Brainzooming – All Posts | The Brainzooming Group - Part 161 – page 161
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I first met Julie Cottineau when she was at Interbrand, and we were working with Interbrand on how to handle our branding after an M&A spree. After Interbrand, Julie was at Virgin as VP of Brand. She recently founded her own brand consultancy, BrandTwist, to help small businesses and entrepreneurs, and she will soon launch Brand School, an online course to teach small business owners everything they need to know to build, grow and monetize a brand.

We’ve tweeted each other, and Julie has participated in the #BZBowl and #SBExp events over the years, so it was wonderful to talk live and see if she’d contribute a guest blog. Not only did she share this guest blog post on “The Top Three Don’ts of Brand Building,” she’s offering a free 5 Minute Brand Thermometer Diagnostic for Brainzooming readers. The 5 Minute Brand Thermometer Diagnostic will help you quickly determine the health of your brand and what areas might need more attention.

The Top Three Don’ts of Brand Building

As a reader of the Brainzooming blog, you know the importance of having a crystal clear brand – even for small or medium sized businesses.

Staking that claim in your clients’ mind, as the go-to resource for the things you do best, makes all the difference in the world when it comes to securing new business. It’s the difference between searching for business, and being sought out.

You know what a good brand looks like. You probably even have some good ideas about how to begin building a brand. What you may not be too good at, however, is recognizing when you’re committing branding no-nos.

Which is why we’ve put together this mini-list of the top three brand don’ts.

1. Don’t put brand building off for later

There will be plenty of opportunities to put off building your brand. It’s always easy to say you don’t have the time, money, or bandwidth to focus on brand. You may also rationalize that you need to focus instead on building your business.

But here’s the thing: Building your brand is fundamental to building your business. The two are inextricably linked.

Having a strong brand has tangible business value. It will allow you to charge a premium, keep customers loyal when competitors come knocking, get customers to ask for you by name, and to recommend you to friends and even strangers.  A strong brand increases the likelihood of trial of new products and services. It will even help customers to forgive you more easily when your brand messes up (and, let’s face it, we all make mistakes from time to time).

Be sure to make it a priority to build your brand.

2. Don’t try to do all the brand building efforts yourself

Your ideas and your business building strategy may be flawless, but your DIY brand still doesn’t look as good or work as well as you think it does.

On the contrary, 100% homemade brands often look unprofessional and unreliable. Unless you’re an expert marketer, designer, copywriter and web developer in addition to your day job, there are lots of things you don’t know and skills you don’t have when it comes to building a brand.

Admit it to yourself, and invest in some outside brand building expertise.

You don’t have to hire a full-time staff. You’ll get far with, for example, some design help from 99designs.com, a web developer from oDesk, some marketing advice from a friend who knows what she’s talking about, and a few books on copywriting. (May we suggest On Writing Well for learning the art of writing, and The Ultimate Sales Letter for learning how to use your newfound writing skills to sell?)

The point is that you need to be willing to invest in building a brand.

3. Don’t ever think you’re done with brand building efforts

Brand building is more journey than destination. There is no point where you’ve got your stationary and business cards, a sign on the wall and a well-developed elevator pitch, and you can just wrap it up and be done with your brand building efforts.

There is always more to learn – about your customers and your target audience, about growing and building a brand, and about strategically leveraging social media. If you somehow get to a point where you can’t see any possible way to improve, beware: It’s only a matter of time until someone else comes along and puts your brand out of business.

So pay attention to your customers and how the world develops around you; find out how and where you can strengthen your brand building and make it happen. – Julie Cottineau

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The Brainzooming blog has a wonderful group of guest authors who regularly contribute their perspectives on strategy, creativity, and innovation. You can view guest author posts by clicking on the link below.

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I use xy graphs to visualize strategic perspectives in our client work. Occasionally, I’ll share xy graphs here to get your reactions. I use xy graphs often, and they are also handy for thinking about non-business strategic perspectives, whether serious or silly.

Original photo by Alex Greenwood

Today’s Halloween series of xy graphs is both serious and silly at the same time. It’s a strategic perspective on zombies, vampires, and their current popularity.

