Strategic Thought: Adaptability is a great thing to have when planning & implementing strategy, but at some point, you have to be able to depend on some degree of consistency for successful performance.
When Southwest Airlines unveiled a new fare structure along with its return to a number-specific boarding process, it was a potential brand deal breaker for me. For someone who had made great sport of flourishing under the old 3 letter boarding process, I envisioned losing out on my fairly regular #1 general boarding position. This coveted spot was secured through strategic thinking, planning, early arrival, relationship building, stamina, and pure competitive spirit.
Having flown Southwest many times since the modifications, the process change has been great from my perspective. It still favors planning and punctuality, but it’s shifted the strategy to only a few minutes before the check in time 24 hours before the flight, not sitting on the floor for several hours at the airport before departure.
Another bonus has been an upgrade in most Southwest boarding areas, with more comfortable seating and ready access to power outlets. I can only assume that in the Southwest focus on keeping planes flying (and not on the ground), these innovations were to keep people close to the gate and not wandering off to other parts of the concourse. All designed for a higher likelihood of on-time departures.
This is a great example of the emotional connection we have with brands, the apprehension and uncertainty changes to personally important brand dimensions can create for customers, and the ability of re-win customers when creativity leads to a clearly better experience. The Southwest switch was a wonderful case study for how a great brand does this very well.
I’ll be leading the social media team at this week’s Business Marketing Association UNLearn Conference in Chicago. The sold-out conference features more than 20 sessions on a broad array of topics. The social media team will be doing live tweeting, blogging, video interviews, and I’m sure a variety of other projects to document and share the conference with attendees and those who can’t be there live.
The main social media page for the conference is www.marketing.org/unlearn – visit this link to branch off to Twitter searches (the conference hashtag is #bma09), daily blogs, and links to video interviews.
June is wedding month, so for a random creativity starter, use the age old advice given to brides on what to include in their weddings: something old, something new, something borrowed, and something blue.
Apply the maxim to a creative challenge you have this month in the following way:
Something Old – Think back to a previous creative success. What was the secret ingredient to your creative win? Apply this previous success key to a current challenge to see what it sparks now.
Something New - Buy a bridal magazine or any type of heavily picture-oriented publication that’s new relative to what you usually read. Go through page by page looking for images and words as creative idea starters.
Something Borrowed – Ask others who are part of your creative team for their favorite creative idea starters. Borrow their creative triggers to get your creativity going.
Something Blue – Watch this video of paintings from Pablo Picasso’s blue period. See what new ideas are prompted by Picasso’s artistic approach.
Using these four random inputs should provide a greater than 50% likelihood of creative success – which is better than the marriage success rate!
In early May, a TweetDeck search on “creative” tweets showed several referencing a Creative unConference in New York. I tweeted to attendees asking for a guest blogger to write about their experience presenting at an event where there’s not really a pre-planned schedule.
Part of it was professional curiosity since I’m chairing the American Marketing Association Market Research Conference in October, and we’ve discussed how to incorporate more attendee-driven content. The other part was a sincere interest in all of us learning more about these types of emerging events.
Stephanie Sharp stepped forward to share her perspective on the event. Stephanie owns Sharp Designs, a graphic design and branding consultancy in New Jersey. She has extensive experience with identity work, marketing collateral, and internal communications. Here’s Stephanie’s view on what it’s like when a social networking perspective intersects with a real life event:
I presented at the Creative unConference in New York City on May 7 – 9. This event was organized by The One Show as part of a week-long creative week. Since this was my first unConference, I wasn’t sure what to expect, so here are three take-aways to help others prepare for attending an unConference:
Prepare for a Richer Experience
The registration process included two questions:
- What are you going to present?
- What subjects are you interested in hearing about?
My answer to the first question was : “I AM PRESENTING on the rebranding that has occurred in the last year or so. Some has been seen as a misfire among the design community. Is there a shift in identity work? Have we lost Paul Rand’s way of working? Is it better or worse?”
The unConference guidelines warned speakers to not prepare too much. It’s not like a typical conference with a presentation followed by Q&A with the audience. An unConference is very interactive with a session’s attendees voicing their opinions. A comment from a speaker or a fellow attendee can start a longer discussion on one particular item. As such it’s a much richer experience.
Get Ready to Actively Shape the Agenda
An unConference’s schedule is set each morning, so the exact agenda isn’t known ahead of time. Every attendee is in a large room and allowed to introduce themselves. We grabbed paper and markers and wrote what we wanted to present on sheets and gathered in two lines to announce our session to the crowd.
Alternatively, we could write a subject heading in which we needed help, an issue we were working with, or a topic on which we wanted to hear others’ views. We walked over to a large schedule board and taped our session into a slot for a room and time. As people were adding their sessions, you could also move yours to another time. For any sessions that were similar, presenters could discuss and combine them.
Anticipate but Be Flexible
For my session, I prepared ahead of time by gathering recent logo redesigns causing discussion and controversy within the online design community. These included major brands such as Pepsi, Tropicana, the 2012 Olympics, and Xerox among others. Only a few sessions had access to projectors, so I printed several copies of the logos anticipating I’d be in one of the smaller, intimate areas. Needing visuals for my presentation, this approach provided the most flexibility no matter what the space.
Most everyone in the session held similar ideas on the logos, but we shared some interesting insights with each other. It was more of a discussion than a traditional “presentation,” giving attendees more time to interact and exchange opinions.
In all, I came away from the Creative unConference with some excellent ideas and knowledge I can implement in my own design and branding consultancy and will definitely keep an eye out for future unConferences. - Stephanie Sharp
Reviews in Delta Airline’s in-flight publication used to end with a section called ITIS. Within the reviews, this portion called out one particular chapter to read or song to listen to “If Time Is Short.”
It’s a cool idea. Yet, who remembers the last time you came across anyone enjoying a leisurely pace at work? A more appropriate acronym is TIAS: Time Is Always Short!
One implication of this more frenzied pace is the increasing difficulty in getting people to read everything put in front of them. Or more specifically, reading what you put in front of them. That’s why it’s vital your communication is as easy as possible to process.
Building a presentation recently on strategic thinking for researchers prompted rummaging through the Brainzooming archives for material on communicating information with greater impact. Here are 12 posts to help streamline your communication so something gets done with it even when TIAS:
And here’s a bonus link to “A Periodic Table of Visualization Methods,” a unique way to get a quick review of many different ways of presenting information in a graphic format. The table is constructed so as you roll your cursor over a cell, it pops up a specific example of the visualization method. It’s well worth checking out!