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I was at a church vision council’s meeting recently. The relatively new group is overseeing implementation of the church’s strategic plan and progress on it updated mission. That evening, the group was discussing alternative strategies to improve the church building and grounds. Looking at various plans, their conversation focused on the building activities in each plan:

  • The number of meeting rooms
  • The number and sizes of offices
  • Minimum hallway widths for accessibility
  • The types of dividers and doors to provide flexible room sizes
  • Which buildings might be torn down to enable new construction

Their discussion turned to how parish members might react to the various options and whether they’d support a building initiative.

via Shutterstock

My caution to the group was that, from the first stages, members need to be careful about the language they use to discuss the building initiative.

The group faced the classic features-benefits trap; their building project discussion was only about features.

Customers Write Checks for Features, but Buy the Benefits

They were ignoring the benefits: how each plan would dramatically expand the parish’s ability to realize its mission of prayer and service. Beyond the numbers of rooms and wall finishes, THAT is the important benefit from the building initiative. While the parish (and its members) will write a check for buildings and infrastructure, they are buying an experience. They are buying the ability to better help parishioners and all those they will reach out to with assistance to realize a closer relationship with God.

It’s easy for any organization to fall into that same features-benefits trap with its marketing and sales messages: While customers pay for features, they are buying the benefits.

That is why it is so vital to make sure you identify and articulate benefits that are clear, vivid, and important for your potential customers. – Mike Brown

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We have some popular articles on the Brainzooming website about how to imagine a whole array of cool product names. All those articles relate to the early stages of the product naming process. We’ve done a few things, but not as many, on the decision process for picking the creative and strategic options from all the cool product names you end up imagining.

But yesterday, Emma forwarded a link to one of those maddening slideshow posts on 31 Product Naming Fails.

Clicking through all the slides made me realize: for all the imagination you want to have among the people coming up with cool product names, what you MUST have is an eclectic and perhaps slightly shady set of characters reviewing the potential cool product names to prevent a massive product name fail.

18 Sensibilities to Avoid Massive Cool Product Name Fails

Having personally reviewed each of these incredibly terrible product names, I now share with you the 18 sensibilities you must have on your team to avoid a cool product name fail.
You need individuals who:

  1. Possess a good understanding of interpersonal and solo sexual acts, plus a fascination with all the related jargon of both.
  2. Have insight into fringe communities and what they love, embrace, and abhor.
  3. Love horror – both in movies and IRL.
  4. Understand (and/or will track down) all the ways that words in one language won’t work in other languages.
  5. Have a basic clue about life and no appetite for group think or apparently unstoppable momentum for stupid ideas.
  6. Can go six (or even nine) deep on synonyms describing varied sexual activities.
  7. Fully understand all the mechanisms and terminology of what is popularly known as Number 2.
  8. Are diligent at saying all product names aloud before voting yea or nay.
  9. Understand that there are multiple ways to voice a g, a c, or a k.
  10. Have big enough investments in the brand’s success that they won’t let incredibly funny names that no one seems to get make it out of the room alive.
  11. Put the scat in scatological.
  12. Are willing to tell the boss that the family name should never be placed on a building, box, or label. Or uttered aloud. EVER.
  13. Are automatically suspicious of any abbreviation, acronym, or contraction.
  14. Possesses clairvoyant powers and can predict when a currently okay word or sound will fall flat within a decade.
  15. Have a working knowledge of all global genocides, along with the associated moral issues, slang, and sensitivities related to each one.
  16. Know every nickname and euphemism for genitals, what they produce, and all the activities one (or more) can do with them.
  17. Are savvy enough to flip everything upside down and say words backwards to look for sinister alternative meanings and shapes.
  18. Abhor being too true or too literal in describing a product, what it does, and how it looks.

Of course, it’s possible that you don’t need eighteen people on your cool product name review team, if you have the right people in your organization. Heck, if you hire right, one person may be all you need! And that’s all I’ve got to say about that.  😉  – Mike Brown

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IHOP, the International House of Pancakes, has been generating fanfare for teasing a name change to IHOB. On Monday, after speculation ranging from the B representing bacon or breakfast (traditionalAF) to Beyoncé (WTF), IHOP ended the speculation.

B stands for Burgers.

Because, you know, all restaurants want to fill up the parts of the day where they’re open but sucking wind on customer traffic, so…

…why not BURGERS?

Emma and I were chatting on Monday about the IHOP brand strategy. I predicted that the whole thing, while couched in a big brand strategy change, was actually a short-term promotion. My thought was that it’s a New Coke kind of brand strategy cooked up by an ad agency. It will run for like three weeks. IHOP will happily accept all the, “OMG, HOW STUPID CAN YOU BE?” attention-getting social media posts, the taunts of competitors, and the follow-on media coverage.

Because, without all of this noise, no one would be talking about IHOP!

Then in a few weeks, they’ll go, “You know what? YOU ALL ARE RIGHT. WE’RE ABOUT PANCAKES. HOW FUNNY! AND PLEASE TALK ABOUT US SOME MORE!!!”

