2

Building on yesterday’s post on branding warning signals, in the Brainzooming world view, creativity and creative exploration are integral to developing successful strategy. Yet in the last few years, I’ve run across many marketers gravitating toward incredibly literal – not lateral – thinking.  This may reflect a crappy economy and job market where people want to follow exactly what they’re told or pick the safest path to minimize the perceived risk of being fired for pushing beyond the status quo or implementing a strategy with some room for maneuver (and potential risk) in it.

The real downsides to literal thinking arise in ho-hum strategies and uninspired customers.  It’s my firm belief literal thinking also results in inferior financial performance. Outside of direct marketing strategies, however, it can be tough to demonstrate the financial downside of play-it-safe marketing.

There’s been a recent example on TV though where, at least hypothetically, it’s possible to speculate on the financial impact of less literal and more creatively strategic thinking. There’s just one caveat: I have no idea whether my imagined back-story really happened or not, and that uncertainty is why I don’t do a lot of marketing case studies on Brainzooming. Even though it’s hypothetical, the strategic decision scenario is completely accurate, because I’ve seen too many times where unfortunately it didn’t play out as successfully.

Kentucky Fried Chicken is celebrating its 70th anniversary with a promotional discount offer. A literally-oriented marketer (if they’re at least somewhat strategic), would be thinking about, “What can we do with 70 in a promotion?” 70 pieces of chicken? 70% discount? 70 cents off? None of those really work.

Another number important to KFC is eleven – the number of herbs and spices in its original recipe. Less literal than 70 in the context of this offer, it’s still a strategically and creatively important number for the brand. A literal marketer might get to 11 pieces for $11 because it’s direct and straight-forward. Yet, that’s not the ultimate offer. Instead, it’s 11 pieces of chicken for $11.99. Sure 99 might not be connected to the KFC brand. A strategic, non-literal marketer, however, wouldn’t be stopped by that because adding the 99 cents to the price increases revenue per item by 9%

The real lesson in this hypothetical case study is the right mix of strategic and creative thinking on what’s important to the brand will generate more benefits than the prevalent, “don’t over think, just act” mentality. In this case, it translates to 9% greater revenue per purchase. That’s a great strategic benefit and a strong performance differential in a fear-filled, crappy economy!   - 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 you devise a successful innovation strategy 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.

More Posts - Website

Follow Me:
TwitterFacebookLinkedInPinterestGoogle Plus

Continue Reading

9

Several years ago I started doing a presentation on lessons in turnaround brand building. The presentation features strategic lessons in building a brand from the brink of collapse to tremendous success. The lessons are applicable to not only brands, but also to departments in companies, projects, and even personal life. With the subsequent dramatic economic meltdown, many once-stellar brands have disappeared for various reasons and a new niche has developed in predicting whether a brand will vanish in the near-term based on various warning signs.

In these cases, any type of attempted strategic brand turnaround has obviously failed. In my own corporate brand strategy experience, I witnessed a significant unraveling of the incredible turnaround and brand building work that had been done. As an early step in refreshing and re-orienting the turnaround branding content, here are five observations about what happens to strategic thinking when a brand is in distress. Consider these early warning signs for a potential brand collapse:

1. Detaching from the brand’s strategic foundation

When the economy is in crisis, it seems almost fashionable to abandon strategic efforts. That’s a dangerous strategy (or absence of one). I met with a CEO last year who said outright his business wouldn’t be doing ANYTHING strategic for at least six months. What a complete misunderstanding of the concept! The company was engaged in all kinds of financial maneuvers (which were strategic, albeit near-term) to survive while ignoring the very strategic upside opportunities it couldn’t afford to put off if it were going to turn around its fortunes.

2. Disdaining and compartmentalizing creativity

I know, the IBM CEO study said CEOs value and want more creativity to deal with uncertain times. Maybe so (although I’m skeptical as I wrote last week), but companies are full of left-brain senior managers who don’t appreciate creative problem solving. They may also start trying to compartmentalize creativity to certain functions or topics. That’s a warning sign, because creativity is broadly vital during challenging and ambiguous situations. Creativity isn’t simply for cooking up creative financing schemes to try and keep a business afloat.

3. Telling employees to not think but just act

A disdain for thinking certainly runs through the other items on the list. When senior executives are telling people to not over-think and just get on with stuff, it’s a clear warning sign. Maybe it is a slow-moving organization stalling innovation efforts which are ready to be implemented. But a “don’t think, do” motto is used frequently as an excuse to not consider an appropriate variety of fact-based strategic options or to avoid exposing flawed strategies when they should be modified or shot down. This warning sign is a harbinger of hearing the age old cop-out, “I was just following orders.”

