Branding | The Brainzooming Group - Part 5 – page 5
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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

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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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What do you LOVE about your business?

Love-Your-Brand

Yes, I’m serious about that strategic thinking question.

Can you say what you LOVE about your business, and what it does? Or what your business enables? Or the bigger set of activities your business makes a reality?

If you struggle with those questions, take a time out right away and do the strategic thinking needed to get back in touch with the love in what you do.

What brought this up was a planning and strategic thinking workshop we were conducting for a business-to-business client. While its clients are businesses, it is ultimately a part of a consumer market that is ALL about love. Yet when the client’s executives were participating in strategic thinking exercises and discussing the business, their comments suggested a dry, emotionless, and routine business completely devoid of any love.

Even in discussing its direct clients, who are often motivated by a love for what they do, there wasn’t any hint of love in the business.

HUGE MISTAKE.

If you’re missing the love about your business, how in the world can you find the best opportunities?

How can you uncover the special, memorable, and lasting moments your brand can create?

How will ANYONE care about using your brand?

Yes, even if you are in the most apparently mundane and boring industrial product, you need to find the love. SOMEBODY must love SOMETHING, SOMEWHERE in what your brand does or enables.

And when you answer the strategic thinking question about the possibilities and find the love, THAT’S WHEN you are going to find the great opportunities that seem to have eluded your brand up to this point.

Find the love. Find what’s special about what you do. Find it RIGHT AWAY! – Mike Brown

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When a brand strategy change is planned, what happens first?

An earlier “Inside the Executive Suite” article from Armada Corporate Intelligence addressed this important brand strategy question about how changes are rolled out to the public. The issue is this: When announcing a new brand promise, you need to give employees adequate time to understand and embrace the brand promise before announcing it to customers.

“Nearly simultaneously,” unless there are completely inescapable circumstances preventing advance notice, is not adequate time. Yet, discussions and presentations at a brand strategy conference indicate many brands act as if “nearly simultaneously” is sufficient.

You're-Gonna-Love-this-Plac

They’re wrong, and here’s an example included in the Armada piece. It’s a second-hand anecdote on the downside of not making sure employees know about branding announcement before customers, along with the fundamental differences in how brands are developed vs. implemented.

Brand Promises Are Developed and Communicated in Different Directions (From Armada Executive Intelligence “Inside the Executive Suite”)

“(There are) differing ‘directions’ in which smart brands develop and introduce their promises.

Many organizations first look inward to determine what they want the brand to be. They then develop related brand messages they launch with great fanfare in the marketplace. This is developing the brand promise ‘inside-out’ and communicating it ‘outside-in,’ implying employees are learning about the new big brand promise at the same time as customers.

“That approach is fraught with problems as evidenced by a story shared by a CMO we (worked with). He was flying on United Airlines as it introduced ‘United Rising.’ The brand campaign focused on United dramatically changing to deliver better service to customers. After enduring a day of cancellations and delays at O’Hare with no timely updates or apologies from United, passengers finally boarded a plane in the evening. One flight attendant welcomed passengers, acknowledged their long, frustrating day, apologized, and said the crew would have them home soon.

“The CMO told the flight attendant she was the ONLY person all day who displayed anything resembling United Rising-type behaviors. She asked what United Rising was. He explained it was the new United brand message. She replied, ‘Oh, they don’t tell us about those things. We’re always the last to know.’

“That highlights the problem with first communicating a brand promise in the marketplace. If the market learns about a new brand promise before employees, they aren’t in a good position to bring the brand promise to life for customers – and they may even wind up undermining it, as in the United Rising episode.

“The best brand promises are developed outside in. A brand starts by understanding what the market perceives about it and how much latitude it has to change. Brand promises are then communicated inside out. The communication process starts with employees before the market hears the message, making sure they understand it and are supported in delivering on it. Then, when the first customer comes through the door (whether a physical, figurative, or virtual one), employee behaviors and every other brand element can strongly align to what customers have heard.”

Even if there are regulatory or confidentiality issues involved, it behooves a brand to establish considerable groundwork with its employees in advance, perhaps over many months of time. This could come via broad employee involvement in providing input to the strategy. It could also include sharing foundational concepts that will support the eventual brand position. In that case, when the new brand is announced, brand management can link the new information on the brand to what has already been shared. That at least provides SOME context and preparation for employees to be able to communicate about and carry out a new brand promise more effectively.

Don’t mess this one up: Communicating your brand starts on the inside, NOT the outside!  – Mike Brown

10 Keys to Engaging Stakeholders to Create Improved Results

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Results!!! Creating Strategic Impact Mini-Book

Leaders are looking for powerful ways to engage strong collaborators to shape shared visions. 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 leaders to increase strategic collaboration, engagement, and create improved results.

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 stakeholders in strategy AND implementation success

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

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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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Great branding strategy examples abound. You just have to be on the lookout for them when they come across your path.

