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I was struggling this weekend to write a Halloween-oriented post linked to an architecture firm’s credo spotted during a trip to Columbus, OH last week. While a fantastic early thought about the phrase lent itself to a Halloween post (as I try to be more seasonal on the Brainzooming blog), I only had ONE other fantastic example instead of the five needed to do a whole post.

Trying to figure out what I could get written for Halloween, it struck me to run this Blogapalooza post from Sean Roark. When I first quickly scanned it after Max Utsler forwarded it to me, I wasn’t getting the whole Conan O’Brien pmpadour thing. But after re-reading the post, it was completely obvious that orange is my “relevant ridiculousness,”  as Sean describes it. Orange (and not just the color, but the orange socks, orange clothing, orange backpacks, orange office supplies, and yes, even our orange kitchen) not only suggest excitement and creativity, the ridiculousness of that much orange always provides an opening for somebody to ask, “Why the hell do you wear orange socks?”

Sean is a working marketing professional, graduate student at the University of Kansas, and a “Brand Master of the Universe.” To find out more about Sean’s title and how you can identify your relevant ridiculousness, dive in and enjoy:

Finding Your Conan O’Brien Pompadour

Pretty much everyone is certified in something. Some are certified in CPR. Others — certified notaries. Diplomas and GEDs are certifications. Few, however, are certified Brand Masters of the Universe.

I am.

Granted, it’s a relatively new certification, and as far as I know, it’s only offered once a year at the KU Edwards Campus. But hey, I did my time, I paid for it, and I can’t wait to put it on my business cards.

My brand sensei — Pasquale Trozzolo, trained me in the art of brand warfare. A notable chapter in our brand Shinto was to identify and exploit the relevant difference — the one main attribute that relevantly sets a product or service apart from its competition. Simple, seemingly obvious, but rarely mastered. After considerable practice and branditation, I have fully embraced the importance, and harnessed the chi of relevant difference. But like Plato to Socrates before me, I have developed a new philosophy citing certain instances that challenge the law of relevant difference. I call it the Art of Irrelevant Relevance AKA Relevant Ridiculousness AKA Finding your Pompadour.

What’s Conan Have that I Don’t Have?

Photo appears at: http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v70/rushmoregirl/pumpkin07.jpg

Everyone knows Conan O’Brien. Well almost everyone – 74% of you according to a Marketing Evolutions study. What is it about Conan that makes him so memorable? Well it’s pretty safe to say that those 74% didn’t watch him on the Tonight Show on a regular basis or Jay Leno never would have gotten his job back. Here’s a hint. It’s red, it’s retro and it’s ridiculous. Yes, what makes Conan O’Brien so recognizable is that preposterous pompadour. The pompadour has no relevance to Conan’s comedy. If it did, his monologues would consist mainly of Abe Lincoln jabs. The relevance of the pompadour is its ridiculousness – ridiculousness that has stopped countless channel surfers dead in their tracks just to see what that giant red head with the weird haircut is all about.

A few years back VH1 aired The Pickup Artist. A collection of virgin nerds turned to an ex-nerd turned illusionist, philosopher and master pickup artist named Mystery to help them land beautiful women. Mystery had studied the courting habits of thousands of bar goers throughout his early 20s and developed the Mystery Method. A key component to Mystery’s opening was peacocking. Peacocking is donning an interesting (most often ridiculous) article of clothing or an accessory that gives women easy bait to start a conversation if they are interested. Peacocking sets pickup artists apart from the rest of the bar and (just like the pompadour) provides the relevant ridiculousness that is so useful in getting noticed.

So how does this have anything to do with marketing? Well by now, most of our products and services are contending in highly competitive industries with relevant differences that aren’t that different. In other words, our products and services are stuck in a loud, crowded nightclub filled with younger, more attractive products and services that only stop lifting weights to shave their chests and apply more cologne. How will our average looking products and services ever get the chance to speak to those hottie consumers? The answer is to whip out that hair gel, pile up a pompadour and get noticed.

The Relevant Ridiculousness that’s Right for You

Finding the relevant ridiculousness that’s right for you is going to take some good old-fashioned creativity — and most importantly, originality. First, pompadours are best suited for highly competitive industries. They’re clutter breakers so if there isn’t substantial clutter, your brand is just going to look weird. Irrelevant relevance is only relevant if it hasn’t been done before. Riding the coattails of someone else’s ridiculousness is only going to leave your image battered, your brand bruised and your career prospects left in the dust. Finally, keep your pompadour light-hearted and playful. There’s a fine line that separates creative and creepy – get close, but don’t cross it.

Great brand pompadours of the past include Ubu Productions — which paved the path for production company awareness nearly 30 years ago. Old Spice found its pompadour and, in turn, its way out of grandpa’s medicine cabinet. And don’t forget about the now defunct BK King who brought the Whopper back to the consideration set of drunks and burnouts nationwide.

