8 Must-Try Brainstorming Tools for Innovative Marketers in 2023

Brainstorming is the lifeblood of marketing innovation. According to a study by Lucid, 65% of marketers say running effective brainstorms plays an extremely important role in driving their team‘s overall success. But in today‘s hybrid and remote work environment, facilitating engaging ideation sessions is more challenging than ever.

That‘s where brainstorming tools come in. By providing a shared digital space for teams to generate, capture, and refine ideas, these platforms help marketers unleash their collective creativity—no matter where they‘re located.

So what are the best brainstorming tools to add to your marketing stack this year? Here are our top picks for 2023.

AI-Powered Brainstorming Assistants

While AI can‘t replace human ingenuity, it can certainly augment it. A new crop of AI-driven brainstorming tools use natural language processing and machine learning to help marketers overcome creative blocks and generate fresh ideas faster.

1. HubSpot AI Content Assistant

HubSpot‘s AI Content Assistant is an AI-powered writing tool that helps you brainstorm topics, outlines, and drafts for various content formats, including blog posts, landing pages, emails, and ads. Simply enter a few details about your goals and audience, and the software will generate multiple relevant ideas to choose from.

What sets HubSpot‘s tool apart is its focus on inbound marketing best practices. The AI suggestions are optimized for SEO and conversion, helping you create content that both readers and search engines will love. It‘s an efficient way to kickstart your content brainstorms and flesh out the most promising concepts.

2. Jasper

Jasper (formerly Jarvis) is another popular AI writing assistant with robust features for marketing brainstorming. Its "Creative Story" template prompts you to enter a subject and keywords, and then generates a fictional story packed with imaginative details and metaphors to get your own ideas flowing.

Jasper also lets you define a brand voice for the AI to emulate, ensuring the ideas align with your company‘s style and tone. Plus, it integrates with Surfer SEO to provide real-time guidance for optimizing your content for specific keywords.

According to Jasper‘s data, users report a 2X increase in content output after adopting the tool. That extra efficiency can give your team more bandwidth to focus on high-level strategy and execution.

Virtual Whiteboards for Visual Collaboration

Online whiteboard platforms exploded in popularity during the pandemic as a way for distributed teams to brainstorm together in real time. These tools provide a flexible, visual canvas for sketching ideas, building mind maps, diagramming concepts, and more.

3. Miro

Miro is one of the most powerful and popular virtual whiteboard tools on the market. It offers an intuitive drag-and-drop interface for adding text, shapes, images, sticky notes, and other elements to an infinite canvas.

One standout feature of Miro is its extensive template library. It offers over 200 pre-built templates for common brainstorming techniques and frameworks, such as mind mapping, brainwriting, SWOT analysis, and design sprints. This can help provide structure and inspiration for your sessions.

Miro also integrates with a variety of other tools marketers use daily, including Jira, Trello, Slack, Microsoft Teams, and Google Workspace. This allows you to easily export brainstorming output into project management and communication platforms for seamless execution.

4. MURAL

Like Miro, MURAL provides a collaborative digital whiteboard with built-in brainstorming templates and facilitation features. However, it has a few unique selling points that make it popular with enterprise marketing and design teams.

For one, MURAL offers "Facilitation Superpowers™" which allow meeting organizers to control participant permissions, voting options, timer visibility, and anonymous idea submission. It also provides a unique "summon" feature that brings all participants to the same area of the canvas for moments when the facilitator needs everyone‘s attention.

Additionally, MURAL boasts enterprise-grade security and compliance certifications, including GDPR, CCPA, and SOC 2 Type 2. For marketing teams in sensitive or regulated industries, this added peace of mind can be a deciding factor.

Note-Taking with Networked Thought

While straightforward note-taking apps like Evernote and OneNote can certainly be used for brainstorming, a new wave of tools aim to better support the non-linear nature of idea generation through bidirectional linking and networked thought.

5. Roam Research

Roam Research is a note-taking tool built for discovering and connecting ideas. It allows you to easily create bidirectional links between notes, so you can explore related concepts without losing context.

For example, let‘s say you‘re brainstorming ideas for a new product launch. In Roam, you might create a page for the overall launch strategy, and then link to separate pages for sub-components like messaging, pricing, and promotion. Each of those pages can then link back to the main strategy note, as well as to other related ideas.

This networked structure makes it easy to build relationships between concepts and spot new opportunities. Roam‘s powerful outlining and graphing features also help you construct narratives and visualize your ideas.

While Roam has a bit of a learning curve, many innovative thinkers swear by its ability to augment brainstorming and creative problem solving. The company even offers a course called "Roam for Marketers" to help bring new users up to speed.

6. Obsidian

Obsidian is another popular networked thought tool that can supercharge your marketing brainstorms. Like Roam, it allows you to create complex webs of linked notes. But Obsidian is open source and infinitely customizable, with a library of user-created plugins for everything from kanban boards to word counting.

One unique feature of Obsidian is the "local graph" view, which shows a visual map of how the current note connects to others in your knowledge base. This can help surface relevant context and inspire new trains of thought during brainstorming sessions.

