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We have designed several branding strategy scopes of work recently where the available time between developing strategy and implementation is tight. In these cases, a critical question arises: How do you open branding strategy development to other partner organizations to create a seamless implementation process?

5 Ways to Open Branding Strategy to Multiple Marketing Agencies

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Here are five things we do to bring other marketing agencies in early to set them up for implementation success:

  1. Invite the partner organizations into all the planning activities for developing the branding strategy.
  2. Provide full visibility into all strategy development processes.
  3. Create expanded roles to ensure partners can contribute their expertise and strategic thinking early.
  4. Integrate the partners as active team members, even before their implementation roles begin.
  5. Let them help shape all the strategy outputs during planning.

In these ways, we open strategy development to marketing agencies so it’s not a closed process. This allows internal and external parties to look for ways to jump starts implementation planning as the branding strategy direction develops.

One Cautionary Note

One expectation behind this approach: any external partners must participate with the client’s best interests and success as the top priorities. If a partner expects full access but is intent on gaming the outcome to serve their interests, this level of openness won’t work to its full potential. I learned that lesson when I was on the client side and first put competitive marketing agencies together on project teams. It becomes clear quickly if a partner isn’t engaging with the best intentions. That’s an early indicator of big problems.

So, with an open process and the right attitude from participating marketing agencies, you can move seamlessly from strategy to implementation. – Mike Brown

Boost Your Brand’s Social Media Strategy with Social-First Content!

Download the Brainzooming eBook on social-first content strategy. In Giving Your Brand a Boost through Social-First Content, we share actionable, audience-oriented frameworks and exercises to:

  • Understand more comprehensively what interests your audience
  • Find engaging topics your brand can credibly address via social-first content
  • Zero in on the right spots along the social sales continuum to weave your brand messages and offers into your content

Start using Giving Your Brand a Boost through Social-First Content to boost your content marketing strategy success today!

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Mike Brown

Founder of The Brainzooming Group, and an expert on strategy, creativity, and innovation. Mike is a frequent speaker on innovation, strategic thinking, and social media.

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Need to challenge your team to being imagining the future, realizing it may look hardly anything like today?

Originating in a long-term future visioning exercise we designed and facilitated for a client, we developed these questions to prompt a group’s thinking about dramatic future change. The point was to push them to consider the future as something other than a trend line based on yesterday and today.

Strategic Thinking Questions to Imagine a Radically Different Future

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Once you provide hypotheses on what you suspect the future will be like in your market, these strategic thinking questions are productive to reinforce dramatic changes ahead.

Ask the team (whether individually or in small groups), what if our future were:

  1. Seemingly magical?
  2. Totally surprising and unexpected at every turn?
  3. Unbelievably scary and threatening?
  4. All about only addressing exceptions from what was expected?
  5. Totally automated and run by robots?
  6. Rapid fire?
  7. Filled with data at every turn?
  8. Devoid of personal, face-to-face communication?
  9. Run by 125-year old people that haven’t reached retirement age yet?
  10. Run by 16-year-olds with 10x more intellectual horsepower, knowledge, experience, and energy than people five times their age?
  11. Playing out fine with no need for human involvement?
  12. Completely unpredictable?
  13. Unlike ANYTHING we have known so far?

Coupled with other exercises to envision a radically different future, these strategic thinking questions, all rooted in projected trends, will help push the group to consider new perspectives you need to prepare to address. – Mike Brown

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When it comes to creating incredible social-first content, brands can extend their personalities without compromising their brand characters is they are smart and strategic about it. On fantastic example is from Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church in Minneapolis. The church got it ALL perfect.

In case you weren’t following the NFL playoffs last weekend, the Minnesota Vikings offed the New Orleans Saints on a very improbable (perhaps, miraculous) touchdown on the last play of the game. The New Orleans Saint safety was described by Monday afternoon commentators as making the worst defensive play in the history of the NFL.


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Nevertheless, the back and forth scoring in the last moments of the game was conducive, one might expect, to desperate-for-a-Super-Bowl Minnesota fans making any number of deals with God IFFFFFFFFF the Vikings could win.

