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I compare how we approach creating Brainzooming strategic thinking workshops to how a band develops a live music set list for a concert. For example, I read somewhere that when Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band go out on tour, they have more than two hundred songs ready to slot into any one concert. They play some songs nearly all the time; other songs might only appear once.

That’s comparable to how we select specific strategic thinking questions and exercises from among our large (and always growing) repertoire for a client session. We include some exercises (in one form or another) in nearly every workshop. These are supplemented by less frequently used strategic thinking exercises serving a particular role to address a client’s needs.

Similarly, we select specific exercises to teach at conference workshops to best address a particular conference topic or learning objective. For the Brand Strategy Conference in San Francisco, we used the Outside-In Innovation Fake Book of Strategic Thinking Exercises as the basis for a brand innovation workshop. We concentrated on how companies can use customer, market, competitor, and other external, outside-in looks for brand innovation.

8 Strategic Thinking Exercises for Brand Innovation

Among the sixteen exercises in the Fake Book, we picked eight that were most relevant for brand innovators. Want to apply them to your own brand innovation needs? Here is the set list we used in the workshop (along with the Fake Book page numbers):

1. Looking at Your Brand as a Set of Benefits (Page 7)

This brand innovation exercise is central to most of the following benefits-based exercises that unlock innovation opportunities.

2. New Ways to Enhance Benefit Delivery (Page 8)

Using your audience’s needs, this exercise lets you imagine new ways to address them through the brand experience.

3. Innovating Brand Experience Proof Points (Page 12)

This exercise explores ways you currently deliver and could potentially strengthen your brand experience backstage and onstage.

Brand-Experience-Mapping

4. Determining Your Benefit-Based Competitors (Page 8)

Your competitive set looks dramatically different when you identify competitors based on brands delivering comparable benefits (instead of simply picking those that look like your brand).

5. Identifying New Markets (Page 10)

If your brand is seeking growth, where else can you deliver benefits central to your brand in new markets? This exercise yields the answers.

6. Messaging Benefits in New Ways (Page 9)

There may be many brands in diverse markets providing benefits comparable to yours. Go to school to discover new ways to sharpen and improve your messaging.

7. Deconstructing What Your Brand Does (Page 22)

One of our favorite exercises (What’s It Like?) provides multiple strategic and brand innovation ideas to change the game for your brand.

8. Disrupt or Be Disrupted (Page 20)

There’s no one way to disrupt your brand or others in the marketplace. These strategic thinking questions are a starting point, however, to imagine a range of potential disruptions.

 

If you have brand management responsibilities in your position, download the Outside-In Innovation Fake Book today (it’s still free to download!).

Then you can use this set of exercises to start thinking about your brand in a dramatically new way.

Chances are, there will be a million dollar idea in there for your brand too! – Mike Brown

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Looking for Brand Innovation to Grow Your Business? Brainzooming Has an Answer!

Brainzooming Outside-In Innovation Strategic Thinking Tools eBookBusiness growth can depend on introducing new products and services that resonate more strongly with customers and deliver outstanding value.

Are you prepared to take better advantage of your brand’s customer and market insights to generate innovative product ideas? The right combination of outside perspectives and productive strategic thinking exercises enables your brand to ideate, prioritize, and propel innovative growth.

Download this free, concise ebook to:

  • Identify your organization’s innovation profile
  • Rapidly deploy effective strategic thinking exercises to spur innovation
  • Incorporate market-based perspectives into your innovation strategy in successful ways

Download this FREE ebook to turn ideas into actionable innovation strategies to drive your organization’s comeback!


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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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If you’re trying to create strategic change in an organization having a sense it knows the right way to do things and an even stronger perceived handle on which things are important to do and not do, what is the best change strategy?

Is it better to do a two-step sale or a one-step sale to get the go ahead for strategic change?

This strategic pondering emerged from several Brand Strategy Conference presentations this week.

BrandStratConf

Strategic Change Management in 1 or 2 steps?

There were discussions during various Brand Strategy Conference presentations about how you get an organization to understand branding, design thinking, or social media. The premise, understandably enough, is you need to win the organization over to a belief in the overarching concept before selling-in the related strategic change associated with embracing the concept.

This is what I’d call a two-step sell: sell the concept, then sell the specific strategic change.

A one-step sell would eliminate the separate first step of selling-in the overarching concept. Instead, you would simply start selling-in the strategic change that is needed by linking it, as best possible, to things the organization already believes in and supports. The idea is you may be far better off to not telegraph strategic change by either creating or acknowledging the hurdle of getting the organization to accept a big concept as a precursor to change.

