Blog | The Brainzooming Group - Part 344 – page 344

Several folks from our creative thinking team were at John Pepper’s Baker University marketing classes for an ideation session on their class project: brand extension ideas for the Apple “iBrand.”

There was a lot of energy from the students in the two classes as we did three creative thinking exercises (based on analogies, randomness, and transformation) and a round of prioritization in less than 50 minutes to generate lots of brand extension ideas!

We used a “Change Your Character” creative thinking exercise to look at how prominent marketers use brand extensions, then had the students apply the ideas to Apple.
If you’re faced with a brand extension challenge, you too can turn to these brands and this creative thinking exercise too, generating three possible ideas for each of the brand extension ideas below:
  • New products allow you to experience the brand in different places (Starbucks)
  • Licenses the brand to various companies (Martha Stewart)
  • Introduces smaller versions of its products (Oreo)
  • Offers related merchandise for users of its main product (Harley-Davidson)
  • Finds new uses for its product & introduces brand extensions (Arm & Hammer)
  • Lends its name to subsidiaries serving different market segments (Marriott)
  • Extends its brand with a fee-based online presence (NASCAR)
  • Lets you experience new products free & then sells them to you (Starbucks)
  • Offers slimmed down versions of its main products (Special K)
  • Offers products complementary to its main line (Fruit of the Loom)
  • Changes certain visible “ingredients” of its product (Oreo)
  • Takes a piece of intellectual capital & uses its theme in other product & service categories (Jimmy Buffett)

Thanks again to John for allowing us to come work with his students! I learn something new every year that we’re able to incorporate right into our planning efforts, and this year was no exception. We’ll be back!

Check out a compilation of “Change Your Character” creative thinking exercises and information on its use.  – Mike Brown

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 ideas! For an organizational creativity 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 or call us at 816-509-5320    to learn how we can deliver these benefits for you.



Continue Reading


The title question arose at the Business Marketing Association presentation Thursday. It’s usually preceded by, “Why do you wear orange socks?” The answer speaks to three principles important for a creative perspective:

Accepting Contradictions

I’m proud my name is “Brown,” but the color has never been prominent in my life, despite saying & hearing the color’s name every day.

With this contradiction (being Brown, but not brown), it’s no wonder I wound up at a company named Yellow whose brand color is orange. The contradiction escaped me for several years. Senior management didn’t care for orange, so there was little evidence of it. And even though I was more oblivious than accepting of this contradiction, the result was the same!

Taking Advantage of the Unexpected

When Greg Reid took over as CMO and said, “If our most asked question is why’s the name Yellow if our color’s orange, let’s do something with it,” ORANGE start showing up everywhere. The marketing staff even wore orange socks to our strategic plan presentation.

That triggered a friendly competition with another employee to sport the most orange (socks, shirts, shoes, backpacks, cups, etc.). I became known for wearing orange socks daily. When “Fast Company” profiled us and called me the Cal Ripken, Jr. of orange clothes for the socks, the connection strengthened. Taking advantage of this opportunity, I co-opted the company’s brand as part of my own. ORANGEbecame MY color.

Look for Strategic Connections

Speaking on innovation, I researched what orange represents and found it matched my topics: creativity, balance & harmony, strength, enthusiasm, excitement, happiness, healing, vigor, and success. I used orange even more to link my personal brand and key presentation themes. An added bonus? I didn’t have to buy a new non-orange wardrobe & business accessories.

Now when asked about the color mismatch, I simply say, “I’m like an M&M – brown on the inside, orange on the outside!”

Continue Reading

  1. Don’t multi-task – focus on one project at a time with your full attention.
  2. Surround yourself with smart people who will challenge you.
  3. When someone tries to pass a problem or question to you, ask for their recommendation or point of view before you comment.
  4. Pray for wisdom that can be used to benefit others and pay attention when your prayer is answered.

Continue Reading


Doing a lot of presenting on “strategic thinking” has generated a number of interesting questions about the subject. Many of the questions have prompted posts on the blog.

To make it a little easier to track down answers, here are some of the most asked questions about strategic thinking with links to previous posts that address each topic; simply click on the original date to go to the post.

