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Today, I’m delivering a new Idea Magnets workshop on Finding and Sharing Your Brand’s Extraordinary Stories on Social Media. The venue is the Social Media Strategies Summit in New York. Within the workshop, we’re applying the Idea Magnets creative leadership formula to brands that want to improve the resonance and impact of the social-first content they create.

For the workshop, we solicited participants’ questions and expectations in advance. One desired take-away they shared was figuring out how to get the most from the stories their brands develop. To come up with a new Idea Magnets creative approach to the question, Emma Alvarez Gibson and I turned to one of the most famous stories of the last forty-plus years: Star Wars.

Think about all the variations and extensions of the Star Wars story! We translated all those twists and turns to create this list of seventeen ways to extend your brand’s extraordinary stories:

  1. Develop a story with multiple characters
  2. Continue the story and add new characters
  3. End the original story and resolve most things
  4. Use elements of the original story format and share specific parts
  5. Develop the prequel story before the original story with new characters that set up the backstories of some already-revealed characters
  6. Continue the prequel story in multiple parts
  7. Resolve the prequel, but leave room between the prequel and the original story
  8. Refresh the original story with new storytelling techniques & previously unused material
  9. Create events allowing the audience members to immerse in the story
  10. Hand the story to a new creative leader to develop a sequel that happens after the original story
  11. Continue the sequel in multiple parts
  12. Select specific characters and build new stories around each of them
  13. Select an as-yet-untold story and focus on answering big, lingering questions related to it
  14. Adapt all parts of the story for different audiences with different media preferences
  15. Let users create content stories from the original characters and story lines
  16. Invite other professional communicators to re-imagine the story with their preferred storytelling methods
  17. Extend the legacy of a few characters through to the next generation of the story

Want to go further to exploit extraordinary stories? Download our FREE eBook with forty-nine questions to inspire extraordinary brand stories.

Want to up the game on your Idea Magnet creative leadership skills? Then get your book or Kindle copy of idea Magnets – 7 Strategies for Cultivating & Attracting Creative Business Leaders today on Amazon! – Mike Brown

49 Idea Magnet Questions to Attract Your Brand’s Extraordinary Stories

Developing and sharing extraordinary stories that resonate with your brand’s most important audiences is an important key to branding success.

49 Idea Magnet Questions to Attract Your Brand’s Extraordinary Stories puts ALL the powerful questions at your disposal to identify, develop, and share authentic stories. It introduces multiple strategies that Idea Magnets use to:

  • Make unexpected connections and generate story ideas
  • Encourage people to share experiences that lead to memorable stories
  • Tell stories through effective techniques that intrigue and engage audiences

Download Your FREE eBook! 49 Idea Magnet Questions to Attract Your Brand's Extraordinary Stories!
 

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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Idea Magnets make things more exciting, fulfilling, and successful in every area of life – from their work, to their personal lives, to chance encounters. How do they accomplish that? By employing seven strategies to generate inspiration and apply their creative energy to important opportunities.

Extreme creativity questions are some of the most valuable Idea Magnets tools. These over-sized questions let you effectively expand creative thinking for individuals and teams.

When it comes to branding and content marketing, extreme creativity questions provide an outstanding way to discover, develop, and share extraordinary stories. They deliver for Idea Magnets with branding responsibilities by:

  • Helping audiences see new possibilities
  • Offering a starting point for people to share new stories
  • Uncovering unique aspects and intriguing twists that make stories extraordinary

Here’s the great news: you can get your own set of powerful extreme creativity questions for content marketers, social media professionals, and brand strategists!

It’s as easy as downloading your FREE copy of the new Idea Magnets eBook, 49 Idea Magnet Questions to Attract Your Brand’s Extraordinary Stories.

49 Idea Magnet Questions to Attract Your Brand’s Extraordinary Stories

Developing and sharing extraordinary stories that resonate with your brand’s most important audiences is an important key to branding success.

In this actionable new eBook, you will get forty-nine questions to inspire new ideas and energize your team and audiences to continually tell stories that create dynamic, positive impacts. It will introduce you to multiple strategies that Idea Magnets use to:

  • Make unexpected connections and generate story ideas
  • Encourage people to share experiences that lead to memorable stories
  • Tell stories through effective techniques that intrigue and engage audiences

49 Idea Magnet Questions to Attract Your Brand’s Extraordinary Stories puts ALL the powerful questions at your disposal to identify, develop, and share authentic stories.

