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Beyond depicting your product every which way (or depicting the equipment and people who create your service every which way), what images do you include in your brand’s visual vocabulary?

As you consider that answer, ask yourself this: Are you effectively using the best images to reinforce your brand in strategic, consistent ways?

Let’s talk about your brand’s visual vocabulary. I’ve spent a heck of a lot of time considering on design as we solidify the Brainzooming brand’s visual vocabulary through creating more eBooks on strategy and innovation (with our initial offer on branding on the way).

11 Hacks for Creating Your Brand’s Visual Vocabulary

Here are the hacks that have worked for us.

Start by unpacking your brand for inspiration. Look at all the pieces of your brand foundation (big strategy statements, brand promise) to discover the most significant words and phrases you use to describe your brand. You can do this by:

  • Combing through brand foundation materials and existing creative briefs. This will help you avoid spending time trying to recreate visual vocabulary clues that already exist.
  • Running a Wordle on web pages or other content where your brand talks about itself. This is one way to check for important descriptors.
  • Putting customer comments and open-ended descriptions about your brand through a Wordle to see what emerges on top from the marketplace’s view.
  • Reviewing your current brand visuals to identify themes or types of images that stand out based on repetition or impact.
  • Cataloging brand visuals from direct competitors and other brands that do comparable things to what your brand does. Examine what are doing to uncover opportunities to differentiate your brand visually.

Explore ideas to associate visuals with your important brand words and phrases. Start by:

  • Plugging brand words and themes into Google Images. This will help you uncover images the world associates with your brand words.
  • Searching brand words and phrases in professional photo sites to see what stock photos images exist. Careful on this: you will see lots of visual clichés you don’t want to associate with your brand.
  • Extending your search to visually oriented and image-based social sites (Instagram, Pinterest, Flickr). Look for how a broad range of people capture and categorize images linked to your brand’s attributes.

Document what you learn through:

  • Writing ideas describing the images you found. This is the approach I employed. Some of the related words were literal; others were more abstract.
  • Creating Pinterest mood boards. This is a smart alternative suggested by a design blog.:   http://designyourownblog.com/visual-vocabulary-brand-identity/They recommend pinning images you find on separate Pinterest mood boards to identify themes, then consolidating them into one overall brand mood board.
  • Finding what works for you to capture and share your results with others. I used words because my next step was taking photos to build our brand image library. Working with words makes it easier for me to avoid duplicating what others are doing. Looking at visuals as my starting points would make it too easy to potentially co-opt other people’s’ visualizations accidentally.

This is a simple approach for building your brand vocabulary, but I know it worked for us.

If you haven’t invested much time thinking about your brand and its visual vocabulary, starting simple can move you ahead dramatically! – 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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Here is Emma Alvarez Gibson’s report from a conference she recently attended. With a lot of suggestions and a little bit of arm-twisting, Emma implemented the ideas captured in our Introvert’s Guide: 23 Ideas to Meet New People at a Conference. She’s being very kind to share how she fared implementing the ideas to meet new people even though she was going solo at the conference!

Ways to Meet New People – Confessions of a Conference Newbie by Emma Alvarez Gibson

Make yourself socialize, he said. You need to meet new people, he said.

It’ll be fun, he said.

I doubted that last part. Very much. But I was going to a conference, alone, and it was clear I needed to do these things, because if there’s one thing I know, it’s that Mike Brown knows how to conference. (To be fair, I knew that long before he inadvertently wrote an entire post while gamely encouraging his slightly terrified, sometimes-misanthropic friend. That’s me, by the way.)

So I went with a select few of the items in that post, and remain surprised by the results. To wit:

Pack the clothing or jewelry you own that most often generates comments from others. Wear those as conversation starters.

This was the easiest step. I packed a big red statement necklace and a bigger silver statement necklace. And it worked. Both pieces garnered a ton of compliments, giving me many an opportunity to talk to people I might not otherwise have met.

Find out the conference hashtag(s) ahead of time, and begin monitoring them. Reach out to other attendees and speakers using the hashtag.

I was dreading this part. It felt forced and phony. But it worked. Within a few minutes my tweet (something about how I was packing for the conference) got favorited and had a couple of responses. This was when I started to think that maybe these steps would work for me.

Prepare a few open-ended, easy-to-answer multiple part questions to ask. Prepare to use them. Try, “Is this your first time at the conference?”

