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What’s the story on the innovation strategy for beer?

The Kansas City American Marketing Association monthly lunch addressed that question. Former Vice President of Innovation at Anheuser-Busch, Pat McGauley, shared stories of his past twelve years creating the company’s innovation team.

Rather than playback the various innovation strategy stories Pat McGauley shared, here is a sampling of quotes and points he made that stood out as great thought starters:

Not all innovation strategy inside a company is created equal.

Pat’s innovation team was responsible for product and packaging innovation. He reported that packaging innovation was more difficult to develop than liquid innovation. Based on comments he made regarding working with retailers on in-store shelving, product innovation may have been easier because it might lead to a fight for shelf space. Packaging innovation, on the other hand, could require making the case for a different shelf entirely.

Not all innovation teams are created equal.

Pat formed two innovation teams. One focused on near-term innovation strategy and the other on filling the three-to-five-year innovation pipeline. While the two team approach was designed to keep the longer-term team from getting pulled into today’s fires, it presented challenges. The long-term innovation strategy team became too disconnected from current activities shaping the future environment its innovations would face. Both teams, however, were detached from the brand teams to minimize the pull toward shorter-term brand priorities.

Innovation-Strategy-Checkli

“If you have a whole room that thinks the same, you don’t need all those people.”

He was speaking to the choir about the need for diverse participation and varied inputs to trigger ideas. Their global innovation team went to Korea in 2015 to look for inspiration.

How you frame the question shapes the innovation strategy opportunity.

On a market segmentation chart, Pat was making the point that there are multiple ways to grow from innovation. Sometimes it’s grabbing share from competitors in your category. In other situations, it’s grabbing share from substitutes for your category. The chart drew the distinction between these “share of beer” and  “share of throat” opportunities. That’s an intriguing categorization you could apply to many businesses to point innovation opportunities in different directions.

“Sometimes a company needs something that the consumers don’t need.”

In covering a few  innovation failures, Pat talked about Anheuser World Select. As he put it, “Anheuser-Busch needed an import beer, so we created a fake import.” The company had become enamored with trying to solve the problem of not having an import, but consumers had access to import beers. They didn’t need an inauthentic version from Anheuser-Busch.

“Renovation is putting new coats of paint on big brands.”

Pat credited InBev (which merged with Anheuser-Busch in 2008) with introducing the idea of renovation to the organization. The innovation team spent 15% of its time on core brand renovation to enhance competitiveness.

3-Innovation-Strategy-Tiers

A leading company shunning innovation is “like someone hugging a block of ice.”

You can hang on to a block of ice (representing a core capability) and refuse to move away from it, but eventually the block of ice is going to melt and disappear. Pat pointed to Jeff Bezos as a CEO with a contrasting perspective. He is always on the lookout to disrupt Amazon before the next Amazon does it.

Lackluster innovators can catch up quickly.

One chart depicted (I think) growth factors in the beer market from 2012 to 2014. In 2012, competitor innovation accounted for just 5% of growth in the beer market; Anheuser-Busch was the overwhelming leader in innovation-driven growth. By 2014, competitor innovation represented 35% of beer industry growth. – Mike Brown

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I fielded a request for a few ideas on social engagement for an upcoming eBook an online company is creating. One of the questions related to how brands can set themselves apart through a customer experience strategy and outstanding customer engagement.

Our focus is often on creating memorable event-related experiences. Shifting the focus to ongoing customer engagement, however, necessitated a different look than the one we’ve used for years in designing events. While surprise is an important element in creating memorable event experiences, customers aren’t typically looking for surprises in more routine customer service situations.

Brand Expectations and Experience

Noodling the answer to the question further, I sketched an x-y chart comparing customer expectations vs. the nature of the customer experience. This customer experience strategy framework is a variation on how we’ve been thinking for years about developing memorable event experiences.

Social-Engagement-Matrix

The horizontal axis looks at how expected a particular customer experience, showing a range from completely expected on the left to completely unexpected on the right. For the vertical axis on the nature of the customer experience, the bottom label is “Routine” and the top label is “Delight.” The idea here was to describe the range of audience reactions to a brand’s customer engagement.

At a first pass, this framework seems to address the range of experiences a brand might seek to deliver on an ongoing basis.

Start with the lower left quadrant. These are Expected and Routine experiences. In this quadrant, a brand has to get social engagement basics right every time with incredible dependability.

