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I snapped this picture at Target the other evening because of the intriguing product branding ideas it suggests.

This is a ten-pack of 7.5 ounce cans of Diet Coke. Compare that to the typical Diet Coke configuration: twelve cans of 12 ounces. Doing the math, this carton has 75 ounces of Diet Coke vs. 144 ounces in the typical 12-by-12 arrangement we purchase like crazy at our house.

Just looking at the numbers, you can see people are receiving about 50% of the amount of Diet Coke they might expect if they rush into the store and grab a carton without paying attention.

That’s a big difference!

3 Product Branding Ideas to Beg, Borrow, and Steal

Suppose you are in a similar product branding situation. You need to reduce what your brand delivers, but still put sizzle into your product so consumers think it is an attractive option. How do you go about it? Try going to school on three producing branding ideas from Diet Coke, and look for where you can beg, borrow, and steal ideas!

Beg

Background: Smaller cans do not usually suggest a positive brand experience.

Diet Coke Strategy: Translating small to sip-sized. This takes advantage of alliteration and whimsy. And rather than seeking permission for the change, this branding strategy idea begs forgiveness later – if ever!

Ask: What’s the coolest way possible to describe the presto-chango we’re about to pull on our customers?

Borrow

Background: Mini Cooper has positive brand affinity. The brand has helped make small a good thing.

Diet Coke Strategy: Borrowing mini and using it in a maxi fashion across the entire side of the box.

Ask: What brand positively employs a typically negative attribute that our branding strategy can embrace and celebrate?

Steal

Background: On the carton, it says 7.5 ounce cans. The images show the traditional can and bottle, though.

Diet Coke Strategy: Stealing from the Coca-Cola brand halo to depict a traditional can (12 ounces) and the classic bottle (something bigger than 7.5 ounces). This creates a deliberate mismatch between what you see and what you buy.

Ask: What brand attributes from our higher value / more significant offers can we use to sell-in something less?

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From the Brainzooming Product Branding Lab

We haven’t tested this exercise for generating product branding ideas since it is brand new. If you beat us to putting it into practice, let us know how it works for you! – 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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I spoke about Social-First Content at the April 2017 Social Media Strategies Summit in Chicago. As always, I left this Social Media Strategies Summit with valuable insights on social content strategy plus great ideas for further developing our brand.

Social Media Strategists at the #SMSSummit

From this Social Media Strategies Summit, I took away a specific insight on the challenge for social media strategists.

With traditional marketing communication, there were numerous clear divisions among important roles:

  • Creative vs. analytical
  • Writing vs. visual communication
  • Strategy vs. design
  • Developing content vs. publishing content
  • Spokesperson vs. reporter
  • In front of the camera talent vs. behind the camera support
  • Media creation vs. media buying
  • Offline execution vs. online / technology execution
  • Mining customer and business insights vs. audience targeting

Looking back on the combined internal and external team we assembled to market our Fortune 500 B2B brand, we rarely had one person doing both sides of any of the pairs of talents and responsibilities above. Depending on a project’s size, in fact, there may be ten or more people involved across these roles.

Social Media Strategists Face Complex Roles

Now, consider today’s social communications landscape. The divisions between the complementary roles have largely disappeared. Today’s social media strategists must be functional, if not fully adept, at nearly all these roles to succeed.

This idea started developing for me as we started using Hubspot for inbound marketing. I’m continually moving between intense analytical and creative roles in developing and executing content-based workflows.

The realization really hit me while attending a Facebook list building, advertising, and re-marketing workshop at the Social Media Strategies Summit. The presenters covered audience targeting and Facebook advertising in detail. We don’t use Facebook advertising very aggressively, so the topic isn’t one that has occupied much of my attention. As workshop presenters continued, I recalled that in the corporate world, I told media buyers that I’d ask questions, but I understood they had a knowledge base that was difficult to have without living in their world. I depended on their expertise to guide and lead us toward accomplishing our marketing objectives.

Today, however, you can’t afford to make that distinction. Outstanding social media strategists must understand Facebook targeting, advertising, and remarketing. It’s just as important as understanding the fundamentals of writing a compelling story. They also must understand everything else on the list of communication roles.