Well, it seemed a bit obvious. But–and I hope you’re sitting down–it worked. It got the shy people out of their shells, and it gave the outgoing people a willing participant. Bonus: I was relieved that no one seemed to think it was too obvious a question to ask.

Wear your nametag.

I’ll admit it: I loathe nametags. I feel like a jerk wearing a lanyard around my neck and a card that trumpets my name at everyone from behind a sheet of plastic. But of course it’s the only sensible thing to do at a conference. And Mike surely had a reason for spelling this one out. Can you guess what happened? Yeah. It worked. People repeatedly approached me, addressing me by name. (It’s almost like there’s a pattern, or something, here.)

Take advantage of social media to reach out and increase your visibility. Live tweet the sessions you attend.

This was fun as well as easy. The speakers and their presentations were engaging, informative, and often very funny. I live-tweeted speaker quotes and photos from their presentations, and used the conference hashtag. Several times this resulted in fun banter from attendees I’d previously connected with, as well as from those I hadn’t yet met.

Sign up for networking events and excursions. Make yourself go. Boost your confidence that you can enjoy these events on your own, while you look for opportunities to share experiences with others!

Here’s the thing: I dislike large groups. I dislike field trips with large groups. I particularly dislike field trips with large groups in which everyone seems to know someone and I’m on my own, and we have to eat dinner together. But off I went. It started disastrously. I had less time than I’d realized to get to the meeting point where we would climb aboard a handful of buses which would take us to the riverboat where we would spend three hours. My choices: hustle, and arrive sweaty and discombobulated, and possibly get there just in time to see the buses pull away and watch everyone point and laugh, or throw in the towel, find dinner on my own, and admit defeat. Conveniently, as I was deciding, two people from the conference hurried past, making jokes about being left behind. I asked if they were on their way to the dinner cruise, and that was that. They told me that if we missed the bus, I could hang out with them. Well, we didn’t miss the bus. And I felt so buoyed by the friendly exchange beforehand that it was much easier for me to talk to people for the rest of the evening.

Look for small groups at networking events, ideally with people you’ve seen at sessions during the day. Find a way to join them through proximity, listening, smiling, and shared interests (i.e., you all are at this event, were in some of the same sessions, and have drinks). Being around the crowd can be the right opening to start meeting other people on the edge of the crowd.

I was sitting on the boat by myself, near the end of the third hour, when I heard a group of people tipsily discussing the medicinal uses of the gin and tonic in days of old. One of them was earnestly trying to remember what element was important to those applications. “Why not?” I thought. I got up and approached them. “It was the quinine,” I said, and we had a rousing discussion practically all the way back to shore.

What I learned: a little bit of effort goes a very long way toward making the most out of a conference, especially when you’re on your own. Simple, straightforward tactics netted me great results, so much so that a few times I forgot to be self-conscious. (If that doesn’t sound shocking, I’m not telling it right.) In any case: thanks, Mike! – Emma Alvarez Gibson

 

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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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Does your organization excel at its strategy implementation process?

Do you execute new strategies quickly, effectively, and successfully?

A few clients we talk with mention a strong strategy execution process. Most discuss some big challenge (or multiple challenges) with implementation.

We address their experiences in our collaborative strategy implementation approach. You can’t invite others to collaborate on a strategic plan and later ignore them when you launch it. The strong value of collaborative strategic planning comes, in part, from involving parties critical to strong implementation even before you create the plan.

Fast Forward Your Strategy Implementation Process – Free eBook

We have compiled our highest impact strategy implementation recommendations into one FREE eBook: Fast Forward – Successfully Implementing Your Plan.

In Fast Forward, we share actionable ideas, tips, and checklists to rapidly improve your strategy implementation process and results. Fast Forward focuses on three critical success areas:

  • Streamlining how you communicate your plans for impact
  • Selecting and shaping strong implementation leadership
  • Reducing implementation barriers to move forward quickly and flexibly

Download Your FREE eBook! Fast Forward - 3 Keys to Implementing Successfully

Specific features include:

  • 10 ways to simplify and strengthen the language you use to communicate strategic priorities
  • 9 ideas for introducing your strategic plan with style and impact to gain the organization’s attention and engagement
  • 4 keys for selecting the right collaborative leaders for implementation
  • 12 questions to better launch a successful strategy implementation process
  • How to navigate 4 typical execution challenges in organizations
  • Using mini-plans to increase your organization’s implementation flexibility

Download your copy of Fast Forward today, and ramp up your results with outstanding implementation! – Mike Brown

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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If you’ve been pursuing a content marketing strategy for a few years, you have some content that worked and some that didn’t work when you first published it. You also likely have content that’s continuing to work for you in that it’s still attracting new visitors. We hope you also have a good deal of content that, even though you may have created it years ago, is still largely accurate and relevant.