For instance, if you’re trying to implement stronger and better branding in an organization that doesn’t get what brand is, you could start with aspects of brand building start where agreement to do something already exists. If product quality or customer engagement is something the company has been addressing even though it doesn’t completely understand branding, how about simply launching brand strengthening quality or customer engagement changes you align with more familiar initiative? You wouldn’t even have to mention the “B” word, especially if it were likely to just muddy the waters.

Think about this strategic thinking question this way: if you’re dealing with small minded people, are you better off to give them small ideas to consider rather than a huge, unfamiliar idea?

If you think you might be, a one-step strategic change cell may be exactly the approach to pursue.

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

 

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Do you have many things you want your employees to understand about your corporate branding strategy, what they should be doing to carry it out, and how they should interact with customers to fulfill your brand promise?

Do you have lots to say about your corporate branding strategy, but no time or opportunity to say it all?

Try these four ideas to prioritize internal messages for employees to help them understand and carry out your corporate branding strategy.

1. Crafting Brief Internal Brand Messages

This idea is from a corporate branding consultant. Assemble all the internal brand messages you hope to share with employees and put them to this test:

“If you had 3 minutes, a megaphone, and all your employees in the parking lot, what would you say?”

Three minutes translates to approximately four hundred words – about this blog post’s length. With that limit, which internal brand messages will make the cut?

2. Even Shorter Internal Brand Messages

This puts your messages to the tougher elevator speech test:

“If you have a 30-second elevator ride, what internal brand message would you want your employees to be able to share with customers (knowing they also have to understand, explain, and carry out that message)?

In crafting the elevator speech, what elements of the brand promise, brand benefits, and points of differentiation are vital?

Elevator-Picture

3. Creating Instantaneous Brand Messages

At a long-ago workshop, author Jay Conrad Levinson challenged the marketers to develop brand memes. Levinson used “meme” to represent a symbol or icon instantly recognizable that conveys your brand and its promise to customers.

A text-based logo with a bland brand name doesn’t pass this test. In that case, what else could you depict to instantly allow customers to get your brand, what it stands for, and what it does?

101002 The Brainzooming Group Logo - No Tagline copy

Our Meme

4. First, Last, Only Corporate Branding Strategy Messages

This final idea is a variation on a reminder for getting the most from church: What would you want your first brand message to employees to be? What would you want your last brand message to employees to be? And if you could deliver only one brand message to employees, what would it include?

Have three individuals or groups answer this question separately. Look for the common messages among the three scenarios. Those are the ones to prioritize.

From Corporate Branding Strategy to Internal Brand Messages

Try these four ideas to prioritize your internal brand messages and fashion something employees can understand, remember, and carry out successfully.  – Mike Brown

10 Lessons to Engage Employees and Drive Improved Results

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Results!!! Creating Strategic Impact Mini-Book

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This new Brainzooming mini-book, “Results – Creating Strategic Impact” unveils ten proven lessons for senior executives to increase strategic collaboration, employee engagement, and grow revenues for their organizations.

Download this free, action-focused mini-book to:

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Mike Brown

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If your brand has been battered in the marketplace, you need to develop and implement a turnaround corporate branding strategy. Having been there and done that with a Fortune 500 business-to-business brand, here are five keys to successful turnaround branding.

5 Keys to a Successful Turnaround Corporate Branding Strategy

Traffic-Circle

1. Be prepared for a multi-front branding battle.

A turnaround corporate branding strategy is not a one front battle. If a brand were just a logo, it would be. Since a brand is more than a new ad and a new logo, however, you must fight the turnaround branding battle on multiple fronts. That involves the brand’s strategic foundation, its people, product and service quality, brand cues, and communications channels.

2. Ask questions and pursue facts relentlessly.

Facts are at the heart of driving turnaround branding strategy. Got big data? Got small data? Either way, use it to form strategies and decisions. You have to ensure you are listening everywhere for what customers, the marketplace, competitors, and other stakeholders are “telling” you about your brand position.

3. The real competitive threat isn’t always the obvious one.

It’s easy to think the competitors you are up against with your turnaround branding strategy are the competitors that look like your own brand. It’s vital, however, to identify potential competitive substitutes – even unconventional ones – for the benefits your brand delivers. Niche players could become the competitors that disrupt and crush your turnaround branding efforts.