That’s why you need to get your copy of 49 Idea Magnet Questions to Attract Your Brand’s Extraordinary Stories today. You will be able to immediately implement your branding and content marketing initiatives with greater impact and results!

Download Your FREE eBook! 49 Idea Magnet Questions to Attract Your Brand's Extraordinary Stories!

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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Suppose you’re trying to come up with innovative ideas to introduce a new marketing program. You want to avoid doing the same old things you do for THAT type of marketing program every time you do that type of marketing program.

Want a quick idea for how to stretch your creative thinking to imagine many more marketing strategies to approach this opportunity in new ways?

Easily Rethink Your Status Quo Marketing Strategies

Here’s an answer to the question of innovating your marketing strategies: look at the opportunity as if it were any number of DIFFERENT types of marketing opportunities.

For instance, if you’re introducing a new B2B product by having your business development team making sales calls on current clients, you have a whole variety of other marketing strategies at your disposal.

Here are a few of the other ways to think about the launch: you could imagine the new product introduction as if it were:

  • An event
  • A campaign
  • An offer or a promotion
  • A content marketing strategy
  • A direct marketing program
  • A social and online engagement outreach strategy
  • An online presence
  • A sponsorship
  • A contest or game

Using this list of alternative ways to think about the product launch will yield many new marketing strategies. You might imagine:

  • A live launch webinar (event)
  • Integrating email and white papers to support the launch (campaign)
  • Providing a trial version of the product for a limited time (offer or promotion)
  • Introducing a series of articles discussing how customers helped shape the product development (content marketing strategy)
  • Teaser emails to targeted, high-potential customers (direct marketing program)
  • Videos demonstrating the new product sent in advance of every business development call (social engagement strategy)
  • A dedicated section of your website with early testimonials and more detailed information (online presence)
  • Introducing the product at an industry conference where you are a major partner (sponsorship)
  • A contest for early purchasers to compete for an incredible trip (contest or game)

See the possibilities?

All from deliberately thinking about a marketing program in ways that you never have before. Give it a try this week and reap the benefits!  – Mike Brown

Download our FREE eBook:
The 600 Most Powerful Strategic Planning Questions

Engage employees and customers with powerful questions to uncover great breakthrough ideas and innovative strategies that deliver results! This Brainzooming strategy eBook features links to 600 proven questions for:

  • Developing Strategy

  • Branding and Marketing

  • Innovation

  • Extreme Creativity

  • Successful Implementation


Download Your FREE eBook! The 600 Most Powerful Strategic Planning Questions



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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J.P. Morgan Chase has announced a new online brokerage platform called, You Invest. The app targets its more than 47 million customers with free brokerage services, including 100 free trades in the first year. Subsequent trades are $2.95, although customers with larger investment levels receive 100 free trades annually—or even unlimited trades.

Free trades from a brand charging $24.95 per trade a year ago?

The strategy change is dramatic and a disruptive business model, but hardly a surprise. Two years ago, the company’s CEO, Jamie Dimon, identified Amazon Prime as reference point for launching a platform offering free services. As Dimon said, “If you’re a good account, it’s no different than Jeff Bezos doing the $99 Prime and adding services to it.”

The tiered services levels, with additional free options beyond $15,000 and $100,000 in investments, suggest a blatant share growth strategy. Early tests suggest the app is drawing younger, newer traders.

Thinking about a Disruptive Business Model for Your Brand

via ShutterStock

How does a company without disruptive innovation in its corporate DNA imagine its own disruptive business model?

If this is your situation, here are thoughts on exploring the topic through incorporating varied perspectives and imperatives. These can help in taking the first steps toward disruption that will gain an early advantage.

If a Successful Brand Is Disrupting Successfully, Copy Its Disruptive Business Model

As is evident from Jamie Dimon’s comments, J.P. Morgan Chase looked to Amazon Prime as a disruptive business model for its own market. While not every disruptor is successful (and high-flying ones sometimes crash), you can look to those disruptive brands that are currently popular, such as Amazon, Apple, Uber, Airbnb, and Netflix, and see a pattern: create an inviting technology-based platform, provide people a place to behave, and generate seemingly endless data flows from their behaviors. Within the platform, invite other brands to contribute content, products, or other assets to speed the development of a full-fledged and attractive customer platform.