We were in St. Joseph, MO for a client session. The highlight of the car trip was driving by this ice cream stand, Kris and Kate’s Ice Cream Treats. Can you believe how cute this place is? Although the sign outside said it is closed until March, a stop on the way back through town was mandatory to get a few pictures.

Kris-Kate-Ice-Cream-Treats

It was only after pulling into the parking lot at Kris and Kate’s Ice Cream Treats on the return trip that something even more incredible than the building’s design jumped out: the best brand promise ever.

“If you can think it, we can make it.”

Brand-Promise

I don’t know if Kris and Kate’s Ice Cream Treats thinks about this as a brand promise, a slogan, or something else. It really doesn’t matter, because it is the best brand promise ever – and not just for an ice cream stand in St. Joseph, MO.

If your organization specializes in one particular area, your branding strategy discussions should include the question: “If our customers can think it, can we make it?”

If that were your organization’s brand promise, what would you have to do differently with your branding strategy when it comes to:

  • Responsiveness?
  • Flexibility?
  • Your commitment to figuring things out?
  • The ability to anticipate your customers?
  • Being ready for unusual requests?
  • Having resources in place to act?
  • Support organizationally for improvisation?
  • Support and guidelines instead of rules for employee behavior?

It gets pretty dizzying in a hurry!

But wouldn’t the ability to do these things make your brand promise be the best brand promise ever?

I think we just stumbled over our newest brand experience exercise!  – Mike Brown

10 Keys to Engaging Stakeholders to Create Improved Results

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

Results!!! Creating Strategic Impact Mini-Book

Leaders are looking for powerful ways to engage strong collaborators to shape shared visions. 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 leaders to increase strategic collaboration, engagement, and create improved results.

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 stakeholders in strategy AND implementation success

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

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

 

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 not sure where to start with the brand experience problems for Southwest Airlines in this picture. When it comes to bad decisions about branding strategies, this scary mistake is all tricks and no treats.

This scene greeted me in Kansas City as I returned on a Southwest flight from Boston. The entire Southwest Airlines ticketing area was decorated for Halloween. But the Halloween decorations weren’t of things like pumpkins, candy, and some of the lighter aspects of Halloween.

No, the Southwest Airlines ticketing area went with an over the top death theme for its Halloween decorations: multiple hanging skeletons, ghosts, and tombstones (sitting on an overhang, front and center) featuring RIP (Rest in Peace) on them.

Brand-Strategy-RIP

Extending Branding Strategies Too Far

Maybe because of the lighthearted and fun aspects of the Southwest Airlines brand personality, it seems prone to missing the boundaries where lighthearted and fun run lead to situations in poor taste. We talk about Southwest Airlines frequently example in Brainzooming branding and content marketing workshops. Because it does so much so well, its brand miscues probably stick out more when they happen.

Scary-Branding-Mistakes2

As we point out in workshops, when trying to extend branding strategies into new or unusual territory, you may have to vary the brand personality. In such situations, having the brand personality the SAME isn’t as vital as creating a sense of brand personality CONSISTENCY. Every experience of the brand personality should feel as if it originates from one brand, even if the situation necessitates strategic changes to achieve that consistency.

In the case of Southwest Airlines, its lighthearted brand personality is balanced by a sense of smart performance. However, it’s hardly smart performance when your brand:

  • Plays up likely the biggest fear about your brand for a significant segment of the audience
  • Positions itself as a poor industry member by playing up the biggest fear about your entire industry
  • Takes its brand personality and applies it in ways that clearly break the brand promise (in this case, “getting to your destination alive”)

If you are a marketer hoping to deliver smart performance for your brand, stay away from extending your branding strategies haphazardly into fears about your brand. If you do that, it’s a REALLY scary mistake! – Mike Brown

 

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With a strong brand and a robust branding strategy, there are many ways to deliver valuable brand benefits to customers.

If, however, usage is declining for one of the best ways your brand delivers customer benefits, should your turnaround branding strategy focus on cutting back in providing it?

Or should you go out of your way to invite people to use it and make it incredibly easy for them to do so?

What Turnaround Branding Strategy Works?

Traffic-Circle

There’s no disputing the decline among Roman Catholics participating in the sacrament of reconciliation, or confession, as it is more commonly known. Within the Catholic Church, this is the sacrament where an individual confesses their known sins to a priest, receiving a penance and absolution (or forgiveness) for their sins.

As someone trying to go to confession more frequently, I can attest to the incredible impact ones feels afterward. The description you hear most frequently is you feel as if you are walking a few feet off the ground after confession.

With fewer priests available, most US Catholic parishes only offer confession for perhaps 45 minutes on Saturday afternoon. Not exactly prime time for people to break away from their weekend lives to head to church.

