A friend from church gave me a tape several years ago by Fr. Larry Richards, a Catholic priest and evangelist, who does a broad series of talks on faith topics. In one about our “life’s purpose,” he discussed the need for a spirit of sacrifice. In doing so, he talked about a poster in his office which said, “Every time I think I’ve sacrificed everything, God asks me for something I’m not willing to give up.”

Amid all the concerns vying to command our attention, this question is a constant reminder to embrace a sense of detachment from the falsely “important.” And at a time when I was challenging myself on what WAS important, this statement had a dramatic impact. It was a big part of reorienting my life’s goals and core purpose away from monetary concerns to spiritual and sacrificial ones, which have much more permanency. I’ve adapted the question for use in presentations, asking, “At the end of your life, what will you look back on from your life that will cause you to smile?”

Contemplating these questions is so appropriate this time of year when it’s easy to become enchanted with things that will be long forgotten when our time here is over.

Note: This is one of a series of posts on life-changing gifts. – Mike Brown

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Chuck Dymer is a strategic mentor, having done more than any single person to help me understand lateral thinking processes and how integral they are to business success. You could say I’ve borrowed everything I know on innovation tools from watching Chuck do what he does so masterfully.

After working with Chuck on various projects, he said to me, “You make other people more creative just by cheering them on.” While always enjoying participating in brainstorming sessions with others, its potential impact had never occurred to me.
Chuck’s comment, though, caused more deliberate reflection on this “talent” I’d never considered and how it could be used more widely. This led to incorporating lateral thinking approaches into additional business activities, speaking topics, and ultimately, Brainzooming.
Are you working with others who display talents you see that they don’t realize? Give them a gift by pointing out these talents so they can start considering how to use them even more beneficially.
Note: This is one of a series of posts on life-changing gifts. – Mike Brown

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There was a Brainzooming series last December called “Twelve Days of Gifts” featuring stories of gifts (i.e., lessons) people had shared to shape my personal and business life. It was well-received, prompting its return, with a slight variation, this December.

The next twelve days’ articles will be based on life-changing words – statements or questions people made, either directly or indirectly, with dramatic impacts. Few (maybe none) were intended as life-changing, and granted, you may find some are BIG “L” Life-Changers and others are little “l.” In any event, each has affected me in a profound way.

My holiday hope is some of them will also stimulate tremendous changes in how you approach life as well! – Mike Brown

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Look at your network now compared to last year. Have you dramatically expanded the number of people you can call or email and be reasonably sure you’ll get a response from them?

And that doesn’t mean from loading up on contacts inside your company using the “People You May Know” feature on LinkedIn. A network gains value through diversity – not from having 75% of your connections riding on the same economic train as you!

If your active network looks the same as it did last year, ACT NOW when ideally you don’t need your network’s benefits. Here are 12 potential ways to add not only numbers, but diversity to your network:

  • Join and actively participate in professional associations
  • Regularly attend (and even create) networking events and follow up on connections
  • Take on leadership roles in church, school, or alumni organizations
  • Deliberately try to network with other parents at kids’ activities
  • Write articles for publications within your industry
  • Speak publicly on topics of expertise for you (and if you’re reluctant to speak, join Toastmasters and get over your apprehensions)
  • Use Twitter to build a global network of people involved in topics of interest (Twitter Lists or WeFollow are great places to start)
  • Run for public office
  • Find and join groups focused on hobbies you enjoy
  • Share your expertise via social media – start a blog, comment on other blogs, record podcasts or video blogs
  • Start a second job where you interact more with the public
  • Strike up conversations with people you meet standing in line

And IMPORTANTLY, have business cards with you and introduce yourself to new people with your first and last names. I can’t believe how many people go to networking events and don’t have cards and/or introduce themselves by mumbling their first names.

Not all of these methods make sense for everyone. For my networking strategy, numbers 1, 2, 6, 7, and 10 have all been very effective at meeting great new people both online and in IRL (in real life), especially by starting to attend and even organize tweet-ups.

There are certainly several of these that will work for you, so pick and get started adding diversity to your network!   – Mike Brown

The Brainzooming Group helps make smart organizations more successful by rapidly expanding their strategic options and creating innovative plans they can efficiently implement. Email us at brainzooming@gmail.com or call 816-509-5320 to learn how we can get your Brainzooming!

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The Baskin Robbins Double Header Cone screams, “I came out of an innovation session!” That’s okay though because it appears from the outside-looking-in to have a solid customer experience-based strategic foundation.