Using this model, explore where you’ll generate revenue. (It likely won’t be by charging current market rates for what your platform delivers.) Consider offering an attractive value package to maximize the amount of time, interest, and focus users devote to the platform. Possibilities include:

  • Offering additional services for free or at dramatic discounts (plus incentivizing pricing for those spending more time on your platform)
  • Providing a one-stop, never-have-to-go-anywhere else experience
  • Securing an upfront annual (or multi-year) financial or share commitment and dropping charges for ongoing activity
  • Extending more lenient, flexible customer service policies
  • Simplifying the engagement process to one step; two steps at most

Some of these offerings are explicitly price-based. Others simply lower costs for the brand to provide the service or reduce customer challenges. Both can contribute to greater value perceptions and reduce customer motivations to leave the platform for other options.

Where else can you generate revenue? To the extent that your platform is home to customer behaviors, you have data and insights with tremendous potential value. Consider everything Amazon knows about its customers’ search, shopping, and purchase behaviors. Or Facebook, about the personal networks, communication tendencies, and movement patterns of users. Or Uber, about the flow of people in major metropolitan areas. See the value there? That’s where you turn analysts (or data scientists) loose to identify:

  • The very best customers to secure with even greater value offerings
  • What else to offer customers individually and as a whole
  • Opportunities to sell access to other brands (even competitors) that want to market to the platform’s users

Generating additional value and revenue from data allows you to further subsidize the value of the platform’s consumer offering. This grows the platform’s attractiveness, making it tougher to leave.

It’s essentially the give-away-the-razor-and-sell-the-blades model, supercharged with data and technology.

Download Your FREE eBook! Disrupting Thinking - 13 Exercises to Imagine Disrupting Your Brand

Benefits, Capabilities, and Adjacent Markets

Another approach to imagining a disruptive business model is to consider the opportunity to innovate (and disrupt) based on customer benefits. The starting point for this exploration involves identifying your brand’s capabilities and the benefits you currently deliver. Ideally, you will have a healthy list of benefits from which to explore several paths:

  • How else can you deliver these benefits to your current customers with tremendously greater value? (This is a good opportunity to see how a platform model might fit.)
  • How can you break into a completely new market and deliver these benefits – whether it involves using current capabilities or new ones?
  • How can you imagine automating nearly everything you do to fundamentally change your cost dynamics, allowing you to super-size the benefits and value you deliver?

Each question can surface disruptive possibilities. This is especially true of the second question. Disruptors are often completely new to a market. They freely disrupt BECAUSE they have no vested interest in the industry’s status quo. They approach the market with completely new competitive dynamics.

Remember: These Are Thought Experiments

As mentioned earlier, these are thought experiments. We hope these questions pave the way to help your leadership team think sooner than later about the opportunities and threats involved in trying to adopt a disruptive business model for your brand. – From Inside the Executive Suite

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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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Years ago, I attended a services marketing conference sponsored by a prominent university. One professor made an intriguing claim: customers compare a brand’s performance on specific features to the best performance of any brand offering that same feature. The instructor pointed out a specific example of how this happens with customer expectations. If a brand were offering subpar, phone-based customer service, it wasn’t being compared exclusively to direct competitors who also offered horrendous phone-based customer service. He suggested that customers would compare a brand in this situation to the best customer service they experienced anywhere. This would happen irrespective of whether it was a brand from the same industry or a hotel, investment firm, or catalog company that wasn’t competing directly.

While his point resonated, there weren’t many direct examples to prove out his perspective. It made sense intuitively; you may also experience similar situations yourself. Yet, when we wanted to try to prove it for a B2B brand, we always wound up eliminating the necessary customer satisfaction survey questions to reduce survey time or research costs.

You Shouldn’t Be Surprised that Uber Is Ruining Customer Expectations for Your Business

In an article from The Wall Street Journal, subtitled, “Uber Users Flub Cab Rides,” writer Katherine Bindley highlights how individuals accustomed to app-based rideshare services don’t know how to behave in cabs (or even their own cars). Telling the driver your destination, waiting to find out the fare, and paying the driver are not part of the Uber or Lyft experiences, although they remain so for cabs. These new disruptive options have caused frequent rideshare customers to forget how cabs operate.

You might say that passengers forgetting how to use cabs because of rideshare brands is all in the same industry. Granted, it’s all about getting from one place to another. Yet, these examples reinforce an important point about strong brands with positive, radically different customer experiences: they can reshape expectations and behaviors even when a customer isn’t using the disruptive brand.

Understanding What Drives Customer Expectations

Are your customers’ expectations being set by your brand, a direct competitor, or an apparently unrelated brand? And how do you REALLY know what factors are driving changes in expectations?

