Didn’t think the Panera “What my passion?” nametags would warrant another blog post, especially a full year later, but this was too good to be true.

At Panera for lunch recently with Barrett Sydnor, the passion of the person taking my order was “Designing ERP Systems.” Cool – finally an intriguing answer to the question.

I figured the guy must be brainy so my relatively complicated order (dressing on the side, BBQ sauce on the side, no bean salsa) would be in good hands. After placing the order, there was a prolonged pause as he tried picking out the modified options on the cash register. When he was finally done, he immediately closed the ticket and told me what I owed. I mentioned I also needed a couple of items to go – and a drink – so he opened the ticket back up and added 2 scones and my drink.

After all that, he finally asked what side item I wanted with my salad, although it’s usually the first question right after you order. With that detail out of the way, he went to get the scones and took my money. By the time the order was finally ready, it was many minutes after Barrett, who had ordered at the same time, was seated and already eating.

My first reaction was there was a disconnect between the guy’s personal brand (which said “smart” to me because of his ERP reference) and his challenges in performing on what should be a straight-forward user experience. After reconsidering, it struck me though that my user experience involved:

  • Basic questions which were ignored
  • Confusion and delays associated with my customization request
  • A timing mismatch relative to the typical flow of activity
  • An abnormally long time to complete the process

I realized my experience was actually a lot like nearly all ERP design and implementation experiences. So I stand corrected: this guy did deliver consistently on his personal brand promise! – Mike Brown

Continue Reading


I presented a social media strategy discussion tonight for the KAIROS Analytics Group. It was a completely different type of presentation since the room size and configuration were designed for enjoying wine, not for viewing Powerpoint. As a result, it was on 6 social media strategy critical success factors done sans computer, using pre-drawn cartoon posters to help convey the points. The posters are featured below

The conversation was great with lots of participation from the attendees and additional discussion about social media in a heavily regulated environment, the social media conversation on the BP oil spill, and the key performance indicators we use for The Brainzooming Group social media presence. – Mike Brown

Continue Reading


For a planning guy, it’s always time to be thinking about and planning for next year, and how it’s going to differ from this year. To help your business get started, here are five specific strategy questions you should be considering:

  • Are the same strategies going to be important for your business next year?
  • What external factors are surfacing to shape the rest of this year and next?
  • Which other developments may not be visible yet, but have the potential to impact our business?
  • What strategies will we want to continue doing?
  • What looks like it isn’t working and needs to be changed or dropped?

Beyond these five starter questions, here are eleven ways The Brainzooming Group can help you finish this year more successfully and pave the way for greater success next year:

  • If you’ve been repeatedly talking about starting a new initiative but can’t get it going, we’ll quickly create the plan to move you ahead.
  • If you need a quick strategic perspective and creative ideas, we’ll get on the phone with you for 60 minutes and figure out strategically sensible tactics.
  • If you suspect the market is moving away from your business model, we’ll challenge you and clarify where your organization’s future is.
  • If you don’t suspect the marketing is moving away from your business model, we’ll really challenge you and clarify where your organization’s future needs to be.
  • If you have lots of data that’s not leading to decisions, we’ll simplify and focus information into insights.
  • If the staff you have in place can’t keep up with expectations being placed on it, we’ll supply additional marketing horsepower.
  • If you don’t have time to think, we’ll dramatically shorten the time it takes to consider strategic options and do something about them.
  • If you have lots of ideas, but aren’t sure which ones are best to pursue, we’ll rapidly cut through wannabe concepts and zero in on clear winners.
  • If you’re budget is constrained, we’ll identify low and no-cost resources to ensure disproportionate positive market impact.
  • If you’re trying to get a handle on how social media really contributes to your business, we’ll identify which business objectives you can genuinely impact with a solid social media strategy.
  • If your growth and profits are stalled, we’ll help identify better plans to target growth in your major accounts.

Because of the innovative, interactive planning process The Brainzooming Group creates for your business, you get the benefits of solid planning in dramatically less time with the ability to anticipate market changes upfront.

That’s why smart organizations work with us to become more successful as we rapidly expand their strategic options and create innovative plans they can 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. – Mike Brown

Continue Reading


When thinking about your social media strategy, you should be planning for 6 important metrics. What are the six? There are 3 different levels of social media participation and 2 different types of measures. Put them in a 3 x 2 matrix, and you get six.

Here’s the rundown on the 3 social media engagement aspects to measure:

  • Activity – Any metrics relating to actions your organization is taking on social media: blogging, tweeting, posting, promoting, etc.
  • Interaction – This category’s measures focus on how your audience is engaging with your social media presence: followers, comments, likes, sharing, user created content, etc.
  • Returns – This group accounts for where your social media activities directly or indirectly support measures driving successful organizations: revenue creation (and the activities that lead up to it), cost minimization (along with activities to help achieve it), and other critical financial performance metrics.