Obsidian also stands out for its strong privacy and security features. All your data is stored locally in Markdown files, so you have complete ownership and control. For marketing teams concerned about the security of their intellectual property, this can provide added peace of mind.

Brainstorm on a Budget with Free Tools

Powerful brainstorming tools don‘t have to be expensive. These free options provide robust features at no cost.

7. Notion

Notion is a flexible workspace tool that can handle everything from note-taking to project management to brainstorming. While the base version is free for individuals, Notion recently launched a native AI writing assistant that can help you generate outlines and ideas right within your workspace.

One of Notion‘s key selling points for marketers is its customizable templates. The platform offers a variety of pre-built setups for content calendars, copy libraries, user research databases, and more. You can also easily create your own templates to streamline brainstorming for recurring use cases.

Notion‘s free plan includes unlimited pages and blocks, making it a cost-effective option for individual marketers or small teams. Paid plans start at $8 per user per month and include advanced features like version history, collaborative editing, and admin tools.

8. Milanote

Milanote is a free visual collaboration tool that combines the flexibility of a notebook with the structure of a pinboard. You can easily drag and drop notes, images, links, and files onto the canvas, and then organize them into groups and hierarchies.

One neat feature of Milanote is the ability to add "connections" between elements on the board. Draw lines or arrows to indicate relationships between ideas, or use colored tags to categorize them. You can also create private or shared boards for solo and collaborative brainstorming.

Milanote‘s free plan includes 100 notes, images, and links, plus basic sharing features. Paid plans start at $9.99 per month and offer unlimited storage, plus additional privacy and export options.

The Power of Brainstorming Templates

Templates can be a brainstormer‘s best friend, providing a structured starting point to get the ideas flowing. In fact, a study by the University of California found that teams using a template generated 50% more ideas than those who started from scratch.

Most of the tools on this list come with built-in template libraries for popular brainstorming techniques like mind mapping, SWOT analysis, and design sprints. Using these templates can help ensure you‘re asking the right questions and considering all angles of a problem.

Of course, templates are just a starting point. The best brainstormers know how to use them as a springboard for creative thinking, not a rigid box. Don‘t be afraid to customize templates to fit your specific needs and mental models.

Brainstorming vs. Brainwriting

Brainstorming and brainwriting are two distinct ideation techniques that each have their own strengths and use cases.

Brainstorming is a more verbal and spontaneous approach, with participants calling out ideas in real time. It‘s best suited for generating a large quantity of top-of-mind ideas quickly. However, brainstorming can sometimes be dominated by the loudest voices in the room, causing quieter members to hold back.

Brainwriting, on the other hand, asks participants to silently write down their ideas before sharing with the group. This ensures everyone has equal opportunity to contribute, and can lead to more diverse and well-developed ideas. However, brainwriting may not have the same energy and momentum as verbal brainstorming.

Many of the collaborative whiteboard tools on this list support both approaches, with features like virtual sticky notes for brainwriting and video chat for real-time brainstorming. The best approach often involves a mix of both techniques, such as starting with a few minutes of quiet brainwriting before discussing as a group.

Choosing the Right Brainstorming Tools

With so many great options on the market, how do you choose the right brainstorming tools for your marketing team? Here are a few key factors to consider:

  • Collaboration features: Look for tools that support both real-time and asynchronous collaboration, with features like commenting, voting, and version control.

  • Flexibility: The best brainstorming tools provide a blank canvas for freeform ideation, while also offering structure through templates and frameworks.

  • Integration: Consider how well each tool integrates with the other platforms in your marketing stack, such as project management software and content creation tools.

  • Accessibility: Make sure all team members can easily access and use the tools you choose, regardless of their location or device.

  • Security: If you‘re dealing with sensitive information, look for tools with strong security and compliance features like encryption and access controls.

Ultimately, the right mix of brainstorming tools will depend on your team‘s specific needs and workflows. Don‘t be afraid to experiment with a few different options to see what clicks. Many of the tools on this list offer free trials or freemium versions, so you can test them out before committing.

Brainstorm Better with the Right Tech Stack

In today‘s fast-paced and highly competitive marketing landscape, the ability to consistently generate winning ideas is a major strategic advantage. By leveraging the latest brainstorming tools and techniques, you can tap into your team‘s collective creativity and stay ahead of the curve.

From AI-powered writing assistants to collaborative whiteboard platforms to networked note-taking tools, technology can help you capture and develop your best ideas more efficiently than ever. Brainstorming templates can offer a running start, while understanding the pros and cons of different ideation approaches ensures you‘re using the right tool for the job.

Of course, tools are only as effective as the minds wielding them. Choosing the right tech is just one part of building a culture of innovation and creative problem solving.

But one thing‘s for sure: with the wealth of powerful brainstorming tools now at our fingertips, we‘ve never been better equipped to tackle marketing‘s biggest challenges with imagination and ingenuity. So go forth and brainstorm! Your next breakthrough idea awaits.