Taking advantage of that sentiment, Our Lady of Lourdes parish offered this Facebook post on Monday morning following the game.

This demonstrates that a brand (i.e., a local Catholic parish) not typically associated with humor can extend its personality into new realms. It is also a fantastic example of managing the right mix of delivering on:

  • Audience Needs and Interests
  • Compelling Content
  • Smart Brand Integration

For its targeted Minnesota audience, the content addressed an over-the-top interest: the Vikings win.

This compelling content was also over-the-top with its simplicity and clear ties to the Vikings. It cleverly walked the line between serious admonishment and a wink of the eye acknowledgement that people make promises to God all the time that they never live up to successfully.

Finally, because the Facebook post fulfilled the first two expectations so marvelously, the church was free to insert its brand directly into the message through including its Sunday mass times.

We love, love, love how smart this post is. You can see how well-rewarded it was based on the shares and reactions it earned.

Want to go deeper into winning social-first content marketing strategy?

Want to immerse yourself in valuable learning from practitioners doing the real work of social media and content marketing strategy?

Do you want to comfortably network with business and marketing professionals across industries in a reasonably sized setting where you don’t have to navigate through 15,000 attendees and a mile of conference rooms?

Then join The Brainzooming Group crew at the Social Media Strategies Summit in San Francisco, February 6-8, 2018!

You can even enroll at a 15% discount if you sign up NOW using the promo code, SMSSMB15BTW, I think the MB in that SMSSummit promo code may stand for Mike Brown, but I’m just guessing.

The Social Media Strategies Summit is one conference where we’ve participated multiple times across several years and ALWAYS learn new concepts and ideas!

If you want to go all-in for the Brainzooming experience at the Social Media Strategies Summit, sign up for the pre-conference workshop I’m presenting: Writing an Effective and Sustainable Social Media & Content Marketing Plan. We’ll be talking about developing the components of a social-first content marketing strategy that makes sense for both your brand AND your audience.

Be sure to join us and learn more about creating compelling content that will bring your social and content marketing strategy to life. Register today and save 15% with the SMSSMB15 promo code and join us in San Francisco this February at the Social Media Strategies Summit! – Mike Brown

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Founder of The Brainzooming Group, and an expert on strategy, creativity, and innovation. Mike is a frequent speaker on innovation, strategic thinking, and social media.

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What personal success strategies do high performers employ to get and stay ahead in business?

Morton T. Hansen, a business professor at the University of California, Berkley, tackles that question in a new book: Great at Work: How Top Performers Do Less, Work Better, and Achieve More. (affiliate link)

According to Hansen’s article about the book in The Wall Street Journal, and based on a multi-year study of five thousand business people, the key difference in personal success strategies is the ability to be selective in taking on priorities and activities. High performers narrow the range of assignments they address and pour themselves into initiatives with intensity.

Four Personal Success Strategies for High Performers

Hansen lists four behaviors and perspectives to support selectivity for high performers:

  1. Reducing and simplifying activities
  2. Making specific trade-offs relative to new priorities
  3. Basing their work around value creation
  4. Innovating work process through varied strategies

These four personal success strategies provide a menu from which to improve your personal and team performance.

1. Simplifying Processes and Activities

Hansen discusses simplification and doing as few things as possible as important success factors. As he describes the strategy, it entails doing, “as few (things) as you can, as many as you must.”

One way to separate activities and priorities that deserve attention from those that don’t is through determining:

  • How much ability you possess to change something
  • The degree to which there is a return associated with a positive change.

Being able to make a big change with a significant return suggests an initiative to prioritize. To operationalize the strategy, we employ these questions:

  • Who is this initiative very important to, and how do they reward high performance?
  • Who would notice the impact of ignoring this?
  • At what point will the standards of everyone that matters already have been surpassed?

Within an organizational setting, there is a tendency to over-engineer simple. The simple way to simplify is to aim for as few moving parts as possible.

2. Making Trade-Offs with New Priorities

High performers are aggressive reprioritizers. In the face of new assignments and expectations, they say yes to the right things and no to things that will distract them and reduce performance.