Relative to the two different types of measures, use the “whole-brain metrics” strategy we’ve recommended before: capture both quantitative (left brain) and qualitative (right brain) elements. Using this metrics dashboard strategy accounts for both the “hard” numbers and softer perspectives (stories, images, buzz-related feedback) to provide the most complete evaluative picture of your social media strategy.

There’s a clear advantage to considering the metrics strategy when devising your overall social media strategy. The earlier you think through what you should be tracking in these six categories, the better you’ll be able to shape your innovative social media strategy to be ROI-oriented. – Mike Brown

Continue Reading


Bloomberg Businessweek featured a pitiful review of the book “You Never Give Me Your Money: The Beatles after the Breakup,” by Peter Doggett in a recent issue. The theme of the rather tortured review (and one can assume of the book) was whether something could have been done to keep the The Beatles together, primarily because of all the money they left on the table.

As a point of comparison, the Rolling Stones (essentially Mick Jagger and Keith Richards) were cited for having kept their creative partnership together in the face of impending bankruptcy around the same era The Beatles disintegrated.

That’s certainly one point of view – keeping your failing creative partnership together solely for the money – but it’s a messed up one. I’ve always admired The Beatles for calling it quits before the complete collapse of their collective creativity. It was readily apparent the group wouldn’t ever work creatively anywhere close to the levels of just a few years earlier.

Sure the Stones had some musical highlights in the early 1970’s, and they’ve grossed a lot of money since, but is there anything in the Stones’ creative output of the last thirty-five years you couldn’t live without (remember 1981’s Tattoo You was largely recorded much earlier)? Answer: NO.

Here are two other examples from my personal favorite bands:

  • The Who reunited several times to try and keep John Entwistle out of financial trouble despite the fact they were artistically and creatively bankrupt through the ravages of drugs and without the unique drumming style of Keith Moon.
  • As much as I love early R.E.M., the group said they’d break-up if any member ever quit. Yet drummer Bill Berry (who been credited as being a songwriting strength within the band) came and went as the band continued. Sure they continued to get paid on a huge recording contract, but there’s been little fresh material from the group a fraction as strong as their early catalogue.

Are those enough examples to move on? Great.

Sometimes creative energy gets used up, never to be replenished. That’s part of what was magical about The Beatles. We didn’t have to live through (much of) their crappy output. We have their best work to remember them by without years of subpar filler.

Take this lesson to heart in your own creative life. You may be a part of a magical creative team, but chances are it will run its course – which is completely normal. When it happens, enjoy your memories, and let your former creative partnership be. – Mike Brown

Continue Reading


Last Friday, July 9 was “Cow Appreciation Day” at Chick-fil-A. Customers dressing up as the company’s signature cow icon were rewarded with free meals (for a head-to-toe cow costume) and sandwiches (for any part of a cow costume). While there was a microsite set up for the day to allow customers to find locations and a Facebook page to upload photos, the interactive brand strategy was clearly geared toward a real life visit to a nearby Chick-fil-A restaurant.

We headed out for dinner on Cow Appreciation day and saw many customers more than happy to turn themselves into Chick-fil-A brand icons for a reward valued at less than $5.

What a brilliant interactive brand strategy to get your customers to jump through a pretty easy “brand” hoop in exchange for what a restaurant might give away on a typical “buy one get one free” coupon requiring no customer brand interaction other than showing up at the restaurant.

In this case, turning couponing into an interactive brand strategy delivering a memorable brand experience creates all kinds of residual brand value in stories, pictures, videos, and likely, increased people per ticket as we witnessed large groups routinely entering the restaurant we visited.

And what about my Cow Appreciation Day participation? We’ll I love free Chick-fil-A as much or more than the next person. I put on my Ben & Jerry cow socks and a cow beanie and collected my free sandwich as well!  – Mike Brown

Continue Reading


The other day, I described a conference call I’d been on as “interesting.”

By “interesting,” I really meant “completely whacked out that the client didn’t understand why we were doing what we were doing which was exactly what they had asked us to do.”

It struck me just how versatile a word “interesting” really is. I use it a lot in situations where I’ve really meant something or someone is:

  • Off strategy
  • Full of possibilities
  • Ugly
  • Hot
  • Boring
  • Intriguing
  • Completely unclear
  • A great solution
  • Inappropriate
  • Banal
  • Exciting
  • Pathetic
  • Interesting

I’ve also used “interesting” when really thinking:

  • “That’s exactly what you told me yesterday.”
  • “I wasn’t listening to what you just said.”
  • “Huh?”
  • “I don’t think I would have said that.”
  • “I have no idea, but maybe saying ‘interesting’ will buy me time to think of something to say.”

No way around it: “interesting” has to be one of the best multi-use words out there. Maybe it’s just behind the “F” word, which I gave up using (except for the occasional slip-up) a dozen years ago.

How about you – what’s your favorite all-purpose word?Mike Brown

Continue Reading