In the upper left, the Expected/Delight quadrant is where customer loyalty programs function. A customer with strong, positive brand behaviors has a history with your brand and expects a certain level of delight in any experience with your organization.

The bottom right quadrant (Unexpected / Routine) might be one that’s frequently overlooked. It’s the opportunity to create a pleasant surprise for a customer during a routine interaction. One example might be the bakery that occasionally and somewhat randomly gives you a free donut because you’re a familiar face, not because of a loyalty program.

The money quadrant is the upper right – that’s where a brand delights a customer in a completely unexpected way. In this area, a brand engages with customers in a fashion consistent with the brand experience, but does so by going above and beyond. These situations create high-impact, memorable moments for audience members. These engagements wind up in business magazine brand profiles and case studies!

Remember, This Is from the Brainzooming Labs

This is a first pass. We’ll be incorporating it into workshops and client sessions to test how beneficial it is as a customer experience strategy framework for generating new ideas!  – Mike Brown

 

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Looking for Ways to Develop a Successful
Innovation Strategy to Grow Your Business?
Brainzooming Has an Answer!

Brainzooming Outside-In Innovation Strategic Thinking Tools eBookBusiness growth can depend on introducing new products and services that resonate more strongly with customers and deliver outstanding value.

Are you prepared to take better advantage of your brand’s customer and market insights to generate innovative product ideas? The right combination of outside perspectives and productive strategic thinking exercises enables your brand to ideate, prioritize, and propel innovative growth.

Download this free, concise eBook to:

  • Identify your organization’s innovation profile
  • Rapidly deploy effective strategic thinking exercises to spur innovation
  • Incorporate market-based perspectives into your innovation strategy in successful ways

Download this FREE eBook to turn ideas into actionable innovation strategies to drive your organization’s comeback!





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Our buddies at Armada Corporate Intelligence addressed what sections you should include in your go to market strategy plan in their “Inside the Executive Suite” feature. They highlighted ten different sections to include your strategy plan. (Note: If you want to learn more about the Armada Executive Intelligence Brief system and get in on this great publication for an incredibly low monthly rate, please visit the Armada website.)

Go-To-Market-Space

10 Sections Your Go to Market Strategy Plan Should Include via Armada Corporate Intelligence

AEIB-GraphicThe term “go to market” strategy cropped up perhaps fifteen years ago. In b-school and for years in the business world, we created “marketing” plans. Maybe consultants coined the new term. We see the difference between a marketing plan and a go to market strategy focusing on how the latter incorporates an understanding of customers, what attracts them, and what a brand does to introduce and win share with a successful product or service. (For brevity, we’ll use “product” to represent both products and services from here on.)

We haven’t found a perfect list of what a go to market strategy incorporates. The list here, however, is what we’ve identified and used. It’s a starting point to adapt from as you work on bringing new product initiatives to market:

Target Market

You need to communicate the primary targets you are trying to reach based on a product’s design, intended experience, and marketing. “Everyone” is not an answer to describe the target market. You should pursue a definable, distinct portion of the available audience. Although targeted, it needs to be large enough to deliver on revenue and profit objectives. When targeting multiple groups, communicate which one is the primary target versus others you might include in your marketing.

Brand Strategy

This isn’t just about logos, advertising, and colors. That’s only a part of brand strategy. The go to market strategy should address alignment between your employees, product quality and experience, audience communications, and everything else reinforcing your brand and how you’ll introduce and market a new product. The brand strategy sets guidelines for the go to market approach and provides a platform for new, smart ideas to integrate the product within the overall brand.

Positioning & Messaging

Positioning addresses where you want to place your product in the marketplace relative to competitive offerings. The position (and messages conveying the position to the market) should be distinct versus competitors’ market positions. Developing a product’s ideal position incorporates what the target market expects and will accept from the brand. It also includes what customers will reward through positive buying behaviors. Articulating the position is a start; the remainder of your go to market strategy addresses delivering on the position daily.

Value Proposition

A value proposition can take various forms. Two common elements are needed irrespective of the format. Initially,  the value proposition must clearly communicate how customers, through using your product, will receive more in return than the sum of what they paid and the other “costs” associated with using it. The other essential is the value proposition isn’t just a statement. It must translate to real world product purchase, use, and support experiences.

Sales and Distribution Channels

This covers the varied means of selling and getting the product to customers. It could include strategies for direct sales, inside sales, inbound marketing, wholesalers, distribution partners, alliances, affiliates, etc. It also incorporates all the elements necessary to support channels and relationships, including recruiting, hiring, training, tools, deployment, and the supply chain.