  • My boss wants me to be more “strategic”? How do I do that? (1/10/2008)
  • What are some characteristics of solid strategic thinkers? (12/1/2007)
  • How can I help myself to look at situations from different perspectives? (2/14/2008)
  • Our strategies sound really complicated and nobody knows what they mean/ Shouldn’t you be able to actually do something with a strategy? (12/26/2007)
  • People at my company are stuck in how we’ve always done things. How can we get past that? (12/5/2007)
  • People are busy on day-to-day responsibilities. How can I get them to make the effort to work on strategy? (3/12/2008)
  • I’ve got to come up with some new ideas at work. How do I go about it? (3/11/2008)
  • How do we get “bigger” ideas? (3/10/2008)
  • What are the reasons for timing strategic thinking exercises? (2/1/2008)
  • Once you have a good idea, how do you sell it to management? (12/10/2007)
  • What do you do if you ideas aren’t working out successfully? (2/28/2008)
  • If something doesn’t work, how do we make sure we improve next time? (3/3/2008)

Please let me know if you have additional questions that can be answered in future posts!

Continue Reading


We’re all faced with the need to perform seamlessly in unfamiliar situations. Who faces a similar challenge to come up with creative ideas with no opportunity to prepare ahead of time? An improv comic. An improv comic routinely deals with unfamiliar situations, accepting and working with information presented by the audience or other performers and, with no chance to prepare ahead of time, getting people to laugh.

So let’s apply an improv comic-based approach to help us do a better job in unfamiliar situations that require thinking on our feet. An improv comic:

  • Actively solicits input from the audience and others around them
  • Listens closely to other participants for information & clues
  • Quickly assesses the underlying structure of the situation
  • Becomes comfortable with not being able to figure things out ahead of time
  • Is open to spontaneity
  • Depends on instincts
  • Offers information and clues to others to help them co-participate successfully
  • Works with and builds on information supplied by others
  • Is able to employ a variety of talents to advance the situation
  • Refines the process as new information is determined

Identify three new ideas for each of the approaches an improv comic would employ to improve your own performance when you can’t prepare ahead of time for unfamiliar situations.

Check out a compilation of “Change Your Character” creative thinking exercises and information on its use.  – Mike Brown


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

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 or call us at 816-509-5320 to learn how we can help you enhance your strategy and implementation efforts.

Continue Reading


Here’s a checklist you can use in considering a new business opportunity or campaign to assess whether you’ve addressed critical elements of a marketing plan. It’s especially helpful to use in business environments where you have non-marketing people driving product launches or efforts without a full grounding in how a strategic AND implementable marketing plan will increase the probability of success.

For each question, choose whether the most appropriate answer to each question is: YES, NOT SURE, or NO. If there is one NOT SURE or NO answer, the basic elements of a marketing plan aren’t in place. Ensure all the questions are answered satisfactorily and understood by the organization before deciding to launch the effort.

  • Is there a clear business objective for this effort?
  • Do we know the market’s size and growth rate?
  • Do we know our current revenue, profits, and share?
  • Do we know the competitors and their strategies?
  • Do we know who the customer / prospect is?
  • Do we know customers’ current and future needs?
  • Do we have an estimate of our expected revenue, profit, share, etc?
  • Do we know and can explain the service features?
  • Do the features match customer needs?
  • Do we know what the pricing levels and structure should be?
  • Do we know what we want customers to think about it?
  • Do we know how a customer will find out about it?
  • Do we know what the necessary sales effort should be?
  • Do we know who and how it will be implemented?
  • Do we have all potential metrics in place?

Continue Reading


*This is Holy Week for Christian denominations, so I hesitate to write in support of certain strategic benefits of sloth, one of the seven deadly sins, but here it goes:

There’s a phrase written on my office whiteboard: “Sloth is the new genius.” That was my reply once when someone complimented me on having apparently anticipated a project’s “new” new direction and deliverables well in advance.

Actually I had ignored several weeks of activity on the project’s “new” direction because it just didn’t make strategic sense. Instead, I stuck with the direction we’d been working on for months since it was clearly a solid approach. When everybody came to their senses and returned to the old plan (which was now the “new” new plan), it only looked as if I had been really smart and proactive. It was anything but that. I’d simply done nothing on the project and placed attention on other efforts while everyone else frantically tried in vain to change course.

Find yourself getting caught amid constantly changing direction? If you do and a new one doesn’t make sense, rather than going with the flow maybe you should just do nothing.

Be careful though, because as befits any deadly sin, there are major risks and potentially heavy penalties in a slothful approach. Guess wrong and if things don’t ultimately swing back to the original strategic path, you could find yourself corporately dead. But if you understand how the morphfiends in your business life operate and can read the situation correctly, your strategic slothfulness can keep you out lots of corporate silliness. It’s your call.

Continue Reading