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It’s wonderful to feature four important brand strategy questions from customer experience strategy and innovation expert Woody Bendle. In the course of his typical daily routine, Woody has a more than healthy commute by Kansas City standards. Woody texted me about this brand strategy lesson on the way home one recent evening and followed it up the next day with this post reminding those responsible for brand strategy to think about what will happen when our ideas actually meet up with customers. Here’s Woody!

woody-bendleBrand Strategy – When “Good Enough” Isn’t by Woody Bendle

“The enemy of the good is great.”

Have you heard this expression before? 

If you haven’t, the sentiment behind this expression is this: If you are continually reluctant to move forward until you have something that is great or perfect, you might sometimes fail to make valuable progress by getting something out there that is pretty darned good – but not great.

In many situations, I wholeheartedly subscribe to this philosophy.

But, there are occasions when you absolutely need to be better than “good enough.”

One of those occasions involves your brand strategy and every time you are presenting your brand.

Brand Strategy Isn’t the Place for Good Enough

I recently pulled off the interstate to fuel up at a truck stop. As I was fueling, I happened to notice, for some reason, a display attached to the pump about never paying full price for gas again.

Shell-1

I really didn’t think too much about this display until I went around to the end of the pump to grab the squeegee and clean off my windshield. This is what I saw.

140410-Shell3

OOPS!

The original message that got my interest about never paying full price again didn’t come through on the Shell brochure holder.

There, thanks to the application holder lid’s placement, the “Never pay full price again” card became the “pay full price again” card.

I actually did a double-take, shook my head and wondered to myself if anyone had even thought about trying to stick some brochures in the holders to see what it looked like before they had a gazillion of them printed and sent all over the country. The sad thing is if they had just taken the two logos at the bottom of the brochure and moved them to the very top and shifted the rest of the content down,  the message would’ve been read very clearly.

Lessons learned, and it’s a great reminder that design and layout matters.

A Brand Strategy that is “Good Enough” Isn’t

I have no idea if anyone at Shell is even aware of this issue. It did, however, serve as a valuable reminder that every time you are putting your brand in the marketplace, you need to ask yourself several important brand strategy questions:

  1. What am I trying to convey / communicate about my brand or my brand’s promotion?
  2. Is the message clear and compelling – not to me but to the customer?
  3. How will the message be put in front of the customer?
  4. What exactly will the customer see, hear, think, and feel when my message is put in front of them?

And finally, as you are working through the above questions, you’d be well served to think like my Missouri neighbors and just say “Show-Me” a little more often. Woody Bendle

 

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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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From the Road

From-The-RoadSome people have always had the EXACT same travel problem every time you see them. At some point, you realize it’s them, not the airline / car rental company / cabbie / hotel . . . I rented a car with 8 miles on it. That’s the runner up in my rental career next to a 3 miler in Orlando on the way to Daytona for a NASCAR race . . . At a sea food restaurant the other night, every painting in the place was of some boat, ocean, or river scene. And nearly everyone had lights behind the windows in the boat or lighthouse. You don’t see that every day . . . I’m not sure why it smells as if someone immediately behind me is eating a pot roast dinner on this plane.

Branding and Experience

I asked on the Delta Airlines Facebook page why they now call the Biscoff Cookies they serve simply “cookies.” They used to be called “Biscoff” by flight attendants. Not surprisingly, there hasn’t been a response . . . An intriguing, but untrackable customer service metric? The percent of times your employees refer to your brand in the first person versus the third person . . . Every time I see a happy, fun, engaging flight attendant I automatically assume they started at Southwest Airlines.

Talking Business

It’s great to talk shop with someone who does what you do. It’s even better to “ask shop.” Then you can just sit back and listen, and that’s where you get some great learning and new ideas . . . A cramped room can bring out the best questions and conversations with a presentation audience. When a room is too big, there’s too much space for staying aloof. Just the reverse is true for a strategy session . . . One warm-up exercise we use asks who people say you look like. I had NASCAR driver Tony Stewart’s doppelganger in a workshop, but didn’t have time to do the exercise and see if he hears that all the time.