Reviewing the most successful pieces emerging from your content marketing strategy up to now provides the opportunity to create new growth from your evergreen content.

We have been doing that with our own content marketing strategy along with helping clients take advantage of the same opportunity: updating, reformatting, and enhancing evergreen content so it’s primed to generate new visitors, subscribers, and audience members eager to download it.

8 Ways to Create New Growth from Evergreen Content

Here are 8 ideas to explore based on your top blog posts for ongoing traffic:

  • Use your most popular evergreen blog posts along with related ones to create a new eBook. Freshen the content by re-editing the multiple pieces and adding new content. You can also enhance the content with new graphics and design.
  • Freshen these blog posts with new infographics or graphic depictions and republish the blogs for newer readers.
  • Aggregate multiple, related blog posts and republish those as a comprehensive article on a topic.
  • Create videos to bring a more personal dimension to the evergreen content.
  • Write the opposite angle of evergreen blog posts. For example, if it’s about doing a certain number of things to accomplish a goal, write the list of things you should not do if you want to accomplish the same goal.
  • Expand a list post by writing the details behind each of the items, providing greater depth.
  • If you have a post that helps people learn how to do something or analyze a situation, turn it into a one-page download. This can make it an easy-to-use life or job aid.
  • Using a popular list post as the basis, create an infographic as a new download.

Those are all great ways to get new growth from your evergreen content.

Exploiting your most popular content in this way will make the hardest working elements of your content marketing strategy produce even more results! – Mike Brown
Download Your FREE eBook! 81 Engaging Social Content Ideas Checklist

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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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It’s natural for a business to struggle with new ways and places to add value for its customers. Other than dropping price, in what ways can you adapt your branding strategy to boost the benefits and reduce the costs (be they financial or non-financial) of having your company as a provider?

That’s a huge question.

One way to look at your branding strategy to identify new value opportunities is to ask this strategic thinking question:

What mistakes are customers prone to make before and after they work with us, and how can we eliminate (maybe even guarantee to eliminate) any of those mistakes?

That’s not a new branding strategy question, but it came to mind once again while heading to my car after morning mass yesterday. I hadn’t seen one of these trucks for a few months, and this was a great opportunity to take a picture of it standing still.

Yes, that’s a big typo on the side of the truck. And it’s been there for at least a few years.

Think about this opportunity if you’re a vehicle graphics company. Maybe you’re adding new materials to your product mix. Reducing the time to take off and install vehicle graphics. Selling service packages over an extended period to touch up graphics. Offering a discount here and there to get your customers to swap out their graphics on a more regular basis.

Those ideas all center around what you do.

How about looking before and after for potential mistakes?

How about offering a 100% spelling, grammatical, and image accuracy guarantee? That would be great for when everybody that wrote or reviewed copy that was going to go on the side of a truck suddenly forgot (we hope forgot) the basic rules of English.

That could be a great service. And all you’d have to do to market it is rip off the picture in this post, and assure your customers that YES, this really DOES happen!

What are the comparable opportunities in your business? Spend fifteen minutes today thinking about the dumb mistakes that happen before and after what you do. See if there are a few ways you can help your customers completely avoid those to create more value in what you deliver for them.

It’s all up to you if this strategic thinking question will create its full impact for your brand! – Mike Brown

5 Ways to Start Implementing Faster and Better!

In the new Brainzooming strategy eBook 321 GO!, we share common situations standing in the way of successfully implementing your most important strategies. You will learn effective, proven ways to move your implementation plan forward with greater speed and success. You’ll learn ways to help your team:

  • Move forward even amid uncertainty
  • Take on leadership and responsibility for decisions
  • Efficiently move from information gathering to action
  • Focusing on important activities leading to results

Today is the day to download your copy of 321 GO!

Download Your FREE eBook! 321 GO! 5 Ways to Implement Faster and Better!



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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 excited to be speaking again this year at several Social Media Strategies Summit events. The first is in Chicago on April 26-28, 2017. I’ll be speaking at the SMSSummit in New York this coming October (October 17-19, 2017). Additionally, I’ll also be presenting a workshop at the GSMI-sponsored Branding Conference, also during October in Chicago.