Strategic Perspectives on Zombies and Vampires

I was thinking one day about the influence of the Internet, and its impact on an unprecedented push for decentralization of influence and authority along with a demand for greater immediacy of information.

That thinking prompted the xy graph below: my take on the historical relationship between influence and time.

It’s about time and influence

God is the ultimate eternal, centralized figure of influence and authority. Other centralized, earthly organizations have developed over time to fill in a variety of roles – religions, governments, corporations, and in the last century especially, media outlets. The successful versions these organizations have had fairly long tenures and because people looked to centralized bodies, they have wielded substantial influence.

WWSD – What would Snooki do?

Centralized authority has come under fire with intense questioning and decreasing public belief the past fifty years (the downward pointing arrow). The proliferation of the Internet and forces it creates for decentralizing information and influence enhance this trend. The Internet has also fueled a demand for immediate response and shorter cycles and lifetimes for information (the leftward pointing arrow). Traditional centralized authority figures depend on stability and tenure. With the push for transformation and speed, centralized figures of influence become destabilized.

With official authority under attack for its traditional role of deciding what is good and bad, we’ve seen an explosion of self-appointed celebrities filling the void in traditional categories (religion, media, business, education, etc.). Absent centralized sanctioning of who is an authority and who isn’t, anyone can claim his or her self-appointed value and role as a source of influence others should follow.

The move toward instant celebrities as influencers has created a void (the circle on the lower right). Humans seem to have a calling toward the eternal and something bigger than us. So if people are turning less frequently to God as a source of eternal influence, how is the void to be filled in a decentralized world?

Zombies and vampires to the rescue

The answer to filling the void for the “eternal” is Zombies and Vampires!

Whether they are immortal, undead, or something else I’m not sure of entirely, zombies and vampires are the ultimate multi-generational / multi-century, decentralized influencers for today. They possess mystery, unknown powers, and influence we don’t understand. And at least with vampires, they now look like young, attractive celebrities! Zombies are such perceived threats, there are even organized preparations to deal with a zombie apocalypse.

So have at it!

BTW, I don’t think zombies and vampires are good answers to what we need today (I’d point people back to the first chart for some answers), but I’m simply offering an idea on why they seem to be a popular answer right now.

Why do you think zombies and vampires are so popular now? Does this strategic perspective hold up for you? Or is there a much better strategic explanation I’m missing for the popularity of zombies and vampires?  – 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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Talking with a potential client, we discussed strategic planning questions for next year, and how his company approaches strategic planning differently each year. The year-to-year changes are prompted by shortcomings in how effectively it has been able to approach strategic management under various planning methods.

During our conversation, we discussed a variety of strategic planning pitfalls his company has faced. From our experience, there wasn’t anything new or surprising. But what do you do to combat them?

7 Strategic Planning Questions to Ask about Your Organization

To get a sense of the effectiveness of your current or proposed strategic planning process, ask these seven questions. Keep track of your answers since they’ll help identify pitfalls to address in avoiding major strategic management disconnects in upcoming planning efforts:

1. Is our strategic plan organized in a way that makes sense for our company?

Even small organizations with some degree of organizational complexity can struggle to pick the best way to structure and organize a strategic planning process. Who knows whether the strategic plan should be organized by customers, product lines, market opportunities, new initiatives, departments . . . or something else entirely? Not picking the right structure to fit your company can turn both strategic planning and implementing the plan into disasters.

2. Does the timing of our strategic planning process fit our business cycle?

A typical strategic planning approach crams an annual, relatively complex, highly intense effort into a company’s late third or early fourth quarter. This timing almost presupposes the inevitable delays that take place and allow planning to slip into the late fourth quarter without too much harm. While this approach supports getting next year’s budget done in time (just barely), it may totally ignore other strategic management patterns in the company.

3. Is our strategic planning purely a financial and forecasting exercise?

Many organizations view strategic planning as simply a financial and forecasting effort. The line organization generates a forecast (or has one imposed) and estimates costs to hit the revenue target. Often, there is very little detail on how or where revenue growth will originate. When strategic planning is a financial exercise and no one is too concerned with HOW revenue targets are met, managing by the seat of the pants throughout the year wins out over coordinated strategic management.