Blogging

Being able to keep writing this blog post on my iPad while we land is a new great part of flying . . . Trying to beat my personal best of writing ten blog posts on a business trip from the East Coast to Kansas City. We’ll see how that goes . . . I don’t generally connect on LinkedIn with people I don’t “know” in some way. After accepting an invitation from someone locally who immediately sent a message for me to make time to learn about what she is doing, I remember why . . . I don’t “get” game apps like other people don’t “get” Twitter. I just don’t have the time . . . I’m cranking on blog posts recently because I’m avoiding getting tax stuff organized . . . These columns are the intersection of “Too long for Twitter” and “Too many for Facebook.” Thanks for indulging me. Mike Brown

 

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Brand marketers can find it challenging to identify all the brand language available to communicate a brand’s distinct benefits and value for customers and prospects.

Based on a recent client brand strategy experience, I highlighted an often overlooked source of compelling brand language in my first LinkedIn article: Is Your Brand Exploiting All Its Brand Language?

If you’d like to read the brand strategy lesson from our experience, you can do so over on LinkedIn.

As an alternative, we also put together a screencast that recaps the article plus adds visuals the LinkedIn article does not contain. This is the first time we’re introducing screencasts into the blog. We’re excited by the possibilities because it gives you the opportunity to have a richer experience with Brainzooming blog content. Additionally, because audio and visuals are incorporated in a screencast, I expect it to open up new topics that just don’t come across as strongly when using words alone.

So go ahead and ask yourself: Is our brand exploiting all its brand language? – Mike Brown

Brand Strategy Screencast – Is Your Brand Exploiting All Its Brand Language?


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The Brainzooming Group helps make smart organizations more successful by rapidly expanding their strategic options and creating innovative plans they can efficiently implement. Email us at info@brainzooming.com or call us at 816-509-5320 to learn how we can help you with a strategy session and branding development to create strategic impact for your organization.

 

Mike Brown

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This post was originally intended to be written when universities were changing conferences and suddenly the Big 10 had twelve teams and the Big 12 had ten teams. In the wake of those moves, very regionally-named athletic conferences wound up taking on member universities spanning multiple regions, if not half the United States.

Terminal-HuhWhat prompted the post’s writing currently is the state of the Kansas City airport. Amid airlines consolidating, the Kansas City airport’s original three open terminals have now become two open terminals.

While Terminal B and Terminal C are open, there is no Terminal A anymore.

This seemed particularly odd during my drive into the airport last week. Since some of the Terminal A signage has been removed, signage starts with references to Terminal B.

The problem in each case is a naming strategy that clearly relates names to other systems for which your audience has context. The relationship may be internal (i.e., we have 12 teams or 10 teams as reflected in our name) or external (i.e., we’re all about the Southeast, so that’s reflected in our conference name).

6 Naming Strategy Questions to Anticipate Future Oddities

While it’s fine and well for whoever is in charge to name things however they might like, before using a relational naming strategy, it is smart to ask a few strategic thinking questions and perform some what-if analysis.

These questions revolve around whether your naming strategy will make sense if:

  • You grow?
  • You shrink?
  • You fundamentally change the nature of your organization, products, and/or services?
  • Your far off / future sounding name has to represent your organization when you stay in operation a long time?
  • You change the parts of your organization in a different order than the order in which you originally added names?
  • Your organization changes in some unexpected way (versus the names becoming future oddities)?

Clearly there are advantages to a matter-of-fact naming strategy.

A, B, or C are never going to be a future embarrassment because they get caught cheating on their spouses or at the sports they play. Everybody will already understand a lot of what you are trying to say with a realistic, matter of fact naming strategy.

But, as these currently problematic naming strategy examples illustrate, you can throw what makes sense for a loop when your organization changes in unexpected or unusual ways.