One effective way to prioritize is to force yourself to make yes and no decisions. You can accomplish this by writing all your potential priorities on individual sticky notes. Place them on a wall or desk and select two priorities and compare them. Ask, “If I could only accomplish one of these priorities, which one is more important?” Place the priority you selected at the top of the wall or desk, with the other, lesser priority below.

Pick up another sticky note, asking the same question relative to the top-most sticky note. If the new sticky note is a more important priority, it goes on top, and the other moves down. If it’s not more important, keep moving down and asking the question (Is this one more important or is that one?) relative to each sticky note until it’s appropriately placed based on its importance.

This simple model provides a quick prioritization to help determine which priorities warrant focus when everything seems important.

3. Focusing on Value Creation

Concentrating on high-value-creation activities is another element setting high performers apart from others. Instead of checking every box on a to-do list, these individuals concentrate on activities where they can deliver the greatest value for internal and/or external customers.

Part of understanding value creation is being in touch with customers to stay abreast of how THEY perceive and prioritize value. Absent this knowledge, you run the risk of spending time and attention on activities of lesser importance.

We recommend asking three questions to identify value opportunities. You may answer them yourself, but they take on tremendous importance when those you serve provide input, so we encourage you to ask them, too.

  1. What do I deliver that provides tremendous value for others?
  2. What do I deliver that doesn’t provide real value for others?
  3. What do I focus on that has the potential for tremendous value, but falls short because of too little attention or focus?

Answers to the first and second questions should re-confirm the priorities from the previous trade-off exercise. Answers to the third question highlight areas that perhaps can become priorities through eliminating the distractions you identify in question two.

4. Innovating Processes

Hansen found that one way high-performing individuals add value is through improving processes that lead to high performance for others. You can use the priorities providing tremendous value as a starting point to look for innovation opportunities to enhance value to upstream and downstream individuals in your work processes.

For those upstream in the process, think through the view, style, and expertise this person will put into the work product for which you’ll assume responsibility. Identify where you can provide actionable feedback to better coordinate the activities between you.

For those after you in a process, identify what they expect from you. How can you anticipate what they may struggle with to help them work through challenging parts more successfully?

Enhancing Your Personal Success Strategy

Based on Hansen’s work, simplifying, prioritizing, maximizing value, and innovating are vital personal success strategies to lead you to high performance. Does that match your formula? – via Inside the Executive Suite

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Mike Brown

Founder of The Brainzooming Group, and an expert on strategy, creativity, and innovation. Mike is a frequent speaker on innovation, strategic thinking, and social media.

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We’ve written about the importance of signaling collaboration strategy preferences when you and team members are working remotely. Even with video conferencing, you lose many of the verbal and physical cues available when you are sitting across a table planning who is going to do what and when on a project.

Talking with someone who is struggling with identifying the best ways to signal the appropriate collaboration strategy approash, we hit on a variation on the Sergio Zyman decision levels. We talk about Zyman’s decision delegation approach frequently to help leaders and teams figure work better.

Rather than addressing who will provide input and who will make decisions (as the Zyman model does), this collaboration strategy revolves around who will start developing ideas and how the collaboration will unfold within the team.

A 5-Level Collaboration Strategy Approach

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Here are five possibilities:

  • L – The Leader will figure it out
  • LT – The Leader will start developing ideas, then will collaborate with the entire Team to figure it out
  • C – The leader and team will Collaborate from scratch to figure it out
  • TL – The Team (or a team member) will start developing ideas and then bring them to the Leader to collaborate and ultimately figure it out
  • T – The Team (or team member) will figure it out and bring the finished product back to the team leader

This collaboration strategy idea is still in the Brainzooming R&D lab. The situations and acronyms for this collaboration strategy approach may change.

Do you have thoughts, reactions, or alternatives? Please share them on our Facebook page. If we have big insights from trying it ourselves, we’ll pass those along, too. – Mike Brown

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Mike Brown

Founder of The Brainzooming Group, and an expert on strategy, creativity, and innovation. Mike is a frequent speaker on innovation, strategic thinking, and social media.

