Blog | The Brainzooming Group - Part 346 – page 346
“If there is nothing very special about your work, no matter how hard you apply yourself, you won’t get noticed and that increasingly means you won’t get paid much, either.”
Michael Goldhaber, Wired

Here’s Your Challenge -This quote from Michael Goldhaber in Wired magazine is several years old, but it remains absolutely true. So what is special about your work? If you don’t have an immediate answer to the question, figure out which of the statements below best describes your situation and take action right away:

“There is something very special about my work, but I just haven’t found the words to describe it in a concise way.” Remedy – Craft, edit, rewrite, re-edit, and memorize the elevator speech for your “very special” work aspects immediately.

“There are very special things about my work, but nobody notices it.” OR “My work used to be very special, but it doesn’t feel that way anymore.” In both cases, there’s some mismatch between your work and the audience. Here are some possibilities behind one or both statements:

  • Possibility #1 – You’re kidding yourself; there’s really nothing very special about your work. Remedy – Change your work right away. Figure out a new audience, a new objective, a new approach, a new project, a new level of performance, or something (anything) to inject specialness into your work.
  • Possibility #2 – There is something special about your work, but your most important audiences, don’t get it because they lack either the sophistication, appreciation, or need for what you’re doing. Remedy – Decide if it’s worth trying to develop the audience you have, radically changing what you’re doing, or simply trying to find a new audience.
  • Possibility #3 – Maybe the work is (was) special, but it’s passed you by (you’ve failed to keep up) or you’ve passed it by (it just isn’t as motivating for you to excel as it used to be). Remedy – In either case, it’s time to transform your current situation (if that’s a possibility) or quit and transform elsewhere. (For more on this remedy, read this review of Seth Godin’s “The Dip” – the review is even shorter than the book and pretty much covers it.)

“There never has been anything very special about my work.” Remedy – Sorry – there’s no quick answer here. You’re not alive career-wise and probably never have been. But take heart, if you’re willing to put up with this situation, it’s highly unlikely you’d ever find your way to this blog.

“Let me briefly tell you (show you) what’s very special about my work!” Congratulations! That’s the right answer. Proceed immediately to starting your own blog on what’s special about your work and tell the world – or at least the 10 loyal friends who will read your blog! (P.S. For a great Seth Godin post about being passionate about your work – as opposed to being a workaholic – check this out. And no, despite the two references today, P.S. doesn’t stand for Pointing to Seth.)

Be more special this year (don’t just pretend) and deservedly earn some more of your audience’s attention.

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I’m on a panel today addressing “Global Branding Trends, Challenges, and Possible Solutions” at the HDMA Heavy Duty Dialogue ’08 conference. It’s being moderated by Sally Staab a VP at Weyforth-Haas Marketing in Overland Park, KS. The other participants are Walt Delevich from SKF and John Beering from Eaton Corporation.

From my segment on brand strategy in a full house of brands, here are a few keys for branding amid significant M&A activity:

  • Elegant brand architecture often isn’t in the cards with an M&A-based growth strategy – With significant M&A activity, a number of very real factors may confound attempts to create elegantly simple brand architecture. Among the potential issues: the relative strengths of brands in the family, customer loyalty to existing brands, management demands, deal structures, challenges in doing a large-scale conversion, required investment, and long cycles for replacing branded assets.
  • Work with experienced brand strategy partners – A brand is more than a logo and an ad; it’s the promise you make to your key audiences. It’s multi-dimensional and encompasses all customer contact points with the company – employees, products, service, visual and physical cues, and communications. Given this broad definition, few advertising agencies have the full range of capabilities to address all of your brand issues. Engage firms that specialize in branding across all these dimensions.
  • Invest in the necessary fact finding effort to determine your brand strategy – Facts need to be at the heart of any brand strategy decisions, and they should come from as many sources as possible – internally & externally. Inventory the key data sources and audiences whose perceptions you need to understand and project. Beyond analysis of available data, look to both qualitative and quantitative research techniques to bolster your understanding of what the market expects, accepts, and will ultimately reward from your brand.
  • Figure out where you want your brand to be in the future and then work your way back to the present through multiple scenarios – Hypothesize various scenarios on where you want the brand to be in the future relative to customers, products / services, markets, competitors, and the external environment. Pick a future point linked to the longest relevant decision cycles for your brand. Then, work your way back on how you expect to get there, recognizing likely decision points, operational issues, future M&A events, sales & marketing efforts, competitor activity, and the best and worst developments that could happen with your brand.
  • Look to others brands for lessons, even if their situations aren’t completely comparable – You can’t simply follow your industry’s branding conventions if your situation differs dramatically. In that case, find brands outside your industry that you can look to for insights. Ideally seek out brands in similar current situations and others that have brand architectures that resemble how you’d like yours to look. Go to school on what their brand migration paths look like, what rules or approaches they use, etc. Additionally, there’s great value in networking with them and being able to ask direct questions on their strategies.
  • Use in-country experts to assess how your brand will fit in global markets – Don’t depend on uninformed or remote perspectives for determining in-country brand strategy globally. Identify branding partners & key employees with on the ground experience that can provide knowledgeable input and reactions to global brand strategy development. Do the qualitative and quantitative fact finding work in-country or in-region as well. – 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. We draw on our varied strategy experience in defining new brands, jump starting lagging ones, and  rehabilitating battered brands. Email us at or call us at 816-509-5320 to learn how we can help you enhance your strategy and implementation efforts.


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  • Become more passionate and determined about your vision.
  • You’ll never know what you can do until you try.
  • Doing what you like is freedom. Liking what you do is happiness.
  • Surround yourself with good friends and laughter.
  • Honing your ability to find the silly in the serious will take you far.
  • Make sure others feel blessed for having you as a friend.
  • One learns most from teaching others.
  • Your co-workers take pleasure in your great sense of creativity.
  • Face any problem with dignity.
  • To climb the ladder of success, work hard and you’ll reach it.

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The new year is a time for reflecting on what’s really important. If I may get creative and turn that concept on its side a little, since articulating a new definition for “strategic thinking” (addressing things that matter with insight & innovation), I’ve been trying to get down on paper a list of strategic thinking questions whose answers would help shed light on, “What matters?”

What are great questions to best identify what’s strategic, i.e., what really matters in a particular business situation? This is a starting list of strategic thinking questions:

  • What does our brand stand for?
  • What do we most want to accomplish in the organization?
  • How would we describe our best, most valuable customers?
  • Who don’t we do business with?
  • Who do we win the most business from and why?
  • Who do we lose the most business to and why?
  • What are the biggest cost drivers in the organization?
  • What things would be most devastating (or most embarrassing) if our customers knew about them?
  • What’s the biggest unknown in our market?
  • What are the best opportunities available to us?
Feel free to start using strategic thinking questions from the list above. Feel even freer still to comment on other strategic planning questions you’ve used successfully to identify “what matters.” – Mike Brown

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Two celebrities have become well-known for being able to reinvent themselves when they hit a financial or creative dead end –Donald Trump and Madonna. You can go to school on their rebranding techniques and apply them in business when you have a brand that needs to be refreshed. Here are approaches they’ve used successfully that you can apply in the Change Your Character exercise.

Donald Trump:

  • Host a TV show
  • Fix your financial situation
  • Put your name on something new
  • Do a BIG deal
  • Fire somebody
  • Start a new TV season
  • Pick a verbal fight with another celebrity to generate attention
  • Change out the important people in your life
  • Redevelop a prominent property


  • Change your look
  • Change your wardrobe
  • Do something controversial
  • Explore a new style of work / expression
  • Create news through your unusual lifestyle
  • Use multiple media to get your message across
  • Write a book
  • Incorporating new cultures or points of view
  • Adopt a child

So try these approaches as you brainstorm how to get your brand back in the news and to the top of the charts in customers’ eyes.

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


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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.