4. Using policy in place of good decision making

Making decisions in a challenging business situation is hard, especially for a big corporation. It means having to think through the ripple effects of decisions or adapting decision making principles to many situations based on specific issues at hand. An alternative, which can be overused, is to take the easy way out and enforce strict policy to displace strategic decision making. For example, telling every department to cut its budget 25% when the smarter strategic approach is really understanding critical business areas and making strategic decisions to fit each situation. Leading with policy over decision making is fast, but it’s sloppy and potentially crippling when used too frequently.

5. Making decisions based on what you like, not on facts

When business decisions are being made based on what people like and don’t like, be very afraid. It’s impossible to completely remove personal preference from thinking and decision making, but business isn’t a Facebook page – liking and not liking (especially when the person speaking isn’t in the target market) isn’t a good starting place for strategic decisions.  If the early questions aren’t about what matters for the business and how customers will react (yes, even whether they’ll like the idea or not), big problems are looming.

What strategic thinking warning signs do you see in brands being challenged or teetering on the brink? I’d love to get your reactions to these five and others you have seen play out in your experience in the comments. – 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.  To learn how we can bring out the best innovative thinking in your team email us at brainzooming@gmail.com or call us at 816-509-5320.

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.

More Posts - Website

Follow Me:
TwitterFacebookLinkedInPinterestGoogle Plus

Continue Reading

2

Creativity scares the s#!t out of lots of authority figures! Hand them some toilet paper and keep going!!!

Creative variation is more than okay. Creative variation is wondrous!!!

Explain something you’re familiar with to someone who has no idea about it. Use pictures. Or act it out. Or make it a song.

Find a few moments for creative silence today – think, pray, nap to give yourself a break.

Don’t email the same old memo. Do a diagram, mind map, or sketch of your points and use it instead.

When known for complete unconventionality, sometimes you have to be blatantly conventional to stay truly unconventional. Surprise somebody today.

Give your brain a break by thinking about something completely frivolous right this very instant.  – 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 learn how we can deliver these benefits for you.

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.

More Posts - Website

Follow Me:
TwitterFacebookLinkedInPinterestGoogle Plus

Continue Reading

4

This is it for TEDxKC reflections, I promise, but I’ve never been involved in any two hour event which offered so much innovative thinking! Thanks to Kansas City’s VML and the other sponsors for bringing such an incredibly-rich experience as TEDxKC to Kansas City!

  • My mother once said I have a look which says, “Don’t bug me. Don’t get near me.” If that’s true, it must have been on display at TEDxKC. In an oversold event, in a supposedly jam-packed auditorium to see the live presentations, I walked in 10 minutes before the start and found two seats on an aisle mid-way back. After sitting down, the row consolidated, freeing up another seat, so there were still two seats by me. In the following ten minutes, not one person came in and sat down by me. Sorry everybody for “the look.” I try not to make it!
  • Watching the opening TEDxKC performance by Quixotic Fusion, it struck me how true it is that whatever your talents, you can create “art.” That’s the case whether in the traditional view of art or the art of day-to-day work and life. The difference is a person’s willingness to experiment, to be innovative, and to put themselves in the vulnerable positions which make one an artist.
  • The recent CEO study where creativity was identified as a critical success attribute in business was referenced during one presentation. Every time it’s cited, I always wonder: Did the CEO respondents REALLY believe that? It was probably viewed as a “hip” answer so everybody said, “Sure, a person needs more creativity…after financial acumen, a strict operational orientation, and a ruthless managerial style. Then, we need us some creativity.”
  • In her video presentation, Jane McGonigal of the Institute for the Future suggested the key to solving the world’s problems would be people collectively spending 21 billion hours weekly in online gaming. My question is, “What would happen to improve the world if we spent 21 billion more hours weekly praying?”
  • After attending a recent conference with nearly no diversity among presenters based on race, gender, and age, I’m even more conscious about diversity at live events. So at TEDxKC, of the 5 individual presenters (including host Mike Lundgren from VML) to take the stage, 4 were men, and 3 of the men were named “Michael.” While I always love listening to Mikes (and one other presenter’s last name was “Brown”), this was both homogenous and quirky.
  • My thought for the evening at TEDxKC: “Take the ordinary and attach it to something of significance to you. Then it’s strategic.”

Additionally, here’s the embedded video for the full TEDxKC program. Enjoy!  – Mike Brown



When it comes to conferences, high impact presentations, and live event social media content, The Brainzooming Group is expert at shaping the right strategy and implementation to create unique attendee experiences before, during, and after an event. Email us at brainzooming@gmail.com or call 816-509-5320 to learn how we can do the same for your event!

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.

