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I met John Digles in June 2009 as he produced video interviews for the Business Marketing Association Conference. John’s background is fascinating; he’s an award-winning film maker whose work has gained critical notice, including at the Sundance Film Festival.

John is also founder of entrepreneurial incubator StrategyDeli and sits on the DePaul University Marketing MBA Advisory Council. As Chief Marketing Officer of XanGo, John implemented a number of innovative programs, including:

John is also founder of entrepreneurial incubator StrategyDeli and sits on the DePaul University Marketing MBA Advisory Council. As Chief Marketing Officer of

  • Negotiating a category-creating jersey-front deal with Major League Soccer
  • Creating the award-winning XanGo.TV social media site
  • Leading an international marketing program in more than 25 markets

John’s innovative track record earned him an invitation to address the WFDSA World Conference XIII in Singapore.

Sponsorships represent great marketing opportunities if approached strategically and with activation plans fitting a brand’s business objectives. Today, John shares his perspective on how XanGo put together an innovative sponsorship program that’s led to the brand being featured in tonight’s Major League Soccer championship on ESPN:

 

Jersey-front sponsorships are a long-running international soccer tradition. Global corporations such as Samsung and bwin invest millions supporting top teams and showcasing their brands on the playing fields of the world’s most popular sport. But when XanGo, a 4-year old emerging nutritionals leader and direct sales company based in Utah, inked the first jersey-front sponsorship in U.S. Major League Soccer history in November 2006, it was the first of its kind in North American professional sports.

The innovative deal to place the XanGo brand on the jersey-front of Real Salt Lake (RSL) was a perfect fit for the XanGo healthy lifestyle brand and its reputation as a “company of firsts.” We faced risks, however, that come with introducing this kind of advertising. Some wondered if American soccer fans would accept a branded jersey, while others considered a direct sales company an unlikely sponsor.

Exploring the jersey sponsorship, we formulated an activation program designed to mobilize hundreds of thousands of independent XanGo distributors and “make every game a home game” for RSL. Reaching a new consumer constituency would provide opportunity for distributors to teach the business as they filled the stands and hosted their own events at local soccer matches.

XanGo rolled out with an advanced digital strategy and a branded web site celebrating the game and teaching soccer basics. Research showed the site became a destination for parents whose kids were discovering soccer and joining leagues across the country. Many of these visitors learned about XanGo for the first time.

XanGo distributors and employees made RSL’s branded kit one of the league’s top-selling jerseys. FIFA Soccer by EA Sports, one of the world’s most-popular video games, featured XanGo on the jersey of the game’s RSL team. And the XanGo Cup hosted friendly exhibitions between RSL and international soccer superpowers – and their TV audiences.

Measurement data showed the jersey deal became a key factor in boosting global brand recognition, web traffic, and recruitment.

Weeks after the XanGo sponsorship announcement, David Beckham signed with the L.A. Galaxy and global nutrition and direct sales company Herbalife secured the next jersey-front deal. Jersey sponsorships with major brands followed around the league, including BMO with Toronto FC, Best Buy with the Chicago Fire, and Amway Global with the San Jose Earthquakes.

Network marketing is a passionate, loyalty-driven business. As direct sales brands cut their jersey deals, distributors from each sponsoring company became more vocal and competitive in showing support.

Three years after the first jersey-front deal, Real Salt Lake and the L.A. Galaxy have reached the MLS Cup, taking two direct sales titans to the league’s biggest stage.

While the category-creating deal surprised some, the trend of direct sales sponsorships has aligned thriving nutrition brands with the game, increased consumer awareness of the business and converted millions of passionate distributors into active fans for Major League Soccer. – John Digles

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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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Today’s guest post addressing preparing for 2010 comes from Barrett Sydnor, one of the first guest authors ever on Brainzooming back in early 2008. I’ve worked with Barrett on various strategic planning projects over the past 15 years, including quite a bit of quantitative industry analysis and supply/demand forecasting.

Today, he’s addressing the right marketing stance to have during and coming out of a recession:

Fortune Favors the Bold.

