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It’s fantastic to have Woody Bendle back on the Brainzooming blog after too long away with an admonition to consider going opposite with your new product innovation strategy. Here’s Woody! 

New Product Innovation Strategy – Go Opposite by Woody Bendle

If you are a student or practitioner of new product innovation strategy, you are undoubtedly familiar with the “Go Opposite” strategy.  If you are neither however, the Go Opposite new product innovation strategy is a specific example of an innovation technique sometimes called “Challenge Existing Conventions” that seeks innovation opportunities by going after sacred cows – or purposefully diverging from the herd.

I have recently come across a terrific example that really drives home the Go Opposite new product innovation strategy in running shoes. Consider this depiction of 40 years of running shoes:

Running-Shoe-Trends

From the 1970s through the late 2000s, the prevailing trend in running shoes was the evolution and advancement of materials and technologies.  Shoes became more constructed with better out and midsoles that were designed for runners with different gates and foot-strike patterns.

In 2009, Christopher MacDougall’s book Born to Run (affiliate link) unleashed the “Go Opposite” trend of minimalism and for the next five or so years, nearly every running shoe company introduced an array of minimalism innovations that were designed to emulate the feeling of being barefoot – without actually being barefoot.

Right about the same time as the release of Born to Run, a completely different type of running shoe company started up called Hoka One One.  Rather than following the prevailing trend of minimalism, Hoka (affiliate link) innovated by Going Opposite and produced running shoes with maximal cushioning.  And, for going opposite when it comes to its new product innovation strategy, they have been rewarded with a ton of awards and accolades.

Regardless of the market that you happen to compete in, it is always important to understand the prevailing trends driving your industry.  But just remember, chasing the prevailing trend is usually a pretty crowded space and some terrific innovative opportunities regularly exist by exploring the opposite direction! Woody Bendle

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woody-bendleThe last few days, I’ve been enjoying some incredible BBQ ribs from customer experience strategy and innovation expert Woody Bendle.

And let me tell you: as smart as Woody is about branding and innovation, he’s just as great making ribs! I paired Woody’s ribs with barbeque sauce my wife makes from the recipe at the restaurant my parents used to own, and WOW!

Even though I can’t share the ribs with all of you, they inspired me to put together a retrospective of Woody’s blog posts on Brainzooming. He’s always a popular guest author, and since he hasn’t been able to write as much for the Brainzooming blog this year, I wanted to make sure our newest readers knew about all of Woody’s great content.

So without delay, dive in to Woody’s great strategic thinking, while I have one more meal of diving into Woody’s great barbeque!

Brand Strategy

Customer Focus and Customer Experience

Innovation

Strategic Thinking and Creative Thinking

Business Rants

Potpourri

 

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Download the free ebook, “Taking the NO Out of InNOvation” to help you generate fantastic creative thinking and ideas! For an organizational innovation success boost, contact The Brainzooming Group to help your team be more successful by rapidly expanding strategic options and creating innovative plans to efficiently implement. Email us at info@brainzooming.com or call us at 816-509-5320 to learn how we can deliver these benefits for you.

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Data-savvy marketing & innovation expert, Woody Bendle takes a look in this guest post at the relationship between customer centricity and growth, or more specifically the lack of both among a select group of traditional retailers.

And just so you know, beyond being a fantastic resource on brand strategy and innovation, Woody has set a new high bar for guest contributors at Brainzooming. He delivered this most recent guest blog post along with a slab of his homebbqed ribs! So, for all the people who send us emails about wanting to guest post with “incredible, unique content,” the question is, “How good are you at grilling?”

Now, here’s Woody!  

 

Brand Strategy – Customer Centricity and Growth by Woody Bendle

Many of America’s largest retailers recently reported financial results falling short of analysts’ (and undoubtedly their own) expectations.  The table below recaps the highlights (or low lights) among select national retailers.

Retail-Q1-2014

Many of them attributed this winter’s unusually cold weather and continuing economic struggles among core customers for their economic shortfalls.  But digging deeper into their numbers shows more to the story. Many of America’s largest retailers are finding it much harder to generate profitable growth in the traditional manner, which has been opening stores in new (domestic and international) markets, expanding product assortments, and becoming more effective and efficient through operational and executional improvements.  Or as I like to say, just getting bigger and better.

The graphic below, which I use when discussing business growth strategy, illustrates the concept of growing a business is pretty straight forward. As the businesses above demonstrated this past quarter, however, it isn’t always easy.