4. Does our strategic planning seem disconnected from what the company is doing right now?

When the organization’s strategic management mindset is that strategy is only something long-term, you can end up with a strategic plan containing only future initiatives with some far off completion date. Since the “future” never comes, what is identified in the strategic plan may reference only a few current activities. In this case, it becomes largely disconnected from the day-to-day activities that grow a dynamic business.

5. Are we including everything we do in the strategic plan?

Some organizations equate strategic with “all-inclusive.” Strategic planning in this scenario starts with the wonderful intention, but wretched reality, of trying to account for EVERYTHING the organization does and will do. Saddled with too much detail, strategic planning typically starts falling apart during development. If a completed plan actually sees the light of day, it soon falls apart because it has tried to close off the real-time flexing an organization needs to function and succeed.

6. Does our strategic planning process feel too functionally and process-oriented?

When strategic planning is driven by (and by “driven by,” I mean “forced onto”) the line organization by a functional department (i.e., Finance, Marketing, Corporate Development, etc.), there is a real danger. Strategic planning done in this way seems to help functional departments know what to do, but they lack critical connections to how they support P&L-related activities. Who cares about having the best financial processes when you cannot serve and grow your customer base?

7. Do we know who will lead implementation of the completed strategic plan?

When an organization struggles with organizing the plan to be relevant and drive activities, the resulting document typically represents many compromises during its preparation. The plan will have confused connections to the organization, with no clear ownership and responsibility for implementation. As the plan rolls out, it will create numerous situations similar to a short high fly in baseball. If an outfielder and a couple of infielders have surrounded the area where the baseball is headed, but no one knows who is actually supposed to step up and catch it, the baseball drops to the ground through lack of responsibility and coordination.

How did you answer these questions for your organization?

Give yourself one point each for answering “No” to strategic planning questions 1, 2, and 7, or “Yes” to strategic planning questions, 3 through 6. The more points you have, the more of a challenge you’ll have in successful strategic planning and implementation.

If you had a score of more than two or three, and you have strategic planning questions you need to answer regarding how to get your planning completed this year, you owe it to yourself to contact The Brainzooming Group. We’ll troubleshoot your strategic planning issues and offer a no-cost perspective on how to successfully get your strategic planning done and successfully implemented in the coming year.  – Mike Brown

 

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

If you’re struggling to lead a viable strategic planning effort, The Brainzooming Group can be the strategic catalyst you need. We will apply our strategic thinking, innovation, and implementation tools on to help you create greater organizational success. Email us at info@brainzooming.com or call  816-509-5320 to learn how we can help you figure out how to work around planning and implementation challenges.


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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A blog post about taking a TV network programming approach to shape your social media content strategy led to questions about tips for what content to re-share on your social media sites.

When it comes to the decision to re-share evergreen content (i.e. a less time sensitive blog post), step one is making sure you have a big enough catalog of evergreen content. Depending on how active your content strategy is going to be on social media sites, you could need fifty blog posts or hundreds of blog posts.

If your evergreen social media content is in place, it’s vital to make sure you’re sharing social media content relevant to your audience at the time it is being shared. You can’t just throw content out there on social media sites your audience will view as old, boring, and irrelevant.

5 Tips to Sharing an Evergreen Blog Post

Here are five tips you can use to increase the probability your social media content still feels “fresh” when you re-share it on social media sites:

1. Share what your audience is searching for currently

If people are finding their way to your blog for specific topics and looking at a particular blog post right now, that is a good indication that particular social media content is still valuable. Check Google Analytics for recent active keywords and review the blog posts getting the most attention right now. We use the Jetpack Sitestats plug-in to monitor what blog posts are getting attention on a real-time basis so we can share links to what’s hot from an audience perspective right now.

2. Share what’s in the news right now

Current headlines are another great indicator of evergreen content to share. If a topic is hitting the business or popular news, it’s your opportunity to feature relevant social media content. For example, we published a blog post when Coca-Cola introduced a short-term redesign for the Diet Coke can. When Coca-Cola later announced the Diet Coke redesign was becoming permanent, it was a natural blog post to share again.

3. Share evergreen content related to what you are currently publishing

Suppose you are running a new list blog post on a particular day. As you share the link for the new content throughout day, alternate links to other blog posts related to your new content. For instance, on the day this post publishes, we’ll be tweeting links on community management and the programming like a TV network blog post. By taking a holistic view to your content strategy in this way, you can create a content theme for the day.