There are certainly other naming strategy questions you can ask, but these six questions are an easy head start to consider when opting for a naming system that everyone is going to know, understand, and be able to compare to the reality your organization is presenting. – Mike Brown

 

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The Brainzooming Group helps make smart organizations more successful by rapidly expanding their strategic options and creating innovative plans they can efficiently implement. Email us at info@brainzooming.com or call us at 816-509-5320 to learn how we can help you enhance your strategy and implementation efforts.

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 Buzzfeed article shared by Emma Alvarez Gibson listed things every person with an unusual name understands. I suggested a response for people with common names.

Talking with the woman who is always on the elliptical trainer behind me at the gym prompted me to turn the article idea into reality.

She introduced herself with just her very distinctive first name. Her name was so unusual I wrote it pictogram style on my exercise sheet to remember it. Googling it later, it turns out to be a Biblical name I’d never previously heard, and she’s likely the only person in the country with her exact name.

Contrast that with “Michael / Mike Brown.” Some estimates suggest there may be 30,000 men in the United States with some version of my name.

11 Things Only People with Common Names Will Understand

Mike-and-Friends2

For those of with common names, here are 11 things only we will understand (minus the Buzzfeed GIFs):

1. You will never get your exact name on a social network

There is always someone with your name who beat you to signing up on the latest social network. My one personal exception is Twitter. I’m @MikeBrown on Twitter which leads to the next point.

2. Someone famous who is an embarrassment shares your name

Someone famous will have your name and that person will be a screw up. I have multiples, from national calamities to sports. A guy tweeted me to complain how stupid I was as the Cincinnati Bengals owner. I tweeted back he had the wrong Mike Brown. He replied, “I looked at your profile, and you don’t look like you know anything about football, either.”

3. Googling your name generates tons of hits, almost none of which are you

With a common name, Googling your name means finding yourself on page 107 of the Google results, preceded by 106 pages of articles about famous screw-ups with your name.

4. You must have a descriptor to separate you from the screw ups

You always have to use some other word or phrase to identify yourself. Mike Brown with the big nose. Mike Brown with the dented car. Mike Brown with the cute cat. Mike Brown with all that orange. Part of coming up with “Brainzooming” was it was a distinct and better descriptor. Now, many people have no clue what my actual name is.

5. It sucks when YOUR common name sounds like another common name

I’ve been called Mark throughout my life, even by people who know me. A guy I’ve known for ten years called me Mark in the grocery store recently. Even with “Brainzooming” linked to my name, at least the mix-up has changed. People think my name must really be “Brian,” since no one is named “Brain.” I actually now receive emails addressed to Brian.

6. It’s impossible for people you want to find you to find you

I’ve never been able to say, “Look me up in the phone book” even when people looked in phone books. Back then, there was another Mike and Cyndi Brown living 20 blocks from us on the SAME STREET! These days, you can’t tell someone to find you through Googling, as we’ve already established.

7. It pays to keep your address and phone number the same

With a common name, keeping the same contact information is vital to hearing again from old friends and acquaintances. We’ve had the same address and phone number for years. I’ve had the same cell phone number since the late 1990s. I still maintain my first AOL email address from the mid-1990s that some people still use.

8. Work in a big company long enough, and it will seem EVERYONE has your name

At one point in my corporate life, EVERY guy seemed to be a Mike, including my boss, a guy that worked for me, the president of one subsidiary, and the COO of another subsidiary, to name a few. Cross-company strategic planning meetings were a bit of a cluster to say the least.

9. You will never be able to go by one name

In contrast to the one-named woman on the elliptical trainer, Madonna, or LeBron, people with common names can’t ever go by one name when even a first and last name won’t set you apart. That’s when you hope for other options.

10. It helps having a middle name that stands out – unless people mock it

My middle name is my dad’s first name. In grade school, a kid whose father worked for my dad introduced that fact to my classmates. From then on, kids would call me by my dad’s name to irritate me. Then in my corporate job, my boss casually asked me my middle name at a senior management meeting before our national sales conference. I answered, our company president thought it was hilarious, and for the entire meeting, he jokingly referred to me from the stage by my dad’s name. That went on for several years. Yes, some corporate execs never mature beyond grade school.