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Going back through some old files, I re-discovered the following self-assessment that was prepared for my team 13 years ago this month in response to a question about what my expectations were of them. It’s reassuring that with minimal updates, the list of personal checkpoints stills works for our team today. Having stood the test of a dozen years, here it is for you to use as a self-check on your orientation and performance or for adapting and sharing with your own team.
Self-Assessment – You should be known for . . .
  • Stepping up to challenges as they arise with your time, effort, learning, innovativeness, etc.
  • Honesty–with yourself and with everyone in the department and the company.
  • Attention to detail and accuracy in everything that crosses your desk.
  • Absolute integrity in using and reporting information.
  • Asking and answering for all analysis: “What does it mean for our brands, customers, competitors, and/or the market?” and “What actions do we need to take to realize an advantage from it?”
  • Making communication clear and simple–getting to the point without jargon and unessential information. Constantly work to improve both oral and written communication skills.
  • Completing assignments in a timely manner.
  • Being innovative–what can be done differently to increase efficiency, productivity, value, and revenue or reduce costs?
  • Being above reproach in dealings with all parties within and outside of the company-how you conduct yourself reflects on you, your co-workers, the department, and the company.
  • Using the knowledge and expertise of others inside and outside the company; recognize and acknowledge their contributions.
  • Sharing your own knowledge and expertise with others, i.e., what were the five most important things you learned at a seminar or from a book you just read.
  • Being a leader–even if you are not personally heading a group or project.
  • Being oriented toward helping people solve problems.
  • Embracing technology and using it to further profitable revenue.
  • Solving problems if they arise.

Originally delivered 1/09/95

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We attend an early Sunday mass that doesn’t have a choir but has an organist. It’s intriguing (okay…annoying) though that she can’t actually play the organ. This was quite evident recently when she couldn’t get through well known Christmas carols without fracturing them – mangled chords, wrong notes, incorrect tempos. Even though all the inputs to playing better are right in front of her (since the organ has every note needed to play songs correctly), she can’t identify the answer and properly execute it.

All of us face similar situations – everything to solve a problem or realize an opportunity is at our disposal, but successfully identifying & executing the right answer eludes us. It’s easy to figure out the organist’s options to improve; it’s tougher when we’re in comparable situations. To help, here are 13 things the organist could do. Next time you’re similarly stuck, see if you can generalize from her potential options and help yourself by:

  1. Getting more training – take lessons or do homework to increase knowledge and skills.
  2. Practicing more – don’t stop preparing until there’s adequate performance.
  3. Simplifying the situation – look for easier answers (i.e. only play the melody) to better execute.
  4. Improvising – change what the possible answers can be (i.e., don’t play a strict melody line, but at least do it intentionally!)
  5. Getting help – have someone more skilled assist (i.e., she could play melody and somebody else the chords).
  6. Using a different tool – identify alternative resources that can help improve the probability of success (i.e., a keyboard with pre-programmed songs).
  7. Rearranging – find an alternative arrangement that’s easier to perform.
  8. Using a different talent – rather than stick with what isn’t working, use another talent to address the challenge (i.e., singing a cappella to provide music).
  9. Doing something less familiar to the audience – in order to alter audience expectations, perform alternatives that are unfamiliar to the audience.
  10. Delegating / finding a replacement – have someone who can perform do it successfully.
  11. Suggesting alternatives – address the underlying need (musical accompaniment) in a better, alternative way (i.e., playing pre-recorded music).
  12. Doing less – work to lower expectations in certain areas (playing several songs adequately) while over-performing in others (only play one song really well, and repeat it as necessary).
  13. Quitting – Accept that you can’t be successful, and move on to other endeavors better suited to your talents.

I do admit that quitting (#13) was the first option that came to mind for her. But the important point is that any of us have more than a dozen options available when we’re beating our heads against the wall without success. Oh by the way, if you can beat your head against the wall at a reasonably steady tempo, please get in touch with our pastor. There may be a Sunday morning gig in it for you!

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