4. Share what the crowd is pointing to that’s popular right now

If you have vibrant Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+, or other presences on social media sites, you can readily scan them to see what topics people are writing and asking questions about currently. Check especially for topics and content others are re-sharing most frequently in your social media streams. The Google Trends is another option to see what searches are most popular currently. Take advantage of these cues to find comparable topics among your archived social media content to match current interests within your social media circles.

5. Share content that hasn’t been but should be popular

Just as certain TV shows are critically acclaimed but struggle to find an audience because of timing or other factors, the same can be true for a particular blog post. Perhaps an older post on our blog you really believe in didn’t receive the attention you thought it should have when originally published. Take advantage of future opportunities to share the post again and see if it catches on with the audience at a different time.

What other tips do you use to shape your content strategy and decide what evergreen content to share?

If you are sharing archived content from your blog as part of your content strategy, what tips and input do you use to make sure blog posts you’re sharing are relevant right now? Do you take any other steps to freshen evergreen content you share? We’ll put together a follow-on blog post about steps we take to keep even evergreen content fresh.  – 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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When it comes to brainstorming tools, everyone has their particular preferences for what stimulates big creative ideas.

Personally, when Angela Dunn, founder of #Ideachat, put a call out for a number of us to share our favorite creativity and brainstorming tools, I didn’t hesitate for a minute. My choice had to be the Crayola Giant Floor Pad (affiliate link). With each sheet providing nearly 352 square inches of wide open creative space, the Crayola Giant Floor Pad coupled with a Sharpie Marker, are go-to brainstorming tools for me, whether working alone or with a group.

11 Reasons Why the Crayola Giant Floor Pad Tops My Favorite Brainstorming Tools List

Rather than simply sending Angela a written list of why this was my favorite among all my brainstorming tools, I used one my new creative devices, the iPad, to take a photo of this handwritten and cartooned blog post. It highlights the 11 reasons why I gravitate to these big sheets of paper:

1. There are no boundaries or lines

2. There is ample room for making strategic connections

3. It’s possible to depict BIG creative ideas

4. There’s no need to charge the Crayola Giant Floor Pad

5. There is ample space to depict different types of creative thinking

6. Take a digital photo and your creative ideas are easily shared with others

7. They can be both a launching pad and a destination for creative ideas

8. Bold creative ideas have the opportunity to come to life

9. It’s a no-glare surface

10. Pages can be removed without fuss or muss (although be careful tearing a page out around the cut-out handle)

11. Angela (or @BlogBrevity as she is known on Twitter) also uses Crayola Giant Floor Pad sheets as brainstorming tools

What are your favorite brainstorming tools?

Care to send a picture of your favorite brainstorming tools or post a comment about them? It would be especially great to know what you use on the iPad to trigger your creativity. – 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 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 info@brainzooming.com or call us at 816-509-5320 to learn how we can deliver these benefits for you.

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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Photo by: Bastografie Source: photocase.com

Planning for the unexpected was a focus recently with a client we worked with to create a multi-year strategic plan.

Our client’s chief executive had read “Black Swan” by Nassim Nicholas Taleb (affiliate link). Taleb developed the concept of black swan events to describe unexpected occurrences that precipitate dramatic, history-shaping impacts. With black swan events being so disproportionately rare and generating such disproportionately large impacts (think 9-11 and the emergence of the Internet), people are generally blind to anticipating them. These events are ripe though, for people to “figure them out” after they happen, mistakenly thinking the event could have been anticipated.

Our client asked us to help his leadership team anticipate black swan events, even though, almost by definition, you can’t anticipate them.

But hey, it was a client, so we developed a strategic thinking exercise to address his request. Think of it as a glimpse into the Brainzooming strategic thinking exercise R&D lab!

Imagining the Unexpected in a Strategic Thinking Exercise

As we thought about envisioning black swan events in a strategic thinking exercise, we considered a pivotal scene from “Ghostbusters” (affiliate link). There was a scene in the movie where the Ghostbusters are under threat of the first thought that pops into their heads rising up to destroy them. Dan Akroyd’s character ponders the Stay Puft Marshmallow man since this figure from his childhood seems to be the most harmless thing imaginable. Suddenly, a giant Stay Puft Marshmallow man appeared to hunt down the Ghostbusters on top of a Manhattan building.