Customer Touch Points

You won’t just reach customers through the sales and distribution channel touchpoints. This strategy component addresses how the product will rely on direct and indirect online contact (web, social media, content), front line service providers, the customer service team, and any other places where you expect customers will interact with your brand and form perceptions about the experience.

Pricing Strategy

The pricing strategy must fit with all other sections to strategically and effectively support the market position and value proposition. It’s impossible to cover creating a pricing strategy in one paragraph. There’s one common trap, however, we see trip up many companies: the pricing strategy may have nothing to do with the production costs. Pricing isn’t necessarily your cost plus a certain percent added as a mark-up. You develop a pricing strategy to support the right value proposition in the marketplace; getting costs in line to support that position is a separate issue.

Marketing Communications Strategy

As with brand strategy, many executives incorrectly think this is the only part of a go to market strategy. Within this section, make sure you have the right mix of online presence and content, advertising, collateral, event marketing, public relations, and internal communication to support the product’s position and intended messages.

Supporting Technology and Systems

More than ever, technology is an integral part of developing and launching products. Smart marketers invite the IT team to the table early when planning a new product. They can help identify innovative ways to use technology to maximize the customer experience and improve efficiencies that create a more attractive cost position.

Metrics

Whether at the start or end a go to market strategy, develop and refine relevant metrics throughout creating the approach. Rather than simply including only sales units, revenue, and profitability targets, metrics should be in place to help identify progress and challenges during the entire implementation process. – Armada Corporate Intelligence

 

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Download our FREE “Taking the No Out of InNOvation eBook to help  generate extreme creativity and ideas! For organizational innovation success, contact The Brainzooming Group to help your team be more successful by rapidly expanding strategic options and creating innovative growth strategies. Contact us at info@brainzooming.com or call us at 816-509-5320 to learn how we can deliver these benefits for you.

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Most clients we’re talking with are deep into launching new programs. Those are exciting times, but they can also be daunting. There’s a certain level of risk in launching new programs, especially if you don’t have a standard way of starting with the same questions and steps.

10 Project Planning Questions for Launching New Programs

When launching new programs, you have (in all likelihood) the best opportunity to push the boundaries of what’s been envisioned. Exploring the right project planning questions from the start allows you to see what flexibility exists to modify initial planning.

10 Project Planning Questions for Launching New Programs

If you are on the hook for launching new programs this year, here are the types of project planning questions we recommend asking right now to make sure your implementation team starts down the best, most successful path.

  1. What is the business strategy behind launching this new program?
  2. Are certain reasons for launching this new program more important than others?
  3. How do the reasons for launching it translate to specific goals and objectives?
  4. Is everyone aware of this initiative that needs to know about it . . . for their support, for optimum coordination, and for successful transition ultimately into implementation?
  5. If everyone is not aware of the initiative, what other parties need to be involved?
  6. What opportunities exist to modify the initiative if it makes smart, strategic sense to do so?
  7. What factors are most important in leading to successful implementation?
  8. What should we be watching out for during implementation that will signal either positives or negatives for success?
  9. What implementation steps are set, and which are still open to change?
  10. How much leeway is built into the implementation schedule?

Across these ten project planning questions, you will create opportunities to modify goals, participation, tactics, and timing. These questions help you get off to a fast AND smart start that will pay dividends whenever you are launching initiatives.

Want More Help?

If you have questions about the best ways to broaden participation in the earliest stages, be sure to download our Results, mini-book. It’s full of ideas for successfully involving more employees to make a bigger impact! – Mike Brown

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10 Lessons for Engaging Your Employees to Create Stronger Results

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Results!!! Creating Strategic Impact Mini-Book

Senior executives are looking for employees who are strong collaborators and communicators while being creative and flexible. In short they need strategic thinkers who can develop strategy and turn it into results.

This new Brainzooming mini-book, “Results – Creating Strategic Impact” unveils ten proven lessons for senior executives to increase strategic collaboration, employee engagement, and grow revenues for their organizations.

Download this free, action-focused mini-book to:

  • Learn smart ways to separate strategic opportunities from the daily noise of business
  • Increase focus for your team with productive strategy questions everyone can use
  • Actively engage more employees in strategy AND implementation success

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I saw a Little Caesars TV ad extolling the benefits of the brand’s pizza dough remaining unchanged over time. Perhaps the TV ad is a delayed reaction to a Domino’s TV ad several years earlier about innovating because it finally listened to customers saying how bad Domino’s was.