An ice cream cone allowing multiple flavors and formats side by side lets customers preferring cones experience them in a new, fun way. Who can beat two different ice cream flavors and formats (soft serve and scoop) the way YOU want to combine them, instead of randomly (mashed scoops), sequentially (scoops on top of each other), or in a forced swirl (for soft serve)?

It’s fun for kids (who seemed to be the primary audience the day we were in Baskin Robbins) and probably makes a parent’s life a little saner (since it helps more easily please a kid wanting multiple flavors). For Baskin Robbins, it creates some near term buzz and introduces a new, slightly higher price point to upsell customers who’d typically only buy a single cone. Unfortunately, the poster’s fine print clearly states “no substitutions.” You can’t have two scoops or two soft serve flavors. The Double Header cone “fun” doesn’t extend to customer-driven innovation at the point of sale.

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving (US-based readers), and be on the look-out for “out and about marketing” examples to share here! Brainzooming is taking a few days off and will be back Monday. – Mike Brown

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Product innovation is rampant. Great for providing choices! Crappy for having to choose from among them.
So it’s smart product strategy for brands to remove uncertainty and apprehension by making decisions simpler for consumers. Interestingly, today’s examples of doing this well both come from Sam’s Club – home of having to buy more than you’ll ever need to get a good deal (especially for a two-person household).
Shopping for cheaper deodorant, the main brand switching factor was getting a product smelling close to my current choice (or at least not smelling weird). This sealed four-pack of Degree deodorant had a great per unit price. But who likes a great deal on 4 deodorants only to find out after buying it that it smells like perfume?

How to avoid this deal breaker? Ingenious marketing to the rescue!

This multi-pack included a scratch-and-sniff label on the left of the package allowing me to smell the deodorant before buying. It was close enough, and I switched brands.
Cyndi was getting an early jump on shopping for Christmas baking as she’s planning to make hundreds of chocolate chip cookies (among other things). A pallet in the middle of one aisle featured a great buy on 72 ounce bags of Nestle Semi-Sweet “Morsels,” the chocolate chips of Nestlé® TOLL HOUSE® cookie recipe fame.

She asked how many bags she’d need since the recipe called for 12 ounces of chocolate chips. Doing the math in my head, I looked over to the stack of chocolate chips to see the math clearly displayed on the packaging: these big bags are good for 6 batches of cookies each. Since math skills are probably declining at the same rate product proliferation is increasing, how innovative to simplify the math and create happier cookie makers.

And by the way Nestlé®, maybe you should up the recipe to 18 ounces of chocolate chips? That’s 50% more in sales for you and even happier cookie eaters! – Mike Brown

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Admission – I quickly grow impatient (yet only slightly unruly) in crowded stores.

Fortunately, my Flip camera has helped keep me out of trouble recently (kind of like Cheerios for geeky adults), creating amusement in finding great marketing strategy examples to capture.

To get you ready for the time spent in stores this week for Thanksgiving preparation and Black Friday, we’ll share a few “out and about marketing” examples this week. Be on the look-out for ones you see and submit them as future guest Brainzooming posts!

Merchandising Can Be Experience Marketing

Why have boring grocery store displays when they can be colorful, fun, and create memorable visual experiences? These two stacks of soft drink boxes for Coca-Cola products are from two local grocery stores – Price Chopper (left) and Hy-Vee (right).

While the pumpkin at Price Chopper was just plain fun, the Hy-Vee display was a top-five highlight for the Kansas City Chiefs this season!

Taking the Experience Home

This product makes me both proud and ashamed to be in marketing.

Talk about turning a generic category (tater tots) into an experience for multiple audiences. These Ore-Ida ABC Tater Tots are innovation rock stars on multiple levels!

For parents, they combine two high interest experiences – learning and getting kids to eat. For kids who enjoy school, they’re great fun; for those that hate school, it allows them to work out a little aggression on these dreaded Sesame Street sponsors. Plus, I love how easily you can imagine the idea coming straight out of a Trait Transformation exercise!

So why do they also make me ashamed to be a marketer?

Because they’re tater tots! How much cool brand experience does it take to get ANYBODY, let alone kids, to eat tater tots? I LOVE tater tots, but they’re not “trainer-approved.” So how about applying cool brand experience strategy to vegetables and fruits that are less processed, less fun, and healthier! – Mike Brown

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