If there is a possibility that disruptive brands are blowing up conventional customer experiences in your market, here is a checklist of tactics you can implement to attempt to remain ahead of the situation:

#1. Dig deep to understand what experience dimensions drive choice and preference

You need a robust understanding of what drives customers’ brand choices in your marketplace. One option is to ask these types of questions directly in surveys, sales calls, and customer service interactions. Doing that, however, leaves it to customers and prospects (if you interview them) to tell you what THEY think drives their choices. Their self-perceptions often place price at the top of the list, even if price isn’t the reason they prefer one brand over another.

A more effective way to tackle this question within a survey is a two-part approach. This involves asking questions about overall preferences for brands along with questions on how these brands perform on specific features. From the answers to all these questions, you can identify the relationship between how important each performance attribute is in predicting brand preference. This approach generally produces more reliable answers on what drives purchase and re-purchase.

Using this information, you can typically identify a smaller subset of features to monitor for performance levels within and outside your industry.

#2. Evaluate how industry competitors set and deliver high performance standards

Look inside your industry at various types of competitors (including high-profile, traditional, and potentially disruptive ones) to assess the performance claims and promises they make and deliver on preference-driving features. Explore their marketing materials, content marketing, and accessible customer communications. Conduct conversations with current and former customers and employees.

Through this evaluation, you will want to better understand:

  • What they say and demonstrate to set performance expectations among customers
  • How they deliver on expectations – both their processes and actual performance
  • How your own performance compares on each of the features

If possible, go beyond anecdotal performance accounts; become a customer of your competitors. This is easier done in consumer markets. In B2B, it may happen through some type of secret or mystery shopping. You might even engage a firm specializing in competitive intelligence to do this. No matter the means, there is nothing like actual usage experiences to help evaluate competitive performance levels.

#3. Look outside your industry for performance leaders on comparable features

Examine your list of preference-driving features. To the extent that they have meaningful comparisons in other industries, search out the highest-performing providers outside your market. You should be able to find far-flung examples of many features, including online or app access to services or information, responsiveness, timeliness, status or exception reporting, and accuracy, among others. Seek out any available information to understand top brands’ disruptive innovations, practices to set expectations, and performance levels.

Along with this, begin to routinely ask customers what brands they experience as providing the best service on your critical features. The objective is expanding your understanding of which brands may be impacting performance expectations in your customers’ minds.

It may be tougher to push for innovating your performance levels relative to players you don’t compete with directly. Still, you need only look at Amazon for a disruptive player that is upending industries in which it didn’t originally compete or even resemble any major players.

Taking the Next and Ongoing Steps to Managing Customer Expectations

If you decide to pursue this evaluation, it isn’t one-and-done. It involves an ongoing, periodic, commitment to maintain an understanding of performance expectations shaping your market in, as cab companies are discovering, potentially unexpected ways. – From Inside the Executive Suite

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Looking to Boost Customer Experience Innovation? 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.

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  • Identify your organization’s innovation profile
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Download this FREE ebook to turn ideas into actionable innovation strategies to drive your organization’s comeback!


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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’m heading a team at church with responsibility for evangelization and conversion. Our responsibilities include ensuring our church creates an inviting and welcoming experience for both parishioners and visitors.

Our team gathered before the last Sunday mass this weekend to conduct a visual and experience audit. We used a worksheet supplied by our local archdiocese to perform what they called a visual hospitality audit. We informally extended the audit to include the entire experience, not just the visual cues.

The worksheet was tremendously helpful. It kept our team aligned AND provided a way to see our parish experience with fresh eyes.

Even before we successfully used the worksheet to conduct the audit, we planned to adapt the idea to develop a new Brainzooming branding exercise. It will help brands effectively and efficiently look at their in-person customer experiences.

If you want to adapt the concept to your brand’s in-person customer experience, here are the steps we’re taking to modify it:

To set up our team’s exercise, I prepared a cover sheet advising people to be as much in the background as possible (to minimize the impact of our presence on the observations). It also suggested trying, as best possible, to take on the eyes of specific audiences that need accommodation beyond the typical experience.