The Roman playwright Terence wrote that in the 2nd century BC, though Virgil often gets credit because a similar line later appears in the Aeneid. Terence was probably talking about the military strategy of some emperor, but it turns out that the sentiment applies to businesses—small and large—as they face figuring out how to plan for 2010.

A natural tendency when looking at bad or uncertain times is to hunker down, keep spending to a minimum, and stay with what you have done in the past. Natural, but maybe not smart.

A Hurwitz & Associates report found that 65% of small businesses that expected increased revenues during 2009 had raised or planned to increase marketing spending. Increased revenues were expected by only 30% of those who were keeping marketing spend flat, and almost half (41%) of those who were cutting marketing spend were expecting a decrease in revenue.

This correlates with a study done at Penn State after the 2000 recession. The authors say that using what they call “proactive marketing” can allow firms to improve both capital market and business performance during a recession. They cite increased marketing spending by P&G, Kellogg, Intel, and Wal-Mart during recessions—and depressions—as a way to grab or consolidate dominant market shares.

For sports fans, one way to restate “Fortune Favors the Bold,” is “The Best Defense is a Good Offense.” You might ask, “How did that work out for Bill Belichick and the Patriots against the Colts?” While the execution lacked, he had the science—and the odds on his side (discussion here, here, and here).

In planning, as in coaching football, getting the odds on your side is really is what you are trying to do. Being more aggressive with your 2010 plan may be the way to tilt those odds in your favor. – Barrett Sydnor

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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I’m a proponent of spreading strategic thinking broadly in a company and not readily handing off strategy development to outside parties exclusively. Yet I’ve been a part of many examples where an outside perspective helped move strategic planning  development ahead much more quickly.

3 Real Life Strategic Planning Successes

Here are several examples you may be facing related to strategic planning where it’s good to get outside expertise:

Turning Talk Into Strategic Planning Progress

A small subsidiary’s three-person management team was told to get a strategic plan in place to show corporate management the company’s direction. They had no strategic planning process and only ten business days to deliver a comprehensive strategic plan. We brought in the Brainzooming process to develop an innovative strategic plan in one day. The output couldn’t be simply a bunch of ideas nor could it be only a rote plan with little strategic insight.

Structuring a day-long session using question-based exercises allowed the team to answer questions about the business, participate in exercises to stretch strategic perspectives on competition and opportunities, and come back the next morning to make people and timing decisions on a tight plan to share with the operating president.

As non-planners, they wouldn’t have been able to put together a coherent strategic planning document in ten days, but they did understand their business and the general direction they needed to head. We combined their deep knowledge with strategic thinking exercises and facilitation allowing us to challenge and create a strategic plan from their answers. We delivered the best of both worlds – a structured plan reflecting their intent for the business with sound strategic logic and more innovation than they’d have ever brought to it alone. This experience demonstrated the clear benefit of the emerging Brainzooming process.

Stimulating a Management Team that Knows It All

We rolled into town to help a really experienced senior management team tackle annual strategic planning. Because of their tenure and smarts, they knew the company inside- out. This knowledge rendered them ill-suited to solving a long-term growth challenge: as every idea was uttered, they “knew” why it wouldn’t work for the brand.

During the course of a day-long planning session, I created a new exercise on the fly based on a brand in a very different industry sharing the same fundamental characteristics of our client. I asked the group to suggest how this other company could address the same challenge they were facing. All of a sudden ideas started flowing non-stop. We were able to take the concepts and strategically apply them to their business.

Left on its own to think strategically, the management team would never have reached an alternative look at its business. An outside perspective, unburdened by excessive detail was critical to identifying an analogous situation, providing an entree for innovative strategic thinking and implementation.

Doing the Thinking for a Distracted Management Team

We had a pre-scheduled planning follow-up with a management team who, since our initial session, had been charged with exploring a major brand contraction. Unable to convince them their new assignment should be the focus for our session, we instead spent time addressing the status quo scenario. Unfortunately, the status quo wasn’t likely or compelling enough to command much of their attention and strategic creativity.

