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I lector at several different Catholic parishes around town (since, as one priest put it, I’m a Roamin’ Catholic). One parish provides an annual guide to the primary Bible readings included at mass. It contains background information, pronunciation guides, and verbal cues for reading the Bible passage to the congregation.

My reading assignment for Holy Thursday mass was a passage from Exodus. In it, God gives Moses and Aaron instructions for how the Passover meal is to be prepared and consumed. The background information discussed how central the Passover is to the identity of the Israelites and their relationship with God. It highlighted the three ways Passover is ingrained in the community’s identity through:

  • Creed – God’s identity is frequently described in relation to freeing the Israelites from Egypt
  • Story – Communications that point to and reinforce God’s role with the Israelites
  • Ritual – Prescribed celebrations (i.e., the Passover) that the entire community participates in together

These categories resonated with me as we work with clients on brand identity and culture change engagements. The structure conveniently organizes ideas. More importantly, it is valuable for generating new ideas to solidify and reinforce an organizational identity.

Let’s slightly adapt the categories for use in business and professional settings as a means to solidify organizational identity. Consider using:

  • Beliefs – Fundamental principles organization members believe and that shape their identity and relationship to the organization.
  • Stories – Messages that convey the organization’s past, present, and future among its employees and other audiences.
  • Ritual – The actions and behaviors organization members display to signal their belief and commitment to the organization’s purpose.

Put simply, how are you cultivating and reinforcing what your organization believes, says, and does to strengthen your organizational identity? – Mike Brown

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We were working with a client’s C-level team to develop its strategic plan. To help them articulate the organization’s strategic direction, we used several branding exercises. These branding exercises focused on identifying:

The combination of branding exercises effectively identified new language to describe its strategic direction and supporting strategies.

During the exercises and conversations to develop its big strategy statement, we discussed the role that expertise plays in the organization’s brand. Because expertise is central to the organization’s products, it has only considered a very strict definition for the attribute. That can be okay, but in a fast-changing market, ensuring everything is 100% proven slows solutions customers need. It also allows new, more nimble competitors to set the ground rules for important product features.

When we questioned the narrow use of expertise, they played back the attributes on the left as the defining characteristics for what expertise means.

We then added all the attributes on the right.

Our point was that the organization’s unquestioned expertise allows it to extend this attribute to work harder. Expertise COULD involve exploration and prototyping, where customers actively test and help develop new solutions. It’s unlikely that any long-term customer invited to test a product in development would see a potential glitch as evidence that the brand lacks expertise.

One meeting participant said this type of strategic thinking was a breakthrough for them. It opens up a whole new array of potential options.

Is your organization laboring under similarly narrow perspectives about your brand attributes?

If that seems to be the case, rethink your narrow definitions of brand attributes. Look at your brand attributes as platforms to innovate, expand, and introduce broader meanings that deliver greater value for your customers.

Or better yet, contact us, and let The Brainzooming Group take you through the business and brand strategy exercises to open your organization to a wide variety of growth opportunities!  – Mike Brown

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Big strategy statements shaping your organization needn’t be complicated. They should use simple, understandable, and straightforward language to invite and excite your team to be part of the vision.

Our free “Big Strategy Statements” eBook lays out an approach to collaboratively develop smart, strategic directions that improve results!


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You’re working on an important new employee or customer communication to further your branding strategy. You’re trying to say things succinctly. Perfectly. But as you’re looking for just the right word that will have just the right impact, it’s not coming to you.

What do you do?

The answer is obvious: you go to an online thesaurus and look up synonyms for the tired old word you would typically use. Or maybe you will settle for a little inspiration to imagine what the right new word could be.

Either way, I have a request to make.

STOP loving those generic words in the thesaurus.

I mean, if you REALLY think communication supporting your branding strategy will be fine with just any old generic word, than I suppose you can go ahead and do it.

On the other hand, if you want to use language that sounds like your intended audience and resonates with them, don’t make the online thesaurus your first stop for ideas.

Instead, explore previously-well received communications you’ve delivered to your audience. While you may be looking for new ways to communicate key elements of your branding strategy, chances are what works with your audience has more to do with building up consistent language that means something to them than it does with constantly throwing new terms at them.

Another great source to draw from?

Revisit comments and language that your audience already uses to talk about your brand. Those can come via documentation from online surveys, online collaborations, customer service calls, emails, testimonials, or content they have shared through social media.

If you have some time and/or the means to do it, reach out to your audience with questions that allow them to talk about the area of interest to you.

In our experience, any of these options are better, more on-target sources for meaningful language than an online thesaurus.

Why?

It’s because these words come directly from the audience. That makes the language more likely to score on its simplicity, understandability, and resonance.

So, yeah, I know it can be tough, but do yourself a favor: step away from that thesaurus.

Your audience will thank you, and so will your ROI.  – Mike Brown

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“Is there a way to decide how much content brands in a multi-brand family can share, and how much needs to be different among the brands?”