Our next step is compiling all the results. It is clear already that the audit form led all of us to new insights. One team member noticed a massive mosaic on the front of the church for the first time, even though he’s been in and around the church for fifty years! That shows the value of this type of customer experience audit approach to allow you to find fresh eyes, even if you have decade of exposure to a customer experience situation. – Mike Brown

Download our FREE eBook:
The 600 Most Powerful Strategic Planning Questions

Engage employees and customers with powerful questions to uncover great breakthrough ideas and innovative strategies that deliver results! This Brainzooming strategy eBook features links to 600 proven questions for:

  • Developing Strategy

  • Branding and Marketing

  • Innovation

  • Extreme Creativity

  • Successful Implementation


Download Your FREE eBook! The 600 Most Powerful Strategic Planning Questions



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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The idea of personal branding seems like it’s been around forever. Many people credit author Tom Peters for popularizing the concept of personal branding strategies in a late ‘90s Fast Company article. If you are unfamiliar with the term, personal branding simply means building awareness and a reputation for your business self through strategies used to develop and market product or service brands.

I talk to many senior business people who think the idea of developing personal branding strategies is nonsense. That opinion tends to soften, though, once they are trying to change careers or reinvent themselves. Then, they suddenly get the personal branding religion and reach out for ideas and advice on how to successfully (and uber-quickly) develop their personal brands.

6 Personal Branding Strategies for Senior Executives

Someone in my LinkedIn network reached out recently with news that he has left the corporate world and looking for ideas on personal brand strategies to increase his online presence. To start answering his question, and get you thinking about the concept now, before you need it, here are six personal branding strategies we suggest for senior executives in career transitions. These are fundamental and important steps to build a personal brand online (and offline) as quickly as possible:

#1 Get Started by Repackaging Content

If you have ever created any content about your chosen profession that’s still relatively current, track it down. Your potential content stash could include non-proprietary presentations, articles, reports, and industry overviews. Edit these into a 300-to-500-word format. Review the pieces for tone, grammar, punctuation, and spelling (one more time never hurts), and then publish your article on LinkedIn. Two weeks later, publish another one, and keep on doing it.

#2 Share Content Online Regularly and Frequently

As you publish articles in your professional area, share links to all of them on LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook. Yes, if you don’t already have presences on these social networks, you’ll need to create them and start growing your network on each one.

Besides links to the articles you publish, you should also share ideas and engaging tidbits about things going on in your professional life. Potential topics include your business experiences, travel updates, info on intriguing people that you meet, new information you learn, and insights you recently gained. All these social media posts help in creating the perception that you are active and in-demand. You will be amazed at how even a handful of regular posts prompt people you meet in real life to remark about how they see you doing things. That’s all positive for building your personal brand.

#3 Adapt What You Share Online

As you create and share content online, continue to refine your strategy. You can do this based on how people engage with your content and the reactions they share. Rethink what you want people to know about you. What do you want them to tell someone that they are referring you to in a professional setting? As you home in on this vision, share more of the content that corresponds with it. While we would ordinarily make that a first step before creating and sharing content, at this stage it is more important to get started than to waste weeks or months figuring out exactly what you should share.

#4 Reach Out to People Regularly without Asking for Anything

Begin emailing people with ideas, tips, insights, and other content that will be helpful to them. Don’t email someone you haven’t talked to forever with a request to help you. Email them multiple times with beneficial ideas before you ever ask for anything, especially networking help. If your first outreach is to interrupt a valuable contact to help you, you know you aren’t starting out well.

#5 Upgrade Your Personal Presence

If you don’t have one already, hire a professional photographer to take great photos of you. Make sure the pictures are natural and highlight what you look like at your best. Now replace all the bad, amateurish photos of you on your social presences with these new, great photos.

Also, make an investment in Moo business cards. I’m continually surprised by how many people (even ones I’d consider business hip), don’t know about Moo cards. They are pricier, but they’re of a heavier card stock; they come in striking shapes, and they can showcase multiple bold messages. Since I began using Moo cards, people repeatedly remark about them to me. They will set you apart, too, when you hand out your business card to someone.

#6 Get Out There and Meet People

Aggressively attend networking events. The key, again, is to not wait until you must network to find a new opportunity. Network when you can view it as a pure numbers game, one in which you aren’t under pressure to turn every meeting or event into a major win. When you aren’t desperately needing to network, outreaches that fall through won’t hurt nearly as badly — psychologically or career-wise. If you take the big networking meeting route, bring along a friend as your wing person. Two people networking together doubles the chances that you’ll know people there. You can also encourage one another when your reserves run low.

Start Now!

The challenge is to start and keep going on all these personal branding strategies. Don’t stop doing them once you land the next opportunity you’re seeking. That’s the time to increase your outreach, not retreat from it. – Edited from Inside the Executive Suite

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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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