Frustrated by the lack of intensity while addressing the status quo, we wrapped the effort early. We told them we’d work on the status quo scenario, delivering 200 prioritized, fleshed out ideas and concepts within 3 days. Using several creativity techniques during the flight home, we generated really strong creative concepts for the status quo or, with some modification, for the alternative scenario also.

This was a great example of the importance of a balanced group in doing the best strategic thinking. The client’s management team had business experience and functional knowledge, but was sapped of any creative energy it ever had. Bringing in outside talent for a creative spark was needed to turn lackluster thinking into vibrant, implementable ideas.  - Mike Brown

 

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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 loyal reader pointed out that the Brainzooming blog has grown so large that it’s more challenging to find specific posts. One possibility is using the search function on each page to search for particular topics directly in Brainzooming articles.

Another alternative is doing compilations on frequently addressed topics. Here’s a short list of strategic planning content directly applicable if you’re under the gun to get strategic planning completed for next year.

A Foundation on Strategic Planning and Strategic Thinking

Creating Focus in Your Strategic Planning

Contingency Planning

Updating Your Current Strategic Plan

Implementing Specific Strategic Planning Actions

Wrapping Up with a Smile on Your Face

There are certainly other Brainzooming articles touching on these planning topics, but ideally this short list will get you jump started for current planning efforts you have to complete. - 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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Keith Prather is Managing Director of Armada Corporate Intelligence, a corporate business intelligence firm that functions as outsourced members of corporate strategy groups and consults with companies of all sizes on strategy and implementation. Armada is sponsoring this week of posts on getting ready for 2010 planning.

I’ve known Keith for nearly a decade and have worked with him closely on a variety of strategic and market planning efforts. Today, I’m excited he’s sharing his professional perspectives on getting a better understanding of your external environment during this period of dramatic global change in business and consumer markets:

A critical component of a successful strategic plan is a well-established strategy foundation – a compilation of information and intelligence covering your industry, global markets, customers, and the environment. Particularly relevant this year is the need to produce an accurate economic forecast with meaning and relevance for the business. And given the uncertainty surrounding the global economy, this can be a daunting task.

Following the most basic tenets, forecasters need to identify the supply and demand drivers for an industry, and capture meaningful data describing the condition and outlook for them. Sometimes though the most impactful elements on a business are not what we think. Going to the expense side of the income statement and understanding the biggest cost items in your business will help determine the real key elements of supply – those you rely on.

For instance, one client believed steel (which was one of the company’s top expenses) was the primary input for its business, with countless hours spent monitoring, forecasting, and negotiating steel prices. Energy costs, on the other hand, were not considered to have a material impact, and were lumped into utility and overhead costs. In 2008, however, consumption of oil-based resources drove prices up significantly. As a result, oil costs had to be factored much more directly into forecasting models to improve their accuracy. By not anticipating this significant change to the company’s business mix, however, it was caught flat footed.

On the demand side, the challenge is more complex. While providing future economic insights for clients, several fundamental items seem to be driving things developments. First, everything ultimately circles back to consumers. You and I, spending money, drives more than 70% of the nation’s $13 trillion in GDP. Watching consumer spending, consumer confidence, housing, and several other metrics tracking consumer activity are useful in helping gauge future activity. One great aggregator site for basic economic information is the US Census Bureau’s Economic Indicator page.

There are some other great free aggregator sites providing solid current economic news and explanations of some of the items driving current activity. One of my favorites is the RTTNews Daily Market Analysis. We also pay a lot of attention to the Financial Times, CNBC, Wall Street Journal, and Global Insight for forecasting information.

For manufacturing, the Institute for Supply Management publishes one of the most accurate gauges of manufacturing activity, the Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI), on a monthly basis. You can read about the PMI in simple, easy to follow prose at the ISM website.