4. Figure out what your brand is really about in the minds of customers.

Determine what your brand represents right now in the marketplace and what opportunities there are to change your position. Exploring the benefits the brand currently delivers and has the opportunity to start delivering could lead to a very different position than what the brand currently occupies.

5. Your brand story needs to be simple, consistent, and visible.

Getting ready to deliver on your updated brand promise means everything has to be aligned, beginning with alignment to your brand culture. Enabling the brand promise starts with having the right people in place, then training and developing them to carry out what you tell the marketplace you’ll do. The key is making sure everything is ready behind the scenes before you start talking to the market.

A Corporate Branding Strategy Caution

Don’t be fooled by there being just five turnaround corporate branding strategy steps on this list. There’s a lot contained in those five steps, so start early and keep at it!  – Mike Brown

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

 

Looking for Brand Innovation to Grow Your Business? Brainzooming Has an Answer!

Brainzooming Outside-In Innovation Strategic Thinking Tools eBookBusiness growth can depend on introducing new products and services that resonate more strongly with customers and deliver outstanding value.

Are you prepared to take better advantage of your brand’s customer and market insights to generate innovative product ideas? The right combination of outside perspectives and productive strategic thinking exercises enables your brand to ideate, prioritize, and propel innovative growth.

Download this free, concise ebook to:

  • Identify your organization’s innovation profile
  • Rapidly deploy effective strategic thinking exercises to spur innovation
  • Incorporate market-based perspectives into your innovation strategy in successful ways

Download this FREE ebook to turn ideas into actionable innovation strategies to drive your organization’s comeback!


Download Your Free  Outside-In Innovation Strategic Thinking eBook

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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Every now and then, we’ll run a post that recaps Facebook and Twitter updates, blog post scraps, and other random creative thinking, all smushed together, Larry King-style. If you enjoy those, today’s your day!

Creative Thinking on Love and Nastiness

If we’re willing to self-talk at the top of our lungs, we can tell ourselves anything without hearing the blatant truth swirling all around us. . . In the film about the band Kansas called “Miracles out of Nowhere,” Rolling Stone writer, David Wild, remarked on the band’s humble origins in my home state, “It’s hard to get your ass kissed in Kansas.” So true, so true. . . An honest to goodness Walmart moment: A woman (in a car in the parking lot with the windows rolled down) delivering what sounded like a church sermon while talking on the phone to someone obviously more interested in sexual exploits than God, as she stated ever so bluntly, “It doesn’t matter if she’ll let you [FILL IN EXPLICIT SEXUAL ACT]. God don’t care about that.”

Perhaps the most dangerous thing I’ve ever said to my wife is, “When you’re done trying to stubborn that to death, let me know, and I’ll help you do it” . . . I survived that remark to realize that love is figuring out all those little things you can say and do you KNOW will get under the skin of your partner, and then removing them from your personality and vowing to never ever ‘go there’ with any of them . . . Business wisdom from Mother Angelica on one of her TV shows, “If you took ‘but’ out of the dictionary, you’d be forced to tell the truth.”

Pencil-Med

When someone says they don’t believe in dogma or want to have any part of it, watch out, because there is a high likelihood they are about to introduce their OWN dogma, which is of course very acceptable to them . . . A school anxiety dream (i.e., having chemistry and accounting quizzes today that seemed far off at one point and I knew I’d study in advance, but never did and now it’s too late) woke me up at 4 in the morning. Guess those type of dreams never go away, no matter how long you’ve been away from school . . . If you’d have told me 15 years ago I’d hate a week where there was no time to exercise and would LOVE getting an hour of cardio exercise wedged into a busy schedule, I’d have told you that you were crazy. See, you CAN change, too.

One day, someone typed the search term “sleeping with my sociopath boss” and reached the Brainzooming blog. We’re happy to help in any way we can. . . A scary “closed blog” test for content creators: Give a blogger a list of his/her own post titles that include numbered lists and see how many of the lists they could reproduce from memory . . . When your alarm goes off and you haven’t been to bed yet, that’s a bad sign. And eating sushi at 2 a.m. isn’t an exactly a good sign, either . . . Producing events and meetings will make you either a yeller or someone who hardly ever yells. You get to pick which side of that fence you want to live. My advice? Pick wisely, because your reputation will be based on your pick. . . Why do people reply “Maybe” to an invitation? Perhaps the spirit is willing, but the event is weak?