So one of the best impacts a brand (the Catholic Church) can deliver to its customers (church members) is rationed and available only during one inconvenient time, all (apparently) because it’s in declining demand.

Which leads to asking, “How do they think it will ever increase in demand again when it is hardly made available?”

Abundance as a Turnaround Branding Strategy

Because of trying to go to confession more, I regularly travel to a church in town offering confession thirty minutes before every weekday mass. When traveling for business, I seek out churches offering confession frequently; some make it available for multiple hours every day.

And guess what?

In all those parishes, there is always a line of people waiting to go to confession.

Why isn’t that surprising?

A Personal Invitation’s Impact

I walked to a church less than a mile away from my hotel in Cambridge, MA for a 6 p.m. evening mass after delivering the closing keynote at the Social Media Strategies Summit last week. At the end of mass in the small chapel, Fr. Raymond Kiley announced, “If you would like, I would be honored to hear your confession after mass in the back pew.”

Turnaround-Branding-Strategy-Abundance

Given how my week was going, his invitation was exactly what I needed to hear. I was struggling with a couple of personal situations, and Fr. Ray spent time with me, offered me counsel, and even gave me a huge hug after granting me absolution.

Talk about walking three feet off the ground!

So what happened in that small chapel in Cambridge, MASS?

Beyond availability, Fr. Ray extended an invitation (through his openness to hear confessions) and made it special (“I would be honored to hear your confession”). He said he extends this invitation at the end of every mass, and that Cardinal Sean O’Malley of Boston told Boston priests earlier this year that it is always an honor to hear confessions and extend absolution.

Are you trying to convert us?

If you’re interested in the Catholic Church, and would like to ask questions, I’m more than delighted to email or talk with you.

My reason for sharing this story, however, is from a brand strategy perspective. If in assessing your brand strategy you see one of the most important aspects in decline, should you start limiting it? Or, should you . . .

  • Make it more available?
  • Make it more convenient to access?
  • Make it easier to get started?
  • Be more overt in letting customers know about its benefits?
  • Invite them in a more special way to try (or re-try) it?

There’s no one answer to these questions that fits every situation.

But from what I see in Catholic parishes around the country, increasing access, convenience, the ease of trial, communication about the benefits, and the impact of how you invite them to participate can be a winning turnaround branding strategy with a powerful impact in reversing declining usage trends!  – Mike Brown

10 Keys to Engaging Stakeholders to Create Improved Results

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

Results!!! Creating Strategic Impact Mini-Book

Leaders are looking for powerful ways to engage strong collaborators to shape shared visions. 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 leaders to increase strategic collaboration, engagement, and create improved results.

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 stakeholders in strategy AND implementation success

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

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

 

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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Sometimes it is very clear what an organization’s threats and opportunities are when performing a SWOT analysis (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats). It may also be that an organization falls into a rut of simply restating the same threats and opportunities every year.

We use strategic thinking exercises and questions as “detours” around organizational thinking that is in a rut. Asking questions in a different way than is typically done forces people to look at new possibilities and actually think before blurting out the standard answers.

An Old AND New SWOT Analysis Example

We have previously shared strategic detours for getting to new thinking about an organization’s threats and opportunities.

Here is a new SWOT analysis example that is really an old one.

Revisiting our online repository of strategic thinking exercises, I came across this one from our early days of collecting and developing new ways to help people think about their threats and opportunities.

Strategic-thinking-safe

Rather than asking single questions about threats and opportunities, this strategic thinking exercise pieces answers together from considering specific perspectives your customers, competitors, markets, and own brand has. Simply use each of the situations in each “equation” to generate ideas and see how the combinations of ideas build out a perspective on an organization’s of opportunities and threats.

Opportunities come about when . . .

  • Customers Want It + We Do It Well
  • Customers Want It + We Do It Well + Competitors Don’t Do It Well
  • Customers Want It + Nobody Does It Well
  • Customers Want It + We Do It Okay + We Can Improve How We Do It

Threats come about when . . .

  • Customers Want It + We Don’t Do It Well
  • Customers Want It + Competitors Do It Well
  • Customers Aren’t Wanting It as Much + Our Business Is Built Around Offering It
  • Customers Want It + We Do It Well + Competitors Are Moving to Do It More or Better
  • Our Business Is Built Around Offering It + Market Forces Are Working Against It

The caveat with this strategic thinking exercise is we pulled it from the “safe.” We have not put it through its paces in a number of years to check how productive it is and update it with new variations. As we do that though, we wanted to share it with all of you to test it out as well. Given the number of people that come to the blog looking for new and different strategic thinking exercises, we wanted our readers to be able to test it out as we do.

So here’s to learning what new possibilities this golden oldie SWOT analysis example will yield today! – Mike Brown

 

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Written simply and directly with a focus on enlivening one of the most familiar strategic thinking exercises, “Reimagining the SWOT Analysis” will be a go-to resource for stronger strategic insights!

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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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