More Posts - Website

Follow Me:
TwitterFacebookLinkedInPinterestGoogle Plus

Continue Reading

6

Following up yesterday’s personal strategic TEDxKC reflection, today’s TEDxKC review focuses on specific presentations at the August 12, 2010 strategic, innovation-rich event. In keeping with the brisk TED/TEDx format (no presentations are intended to be over 20 minutes), here are brief highlights from TEDxKC:

Francis Cholle – Intuitive Intelligence Is What the World Needs Now

Author Francis Cholle’s main premise is strategic business thinking typically ignores creativity and doesn’t recognize the importance of the unconscious in how we process information. His model for intuitive intelligence rests on 4 strategies:

  • Think Holistically – Look at situations from all possible perspectives.
  • Think Paradoxically – As you look from different perspectives, allow yourself to accept blatantly contradictory elements co-existing together.
  • Listen for the Unusual – Pay less attention to thinking and more attention to feelings our brands’ customers are having.
  • Lead by Influence – Surrender control and give people the autonomy to step off into the unknown.

Given this strategic approach is at the heart of what we’re trying to do with innovation at Brainzooming, his talk really resonated with me.

 

Jane McGonigal – More Online Gaming Is What the World Needs Now

From her innovative perspective as an online game designer, in the only video presentation at TEDxKC, Jane McGonigal shared her firm belief the world is spiraling to its imminent collapse and can only be saved by the types of epic wins taking place 24/7 in online gaming.

She shared how online gaming allows people to rapidly try, experiment, and learn effective innovative problem-solving in epic situations. Online games do this particularly well because they are built around epic stories requiring epic strategies, players are matched to challenges suiting their talents with tons of collaborators, and feedback is constantly provided to innovate, adjust, improve, and succeed.

In the past several years, she’s concentrated on developing online games focused on solving major world problems – energy (World without Oil), human extinction (Superstruct), and the crisis in Africa (Evoke).

Her global prescription is for the people of the world to spend 21 billion hours per week in online gaming to innovate and create the epic wins which will allow the world to survive. While my initial reaction was very much, “WTF,” I’m so thankful Jane McGonigal’s video was included at TEDxKC. She ultimately helped me see a previously unsuspected connection between online gaming, strategy, and rapid process improvement techniques and how they could work together to catalyze innovative global problem-solving strategies.

Dr. Michael Wesch – Meaning Makers Are What the World Needs Now

Kansas State University anthropology professor Michael Wesch, the YouTube star of the evening, spoke to the need for individuals to move from knowledgeable to knowledge able, with skills and critical thinking capabilities to successfully filter the blast of media we all receive daily. As he pointed out, technology has wrought absolutely revolutionary expansions in our capability to:

  • Connect
  • Organize
  • Share
  • Collect
  • Collaborate
  • Publish

Importantly though, Wesch’s point was while technology makes it easy to perform these six activities, they are tremendously hard to do well. The challenge then is using the technical tools to become compelling meaning makers and not just meaning seekers.

Mike McCamon – A Way to Deal with Waste Is What the World Needs Now

I have at least a passing knowledge of McCamon’s water.org organization through meeting Erin Swanson of water.org (@ExplodingSoul on Twitter) regularly at Social Media Club of Kansas City breakfasts. For whatever reason, McCamon’s TEDxKC presentation was incredibly brief. It provided staggering statistics about the amount of solid human waste that’s left untreated globally in a world where more people have access to mobile phones than toilets. His contention is the issue doesn’t get more attention because it’s a private one whose solutions are realized household-by-household and the very visual celebratory experience which exists with clean water solutions (i.e., kids playing in water) doesn’t exist with solid waste solutions.

At one point during TEDxKC, McCamon said, “Someone always lives downstream.”  While the comment was delivered most directly to water and sanitation issues, its much larger application is for all processes globally, big to small, where one group or individual tries to get the good stuff for themselves only to let the next person down the line deal with the negative aftermath.

Dr. Brené Brown – Vulnerability Is What the World Needs Now

At the core of Dr. Brown’s comments is the contention we are losing our tolerance for vulnerability. Rather than vulnerability being synonymous with weakness, Brown sees vulnerability as the birthplace of joy, creativity, faith, and many other very positive aspects of life. As the rejection of vulnerability has spread, we now find:

  • Joy has shifted to foreboding
  • Disappointment has developed as a lifestyle
  • Perfection (or the perception of perfection) is used as a false shield
  • Extremism surfaces as a defense mechanism
  • Medications, alcohol, drugs, credit, and all types of other things are used to numb the pain

She challenged the TEDxKC audience to regain joy in our lives by practicing gratitude and honoring the ordinary in life since filling emotional reservoirs with joy and love is critical to getting through bad things which may eventually happen.