So if your brand has become a wallflower in the crowded discotheque of commerce, take it from Conan O’Brien, Mystery and myself. Puff up that pompadour, spread those feathers, get a little ridiculous and give your brand some irrelevant relevance to separate it from the rest of the pack.  – Sean Roark

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 are in Kansas City and not attending Social Media Club of Kansas City (SMCKC) breakfasts, you’re missing outstanding social media-related speakers and content monthly. The September presentation from Scott Monty at Union Station was fantastic, and October’s Social Media Club of Kansas City breakfast (back at the Kansas City Cafe) was equally strong, featuring Mike McCamon, Chief Community Officer from Water.org.

I’ve been struck by the organization’s compelling online strategy since meeting Erin Swanson from Water.org at one of the first breakfasts I attended. Talking informally with Erin several times in the last few years, it’s been clear water.org is all over inventive social media strategy.

Social Media Automation

At last Friday’s SMCKC breakfast, Mike McCamon provided a “Social Media 700-level” course on how Water.org uses social media automation, under the banner “Donate Your Voice,” so Water.org Twitter and Facebook fans can share their social network feeds with the organization. Beyond “one-to-many,” Mike characterizes the strategy as enabling “none- to-many,” since fans don’t have to do anything once authorizing Water.org to use their social media broadcasting capabilities.

This video from the presentation features the strategic thinking behind Donate Your Voice and the social media automation strategy. I told Mike afterward that being a strategy guy, he had me right away by starting with not one, but two X-Y charts.

How Extendable is Donate Your Voice?

Does Donate Your Voice have a fit beyond non-profits? Mike discussed Water.org considering sharing the technology with non-competitive non-profits and licensing it to for-profits in exchange for a financial commitment to Water.org. Even if it does (or others develop similar capabilities), the Donate Your Voice concept will likely need an option for more user intervention.

When you care about what you share in your social network channels, I can’t imagine surrendering my “voice” to any organization without an option to say yes or no on a particular message.

Would you want that type of message-specific approval, or are you okay with donating your online voice unchecked?

I’ll be covering Donate Your Voice in greater depth for the December issue of The Social Media Monthly magazine. I’ve been writing monthly articles since the magazine’s introduction earlier this year. If you’re in a Barnes and Noble in the next few days, you still have an opportunity to pick up the October issue of The Social Media Monthly where I wrote a cover story on the Google+ vs. Facebook battle.  – Mike Brown

 

If you’re struggling with determining ROI and evaluating its impacts, download “6 Social Media Metrics You Must Track” today!  This article provides a concise, strategic view of the numbers and stories that matter in shaping, implementing, and evaluating your strategy. You’ll learn lessons about when to address measurement strategy, identifying overlooked ROI opportunities, and creating a 6-metric dashboard. Download Your Free Copy of “6 Social Media Metrics You Must Track!”

 

 

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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It has now been about 2 years since I left corporate life to make The Brainzooming Group a full-time effort. Last year on this date, I shared 25 lessons learned and reconfirmed during the first year of The Brainzooming Group. Here are 25 more lessons from year two away from corporate life, although it’s hard to say some of them didn’t originate in year one!

  • Peoples’ priorities, especially in corporations, change quickly. Things can go from hypercritical to off the list in what seems like minutes. Inside the corporation, you may not even notice. As a vendor, it can be crushing.
  • A lot of corporate life was filled with meetings. The absence of so many needless meetings creates a lot of time in your day.
  • Keep experimenting with pricing and other parts of the marketing mix ALL the time.
  • Taking a “friends and family” approach to business development is a good start, but it is hardly sufficient.
  • Get out of the office and see people.
  • I’d underestimated the business potential of Facebook. Now, I’m playing catch-up.
  • Go for unique, higher-risk opportunities than predictable, lower-risk opportunities that promise they’ll get better.
  • R.E.M. did things in their own way, at their own pace, in their own style. That’s a pretty solid long-term business strategy.
  • I’m not sure if absence makes the heart grow fonder, but 24/7 togetherness doesn’t.
  • If you’re willing to surrender your will to God, he’ll put you in the places you need to be.
  • When you’re in a big corporation, the last thing you may want is dealing with more people. When you’re an entrepreneur, that changes.
  • Frugality, frugality, frugality.
  • A one-tier cost structure is a recipe for failure at worst or stagnation at best.
  • At some point, you have to stop thinking you’re average at everything you do while still maintaining a strong sense of overall humility.
  • There were things I could afford to stay out of or not do in the corporate world that I can’t afford to avoid anymore.
  • You can’t over-estimate the impact of being able to stay calm during challenging times.
  • As difficult as it might be, you have to let go of previously strong professional relationships that turn non-reciprocal. Really cultivate the ones that do remain vibrant, though.
  • Go out of your way to meet new people you would never have expected to meet. Go out of your way to re-meet people who pass through after long absences. You never know how your life will be changed by it.
  • Don’t wait for someone to join you. Go ahead and try it yourself.
  • As important as a tight team is, go to unfamiliar people for reactions, because you’ll get a much more accurate perspective.
  • It’s okay to take the risk that something you walk away from will hit really big for someone else. You can’t pursue everything.
  • Life is really incredible if you allow it to be incredible. Many times “incredible” materializes because you haven’t directly intervened in mucking up the ordinary.
  • It’s easy to slide backward – really easy. If you’re going to slide backward, do it consciously, not accidentally.
  • You need a business model, not just an idea. A business model can sustain you for an extended period of time. Ideas have to be continually replenished. Continually replenishing ideas for an extended period of time can drain you beyond recovery.
  • Wait for it.