I’ve been asked that question multiple times recently after delivering Brainzooming social-first content marketing strategy workshops.

My answer?

Return to the fundamentals we teach for building a content marketing strategy. In these cases, however, you can approach things in reverse order, unpacking your brand strategy framework to answer this type of question.

3 Steps to Find Multi-Brand Content Marketing Strategy Similarities

Step 1 – Audience Personas

The first step is to identify what personas are in use across the multiple brands. Are there separate personas or are they the same? If they are different, how much do their interests overlap with one another?

Step 2 – Content Preferences

Next look at how much the personas’ content preferences and profiles match one another. Which themes and topics are going to be of interest to all the groups? Do they represent a large or small portion of the overall content?

Step 3 – Brand Promise Components

Finally, go through a three-question branding exercise that we use in many situations. In this case, it helps you understand your audiences’ expectations and tolerances for unique content:

  • What does each brand’s audience EXPECT in the content the brand shares?
  • What types of variations from that content will the audience ACCEPT from the brand?
  • If the brand delivers the optimum content, how will the audience REWARD the highly-targeted content?

Across this series of questions, you can begin to form conclusions about your options for creating content that is common across all your brands. – Mike Brown Download Fast Forward Today!

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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“What am I missing? What is the insight I’m not seeing that could make our content marketing strategy make sense?”

An attendee at the 2018 Social Media Strategies Summit conference in San Francisco made that comment. She works for a major non-profit organization. She’s trying to manage through three strategic expectations the senior management team and board have regarding a content marketing strategy:

  1. They want to keep everything on one Facebook page.
  2. They have two important audiences that are each interested in different types of content.
  3. She can’t change either of the first two strategic expectations.

She’s beating herself up for her inability to find an amazing branding strategy insight. The one that would allow her to get around the contradictions posed by her senior management team’s decidedly non-social-first content marketing strategy expectations.

As we discussed her organization’s situation, I suggested various ways to target content to the two audiences based on what they are interested in hearing about from the organization. While the ideas were sound strategically, each one directly challenged the expectations in a way she was certain she couldn’t do.

After a few minutes, I assured her that she isn’t missing any big branding strategy insight.

The problem is the management team’s decisions about the content marketing strategy. Their stipulations are all about brand-first, not social-first, content.

She told her management team that she would return from the conference and write the organization’s social media strategy. She didn’t see that happening without the big insight.

I suggested she instead focus on creating a strategic conversation with her management team. Her first step is to address what they want to achieve as an organization with their two audiences. She can then start suggesting how social media contributes to realizing those business objectives. The more they want to push a brand-first content strategy, the less wedging in a few social-first content marketing tactics will successfully fix things.

Maybe THAT is the insight she was seeking: you can’t pursue the smart thing (a social-first content marketing strategy) when management’s every strategic expectation runs counter to doing so.

Not a great situation. As least now, though, she has a pathway to attempt to help them work their way out of it! – Mike Brown

Boost Your Brand’s Social Media Strategy with Social-First Content!

Download the Brainzooming eBook on social-first content strategy. In Giving Your Brand a Boost through Social-First Content, we share actionable, audience-oriented frameworks and exercises to:

  • Understand more comprehensively what interests your audience
  • Find engaging topics your brand can credibly address via social-first content
  • Zero in on the right spots along the social sales continuum to weave your brand messages and offers into your content

Start using Giving Your Brand a Boost through Social-First Content to boost your content marketing strategy success today!

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We have designed several branding strategy scopes of work recently where the available time between developing strategy and implementation is tight. In these cases, a critical question arises: How do you open branding strategy development to other partner organizations to create a seamless implementation process?

5 Ways to Open Branding Strategy to Multiple Marketing Agencies

Photo via Shutterstock

Here are five things we do to bring other marketing agencies in early to set them up for implementation success:

  1. Invite the partner organizations into all the planning activities for developing the branding strategy.
  2. Provide full visibility into all strategy development processes.
  3. Create expanded roles to ensure partners can contribute their expertise and strategic thinking early.
  4. Integrate the partners as active team members, even before their implementation roles begin.
  5. Let them help shape all the strategy outputs during planning.

In these ways, we open strategy development to marketing agencies so it’s not a closed process. This allows internal and external parties to look for ways to jump starts implementation planning as the branding strategy direction develops.

One Cautionary Note

One expectation behind this approach: any external partners must participate with the client’s best interests and success as the top priorities. If a partner expects full access but is intent on gaming the outcome to serve their interests, this level of openness won’t work to its full potential. I learned that lesson when I was on the client side and first put competitive marketing agencies together on project teams. It becomes clear quickly if a partner isn’t engaging with the best intentions. That’s an early indicator of big problems.

So, with an open process and the right attitude from participating marketing agencies, you can move seamlessly from strategy to implementation. – Mike Brown

Boost Your Brand’s Social Media Strategy with Social-First Content!