Sure, in a smaller organization, I’m now taking on many more communication roles than as a VP in a Fortune 500 organization. A team of ten no longer exists for me. Talking with other attendees at the Social Media Strategies Summit, though, it’s clear a team of ten doesn’t exist for many of them either – even within large organizations.

Why Many Mid-Career Marketers Are Dinosaurs

Put all this together, and I think it explains why I see so many mid-career marketers are dinosaurs, either limiting themselves in comfortable, but career-threatening ways (“I just do PR” or “I write but don’t do SEO”), or floundering while they rework the calculations on how much longer until they have enough money to retire.

The much smaller group is leveraging career experience and diving into social content strategy with a passion. These folks are learning to become perhaps the best-positioned marketers: they heave experience AND social sensibilities.

Seeing this landscape for mid-career marketers is why I encourage them to attend as many social content marketing events and conferences as possible. It’s the foreseeable future. If they want to be a part of that future AND get paid, they must be aggressive and prepare to work with multiple generations that grew up in a marketing world where role divisions that made sense ten years ago no longer apply. – Mike Brown

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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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Beyond depicting your product every which way (or depicting the equipment and people who create your service every which way), what images do you include in your brand’s visual vocabulary?

As you consider that answer, ask yourself this: Are you effectively using the best images to reinforce your brand in strategic, consistent ways?

Let’s talk about your brand’s visual vocabulary. I’ve spent a heck of a lot of time considering on design as we solidify the Brainzooming brand’s visual vocabulary through creating more eBooks on strategy and innovation (with our initial offer on branding on the way).

11 Hacks for Creating Your Brand’s Visual Vocabulary

Here are the hacks that have worked for us.

Start by unpacking your brand for inspiration. Look at all the pieces of your brand foundation (big strategy statements, brand promise) to discover the most significant words and phrases you use to describe your brand. You can do this by:

  • Combing through brand foundation materials and existing creative briefs. This will help you avoid spending time trying to recreate visual vocabulary clues that already exist.
  • Running a Wordle on web pages or other content where your brand talks about itself. This is one way to check for important descriptors.
  • Putting customer comments and open-ended descriptions about your brand through a Wordle to see what emerges on top from the marketplace’s view.
  • Reviewing your current brand visuals to identify themes or types of images that stand out based on repetition or impact.
  • Cataloging brand visuals from direct competitors and other brands that do comparable things to what your brand does. Examine what are doing to uncover opportunities to differentiate your brand visually.

Explore ideas to associate visuals with your important brand words and phrases. Start by:

  • Plugging brand words and themes into Google Images. This will help you uncover images the world associates with your brand words.
  • Searching brand words and phrases in professional photo sites to see what stock photos images exist. Careful on this: you will see lots of visual clichés you don’t want to associate with your brand.
  • Extending your search to visually oriented and image-based social sites (Instagram, Pinterest, Flickr). Look for how a broad range of people capture and categorize images linked to your brand’s attributes.

Document what you learn through:

  • Writing ideas describing the images you found. This is the approach I employed. Some of the related words were literal; others were more abstract.
  • Creating Pinterest mood boards. This is a smart alternative suggested by a design blog.:   http://designyourownblog.com/visual-vocabulary-brand-identity/They recommend pinning images you find on separate Pinterest mood boards to identify themes, then consolidating them into one overall brand mood board.
  • Finding what works for you to capture and share your results with others. I used words because my next step was taking photos to build our brand image library. Working with words makes it easier for me to avoid duplicating what others are doing. Looking at visuals as my starting points would make it too easy to potentially co-opt other people’s’ visualizations accidentally.

This is a simple approach for building your brand vocabulary, but I know it worked for us.

If you haven’t invested much time thinking about your brand and its visual vocabulary, starting simple can move you ahead dramatically! – Mike Brown

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Chatting with a mid-career professional who is at the height of job frustration, she placed a career strategy challenge on the table:

  • “A résumé is supposed to have metrics, but I have no real metrics I can own for my contributions at my day job.
  • “What I’m doing in my day job isn’t the kind of work I want to do in my next job – at least under the same circumstances. I need to find something more fulfilling.
  • “I’ve done outside work at various times, but it’s not a consistent work history. Plus, I can’t jump back into entrepreneurship with its lack of stability.
  • “I have some starting points describing myself that have potential to go on a résumé, but they seem fluffy and lack concrete accomplishments.”