Growth-Framework

To grow any business, you have four options:

  1. Get existing customers to buy more of current products or services
  2. Get new customers (i.e., in different markets) to buy current products or services
  3. Develop or find new products or services for existing customers
  4. Develop or find new products or services for entirely new customers

For roughly fifty years, growth path for nearly all of the retailers above has focused on cells A, B, and to some extent C (i.e.,  Walmart and Target expansions into grocery).  For much of this time, most of these businesses have had incredible success, but growth has become harder the past several years.

What’s changed?

Two things that are fundamentally different about today’s business environment:

1. Market power has shifted away from many businesses to the consumer, due to radical decreases in the costs associated with information and geography.

The internet and mobile technologies have greatly improved the consumer’s ability to be better informed (about alternatives and competitive prices globally) and have enabled disruptive businesses to emerge (i.e., amazon.com – note its 26% growth in North America this past quarter). These have diminished the need for customers to travel to a physical store to make a purchase.

2. The great recession fundamentally changed the consumer mindset, resulting in a “new normal” in consumer behavior.

This is best summed up by The Future’s Company:“Consumers everywhere … are working from a new orientation about what they want and how they buy… [They] are now battle hardened, having found ways to survive and even thrive on the new opportunities a more competitive market has yielded.”

The result is the traditional path to growth – getting bigger and/or getting better – is nearing its limit for many businesses.  This necessitates businesses rethinking their growth strategies, with adopting customer-centric business practices as one avenue for new growth!

Growth through Customer Centricity

Something fascinating about the Strategic Business Growth Framework is the customer/consumer is actually present in every cell.  Through my own consumer experiences, however, it doesn’t often feel like many businesses realize this.  How many of you have heard a store associate say something like, “I don’t know how I’m going to get my job done with all of these customers in here”?

Many businesses are either product or operationally focused.  Nearly every decision they make starts with what they sell (or plan on selling), or how they go about doing what they do.  These businesses put what they do and how they do it in front of whom they do it for.

This is a primary reason why it has taken so long for many traditional businesses to embrace fully integrated multi-channel or omni-channel practices.  While most understand it makes sense to the consumer, they haven’t figured out how to make it make (financial) sense given what they already do, how they currently do it, and how they currently measure all of it.

A customer centric business, however, thinks exactly opposite.  Its decisions start with the customer. Activities (and incentives) are aligned to profitably deliver goods or services maximizing value for customers – and, in turn, their shareholders.  Once they identify an opportunity to create more net value over time, they systematically figure it out, sometimes at the expense (temporarily or permanently) of existing business.

It’s all about creating new customer and shareholder value!

The Next Customer Centricity Step Is Yours

My intent is to shine a light on a different path, not provide the playbook for becoming a customer centric organization.

If you want to become more customer centric, here are eleven questions to help decide if customer centricity is right for you and to help on your journey:

  1. Why do my customers come to us vs. the competition?
  2. What value do we provide to our customers today?
  3. What are all our customers’ needs?
  4. Have our customers’ needs changed? How and why?
  5. What customer needs do we currently meet / exceed today?
  6. How well are all of their needs being met by the marketplace today?
  7. Are there new competitors who are satisfying some of our customers’ needs in a different way?
  8. What can we do better (or differently) to uniquely meet and exceed those needs today and tomorrow?
  9. What else can we do to create even more value for our customers?
  10. Are we willing to put customer’s interests at the center of our decisions and processes?
  11. How much are we willing to change?  Really?

And as you answer question 11, don’t confuse how much change you are willing to undergo with how much that change is noticed by customers and whether they value it.

Those are three separate questions for all you operationally focused people. There’s no “extra credit for efficiency” in trying to answer them all together. To the contrary, you’ll definitely be penalized for thinking efficiency at the expense of thinking about your customer! Woody Bendle

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Download the free ebook, “Taking the NO Out of InNOvation” to help you generate fantastic creative thinking and ideas! For an organizational innovation success boost, contact The Brainzooming Group to help your team be more successful by rapidly expanding strategic options and creating innovative plans to efficiently implement. Email us at info@brainzooming.com or call us at 816-509-5320 to learn how we can deliver these benefits for you.

 

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It’s wonderful to feature four important brand strategy questions from customer experience strategy and innovation expert Woody Bendle. In the course of his typical daily routine, Woody has a more than healthy commute by Kansas City standards. Woody texted me about this brand strategy lesson on the way home one recent evening and followed it up the next day with this post reminding those responsible for brand strategy to think about what will happen when our ideas actually meet up with customers. Here’s Woody!

woody-bendleBrand Strategy – When “Good Enough” Isn’t by Woody Bendle

“The enemy of the good is great.”

Have you heard this expression before? 