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Before an impending purge of The Wall Street Journal back issues in my office, I reviewed an article from a late December 2017 issue: The New Age of Bespoke Travel. The article, by Nina Sovich, details how certain travel agents have reinvented themselves to compete when online trip planning now dominates over help from actual travel agents.

Photo by Dmitry Sovyak on Unsplash

The article inspired a laundry list of strategic thinking exercise prompts to re-imagine a threatened business model when your service offering is under assault from online offerings, bots, or some other form of complete automation.

A New Strategic Thinking Exercise

Here is how we see this new strategic thinking exercise coming together.

First, detail all the elements of your current service offering. Afterward, re-imagine what you could offer based on these generalized strategic moves travel agents are implementing successfully:

Customer Focus

Extraordinary Customer Service

  • Provide mega-personalized customer service
  • Offer 24/7 availability and assured communication WHENEVER the customer wants it
  • Remove EVERY worry customers in your market harbor
  • Remove ALL complexity before, during, and after your service
  • Establish unquestioned trust in your performance
  • Provide intense troubleshooting for ANY problems that arise – whether related to your actions or not

Amazing Expertise and Experiences

  • Develop and offer COMPLETE knowledge of your category
  • Offer highly-detailed upfront planning, customized for each client
  • Share more potential ideas / options than anyone would imagine
  • Create exclusive access to incredible experiences
  • Address customer needs outside the typical service boundaries your competitors adhere to
  • Design unexpected, once-in-a-lifetime opportunities
  • Integrate high-value, unique partnerships into the service offering

New Pricing Structures

  • Create a subscription-based price with no cost per interaction / service request
  • Establish a high-priced initiation fee and sizable annual spending minimums
  • Create an annual fee with a minimum spending volume beyond the fee

This strategic thinking exercise is straight from the Brainzooming R&D Labs. We don’t have any real-life stories to offer you yet on how it works in practice.

We’re excited about the possibilities of this strategic thinking exercise, though, and will probably try it out first on some Brainzooming service lines. – Mike Brown

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  • Developing Strategy

  • Branding and Marketing

  • Innovation

  • Extreme Creativity

  • Successful Implementation


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Mike Brown

Founder of The Brainzooming Group, and an expert on strategy, creativity, and innovation. Mike is a frequent speaker on innovation, strategic thinking, and social media.

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At the church we attend on Sundays, they recite the rosary beginning thirty minutes before each mass. For the 7 a.m. Mass, there are few people present for the start, especially when there is snow on the ground. Cyndi and I arrived yesterday as the snow was flying and rosary was just starting. We took our typical place near where the individual leading the rosary sits.

With a group rosary, the leader typically says the first half of each prayer. The others present recite the second half. With even a small crowd (or a few people gathered within earshot), this approach works well. With only a few people scattered around a large church, it makes the call and response challenging, especially for the leader, who can’t hear when the other people complete their half of a prayer. The fact we were near the leader helped create some volume for the responses to help him keep pace.

When we completed the rosary, he stopped to thank us for being there, saying, “It’s always easier to lead the rosary when you are here to pray along.” I thanked him for showing up early to lead it.

4-Step Formula for Encouraging Idea Magnets and Team Members

I share this story because as we’ve been working on the manuscript for a new Brainzooming book on Idea Magnets and creative leadership, I’ve been thinking a lot about how leaders and followers encourage each another. It struck me how this simple situation underscored what leaders and followers can do for each other.

The leader:

  • Was visible and present so we knew where to find him
  • Got things started, even though the situation was less than ideal
  • Pressed on no matter what
  • Thanked the followers for participating

We, as followers:

  • Positioned ourselves near the leader
  • Dependably followed our designated role
  • Were vocal and available to help the leader more effectively perform his part
  • Thanked the leader for leading

Just a four-step formula for how leaders (and Idea Magnets) and team members encourage each other that seems like it works in most situations.

While there may be all kinds of other things going on within a team, if you as a leader or a follower, can get these four items right, you’re well down the path toward successful implementation. – Mike Brown Keep current on Idea Magnet creative leadership secrets!

Mike Brown

Founder of The Brainzooming Group, and an expert on strategy, creativity, and innovation. Mike is a frequent speaker on innovation, strategic thinking, and social media.

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