Quixotic Fusion – Both a Skeptical and a Hopeful Eye Is What the World Needs Now

This intriguing performance art group Quixotic Fusion opened and closed TEDxKC. It’s important for me to say upfront, “I don’t get dance.” I so don’t understand dancing, I’ve threatened to make myself take a class about choreography to force at least some better strategic sense of it.

As a result of my cluelessness about dancing, let me just say the take-away for me of the Quixotic Fusion TEDxKC performance was a strategic reminder about illusion. You can put separate elements together (i.e. a dancer and pre-programmed light patterns), and with skill, you can create the appearance of a causal relationship that doesn’t really exist.  If you’re prone to seeing causality in everything, the strategic message is be careful about jumping to conclusions. If, however, you’re a literalist who thinks everything has to be exactly as it is, realize you have some creative room to play with, so take advantage of it.

That’s the presentation recap from TEDxKC, a tremendously content-rich strategic innovation event! Thanks to sponsors VML, Populous, The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, and Harvest Productions for staging TEDxKC for the Kansas City community!  – Mike Brown

When it comes to conferences, high impact presentations, and live event social media content, The Brainzooming Group is expert at shaping the right strategy and implementation to create unique attendee experiences before, during, and after an event. Email us at brainzooming@gmail.com or call 816-509-5320 to learn how we can do the same for your event!

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.

More Posts - Website

Follow Me:
TwitterFacebookLinkedInPinterestGoogle Plus

Continue Reading

4

Paying too much attention to Twitter one night last week while needing to write a new blog post for Stepcase Lifehack, I saw this tweet come past from Shawn Gallagher:

I quickly tweeted Shawn he could break his creative block by writing about what’s more interesting than writing a blog post. He was skeptical about it being a real idea to beat a creative block, but he rose to the challenge and wrote a nice blog post on 4 things more compelling right then than blogging.

It’s something we all face – distractions which get in the way of what we’re supposed to be doing. Because of its universality, it makes a great topic, even if it springs from something mundane.

What to do when you’re facing a similar creative block while writing for your own blog or trying to write a guest blog you’ve promised someone? (Hint, hint to a few of you who’ve said you’d do guest Brainzooming posts.)

My advice is follow the “George Costanza Blogging Strategy.” I named it after an exchange in a Seinfeld episode called “The Pitch.” Jerry and George were trying to sell an NBC executive on their idea for a show about nothing. In explaining the concept, George asked the exec what he had done that morning. When the executive said he’d gotten up and gone to work, George exclaimed, “That’s a show!”

Adopt the same attitude toward blogging when you’re facing a creative block about a potential blog topic. Especially if it’s a personally-oriented blog, anything that happens to you can be transformed into a blog topic:

  • You’re facing a creative block for new ideas? That’s a blog post!
  • You’re bored with what’s on TV? That’s a blog post!
  • Your favorite restaurant raised its prices? That’s a blog post!

Of course, you still have to make the topic tie back to the underlying direction and purpose for your blog. But that’s often a lesser issue than simply getting around the creative block to find an idea to get started.

How do you find ideas to blog about when you’ve got a creative block?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 816-509-5320 to learn how we can help your organization make a successful first step into social media.

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.

More Posts - Website

Follow Me:
TwitterFacebookLinkedInPinterestGoogle Plus

Continue Reading

4

One of the best and most succinct arguments for good planning is one I first heard from my friend and colleague, Max Utsler: If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will get you there.

There is a corollary which is just as important (I’m sure Max would agree): If you know where you’re going, you have a much better chance of knowing a good alternative path when you encounter a roadblock along the way.

A young man I know recently made excellent use of that corollary. He recognized and took advantage of an alternative path because he had planned exactly where he wanted to end up.

For quite some time he has had his heart set on attending a major ACC university. He knew the school had strict entrance requirements, and his grades and test scores were not likely to get him admitted straight from high school. His original path called for him to go to a community college, get his grades up, earn an associates degree, and finally gain admission that way.

But that wasn’t working out. His roadblock consisted of several challenging courses which made it evident he was going to take considerably longer than planned to hit the necessary GPA and get an associates degree.

At the same time, some friends of his (female friends) were headed to cheerleader try outs at his dream university. They suggested he try out. And he did. And he got selected. And that means he is automatically admitted to the university he’d always wanted to attend.

Talk about an alternative path.

Because he had his destination in mind, he was able to see the possibilities of a new path even though it wasn’t the one he had set out on. It was also not a path that the tough football linebacker he was in high school would have easily seen. But because he recognized his goal and its importance, he adjusted his route when the original road wasn’t going to get him where he wanted as fast as he wanted.

In business or in life, good planning makes us more capable of reaching our goals, even if the path we plan turns out not to get us there. – Barrett Sydnor, Strategic Contributor

Continue Reading