If you haven’t, the sentiment behind this expression is this: If you are continually reluctant to move forward until you have something that is great or perfect, you might sometimes fail to make valuable progress by getting something out there that is pretty darned good – but not great.

In many situations, I wholeheartedly subscribe to this philosophy.

But, there are occasions when you absolutely need to be better than “good enough.”

One of those occasions involves your brand strategy and every time you are presenting your brand.

Brand Strategy Isn’t the Place for Good Enough

I recently pulled off the interstate to fuel up at a truck stop. As I was fueling, I happened to notice, for some reason, a display attached to the pump about never paying full price for gas again.

Shell-1

I really didn’t think too much about this display until I went around to the end of the pump to grab the squeegee and clean off my windshield. This is what I saw.

140410-Shell3

OOPS!

The original message that got my interest about never paying full price again didn’t come through on the Shell brochure holder.

There, thanks to the application holder lid’s placement, the “Never pay full price again” card became the “pay full price again” card.

I actually did a double-take, shook my head and wondered to myself if anyone had even thought about trying to stick some brochures in the holders to see what it looked like before they had a gazillion of them printed and sent all over the country. The sad thing is if they had just taken the two logos at the bottom of the brochure and moved them to the very top and shifted the rest of the content down,  the message would’ve been read very clearly.

Lessons learned, and it’s a great reminder that design and layout matters.

A Brand Strategy that is “Good Enough” Isn’t

I have no idea if anyone at Shell is even aware of this issue. It did, however, serve as a valuable reminder that every time you are putting your brand in the marketplace, you need to ask yourself several important brand strategy questions:

  1. What am I trying to convey / communicate about my brand or my brand’s promotion?
  2. Is the message clear and compelling – not to me but to the customer?
  3. How will the message be put in front of the customer?
  4. What exactly will the customer see, hear, think, and feel when my message is put in front of them?

And finally, as you are working through the above questions, you’d be well served to think like my Missouri neighbors and just say “Show-Me” a little more often. Woody Bendle

 

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Customer experience strategy and innovation expert Woody Bendle is getting all crazy innovative in today’s guest post as he shares how to push for extreme innovation when you need it. Take it away Woody!

 

Creative Thinking Exercise for Extreme Innovation by Woody Bendle

One of the most exciting things to me in the innovation process is generating an array of possible ideas for uniquely solving unmet or underserved consumer needs.

i3-generate-ideas

As you see in the i3 Continuous Innovation Process map above, generating ideas happens AFTER the consumer needs have been identified. The reason for this is two-fold:

  1. If you generate new product and/or service ideas before you fully understand all of your consumers’ needs, there is a high likelihood you will waste time, effort and money chasing a cool idea destined to fail.
  2. It is easier to come up with possible solutions to a problem once you actually know what the problem is!

Assume we’ve done our homework and have clearly identified and prioritized all our consumers’ needs based on the magnitude of the opportunity.  The next step in the Continuous Innovation Process is to come up with as many possible ideas or solutions (regardless of feasibility), that might create meaningful new value for our target consumers.

I like starting idea generation sessions with a set of exercises I’ve developed called “Going to Extremes.”  The objective is to break the ice quickly and get the craziest, coolest, far-reaching things you can come up with on the table to start. The more absurd, extreme or ridiculous the idea the better!

go-extremes-exercises

As you begin working with these tools, it is important to frame each exercise in the context of exploring possibilities for addressing only one or two unmet (or underserved) consumer needs.  Narrowing your focus actually works in your favor when you are Brainzooming!

It is important to emphasize you really want to try to come up with 100 (or more) ideas for each exercise.  All ideas are welcome – as long as they are crazy, cool, extreme, ridiculous or even absurd!

In my experience, the best and most innovative ideas tend to be closer to the 100th idea than the first, so keep generating as many ideas as you can.  And don’t judge them, because the next step of the i3 Continuous Innovation Process is where we weed out the ideas that don’t make economic sense.

The Value of Going for Extreme Innovation

After working with these creative thinking exercises for several years, I’ve found them effective for several reasons:

  1. They explicitly make it okay to say something a little (or a lot) crazy. Everyone has a little “crazy” in them, and they now have permission to let it out!  And, Column C reinforces that we’re looking for stuff that is really really crazy, cool and way out there! As a side note, how many times do you suppose Thomas Edison, Steve Jobs or the Wright brothers heard, “That’s crazy!” – only later to hear “This is awesome!” or “This is amazing!”
  2. Because you are going for quantity in addition to the extreme, participants tend not to overthink their ideas in search of that spectacular idea – they just let them rip!
  3. Thinking about the why and the what (column B) highlights functional and emotional benefits which often lead naturally to new, even better ideas for Column C. (Remember that breakthrough innovations tend to be much closer to the extremes than where we currently are. )
  4. Lastly, these exercises are a ton of fun!  Now, who doesn’t need more fun in their life?!