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

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Download our FREE “Taking the No Out of InNOvation eBook to help you generate extreme creativity and ideas! For organizational innovation success, contact The Brainzooming Group to help your team be more successful by rapidly expanding strategic options and creating innovative growth strategies. Email us at info@brainzooming.com or call us at 816-509-5320 to learn how we can deliver these benefits for you.

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If you are in charge of developing innovation strategy, you have to answer the question, “What are our next big innovation opportunities?”

Being responsible for developing innovation strategy also means reaching out beyond your innovation team to employees, customers, and other stakeholders to gather valuable input.

When your outreach consists of asking stakeholders what your next big innovation opportunities are, however, you are missing the mark.

Delegating the Wrong Question to the Right People

Quesiton-Mark-Puzzle

Photo by: Leung Cho Pan

When answering the question about big innovation opportunities, your answer will likely come after significant exploration, ideation, concept development, prioritization, and prototyping. With that work out of the way, you are ready to speculate about the future opportunities.

Thinking you can delegate to others your job of developing innovation strategy and answering the important question you must address will not work. You cannot expect others to answer in one-step the question you might work months to address.

Yet, companies try to do just that.

Innovation Strategy that Has a Chance to Work

Talking with someone inside a big company recently, what they have tried to ask various stakeholders what they think the next innovation should be. First, it was through an employee “idea box.” When that did not work, it was through talking to customers, asking them what the company should innovate. That was not successful either.

No surprise in either case.

When taking the right step to reach out to employees and customers, do not expect them to develop your strategy. Instead, solicit input and help them articulate insights they have to help shape the innovation strategy.

  • Employees know about challenges and lost opportunities with customers. They know about problems with processes that restrict delivering value.
  • Customers know why they don’ use your product more. They know the problems or challenges they have with your product and what they wish you did more of or better.

Talk to your stakeholders about topics they can address. Give them information and the strategic thinking structures they can use to better articulate their thoughts.

Then, get back to the work you should be doing to turn that information, along with the other work you are doing, into answers about what your next big innovation opportunities are.

If you’d like to learn very productive ways to explore and identify your innovation opportunities, we invite you to download our FREE “Outside-In Innovation” edition of the Strategic Thinking Facebook. It’s waiting for you below, and will jump start answering the innovation questions you need to answer!

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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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“Share more case studies” is a common request at Brainzooming strategic thinking workshops. Many people want to know what another brand did in a particular situation and the results the brand experienced, even if the case study brand has nothing to do with their own brand.

Whenever I receive this request, I’m reminded of Barrett Sydnor saying, as he often does when comparing two situations, “Your results may vary.”

Just because another brand experienced a certain result means almost nothing if your brand has fundamentally different characteristics.

Strategic Thinking Lessons You Can Use

I was recently talking with another speaker about her discomfort with her own presentation and the absence of case studies.

She did not present her brand’s experience with social media in a regulated environment as a case study. Instead, she presented principles other brands should consider for approaching social media in a regulated industry, whether in the same industry as hers or another one.

Despite what attendees may request, I told her she was absolutely on the right track with her presentation and how she shares strategic thinking lessons.

She presented attendees concepts and approaches based on her experience. By generalizing the content into strategic thinking lessons (instead of delivering an overly-specific and overly-individualized case study), her content was of much greater benefit for attendees as a strategic thinking resource – whether they appreciated that or not.

Why Recipes Are Better than Dinner Stories

Our-Family-Recipes2

Think about a great dinner someone else made. They could tell you all about the story of making the meal, how the guests ate and enjoyed the meal, and the wonderfully positive reactions the dinner guests shared.

But if you wanted to try to replicate the experience with your own dinner guests, you are pretty much out of luck. Unless, that is, you can pick apart the story for clues about the ingredients, how it was prepared, and the way the host created the great experience.

If the person shared the recipe, however, you would know HOW to prepare the great dinner yourself. Now you would be in the position to decide whether your dinner guests might like the meal prepared just as the recipe specifies. Or with some modifications. Or maybe they wouldn’t like it at all because there are ingredients your dinner guests can’t eat or wouldn’t enjoy.

Hearing only the story about dinner is like hearing a case study.

Receiving the recipe, however, is like getting the principles and strategic thinking lessons behind the business situation a speaker shares.

Armed with those, you are in a position to translate and adapt the ideas to make them work best for you, or decide whether they will even work in your situation. And that’s all irrespective of how they worked for the speaker.

Next time you’re at a conference, look for the speakers sharing their recipes and NOT just their dinner stories. That’s when you will really be getting your money’s worth.  – 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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