With all that backdrop, the question was, “What should I put on my résumé that is going to help me attract an employer’s attention when I email or post my résumé?”

I know this isn’t an isolated career strategy challenge.

Parts of it feel a lot like what I was facing at various points in my corporate career. When you are part of a big organizational machine, it is often difficult to isolate what you do to create metrics. And if you tend toward under-selling yourself, you freeze when faced with touting your own capabilities and accomplishments.

5 Career Strategy Challenge Ideas When You Lack Résumé Metrics

What’s the answer to this career strategy challenge?

I don’t know that there is one answer, but here are the ideas I shared:

  • You can always go to a professional to help prepare your résumé. Here is one I’d recommend if you pursue this idea. A professional creates compelling stories for job seekers all the time, and there’s tremendous value in both that experience and the objectivity of someone else looking at your great capabilities.
  • Create your own metrics. Every organization wants to improve what it does and do it more efficiently. If you’ve struggled to compile metrics for your personal contribution to the organization, create a performance improvement project in your department. Go to your internal customers under the banner of bettering your department’s contributions. Ask them for specifics on where your contributions improve good things, reduce bad things, accomplish results with fewer resources, and improve efficiency and effectiveness in any other quantitative ways. Collect success stories, too, even if they aren’t metrics-based. All this work will improve your day job while giving you ample résumé material.
  • Reach back out to your outside clients and ask them comparable questions about performance improvements, cost efficiencies, and customer successes they can attribute to the work you did for them. Those could be easier, more compelling metrics to establish.
  • Beyond the success stories you are collecting, ask several people close to you to create a recommendation letter for you that highlights at least five key characteristics, talents, work accomplishments, and selling points that they would use to communicate about you positively to others. They will likely share things you don’t see in yourself that you should be communicating in your résumé.
  • Network like crazy! Start now, and continue for the rest of your career. If you are a unique talent who is hard to adequately and differentially describe in a couple of pages, why limit yourself to selling yourself in a couple of pages? My advice to this job seeker was that her next position is going to come from someone that sees and gets her talents and finds the right role. By meeting hiring decision makers personally through an aggressive networking effort, the résumé becomes less important. Then, instead of selling you sight unseen, it becomes a crutch for the decision maker to better describe you and what they see in you to others in the organization.

Those are my ideas.

They helped get her thinking about new possibilities. Ultimately, these ideas are all about action, and doing the hard work to bring them to life! – Mike Brown

 

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In Brainzooming presentations and workshops, attendees want case studies and the answers somebody else has used.

Why?

Because that seems easy.

You show up, put in your forty-five or sixty minutes, and walk away with the answers that you haven’t been able to come up with back at the office. Or you receive confirmation from a speaker that what you have been thinking is right (or pretty close to right), and you can take that back to the office and tell the boss.

A Strategic Thinking Framework Is Better than an Answer, Really!

Despite this desire for case studies and answers, I rarely include them when I speak. Or if I do, I incorporate examples from audience members so THEY can talk about everything they tried, what worked and didn’t, and the things they learned.

Instead, I include lots of strategic thinking frameworks for decision making. While these strategic thinking frameworks aren’t answers, they allow you to quickly develop answers even in areas where you lack experience. That ability (and flexibility) is vital in business. It’s also essential as a presenter where you get questions and people wanting you to tell them what to do. As I remind people, however, I can’t tell them to do one thing or another within a couple of minutes at a conference. But I can give them a strategic thinking framework to analyze the question and decide for themselves.

Here is one example from a social media and content marketing workshop:

An attendee asked about the need to maintain separate Facebook pages in different languages. I pointed him to a brand-oriented strategic thinking framework I shared that focuses on what customers expect, accept, and will reward.

As we played it out, customers expect brands to interact in their own languages. They may or may not accept that one out of every few posts is in their language, and then they have to scroll. Maybe they will accept images with links to content in their own language? Maybe they will accept built-in translation as a viable option.

Then, depending on which approach they choose, they have to look at whether customers will reward it in some meaningful way. Will they select the brand over another? Select it more often? Pay more for a sense of personalization?

While I didn’t know the answer at that moment, the strategic thinking framework provides a way for them to consider the options and make a decision that works for the brand.