Calculating risk is also an important component to a well-done strategy foundation. With a wave of new legislation floating around in Congress, it is important for companies to use scenario planning in considering impacts of various regulatory actions on the company. From health care to energy legislation, companies will be hit with direct and indirect risks as a result. Using a system such as the Lockwood Analytical Method for Prediction (LAMP) can help in gauging which scenarios provide the greatest risk – and the greatest likelihood of occurring.

It can’t be said enough, a solid strategy foundation is the underpinning to a successful strategic plan. Woodrow Wilson once said: “We should not only use all the brains we have, but all the brains we can borrow.” If you can’t build the strategy foundation in-house, it’s worth getting help to make sure that the business landscape is being accurately portrayed. Otherwise, you might be building a ship when what you really need is a bicycle. – Keith Prather

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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My, how times change!

In the old days, I’d get twitchy if our planning group’s attention hadn’t turned to readying for the next year’s planning by April with completion targeted for early September. Amid a changing business environment, however, those dates got progressively later until the prospect of nearly coincident planning left us unphased.

At the Frost & Sullivan event I participated in during the first week in November, attendees were asked who was still working on 2010 plans. Based on the large percentage of hands raised, it looked like many companies have pushed back planning efforts much later.

As a result, Brainzooming is focused on 2010 planning, providing tips and ideas to prepare your plan for what your marketplace holds next year. Here’s what’s coming this week:

If you’re feeling really under the gun for getting your 2010 plan done on time with the level of rigor to help your business be more successful in 2010, get in touch with Armada today for help with an Idea Generation Session, a Plan Audit, or a Fast-Track plan building session. – 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.

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I “led” (and by “led,” I mean “asked one question and got out of the way”) a roundtable on innovation challenges at the Frost & Sullivan Marketing World 2009 event last week with a group of incredible marketers. The only challenge was taking notes fast enough!

The participants included Jeffrey Rohrs (ExactTarget), Andy Shafer (Elevance Renewable Sciences), Sean Cheyney (Accuquote), Steven Handmaker (Assurance), Kathy Zanzucchi (Microflex Corporation), Theresa Kwan-Zangara (Gallagher Benefit Services, Inc.), and Brian Krause (Molex). Here are innovation challenges the participants successfully addressed:

No Process for Channeling Customer Ideas

ExactTarget crowdsources product innovation ideas – 90% of enhancement ideas come from its user community. Additionally, an Idea Lab allows customers on the forefront of its product use to trial changes in a structured environment. (Jeff Rohrs)

Customer Perspectives Are Being Ignored

It’s important for marketing to be involved with innovation and new product development efforts to help vet ideas. Without marketing introducing a customer perspective, there’s an opportunity for gaps to develop. (Kathy Zanzucchi)

There’s No Widespread Understanding of Innovation

Marketing can become more involved and help drive innovation by setting up company-wide training curriculum on innovation. (Sean Cheyney)

No Motivation to Share Ideas

One way to stimulate employee innovation ideas is making a full-fledged program of it, complete with a character (in the case of Assurance, it’s “Ivan Idea”!), a convenient intranet-based way to submit ideas, and a $5 gift card for EVERY business process improvement idea submitted. Among 200 Assurance employees, 60% have submitted ideas! Every idea is reviewed, followed-up, and published through the work of a key middle management group. (Steven Handmaker)

The right kind of internal competition can be a stimulus for sharing proven ideas others haven’t yet implemented. With a distributed marketing force, Gallagher Benefit Services uses national webcasts to prompt individual offices to share what’s working for them to improve efficiency, revenue growth, and operations. Marketing plays a role in drawing out best practices from participants. (Theresa Kwan-Zangara)

Death by a Thousand Approvals

Sometimes innovation hinges on avoiding corporate inertia and simply starting before getting everything cleared. Social media implementation can be an example of this in more traditional companies. Get the kindred spirits in place, agree to the program goals and risks you’re willing to take on, and begin. With social media especially, there may be a better opportunity to start and experiment within an agreed to framework that minimizes the potential for big gaffes. (Brian Krause)

Thanks to everybody for making it such a great information-packed session. For even more ideas, check out this previous Brainzooming post on dealing with ten common NOs in business inNOvation. – 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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