Download the Brainzooming eBook on social-first content strategy. In Giving Your Brand a Boost through Social-First Content, we share actionable, audience-oriented frameworks and exercises to:

  • Understand more comprehensively what interests your audience
  • Find engaging topics your brand can credibly address via social-first content
  • Zero in on the right spots along the social sales continuum to weave your brand messages and offers into your content

Start using Giving Your Brand a Boost through Social-First Content to boost your content marketing strategy success today!

Download Your FREE eBook! Boosting Your Brand with Social-First Content

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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Matt Britton, a millennial generation expert, spoke about the anticipating the Class of 2025 as the keynote speaker on the closing day of the October 2017 Social Media Strategies Summit in New York. His keynote got us thinking about how today’s ten-year-olds (the Class of 2025) will change the landscape for brands, following in the wake of the impact millennials have created.

A Future-Looking Strategic Thinking Experiment

Reviewing the copious notes, here are strategic thinking starters for thought experiments as you imagine your future organization and market.

A Radically Different Audience Base

Britton discussed the fact that younger millennials (born between the early 1980s and late 1990s) and Generation Z (born mid-1990s to mid-2000s) are the first generations to grow up with the internet in their households. Because of the lifelong availability of the web, Britton contends their brains are wired to think and consume differently.

For the class of 2025, it goes further: they were born with phones in their faces. They are developing collaborative projects online in grade school. The availability of learning outside traditional schooling structures will change the training and pool of employees, leading to greater diversity, fewer people with traditional college degrees, and a need for specialization vs. careers as generalists.

Strategic Thinking Experiment Starters:

  • If none of our employees had college degrees and were instead DIY or technically-trained, how would our business model and processes change?
  • What could we do better in this scenario? What would we do differently?

Talking to Machines, Not People

Changes in how we interact with computers, robots, and other devices are already underway. Instead of typing, we’ll increase voice interaction – or mind control. Britton’s claim is “hardware is the final mile.” That’s why Amazon and Google are moving to hardware, because it will dramatically impact online search results.

Where people once might have viewed several search pages to find answers, now it is about a brand needing to be among the first ten recommendations on Google. With voice delivery, people won’t listen to more than one or two options. If the voice hardware doesn’t mention your brand, you are out of luck; thus the importance of shaping how the hardware works. With devices talking directly to devices, the dynamic changes even more.

Strategic Thinking Experiment Starters:

  • What will it take to set up a marketing innovation team to understand how voice technology changes our marketing, sales, and customer service? Where should the team start exploring?
  • If we don’t have a team looking at the impact of the Internet of Things on our business, what do we need to do to get on it by early 2018?

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Renting vs. Buying

Britton combined several trends to explain why millennials (and later, the class of 2025) will want to rent things instead of buying and owning them:

  • City and downtown living is a pull for millennials. As demand and prices rise, they can’t afford bigger places. The result is they won’t / don’t have room for as many things.
  • Parking is an issue. The greater density of amenities in downtown areas makes walking, biking, and public transit more attractive. Thus, there is no need to own a car.
  • In a gig-based economy, organizations will downsize offices. Gig workers will look increasingly to collaborative workspaces to rent a desk or place to congregate and work.
  • As having more things is less attractive, experiencing more things (and documenting the experience digitally in photos and videos) is all the rage. The goal becomes pursuing experiences just to be able to take a picture and show it to others, with the expectation that the experiences and images are life changing and defining.

There are numerous examples: massive valuations for Uber and WeWork, the popularity of Color Runs, and Get the Flight Out (GFTO offers last minute flights deals so going to exotic locales to take pictures is more affordable).

Strategic Thinking Experiment Starters:

  • What changes in our business if most customers want our product or service on demand versus owning it?
  • How do we move faster to introduce a self-disruptive business model before another brand does?

Abandoning the Middle

Britton predicted a continued move toward a “barbell economy,” where the middle class and mid-range products are being “wiped out.” He points to a major potential brand implication: the best growth opportunities are for luxury and value brands. Luxury brands can create high-impact, premium-dollar (potentially convenience-rich) experiences (see the renting vs. buying impact) and value brands can uncover supply chain innovations, taking costs out, and maximizing simplicity (Brandless sells essentially generic, but “better” food products, all at $3).

Strategic Thinking Experiment Starters:

  • If we have a middle-market product or service, what will be left of our business if it dries up?
  • What does the ultimate, premium, high-end version of what we produce look like? What does the generic, everything costs the same version of what we do look like?

Old Hat, Old Thinking, or Both?

Whether these predicted trends feel old hat or impossibly far off for your business, you should take Matt Britton up on one of his ideas: creating a shadow board of millennial employees to advise your Baby Boomer and Generation X senior leaders on what’s coming. Create this type of group, and spend time with them imagining what your brand and marketplace’s future looks like.

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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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