0

“Be interactive” is certainly popular advice for brands right now. Engage with your audience. Get them involved to build a relationship.

All great strategy advice. WHEN it makes sense. But many times, how it’s implemented makes NO SENSE at all.

A great example from this past weekend was ABC’s Good Morning America trying to find the best breakfast in the US. And by “best,” they mean “highest calorie.” After narrowing it to four choices, the TV audience was offered brief vignettes showing how each breakfast is prepared followed by a segment where we watched the show’s cast eat the four breakfasts.

Then, because interactivity is great and we all want to be engaged and have a relationship with Good Morning America, we were encouraged to hurry to the GMA website to vote for our choice for the best breakfast!!!

Huh?

The breakfast that looks the best? The breakfast that the hosts drooled over the most? The one with the most interesting recipe?

Last I checked, food mostly is about taste. So while this might have been an engaging interactive experience for fans of the 4 restaurants who might have actually EATEN one of the delicacies, it’s stupid for everyone else. That’s especially true since clicking the vote link on GMA’s website took you to a list of the breakfasts, with none of the “additional information” promised on the show.

I repeat: Interactivity, engagement, and building relationships are incredible strategies, when they make sense. When they don’t? They’re just stupid strategies and a waste of time, with or without social media. Agreed? – Mike Brown

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.

More Posts - Website

Follow Me:
TwitterFacebookLinkedInPinterestGoogle Plus

Continue Reading

1

On Thursday, I participated on an innovation panel at The Entrepreneurship Institute President’s Forum at the Kauffman Foundation Conference Center. The panel featured leaders from three outstanding Kansas City business innovation successes, each using a different strategy to break through typical business innovation barriers:

Gina Danner, CEO of Mail Print - Rather than defining the business as a “printer” and riding the secular decline of printed matter right into the ground, Gina has defined her business based on the assets, talents, and tools it has (or can put to use). As a result, Gina pursued technology and variable printing capabilities well in advance of competitors. Mail Print is thus positioned to not simply print things, but to drive revenue for its clients. The company has also looked to electronic delivery of messages because it’s part of the right answer to an important client question: “What are you trying to accomplish?”

Brian Weaver, Founder and CEO of Anthem Media Group - A key aspect of the Anthem Media Group back story is Brian’s former employer essentially telling him to stuff his new business ideas. After enough NO’s, Brian (who describes himself as a serial entrepreneur) took his ideas and started his own business. The ultimate comeuppance was several years later when he bought his former employer. Brian talked about going against conventional wisdom to strategically start and acquire businesses in the midst of the 2008-2009 economic collapse. By refusing to listen to the NO’s thrown in his way, Brian’s built a successful multi-media publishing business.

Aaron Zack, CEO of SunlightenSeveral years ago, Aaron thought his company had a clear product advantage with its saunas. A trip to China and visits to several factories manufacturing inferior quality knock-offs of his product changed that perception. His response was to harness the internal expertise of his team, but not just the typical innovators. Aaron brought together a truly cross-functional group (even the accountants) to work on the product innovation challenge. With a diverse team and an intuitive understanding of what customers might want, Sunlighten is introducing a truly unique sauna product using the full infrared spectrum to provide different types of health benefits. After several years of development, the sauna’s launch is imminent.

Great stories and three entrepreneurs with strong strategic handles on their respective businesses. – Mike Brown

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.

More Posts - Website

Follow Me:
TwitterFacebookLinkedInPinterestGoogle Plus

Continue Reading

1

I check KnowEm, a site to track the availability of user names across social media applications, frequently to see how many social media websites they tout. The current number is “more than 350.” A little more than a year ago when I discovered an earlier incarnation of the website, the number of social media applications listed was closer to 100.

That’s incredible growth, making it challenging to keep up, even if you’re immersed in social media.

What can you do to stay current on social media if it’s not your full time gig?

Here are two strategies to use:

  • Make sure you have strategic teammates very immersed in social media, i.e. they’re constantly staying on top of even more new social media applications and what they’re used for than you are. Ask them questions and let them guide and keep you informed on the latest innovations.
  • Pick out a new social media application from one of the fifteen social media categories on KnowEm, sign up, and spend the next week or two gaining some familiarity with it. When you feel like you’ve got a sense of that social media application, strategically select another one from a different category to try.