As part of the relationship with these GSMI conferences, we’ll be co-releasing several new Brainzooming eBooks on brand strategy and social media content marketing. The first of these eBooks is now available. You can download your FREE copy today!

FREE 81 Social Media Content Marketing Ideas eBook

The new eBook features a checklist of 81 Engaging Social Content Ideas to Boost Your Brand. The checklist will help you generate social media content marketing topics that fit your brand and engage your audiences.


Download Your FREE eBook! 81 Engaging Social Content Ideas Checklist

81 Engaging Social Content Ideas to Boost Your Brand includes ideas to:

  • Better involve your audience
  • Share your brand’s knowledge
  • Teach valuable lessons
  • Develop brand-oriented lists
  • Share impactful opinions
  • Incorporate your people into the stories
  • Repurpose strong social media content marketing topics

One great thing about the eBook’s checklist is you can apply it to both long-form (eBooks, blogs, videos) and short-form (status updates, photos, short videos) content multiple times. This will keep your social media content marketing fresh and consistently up-to-date across social networks.

Download and take advantage of this free resource to grow your social media impact. While you are at it, check out the Social Media Strategies Summit events in Chicago or New York. Register for these events and join other senior-level corporate professionals looking to learn how to accelerate their brand presences across social media.
Download Your FREE eBook! 81 Engaging Social Content Ideas Checklist

Looking forward to your thoughts on the new eBook, and seeing you in Chicago or New York for the 2017 SMSSummits! – Mike Brown

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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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We worked with a client to facilitate an information technology strategy vision. From before the engagement’s launch until near the completion, we asked for strategy documents spelling out corporate priorities, objectives, and expectations. We wanted a strategic target to align IT strategy and innovation initiatives to support the organization in realizing its overall vision.

Despite repeated requests, no one ever surfaced this type of strategy document.

We instead used previous exposure, strategic thinking exercises with the IT team and others, and strategic business sense to describe what it seemed a corporate target would encompass.

Flash forward to subsequent opportunities to hear top executives discuss the company’s direction. These presentations suggest a clear, overarching strategy that perhaps doesn’t exist in a formal, written format, but is only passed along verbally outside of the top corporate ranks.

This situation prompted sketching two strategic planning process approaches (narrow or broad collaboration) and alternatives for how an organization communicates its strategy.

A Narrow Strategic Planning Process

When only top management participates in a strategic planning process, relying on verbal communication of the plan can be dubbed “Drip and Wonder(?).” We found ourselves in this situation in the example above. If you are in front of a senior leader (or someone else that has been in front of a senior leader), you get drips of the strategy. If you don’t have this access, you “Wonder(?),” as we did, what to emphasize to best contribute to corporate success.

In this situation, when the strategic plan output makes it to a written document, it’s a “Read to Learn” situation. You must review a big binder of material to know the direction. If they do throw put multi-media communication behind the strategic plan, it’s likely to lead to superficial (because that’s all there is time for) wows (although the hoped-for wows may be snoozers).

A Broad Strategic Planning Process

When you engage a broad group in strategic planning, the verbal communication takes the form of “strategic conversations.” These do heavy duty in both developing the strategy and creating shared knowledge of the strategic direction. The broad participation helps fuel more frequent and robust conversations about the organization’s strategic direction. It’s not about access to the right senior executive; it’s about strategic conversations among people throughout the organization helping shape the direction.

The written plan doesn’t carry nearly as much burden to convey every detail. The written format can concentrate on providing guidelines to operationalize implementation activities. Finally, adding multimedia communication focuses on providing the vision’s highlights.

Putting This to Use

This is a new visualization of something we experience that paves the way for another benefit of strategic collaboration. It needs some more work, but it sets the stage why the type of strategic planning approach an organization takes shapes communication opportunities. – Mike Brown

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

Start Implementing Faster and Better!

In the new Brainzooming strategy eBook 321 GO!, we share common situations standing in the way of successfully implementing your most important strategies. You will learn effective, proven ways to move your implementation plan forward with greater agility and success. You’ll learn ways to help your team:

  • Move forward even amid uncertainty
  • Take on leadership and responsibility for decisions
  • Efficiently move from information gathering to action
  • Focusing on important activities leading to results

Today is the day to download your copy of 321 GO!

Download Your FREE eBook! 321 GO! 5 Ways to Implement Faster and Better!



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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