The Little Caesars TV ad shows one employee questioning another about making pizza dough from scratch every day for fifty years without ever changing.  The veteran employee explains the instruction to make pizza dough by hand daily is laminated, and “lamination is forever.”

It’s a mildly humorous ad.

It’s a significant point though when it comes to the barriers to innovation many organizations erect.

While you may not have your organization’s barriers to innovation laminated and on display everywhere, there are likely other phrases, labels, and activities suggesting particular practices are “forever.” Since they AREN’T laminated, they may be easy to miss.

30 Barriers to Innovation (other than Lamination)

Little-Caesar3

What should you be looking out for with less obvious barriers to innovation? They could be hiding as things talked about or understood to be:

  1. Anything that has stood the test of time
  2. Anything with a proven track record
  3. Assets everyone is trying to leverage
  4. Assumptions about the marketplace that everyone understands
  5. Behaviors that are safe and comfortable within the organization
  6. Capabilities or products central to success
  7. CEO-endorsed initiatives
  8. Challenging discussions that are off the table
  9. Core capabilities or assets
  10. Corporate traditions
  11. Expectations everyone understands need to be met
  12. Foundational aspects of the brand that took hold without much forethought
  13. Ideas someone has struggled to sell-in so no one wants to change anything and re-sell them
  14. Known entities
  15. Long-standing policies
  16. Off-limits topics and conversations
  17. Priorities that go unexamined or unchanged
  18. Programs considered familiar and safe
  19. Programs that are routinely funded with few questions
  20. Programs where leadership is solidly on-board
  21. Questions that have been decided, and everyone is expected to “move on”
  22. Slam dunks
  23. Something that’s clearly considered out-of-bounds
  24. Something strongly aligned with senior management expectations
  25. Successful programs that nobody would dare tweak
  26. Sure things
  27. Things no one questions
  28. Things that are easy to accomplish
  29. Top-down directives
  30. Well-respected people and programs

You see, not all barriers to innovation involve lamination as the main way to say something is “forever.” There are all kinds of ways to make it clear that something in your organization is set aside, protected, or untouchable.

Maybe some of them DO need to be forever. A lot of them, however, are probably ripe for change.  – Mike Brown

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Looking for Ways to Develop a Successful
Innovation Strategy to Grow Your Business?
Brainzooming Has an Answer!

Brainzooming Outside-In Innovation Strategic Thinking Tools eBookBusiness growth can depend on introducing new products and services that resonate more strongly with customers and deliver outstanding value.

Are you prepared to take better advantage of your brand’s customer and market insights to generate innovative product ideas? The right combination of outside perspectives and productive strategic thinking exercises enables your brand to ideate, prioritize, and propel innovative growth.

Download this free, concise eBook to:

  • Identify your organization’s innovation profile
  • Rapidly deploy effective strategic thinking exercises to spur innovation
  • Incorporate market-based perspectives into your innovation strategy in successful ways

Download this FREE eBook to turn ideas into actionable innovation strategies to drive your organization’s comeback!





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Be on the lookout and step up to be the one trying to push past all those barriers to innovation and do new and better things.

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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On the Way to the Arch

Sidewalk-Signage

I took the picture above on the way to morning mass at the church underneath the St. Louis arch.

A sidewalk message to navigate the way to what is already a very visible landmark reminds me of my wife’s marketing activities in college.

St-Louis-Arch-Church

Before we dated, she was in charge of marketing for student activities at Fort Hays State University where we both earned our bachelor’s degrees. She was famous for using sidewalk signage to cut through the clutter and let students know which way they should walk to get to the latest music or entertainment program on campus.

Back to this sidewalk signage pointing the way to the St. Louis arch, however, it suggests multiple strategic thinking questions you can ask for your brand’s success.

7 Strategic Thinking Questions on the Way to Your Brand?

These seven strategic thinking questions focus on what happens to your customers on the way to your brand.

Put another way, is your brand visible in all the places your customers are going to be as they start toward, get closer to, and are nearby your brand – or your competitors’ brands?