I put these two ideas together last week to pick up from Nate Riggs’ advocacy for location-based applications and finally forced myself to try Foursquare more aggressively. Doing so led to insights about the value and related opportunities of Foursquare, thoughts on the potential challenges of motivating participation, and interestingly, mayorship of three churches – guess that says a lot about where I spend my time!

At one new social media application every week or two you’re not going to wind up trying all of them. But really, the more important point is to have a current sense of what’s out there. Pick out your new social media application to try, and while you’re at it, don’t hesitate to let me know what my next one to try should be! – Mike Brown

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.

More Posts - Website

Follow Me:
TwitterFacebookLinkedInPinterestGoogle Plus

Continue Reading

13

In the midst of a dreary day, we watched the Cake Boss marathon on TLC last Sunday. The reality TV program was fun and illustrated all kinds of extreme creativity lessons:

Shatter conventional definitions – The show is about cakes. But until Sunday, it never occurred to me a cake could be made from rice crispie treats, wood, screws, and PVC pipe. But look inside “star” Buddy Valestro’s “cakes,” and you may find any of those and more. If he stuck with traditional cake recipes instead of creative ones, he’d never be the “Cake Boss.”

Construct a creative team that’s better than you – Buddy appears to have command of many skills critical to making incredible cakes. Yet it’s clear he surrounds himself with specialized, creative people who have stronger talents than he does in focused areas equally essential to creating the kinds of extreme cakes he’s known for.

Your distinctive talents work all over the place – Why be just a baker? Carpentry, painting, and pottery skills were all used to create innovative cakes shaped like teapots, motorcycles, boats, and mannequins.

The impossible = amazing creativity – In one special episode, the challenge was to create a full-size NASCAR race car shaped cake. Two separate locations were used to make all the cakes for the more than 12,000 pound final creation. 12,000 pounds? That’s nearly 4 times how much a real race car weighs! That’s extreme creativity!

Creativity doesn’t mean glossing over details – For an apple farm, the bakery had to make its first ever apple cake. While the apple grower appreciated the cake’s taste, what really excited him was the cake’s appearance – edible mini-pumpkins, apples, and a “working” tree swing.

Yell, laugh, and cry – Buddy’s family bakery is an emotional place. They wear their emotions on their sleeves; it’s all part of the intensively creative, deadline-driven process.

Shut up and fix disasters - Since it’s a reality show, disasters are a must. The front end of the NASCAR cake fell-off. A cake for a drag queen’s holiday show was too big to fit through any door to the theater. So what do you do? Throw more rice crispie treats at the NASCAR and get the holiday show audience to come outside to get their cake. No harm, no foul.

Put these extreme creative lessons to work, and cook up some creativity for yourself! – Mike Brown

Want to be as creative as Buddy, the Cake Boss? To tap into your own extreme creativity, download the free Brainzooming ebook, “Taking the NO Out of InNOvation” to enhance your creative perspective! 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 brainzooming@gmail.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.

More Posts - Website

Follow Me:
TwitterFacebookLinkedInPinterestGoogle Plus

Continue Reading

3

Several times a month, Brainzooming innovation articles appear on Braden Kelley’s Blogging Innovation website – a compendium of work by top innovation writers.  Additionally, there’s a monthly focus topic where a number of writers address the same innovation subject.

The April topic was how social media and social networking applications can benefit innovation strategy. I submitted an innovation article on “30 Ideas for Using Social Networks to Help You Be More Innovative.” It was picked up by a popular email newsletter, which led to lots of page views for the piece, getting in touch with a former business acquaintance, and several speaking opportunities!

Rather than let the innovation strategy and social media ideas stop at thirty, here are ten additional possibilities for using social networks to catalyze your innovation strategy:

Tapping New Expertise

  • Use social media to create innovation teams and networks across organizational boundaries with your suppliers and customers.
  • Encourage employees to interact and learn from experts outside the company who are active on social networks.

Gathering Different Inputs and Information

  • Use comment-oriented social networking applications to solicit broad input on successes and challenges with your products and services.
  • Build a network of customers willing to respond to questions and brief surveys delivered via social media.
  • Post potential innovation ideas and allow them to be voted up or down based on internal / external audience perspectives.