So here is a crazy idea; the next time you are planning an idea generation session, why don’t you give these Going to Extremes Exercises a shot?

And if you need a little added encouragement, let’s give a listen to what Seal has to say about getting a little Crazy.  Better yet!  Play this tune in the background during your next idea generation session! Woody Bendle

 

If you enjoyed this article, subscribe to the free Brainzooming blog email updates.


Download the free ebook, “Taking the NO Out of InNOvation” to help you generate fantastic creative thinking and ideas! For an organizational innovation success boost, contact The Brainzooming Group to help your team be more successful by rapidly expanding strategic options and creating innovative plans to efficiently implement. Email us at info@brainzooming.com or call us at 816-509-5320 to learn how we can deliver these benefits for you.

 

 

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John Q. Harrington is back today with a warning for digital marketers to not walk past the big idea in pursuit of big promises from applications devoid of creative thinking and big idea potential. Here’s Q!

Creative Thinking: What Digital Marketers Could Learn from the Wizard of Oz by @JohnQCreative

John-Q-HarringtonToday’s marketers have awoken and found themselves transplanted into a strange and marvelous world – a Digital Land of Oz.

Here the miraculous has become common and the common seems to have vanished.

Social media creates meaningful relationships with masses of individuals. Social analytics track the source of a trend or a problem to a single person. Big Data gives sales pitches to customers before they even realize they want something.

The wonders of the great and powerful Digital Oz keep growing and growing, but there is one voice of warning rising amid all the pyrotechnics:

“PAY NO ATTENTION TO THE MAN BEHIND THE CURTAIN!”

Contrary to what many of the Wizards of Digital Oz say, they are NOT all knowing and all powerful. Digital Oz clearly has created some marketing marvels, but there is one thing it cannot create – a big idea.  And big ideas seem to have all but disappeared behind the glare of the flash and dazzle of the latest digital marketing tools.

Yes, I said it.  Digital is a tool, NOT an idea.

Too many marketers are so enamored with the amazing feats of Digital they think the need for a big idea or a great position has been eliminated.  If anything, the need is greater than ever!

A decade ago, marketers only had a dozen or so arrows in their quiver. Newspapers, magazines, TV, radio, basic web sites, email, direct mail and a handful of other tactics were all they really had to work with then.  With digital, today there are well over a hundred marketing tool options and more coming online daily.

Each of these tools has a different set of strengths, weaknesses, and people guiding them.  Firing all these weapons and hoping for the best does get results.

But think how much more powerful they would be if they all had a common focus and big idea driving them!

A big idea or a great position is a virtual brain that can help guide ALL your marketing tools and multiply their effectiveness.

So please, do not become so seduced by the amazing tools of Digital Oz that you think they ARE the same thing as a big idea. Remember this?

“I’d unravel every riddle, for any individual
In trouble or in pain.
With the thoughts I’d be thinking,
I could be another Lincoln
If I only had a brain.” -  The Scarecrow

See, even the least intelligent resident of Oz knew he was nothing without a brain. – Q

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If you enjoyed this article, subscribe to the free Brainzooming blog email updates.


Download the free ebook, “Taking the NO Out of InNOvation” to help you generate fantastic creative thinking and ideas! For an organizational innovation success boost, contact The Brainzooming Group to help your team be more successful by rapidly expanding strategic options and creating innovative plans to efficiently implement. Email us at info@brainzooming.com or call us at 816-509-5320 to learn how we can deliver these benefits for you.

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Customer experience strategy and innovation expert Woody Bendle is sharing his perspective on the links between corporate strategic planning and brand strategy today, including a great strategic brand planning tool to help identify branding opportunities and gaps your organization faces. Without delay, here’s Woody!

 

Brand Strategy – A Strategic Brand Planning Tool by Woody Bendle

Mike has published recent pieces on strategy and strategic planning that inspired me to reflect on the process and effectiveness of strategy, especially brand strategy. It fascinates me that strategy and strategic planning are often considered separate and different from brand strategy.  Since many executives don’t understand what a brand is, they don’t realize an organization’s brand should govern and be the basis for corporate strategy and planning.

Strategy and Brands

Strategy should effectively set an organization apart from competitors.  A good strategy (well executed) can make an entity appreciably unique and compellingly relevant to a meaningful proportion of consumers. This is precisely what a good brand does!  So why is brand strategy so often overlooked in corporate strategy or planning?