11. You can maybe spice things up if you sound foreign

There was a guy in high school named Carlos Moreno. In Spanish I class, I discovered the English version of his name was Charlie Brown. CHARLIE BROWN! Carlos Moreno sounds so much better more exotic. Maybe going by Miguel Moreno would help me, but no one would call me that with a straight face, including me.

What about it common name people?

Do those sound familiar? And what else would you add if you too have a common name? Mike Brown

 

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Picking up on the competitor strategy theme from the start of the week, I combed the Brainzooming archives to share a variety of competitor strategy ideas we have covered.

82 Competitor Strategy Ideas to Improve Your Competitive Success

Competitive-GorillaHere is a handy summary of 82 competitor strategy tools, questions, and ideas you can use to hone your competitive success now and in the future:

Going on the Attack for Competitive Success

Playing Defense with Your Competitor Strategy

There should be at least a few ideas you can start applying right away to go after that 400 pound competitor gorilla in the room and improve your brand’s competitive success! – Mike Brown

 

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The Brainzooming Group helps make smart organizations more successful by rapidly expanding their strategic options and creating innovative plans they can efficiently implement. Email us at info@brainzooming.com or call us at 816-509-5320 to learn how we can help you enhance your strategy and implementation efforts.

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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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We’ve been blessed to work with some wonderful non-profit organizations at The Brainzooming Group.

The first was Nature Explore, a wonderful organization headed by Nancy Rosenow. Nature Explore partners with organizations who hope to dramatically improve the lives of children by introducing them to the benefits of natural environments. It does this through workshops, design consultations, and natural products to transform children’s lives by creating connections with nature.

Beyond the incredible work our non-profit clients do, I enjoy working with them because we typically have a little more freedom to directly share the creative thinking impact they create for their stakeholders

RAFT Colorado and Creative Thinking for Teachers

Raft-SessionOur latest non-profit client is RAFT Colorado;

The Brainzooming Group has been working with the organization’s leadership and board on strategy and branding development. RAFT (Resource Area For Teaching) uses discarded materials (such as plastic bottles, bottle caps, paper rolls, envelopes, rubber bands, etc.) to develop activity kits and idea sheets teachers can purchase inexpensively.

These kits enhance interactive learning and inspire students in the STEAM disciplines (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, Math).

Well into the assignment, we had been using online collaboration and conference calls for our strategy and branding work. This past weekend, however, I had the opportunity to visit RAFT Colorado for an in-person strategy session with the organization’s board and its team, including executive director, Stephanie Welsh.

Creative Inspiration

From the minute I arrived, I was bowled over by the creative inspiration and energy in the brightly colored warehouse in downtown Denver. Beyond the inspiring colors, it was fun to look through the interactive, pre-planned activities teachers can purchase and incorporate into their learning programs to inspire creative thinking and other important skills.

Of particular interest were this striking inspiration wall and the art projects sprinkled throughout the space, including a flying pig, and a handcrafted Star Wars chess set made from champagne corks by Nick Haag, one of the team members at RAFT.

RAFT-Imagine-Wall

140220-RAFT-Pictures

And what about the Sharpie Markers?

Finally, for our all-day strategy session Saturday, I was thrilled to have Sharpie markers for sale outside the classroom we were using for a strategic planning venue. For a guy always focused on having enough Sharpie markers with him, it was great to have an ample supply and the extra dots needed to complete a two-part multi-voting exercise on branding words.

I can’t wait to advance the strategy and branding work to its final form and return to RAFT Colorado to both present the work and to spend more time recharging my creative inspiration! – Mike Brown

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

The Brainzooming Group helps make smart organizations more successful by rapidly expanding their strategic options and creating innovative plans they can efficiently implement. Email us at info@brainzooming.com or call us at 816-509-5320 to learn how we can help you with a strategy session and branding development to create strategic impact for your organization.

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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