Bring the Questions!

If you are in the audience for a Brainzooming workshop, I love, love, love the questions. Please ask questions.

Just realize, your answer is probably going to be a way for YOU to think about your question and develop the answer you are seeking that works best for YOU, not somebody else! – Mike Brown

What’s Your Implementation Strategy for Uncertain Times?

Things aren’t getting saner and more calm. Are you ready to pursue an implementation strategy that works in uncharted waters?

The Brainzooming eBook 4 Strategies for Implementing in Uncertain Times will help you examine your strategy foundation, insights, profitability drivers, and decision making processes when few things ahead are clear. We share suggestions on:

  • Using your organization’s core purpose to shape decisions when things are changing
  • Reaching out to employees with valuable insights into what to watch out for and what to expect
  • Sharpening your command of cost and profit levers in your organization
  • Implementing processes to focus and sharpen decision making

4 Strategies for Implementing in Uncertain Times is a FREE, quick read that will pay dividends for you today and in the uncertain times ahead.
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The folks at Armada Corporate Intelligence offered an internal branding strategy take on the United Airlines woes, offering strategic thinking questions you can ask and answer to improve your brand’s resiliency and avoid brand crises.

3 Ways Your Internal Branding Strategy Can Be Smarter than United Airlines

Via Armada Corporate Intelligence

United Airlines is at the forefront of recent business and general news due to having forcibly removed a passenger from a partner airline flight. Chicago Aviation Department police dragged Dr. David Dao from his seat after United identified him as a low-value flier. That put him next in line to be bumped to make way for several crew members. Dao suffered a broken nose and a concussion, and lost two teeth. This past weekend, United made headlines again with another incident; a couple headed to their wedding were removed after having moved into more expensive seats.

United Airlines seems unable to extricate itself from the intense negative media spotlight right now. These situations underscore a major brand impact of smart technology: nearly every customer is a broadcaster following his or her own personal rules for the ways in which broadcast journalism operates. While the era of personal broadcast journalism is several years old, it’s clear that even major brands have not fully adapted their branding and customer experience strategies to recognize this phenomenon.

3 Internal Branding Strategy Challenges

The concept of internal branding addresses the ways in which an organization prepares its own people to carry out the experience it delivers for its customers. For an airline, determining the correct way for a gate agent to manage boarding, or for a flight attendant to interact with passengers, are both elements of managing an internal brand team.

With current United-related stories focusing on its business practices and crisis communication response, let’s pursue a slightly different path. Here are three internal branding weak spots the United incident highlights. For each, we articulate a challenge and related internal branding questions for your organization to ask and answer.

Anticipating Flexibility in a Rules-Oriented Culture

When making sure an airplane takes off and stays in the air, you don’t want to leave anything to chance. That’s why airlines are sticklers for operations manuals, checklists, and rules. With United, a Wall Street Journal Story reports the company cultivates a “rules-based culture where its 85,000 employees are reluctant to make choices not in the ‘book.’”

The challenge: giving your people the flexibility to handle negative customer situations that may develop or are already happening. United is reviewing its policies after the fact. How can a brand better anticipate these situations? A variation on business war games could be helpful; set up customer interaction situations, having stand-in rogue customers disrupt the system. Alternatively, data analysis of real world customer interactions could signal unusual ones a brand should explore, particularly if a customer introducing more system stress than expected turns it negative very quickly.

Internal Branding Questions:

  • How much customer interaction detail is spelled out within your brand policies?
  • What do you do on an ongoing basis to monitor when policies aren’t functioning properly?
  • Are you actively imagining unusual, hypothetical situations to test how applying the rules might escalate and turn customer interactions negative?

Who Is Your Internal Brand Team?

It is easy to identify your employees as critical members of your internal brand team, particularly those with direct or indirect customer contact. Brands typically focus training attention on employees to ensure they understand and carry out the brand promise as intended.

The challenge: looking beyond your own employees to understand other parties and organizations that are on your internal brand team. While early reports suggested United saw the interaction with Dr. Dao as the purview of the Chicago Aviation police, the officers present on the plane were certainly part of the United internal brand team. One wonders whether United strategized the possibilities with the officers before they boarded the plane to remove the passenger. If that conversation took place, it’s difficult to see how dragging a passenger off the plane was a sanctioned course of action.