We drew a comparison between this “Ghostbusters ” scene and developing questions to consider potential black swan events.

Like the Stay Puft Marshmallow man, black swan events aren’t independently scary (i.e., a plane is a common item and who would imagine one crashing into a building) or dazzlingly incredible (i.e., a couple of connected computer networks becoming the Internet).

Yet, somehow in both the “Ghostbusters” movie scene and in black swan events, what seems friendly and safe can turn deadly.

Starting with the Benign

Instead of asking questions to identify specific black swans in a strategic thinking exercise, we recommend identifying a list of things in your business seemingly beyond failure – and even as benign as the Stay Puft Marshmallow man.

Our initial list of areas to consider includes:

  • Things currently working well– both inside and outside the organization
  • Strong, dependable areas in the organization and its processes
  • Activities increasing in volume and importance because of growing market demand
  • Overlooked aspects of the business considered no big deal
  • Disproportionately complex processes in the organization
  • The organization’s hidden secrets
  • Formerly problematic business areas whose challenges are long forgotten

Once you’ve generated a list from these areas, you can look for themes that emerge.

Turning Your Organizational Imagination into Action

The second step is to begin imagining the impact of things from the list you’ve created blowing up (through extreme failure or success) and whether you would be prepared to respond to these events. This can be a fun strategic destruction exercise for your team.

Across this strategic thinking exercise, you may not have anticipated all or even most of the black swans that might hit; but ideally, you’ll have anticipated a wide range of significant disruptions that could be caused by the black swan events you can’t anticipate.

Do you plan for Black Swan events?

Does (or will) your organization try to plan for black swan events? How do you go about doing it if this is a regular part of your annual planning?

If you’d like some assistance on your next round of strategic planning (whether or not you want to anticipate black swan events), let me know. We’d love to help you imagine your future thoroughly and quickly on the way to better implementation next year. – Mike Brown

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

If you’re struggling to generate and implement new ideas, The Brainzooming Group can be the strategic catalyst you need. We will apply our strategic thinking, innovation, and implementation tools on to help you create greater organizational success. Email us at info@brainzooming.com or call 816-509-5320 to learn how we can help you figure out how to work around your innovation challenges.

 

Need Fresh Insights to Drive Your Strategy?

Download our FREE eBook: Reimagining the SWOT Analysis

swot-alternatives-cover

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Whether you are just starting your strategy or think you are well down the path, you can use this eBook to:

  • Engage your team
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  • Make sure your strategy is addressing typically overlooked opportunities and threats

Written simply and directly with a focus on enlivening one of the most familiar strategic thinking exercises, “Reimagining the SWOT Analysis” will be a go-to resource for stronger strategic insights!

Download Your FREE eBook! 11 Ways to Reimagine Your SWOT Analysis

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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It is great to use new, unique, or amazingly infrequent experiences for creative inspiration. It’s loads of fun to be able to justify doing something out of the ordinary in the spirit of enhancing your creative ideas.

That is why riding roller coasters used to be at the top of my list of ways to clear my mind and trigger new creative ideas.

But guess what? I have not had an opportunity to ride roller coasters since trips to Las Vegas and Denver in 2008.

And that is the problem about building your creative inspiration around new, unique, and infrequent experiences: by definition, these experiences happen only once, at worst, or with long gaps of time in between, at best.

Who can afford to have had your last creative ideas in 2008?

Answer: Nobody.

Finding Creative Ideas from Daily Life

So beyond high intensity creative inspiration experience that come along (or we engineer), it’s vital to develop your ability to be find creative ideas from the environments, people, and things in your daily life.

That means working to discover creative inspiration each day from your:

Cultivating a Steady Stream of Creative Ideas

When you are able to mine the creative inspiration from your daily life, you’ll have a steady stream of creative ideas. Plus, you will be even that much more ready for the creatively incredible experience that comes along every few months or years! – 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 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 info@brainzooming.com or call us at 816-509-5320 to learn how we can deliver these benefits for you.

 

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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