Enabling Innovative Collaboration

  • Eliminate conference calls and use Skype for video conferencing since the visual cues communicated through a video conference will add visual information to help fuel brainstorming and innovation.
  • Share professional background information across the company to match up people with complementary skills, talents, and interests.
  • Use the professional background information to match up diverse people with very different skills, talents, and interests to instigate debate and contrasting views.
  • Require an innovation team to only interact through social media channels during a project. Capture the beneficial and negative learnings to incorporate into future team efforts.
  • Use social networking tools to increase information interaction among geographically separated team members.

What other ideas would you suggest for how social media can catalyze your innovation strategy? – Mike Brown

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.

More Posts - Website

Follow Me:
TwitterFacebookLinkedInPinterestGoogle Plus

Continue Reading

18

Over the weekend, our cat Coco (or “my cat” as she was known), passed away. She had a rare tumor, and for a number of months, we knew it wouldn’t be that much longer before this happened.

I won’t get maudlin, but the story of Coco’s adoption holds a couple of solid lessons.

Cyndi had wanted a black cat for some time. While waiting for her to finish at a store in our nearby shopping center, I saw, in the car’s rear view mirror, a Humane Society volunteer carry a caged black cat toward the early Saturday morning pet adoption just down the way.

When Cyndi returned, we decided to see about adopting the black cat. She was sitting rather forlornly in her cage when we found her. In talking with the volunteer, we discovered she was a Manx kitten, i.e. she had no tail. The volunteer explained how this caused potential problems and made these cats more difficult to care for than the typical cat. She asked us whether we had other cats and if they went out doors. After answering a few more questions, we were told that we wouldn’t be able to adopt this kitten.

We were surprised but went on our way. Later, we figured that beyond the fact we told them our two cats went out in the back yard, the fact we had gone over to the shopping center before getting all spruced up in the morning may have been a factor. Granted, we probably looked pretty scruffy, but I’d never known being unshaven to be grounds for being denied the opportunity to adopt a pet.

Running errands that afternoon, we decided to go back and see if the cat were still there. Sure enough she was, and now, nicely dressed, we got none of the questions we’d received in the morning. Instead, we were welcomed and within a very short time, were headed home with Coco.

That was nearly fourteen years ago.  We talk often about how in a world where people increasingly look disheveled, the way we looked that Saturday really did matter in how we were judged. We also remind ourselves about all the joy we’d have missed in our lives if we’d have taken the first “no” as the final answer.

To close, here’s a quirky moment from Sunday night. I was looking at a video I’d shot of Coco earlier this year when Clementine, our last remaining cat, hopped up on the desk, as she so frequently does. It’s an unstaged, double video goodbye between the two of them. One in January and one today.

I’ll admit this post was kind of light on strategy and innovation. Thanks for reading it anyway though, because I just had to write it – Mike Brown

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.

More Posts - Website

Follow Me:
TwitterFacebookLinkedInPinterestGoogle Plus

Continue Reading

2

If you sell a product that was the driving force behind much of world exploration, you might choose to leave well enough alone when it comes to innovative packaging strategy. I noticed recently, however, that category leader McCormick & Co. isn’t doing any such thing as it introduces some new creativity to its packaging strategy.

We all get that herbs and spices really improve the taste of our favorite dishes and make our not so favorite, but healthier, dishes more palatable. But many of us don’t cook enough to use up the traditional bottle of spice in 2 or 3 years before the contents lose their punch. If your kitchen is like ours, you have bottles of spices that have been there since before there was such a thing as a blog, much less a tweet.

McCormick is displaying new creativity in this area through a new Recipe Inspiration that is an innovative packaging strategy doing away with the bottle altogether. In an innovative way, it also does away with problem of not having the right spices for a recipe or having those spices be stale. They give you the recipe and the spices you need in the quantity you need them. It’s a fantastic example of creating value by giving you less product, but delivering the product with creativity in a more convenient and usable configuration.

I don’t know if this new packaging innovation strategy will be a success, but it surely won’t be because McCormick kept its packaging creativity bottled up. – Barrett Sydnor

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

Continue Reading