Using the St. Louis arch sidewalk signage as inspiration, think about the following strategic thinking questions to imagine where your brand needs to be to reach potential customers on the way to your brand:

  • Where might customers begin in making their way to find and explore our brand?
  • How many different paths do customers take to reach our brand category?
  • What are all the other parties trying to get in from of our brand’s customers?
  • What types of messages stand out from competitors’ messages trying to reach our potential customers?
  • When our customers are looking “up,” “down,” or “to the side,” what are they going to see as they pass by our brand?
  • How many possibilities are available to reinforce our messages before customers reach our brand?
  • In what ways might we be able to use pre-brand messages so potential customers know they are getting “warmer” or “colder” relative to our brand location?

Run through these seven strategic thinking questions and see what possibilities your answers suggest.

See if you don’t uncover some new opportunities in answering these strategic thinking questions where you can make it easier and more apparent for your customers to find your brand from among all the competitive options! – Mike Brown

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Looking for Ways to Develop a Successful
Innovation Strategy to Grow Your Business?
Brainzooming Has an Answer!

Brainzooming Outside-In Innovation Strategic Thinking Tools eBookBusiness growth can depend on introducing new products and services that resonate more strongly with customers and deliver outstanding value.

Are you prepared to take better advantage of your brand’s customer and market insights to generate innovative product ideas? The right combination of outside perspectives and productive strategic thinking exercises enables your brand to ideate, prioritize, and propel innovative growth.

Download this free, concise eBook to:

  • Identify your organization’s innovation profile
  • Rapidly deploy effective strategic thinking exercises to spur innovation
  • Incorporate market-based perspectives into your innovation strategy in successful ways

Download this FREE eBook to turn ideas into actionable innovation strategies to drive your organization’s comeback!





Download Your Free  Outside-In Innovation Strategic Thinking Fake Book




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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In the coming year, how will you check your brand’s performance and the activities you are undertaking to fully support your brand plan?

Here’s an idea for a new strategic thinking exercise that can be a big help.

First though, a little background.

What’s an Examination of Conscience?

If all goes to plan, I’m headed to the church in the photo to go to confession and attend mass this morning.

Our Lady of Perpetual Help

When getting ready to go to confession, there are many different options available as “examinations of conscience” to prepare. An examination of conscience is a comprehensive set of objective standards to which you can compare your recent behaviors to see where you are lacking. Those areas where you have fallen short suggest sins you should bring to confession. By confessing these sins, you acknowledge these areas are ones you seek to improve upon in the future.

Not all examinations of conscience are created the same.

Some are centered on the Ten Commandments and identify where you have failed to obey the commandments. Other examinations of conscience are centered on works of mercy. These typically focus you on areas where you have failed to act. Still other examinations of conscience pull from multiple sources and customize them to your state in life (i.e., a husband, mother, single-person, child in a family, etc.)

4 Ways to Examine Brand Performance as a Strategic Thinking Exercise

It struck me how a comparable concept (an Examination of Brand Performance) would be helpful as a strategic thinking exercise for monitoring your organization or brand progress throughout the year. Just as insights from examinations of conscience vary based on how they are created, the same could hold true for an examination of performance. Your brand’s examination could be built around:

  1. All the over-the-top goals in your vision and mission statement
  2. The biggest brand aspirations of major brand stakeholders
  3. Best practices common in your industry
  4. Best practices common in other industries that are relevant to your own

These four ways to examine conscience aren’t merely a review against your brand objectives for the year. Any of these will constitute a more rigorous set of goals and performance expectations that might never include as plan objectives, but are valuable for painting an ideal picture of what your brand should become over time. Throughout the year, you could monitor your performance against this strategic thinking exercise to see where there are opportunities to correct performance and aggressively step up your game.

This is definitely a strategic thinking exercise idea from the Brainzooming R&D lab. But for current and future clients, don’t be surprised if some form of it starts cropping up in your strategy planning workshops! – Mike Brown

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

 

10 Lessons for Engaging Your Employees to Create Stronger Results

FREE Download: “Results!!! Creating Strategic Impact”

Results!!! Creating Strategic Impact Mini-Book

Senior executives are looking for employees who are strong collaborators and communicators while being creative and flexible. In short they need strategic thinkers who can develop strategy and turn it into results.

This new Brainzooming mini-book, “Results – Creating Strategic Impact” unveils ten proven lessons for senior executives to increase strategic collaboration, employee engagement, and grow revenues for their organizations.

Download this free, action-focused mini-book to:

  • Learn smart ways to separate strategic opportunities from the daily noise of business
  • Increase focus for your team with productive strategy questions everyone can use
  • Actively engage more employees in strategy AND implementation success

Download Your FREE  Results!!! Creating Strategic Impact Mini-book

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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