Branding | The Brainzooming Group - Part 54 – page 54
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When Southwest Airlines unveiled a new fare structure along with its return to a number-specific boarding process, it was a potential brand deal breaker for me. For someone who had made great sport of flourishing under the old 3 letter boarding process, I envisioned losing out on my fairly regular #1 general boarding position. This coveted spot was secured through strategic thinking, planning, early arrival, relationship building, stamina, and pure competitive spirit.

Having flown Southwest many times since the modifications, the process change has been great from my perspective. It still favors planning and punctuality, but it’s shifted the strategy to only a few minutes before the check in time 24 hours before the flight, not sitting on the floor for several hours at the airport before departure.

The early arrival, stamina, and relationship building – the most problematic aspects of getting a good seat under the old approach – have all been removed. And having snagged my preferred seating areas even into the lower B group (i.e., 80 people having boarded before me), I don’t mind the competitiveness is pretty much out of the equation as well.

Another bonus has been an upgrade in most Southwest boarding areas, with more comfortable seating and ready access to power outlets. I can only assume that in the Southwest focus on keeping planes flying (and not on the ground), these innovations were to keep people close to the gate and not wandering off to other parts of the concourse. All designed for a higher likelihood of on-time departures.

This is a great example of the emotional connection we have with brands, the apprehension and uncertainty changes to personally important brand dimensions can create for customers, and the ability of re-win customers when creativity leads to a clearly better experience. The Southwest switch was a wonderful case study for how a great brand does this very well.


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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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4

In early May, a TweetDeck search on “creative” tweets showed several referencing a Creative unConference in New York. I tweeted to attendees asking for a guest blogger to write about their experience presenting at an event where there’s not really a pre-planned schedule.

Part of it was professional curiosity since I’m chairing the American Marketing Association Market Research Conference in October, and we’ve discussed how to incorporate more attendee-driven content. The other part was a sincere interest in all of us learning more about these types of emerging events.

Stephanie Sharp stepped forward to share her perspective on the event. Stephanie owns Sharp Designs, a graphic design and branding consultancy in New Jersey. She has extensive experience with identity work, marketing collateral, and internal communications. Here’s Stephanie’s view on what it’s like when a social networking perspective intersects with a real life event:

I presented at the Creative unConference in New York City on May 7 – 9. This event was organized by The One Show as part of a week-long creative week. Since this was my first unConference, I wasn’t sure what to expect, so here are three take-aways to help others prepare for attending an unConference:

Prepare for a Richer Experience

The registration process included two questions:

  • What are you going to present?
  • What subjects are you interested in hearing about?

My answer to the first question was : “I AM PRESENTING on the rebranding that has occurred in the last year or so. Some has been seen as a misfire among the design community. Is there a shift in identity work? Have we lost Paul Rand’s way of working? Is it better or worse?”

The unConference guidelines warned speakers to not prepare too much. It’s not like a typical conference with a presentation followed by Q&A with the audience. An unConference is very interactive with a session’s attendees voicing their opinions. A comment from a speaker or a fellow attendee can start a longer discussion on one particular item. As such it’s a much richer experience.

Get Ready to Actively Shape the Agenda

An unConference’s schedule is set each morning, so the exact agenda isn’t known ahead of time. Every attendee is in a large room and allowed to introduce themselves. We grabbed paper and markers and wrote what we wanted to present on sheets and gathered in two lines to announce our session to the crowd.

Alternatively, we could write a subject heading in which we needed help, an issue we were working with, or a topic on which we wanted to hear others’ views. We walked over to a large schedule board and taped our session into a slot for a room and time. As people were adding their sessions, you could also move yours to another time. For any sessions that were similar, presenters could discuss and combine them.

Anticipate but Be Flexible

For my session, I prepared ahead of time by gathering recent logo redesigns causing discussion and controversy within the online design community. These included major brands such as Pepsi, Tropicana, the 2012 Olympics, and Xerox among others. Only a few sessions had access to projectors, so I printed several copies of the logos anticipating I’d be in one of the smaller, intimate areas. Needing visuals for my presentation, this approach provided the most flexibility no matter what the space.

Most everyone in the session held similar ideas on the logos, but we shared some interesting insights with each other. It was more of a discussion than a traditional “presentation,” giving attendees more time to interact and exchange opinions.

Summary

In all, I came away from the Creative unConference with some excellent ideas and knowledge I can implement in my own design and branding consultancy and will definitely keep an eye out for future unConferences. – Stephanie Sharp

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4

Visiting Panera Bread recently, I noticed employees’ name tags now include the question, “What’s Your Passion?” and the employee’s personal answer.

Love the question, but I’m not sure about this strategic application. It forces an employee to disclose what might be very personal information or fudge, sharing something more generic and not really a passion at all. For instance, the person taking my order, listed “food” as her passion. From the looks of her, that was no surprise. Yet the answer had to be so short and potentially bland to fit on her name tag it really wasn’t the conversation starter I am sure the person who came up with the idea expected it to be.