I believe there are three reasons:

  1. Lack of understanding
  2. Misperceptions – Corporate strategy and planning are considered to be for “left-brained numbers people’ and brand strategy (if an organization even does it) is for “right-brained marketing
  3. Complexity – Brands are complex, somewhat abstract, and don’t fit neatly into financial spreadsheets

While the concept of a brand can be difficult to get your head around, that complexity shouldn’t suggest branding be ignored. Let’s break down the concept to its component parts, tackling the basic definition first.

So what is a Brand?

Most of us can name dozens of brands, including our “favorite” brands.  We can describe brands and frequently make decisions because of them.  So, while brands play roles in our lives, defining a brand is where many get hung up.

Through studying how consumers and organizations develop, manage, think about and relate to brands, I’ve developed the following definition:

A Brand is something that provides and is both identity and meaning.  It is a continual interpretation that exists as a result of that which is conveyed by an entity through its communications, products and/or services, and that which is understood by those who interact with that entity’s communications, products and/or services.  

That seems pretty abstract and complex, I’ll admit.  Let’s simplify it to an organization’s brand being:

  • Who it is
  • What it stands for or represents
  • Why it exists
  • How it behaves, communicates, and/or operates
  • How it is, and how it wants to be seen and/or thought of

For those interacting with (i.e., purchasing, using, consuming) a brand, it is:

  • A commitment or promise by or from the brand itself
  • An aid for decision making
  • An intrinsic and extrinsic reflection of who they are
  • A statement about what they value and believe in
  • A tacit or explicit signal about how they see themselves and how they want to be seen by others

The next layer of complexity in branding is because brands are not completely within an organization’s control.  While companies or individuals create brands, they exist in a dynamic perceptual ecosystem, i.e. an intricate network of interactions between and among an array of constituents (as shown here).

Dyanmic-Brand-Ecosystem

Brands directly interact with and influence perceptions for a number of different constituents (the blue arrows).  These constituents influence and affect the brand through reciprocal relationships of varying strength.  Over time, the full power and impact of a brand results from a vast multitude of direct and indirect interactions within the ecosystem.

This creates two implications:

  1. Once a brand is launched, the originator no longer fully owns it.  It is shared by all who directly and / or indirectly interact with it.
  2. While the brand’s originator does not fully own the brand, it retains absolute responsibility today and in the future for how the brand is viewed.

So because brands are complex and are shaped by others outside your organization, managing it overall demands a well-articulated brand strategy!

A Strategic Brand Planning Tool

So with the definition addressed, let’s pull apart a brand and systematically examine all the different brand interactions.  This tool I developed helps me effectively do that:

Brand-Plng-Template

Step one is identifying the brand constituents populating the rows by answering:

  • Who are all the parties interacting with your brand?
  • Who has a say in your brand’s future?

After creating your own list of brand constituents systematically work through each column.

  • Column A – Think about how you would like each constituent group to describe your Brand.  What should your brand stand for with each of them?  How should it be known?  Note – this is an internal exercise since you have to answer and own how and what you want others to think about your brand.
  • Column B – How does each of these different groups actually think about, or describe your brand?  What are they saying about it to others?  Are you regarded positively by some and negatively by others? Surveys and social media listening are great sources for this.
  • Column C – This column pinpoints areas with differences between how you want your brand to be thought of and how it is currently regarded.  Some differences will be subtle and others could be rather large. Additionally, this column’s answer can be quantitative and/or qualitative.  
  • Column D – After identifying areas with meaningful perception differences, outline things your organization can or will do to close these perception or image gaps.

As you work through brand tool, some cells will be easier than others to complete. Only you can determine whether it is worth the effort to collect the information needed. After using this tool many times, I’m confident you will identify several things important to your brand’s future that warrant further discussion and attention.

Good (Company) to Great (Brand)

Body-TattooCompanies and organizations are a dime-a-dozen; many have very similar overarching goals and objectives.  If an organization has been around for any length of time, it is probably doing a number of things well.  But is it truly great?  Is it considered a Great Brand?

Great Brands are different; they are one-in-a-million!  Great Brands connect by providing a deeper sense of identity and meaning.  Great Brands wind up tattooed on peoples bodies (I’m betting the first brand that came to you right now was Harley Davidson)!

Great Brands don’t happen by accident! Great Brands are the result of great, well-executed brand strategies!

As you tune your strategic plans for next year, secure a seat at the strategic planning table for your brand management effort.  It just might earn your brand a prominent place on someone’s body! Woody Bendle

 

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