otherwise never have the opportunity to learn from.


3. Building something for a cause

It is always a very powerful and positive feeling to work on something larger than yourself. Rewarding.

Social marketing, no matter how much passion we may have for the topic, often falls on the corporate, dare I say dreary, side of life. Working on behalf of a non-profit or a municipality, or even just on an exciting brand we would not normally get access to helps mix things up. It helps raise the spirit.

“I loved doing something for a real charity and it just added to my positive feelings about the conference,” said Jean Nelson-Dean of the US Forest Service.


The goal of #FreshStorm was not to produce a complete social strategy that could be taken and implemented verbatim right away by the client. We just don’t have time to go intro that kind of detail.

Our goal is to give the client a ton of great ideas for their future social media marketing efforts.

Hundreds of marketers worked together at Social Fresh WEST. Many mentioned how challenging the activity was, but also how rewarding it was.

Chris of Compassion remarked on stage that they would be able to take something from every single pitch that was created by teams that day. Chris also said the value of the day was hard to calculate, energizing him and his team with new ideas and excitement.

Of all the amazing ideas that the teams came up with, 3 presentations stood out, both in content and presentation.

Here is Nick Cicero now delivering the list of who won the first #FreshStorm to the stage in San Diego. The winning team members all got golden tickets, so he embraced his inner Willy Wonka.

Below is the winning pitch video. You can also check out the two runners up and other pitch videos on the Social Fresh youtube channel here.



The reward of an activity like this comes in many ways. To see people meeting other strangers, networking, and brainstorming together for a good cause is pretty exciting.

Our teams were also not working in a silo. They got briefed by Compassion, got to speak with a representative from the organization and could ask questions. Many of them researched their social presence thoroughly before settling in to brainstorm.

And to know that Compassion will take these ideas and work to make them a reality helps keep the creative juices flowing.

“There were different elements within several campaign ideas that we want to develop. We’re planning to mash them up and incorporate them into campaigns we’re planning to launch,” said Chris of Compassion.

And of course, all the members of the winning team get an awesome prize. We teamed up with successful Kickstarter campaign, Instacube, to put together some custom Instacubes for our winners.

We had a lot of fun with this event. And it was so successful for everyone involved that we are looking for ways to include it in future events.

Maybe we will see you at the next one.



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