Here’s a great application of the question though: Answer it for yourself, identifying your own passions. Then make sure you’re:

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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7

Many conversations recently have addressed the misperception that creativity, by definition, takes time, money, and effort that can’t be afforded right now because of the economy. A couple of examples:

  • Someone showed me a meeting announcement for an “ideation” session to which they’d been invited. It referenced the range of ideas under consideration as “creative and practical and everything in between.”
  • A tweet in recent weeks said that while the sender wouldn’t reject innovation, he would “say no to unique creative thinking.”
  • Another forwarded email suggested a group shouldn’t “over think” a topic “out of respect for time & resources. We can do that later when we can be more creative.”

Arghhhhhhh!!!

Since when is practical the opposite of creative? And what types of pre-conceived ideas and misperceptions obscure the role creativity plays in contributing to business results?

The image below of three Ben & Jerry’s ice cream flavors is another exhibit in showing the fallacy of the “creativity only in selected instances” point of view. Ben & Jerry’s demonstrates the myriad benefits of strategic creativity with ice cream flavor names that:

  • Play on and twist the familiar (to help initial recognition and retention)
  • Are funny (introducing emotion, another element in improved idea stickiness)
  • On brand (completely consistent with something you’d expect from Ben & Jerry’s)

These flavors had to be named something. It probably took little if any additional time to come up with names that clearly work for the brand’s benefit vs. generic names that wouldn’t.

The point isn’t to go out and name everything and call it good. The point is that no matter what the economic environment, being strategic and creative doesn’t decline in importance. It’s MORE important.

Strong branding companies know this and act accordingly, while also-rans wait around for economic signals to suggest it’s time to turn creativity back on. Their challenge is they probably won’t make it until their creativity stop light flashes green again. And maybe that’s just fine!

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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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5

After last week’s “Taking the NO Out of InNOvation” presentation for the AAFKC “Get Charged Up” Symposium, I was talking with one attendee about the strategic challenge of successfully promoting oneself. Even for people who are great at successfully marketing other people, products, and services, selling yourself can be a daunting task.

In response to her question about strategies for how to approach it, here are three suggestions:

  • Do Some HomeworkInvest time defining a personal category by exploring your distinctive talents and developing a strategy for how you can accentuate them to set yourself apart.
  • Ask a Fan for a Recommendation – I wrote a sincere, very favorable recommendation letter for a long-time business partner recently. His response, “(This guy) seems to be everything I doubt about myself.” Everything in my letter was true, but it was a lot easier for me to say it than it was for him. You may be in the same situation. If you are, reach out to someone who understands your skills and can succinctly package them in a recommendation letter. Ideally, it will provide the basis for words and phrases you can use to promote yourself.
  • Get Professional Help – If you’re struggling with a resume, consider having a professional assist in preparing it. Select someone who puts you through the discipline of answering questions about your responsibilities and justifying the results you delivered. Being forced to think through answers to these types of in-depth questions is of value all by itself. – Mike Brown

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 brainzooming@gmail.com or call us at 816-509-5320 to see how we can help make your strategic thinking and brand planning more productive!

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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4

Holiday Inn Express touts its cinnamon rolls as a great breakfast treat. Even though they’re probably pre-manufactured far away from the breakfast area and kept warm under a heat lamp, they are pretty darn good.

And the smell of them in the lobby is unmistakable.

Interestingly enough, the hand lotion at Holiday Inn Express is also cinnamon scented. So if you apply any of it, you’ll smell those cinnamon rolls a good part of the day – a great sensory brand reinforcer.

Here’s the Brainzooming question: Most of your customers likely have all five senses, so how can you figure out a way to connect your brand to a non-traditional sense as a strong reinforcer?

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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3

For fun, wanted to share two examples, one bad and one great, of restaurant marketing.

Bad Restaurant Marketing

This shot of the local KFC is from a recent trip back home in Hays, KS. It has a variety of problems:

  • A steak dinner for $2.49 stretches the bounds of credibility. A price that’s TOO low, doesn’t say value; it says WATCH OUT!
  • Extending KFC into steak doesn’t work either. Who is looking for beef when they see the Colonel’s white goatee and suit?
  • It’s misleading. When I showed it to my mom, she said it’s actually a CHICKEN FRIED steak special. But that’s not what the sign says. Maybe everybody in Hays knows that, but just driving by, you figure it’s an overly ambitious franchisee run amok.

Great Restaurant Marketing

In contrast, this February special from Houlihan’s is creative and on-target for several reasons:

  • It’s tied into current events – It builds off of people’s attention to the stock market. Any day in February when the Dow was up, everyone got free Italian donuts. On days when the Dow closed down, customers received a coupon for a free appetizer on the next visit.
  • It drives business when people are watching dollars – The Italian donuts are a higher-priced desert relative to Houlihan’s other small portion deserts. Inducing trial is likely to spur future sales since they’re incredibly good (trust me – I’ve tried them more than once). In the alternative, on down days, getting benefit from the coupon requires another visit to Houlihan’s.
  • There’s some built-in sizzle – The promotion includes an opportunity to win a $5000 savings bond. Strong because it gets attention, has a high perceived valued, and costs Houlihan’s much less than that figure.
  • It has built-in free advertising support – Once getting over the hurdle of people knowing about the promotion, think about how many media outlets provide 5x per week prompts on the Dow’s performance. It’s all free advertising.

Great marketing doesn’t have to be complicated, but it surely benefits from strategic thinking and implementation. Great job Houlihan’s!

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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