A Business Insider story reports that IHOP (which I use because I’ve not seen any mention of this name change being real) has added seven burgers to the menu. Because after a year of talking to their customers, the big insight was that the market is looking for burgers from IHOP.

Of course.

In the article, they admit that this is a temporary IHOP brand strategy. It’s clear from miles away that the burger push is an attempt to drive lunch and dinner traffic. (See also Starbucks: Pushing cold drinks to drive afternoon and evening traffic. Plus providing places to pee for everyone in the free world).

So really, the story is that IHOP is couching a promotion in a brand change they’re more than willing to undo, because the IHOP brand strategy change part was never real.

This is, I think, their formula:

That’s how I’m calling it. But whether I’m right or wrong, if your brand isn’t getting all the attention you think it should, you have to ask the question: Are we willing to be cheap and pathetic to get attention? Or can we earn it with a brand-authentic strategy?

The other question is how often will IHOP go back to the well on this brand strategy. How many name changes do you think they can pull off over the next five years? My guess is three – at most. – Mike Brown

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It’s important that a brand strategy lead to displaying your brand personality in a way that fosters affiliation among customers and creates interest with prospects.

That sounds like a mouthful. It also sounds expensive and complicated to do. It definitely can be, but it most certainly doesn’t require an expensive or complicated brand strategy.

Here is a prime example from the grocery store over the weekend.

Among the four pancake mixes, which one stands out?

The three with the flavor variations and the predictable photos of pancake stacks? Or the one with the predictable flavor and the pancake stack that uses bananas, blueberries, and chocolate to make a smiley face on the pancakes?

For me, Bisquick won. It stood out because its stack of pancakes displayed personality.

Think about it. All of the boxes feature a stack of pancakes. All of them required a food photo shoot. Yet only Bisquick made a brand personality statement with its photo. It’s not symmetrical. It’s not the best of the photos. But it’s the only one that brought fun and brand personality to the grocery store aisle.

Which raises the real question for you: How is your brand strategy exploiting every opportunity to add fun and brand personality to boost the attention your brand garners? Well? – Mike Brown

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A participant at a Brainzooming creative leadership presentation stayed afterward.

He asked an intriguing question.

His department is about to undergo a reorganization. Currently, certain people are underutilized. While the reorganization isn’t intended to move them out of the department, he wondered how to best involve all the team members in re-imagining the department. He wanted ideas to do that without making the currently underutilized employees nervous. Additionally, he doesn’t want them to try to game answers to the questions to keep themselves fully employed and under-worked.

5 Strategic Thinking Questions to Engage Employees in Reorganization

I offered him five strategic thinking questions:

  • When is our organization at its best in performing the variety of activities we do?
  • What professional skills – whether used in your job currently or not – could you teach other department members to improve everyone’s effectiveness?
  • On what activities do our internal customers spend more time than they prefer (and that we can better address)?
  • What are our internal customers not able to accomplish because they are bogged down with other duties?
  • Where could we provide greater value if we were able to prioritize or focus more?

All five strategic thinking questions avoid anyone needing to game the answers to protect themselves or expose anyone else. I suggested that he ask the questions individually, compile the answers, and then use an edited version of the responses to shape the team discussion.

If you’re facing a similar situation: keep it neutral, simple, and focused to help your team constructively contribute to reorganizing in the smartest, most strategic way possible. – Mike Brown

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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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I’m involved with a new outreach effort at church. Our objective is connecting with people that have left the Catholic Church or those that have expressed an interest in joining. Another thing our pastor asked us to implement is going door-to-door throughout the parish boundaries to reach out to everyone in the area.

I know I speak for myself and the other committee members: none of us were very excited about engaging in door-to-door ministry. We don’t want to seem like people from one of THOSE churches where we ALL hide when the doorbell rings.

Researching Catholic outreach ministries, I found a prominent one with a palatable strategy for door-to-door outreach. It recommends focusing exclusively on asking people if they have anything that your church can pray about for them. Whether it’s a challenge, aspiration, or nagging concern, the idea is simply to let people know that others care and want to join them in praying about what is on their minds.

Then a few weeks ago, a priest from a Catholic young adult ministry visited our parish. I was there early and helped pass out the pamphlets he brought with him. I placed them in the pews without even looking at them, figuring they solicited contributions. Only later, during his homily, did I learn that the return portion of the brochures had nothing to do with a request for money. It asked everyone to share prayer requests we had so that the young adults in the ministry could join with us in prayer.

How do you follow up within your brand’s business development strategy?

via Shutterstock

Against this backdrop, I was recently working on a business development strategy for a business when the idea clicked. Rather than reaching out to prospects to talk about what the firm does, they could reach out to business decision makers interested in the company and ask them for their version of a prayer request.

For this brand, some comparable prayer request ideas might include:

  • Asking what questions they have and providing an answer then or in a follow-up.
  • Offering a free consultation call to solve a challenge.
  • Providing access to an exclusive webpage or group with resources to help them do their jobs.

If you applied a comparable business development strategy for following up with your prospects, what would be YOUR brand’s version of a soliciting a prayer request? – Mike Brown

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