Internal Branding Questions:

  • Has your brand team consciously explored, from a customer’s perspective, who all the parties are that interact with your customers within your brand experience?
  • How many are partners, contractors, agents, or even unrelated or unaffiliated parties you would never include in traditional employee training?
  • What steps can you take to make them more formal members of your internal brand team?

Everyone Is a Reporter, Everyone Is on Camera

The first-hand reporting on the United incident came from multiple passengers, complete with different camera angles of the exchange between the Chicago Aviation police and Dr. Dao. The passengers uploaded their videos to social networks directly. That means they were in effect broadcasting the video without any chance for a United response. Sharing the videos may, in fact, have happened even before senior United executives learned of the incident through internal communication channels.

The challenge: brands are controlling less of the message about themselves than ever before. Each customer (or bystander) can cover a brand interaction as it happens. That means there no opportunities for a brand to hide from negative situations or even go through typical internal communication protocols. In a practical sense, this means every member of an organization’s internal brand team needs to be aware that EVERY interaction has the potential to wind up on social networks, and then broadcast channels. Not only do they need to be prepared for this, a brand needs to be listening for customer-created reports. These communication channels move faster than most internal communication processes!

Internal Branding Questions:

  • What does delivering media training look like for EVERYONE in your organization – and for your extended brand team?
  • What is the bare minimum training required to prepare frontline people interacting with customers to understand the impact of personal reporting?
  • What provisions do you have for listening to miscues and problem situations that an external party is reporting even before your internal brand team members can?

Are you prepared?

As you explore these internal branding questions, we do encourage you to consider the worst possible situations you can imagine to more accurately test your internal branding readiness. Don’t shy away from considering: How bad could it get? – via “Inside the Executive Suite” 

10 Lessons to Engage Employees and Drive Improved Results

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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
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On Tuesday, we were at the Kansas City Public Library to shoot videos featuring content from Brainzooming articles, downloads, and workshops. It was a whirlwind day. We shot twenty-five videos during the day to support our own brand’s content marketing strategy.

Yeah, twenty-five videos.

Videozooming, you might say.

I planned forty videos, but knew that wouldn’t likely happen.

15 Keys to Shooting 25 Social Media Videos in One Day

You might wonder how we made it through twenty-five videos in one day. Here are the factors (from my side of the camera as the person in all the videos) to enable our high volume of work. We:

  1. Partnered with a video team (Alex Bentzinger of Bentz Creative) who was flexible, and willing to work with strong direction.
  2. Picked a single location (The Kansas City Public Library) offering a wide variety of settings within one building (and we didn’t even use all the settings we planned).
  3. Made a site visit ahead of time to identify and discuss logistics.
  4. Completed a strategic creative brief ahead of time.
  5. Prepared an easy numbering system to identify and select which video to do next.
  6. Did not prepare specific scripts for any of the videos. This meant they didn’t have to be delivered perfectly; they just had to be delivered on topic and close to the time limits we set (less than 2 minutes each).
  7. Mapped where each video would likely happen so we could be time efficient within a specific location.
  8. Tried to plan for every potential delay by over-accounting for anything we might need.
  9. Organized all the props using the video numbering system, allowing for efficient placement.
  10. Selected multiple outfits and multiple shooting locations to efficiently create visual variety.
  11. Had someone directly representing the creative vision (Jan Harness, my erstwhile Creative Instigation partner) to check camera angles and how I was doing. That allowed me to concentrate on delivering messages.
  12. Had a contact at the location to help us navigate any issues we might create by shooting in places we weren’t exactly supposed to be shooting.
  13. Concentrated on the main content in the video, leaving the intros and calls-to-action for later when we have a stronger sense of how they need to work.
  14. Captured most of the videos in one take. Granted, this may be difficult to do, but it helped that we were talking about content that is familiar and core to what The Brainzooming Group does.
  15. Stuck to shooting the videos we identified upfront with only a few deviations to pursue ideas that developed during the day.

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 Expanding Our Content Marketing Strategy with Video

We’re looking forward to completing the production and expanding our content marketing strategy in a new way. We’ll be sharing the videos with clients and subscribers to expand how we deliver strategy, branding, and innovation tools for you! – Mike Brown

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Mike Brown

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