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 info@brainzooming.com or call us at 816-509-5320 to learn how we can help you enhance your brand strategy and implementation efforts.

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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The Brainzooming Group helped shape an intriguing project featuring two graduate level marketing communications classes at the University of Kansas. Students in Max Utsler’s “Innovations in Marketing Communications” class and Barrett Sydnor’s “Integrated Marketing Communications and Sales Strategy” class are writing blog posts during the semester on topics related to the classes, including branding, marketing, social media, experience marketing, and innovation.

Working with a number of Brainzooming friends who publish popular blogs in these areas, we’ll be running a number of blogs from students in these two classes. Max Utsler dubbed the project “Blogapalooza,” and today, we’re publishing the first guest Blogapalozza post on Brainzooming.

Today’s author, Patrick Kerr, lives and works in the Kansas City area. His interests include good food, fishing, and finding new hobbies to take his mind off the Kansas City Chiefs and Royals. Today he takes up the question of the impact Groupon has on customer service – both for the provider and the customer:

 

My wife and I recently spent our wedding anniversary at an upscale restaurant hailed by critics for its outstanding food and ambience. The owner of the establishment is a highly accomplished chef who enjoys a stellar reputation in local and national culinary circles. He is one of a few true culinary celebrities who live in our area and has won numerous accolades for his cooking skills. As self-proclaimed “foodies,” we couldn’t wait to celebrate the occasion over a gourmet meal and fine wine. Even better, my wife purchased a Groupon for the restaurant so we felt like we could splurge without feeling too guilty.

The day of our reservation, I checked out the restaurant’s ratings on Yelp and was surprised to find so many negative reviews. The reviews spanned from mildly critical to downright nasty. Not exactly what you’d expect from a four-star restaurant. Of the bad write-ups, there were two common denominators: poor service and Groupon. Prior to the Groupon introduction, the marks were consistently positive if not gushing with praise. It was only in retrospect that I made the connection.

So how did our dining experience turn out? The food lived up to its excellent reputation, but the only way to get our server’s attention was to flail my arms about like some over-eager 2nd grader dying to be called on by the teacher. If anything, service at a four-star restaurant should border on hovering. This felt more as if we were being quarantined for some highly contagious virus. I’ve had better service at Waffle House. At least they refill your drinks once in a while. We couldn’t help but think that our early admission of using the Groupon had an overall negative impact on service. It turns out we were in good company. Apparently, Groupon and poor customer service go hand-in-hand.

Customer Service Rating of Groupon Users

Additional research revealed a direct link between the use of Groupon and a negative service experience. The above graph is from a study conducted by Cornell researchers who studied over 16,000 Groupon Deals in 20 US cities between January and July this year. The study found, among other things, that Groupon users averaged a 10% lower rating than those who didn’t use Groupon.

So why does Groupon promote bad customer service? From the merchant’s perspective, Groupon often means more trouble than it’s worth. The servers I’ve spoken with all complain that users frequently tip on the discounted amount, and not on the actual amount of the food. For expensive restaurants like the one we went to, that could mean the difference of $100 – $200.  In fact, our receipt clearly read what the amount would have been prior to the discount. Obviously, that is a sore point that needs addressed.

If Groupon wants to establish a loyal following, they need to make it clear to partners that they must uphold a certain standard of service and refuse to do business with those restaurants that won’t commit to those terms. Perhaps establish a “code of excellence” that becomes synonymous with their brand.  Groupon’s reputation and the reputation of the restaurants they do business with depend on it.

Have you had a negative Groupon experience? If so, please share it in the comments below. -Patrick Kerr 

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 had a great opportunity to participate in a panel presentation Wednesday at the Association of Fundraising Professionals, MO, Mid-America Chapter along with Dave Svet of Spur Communications and Patrick Sallee of the American Red Cross, Greater Kansas City Chapter. The topic was “Can Your Smartphone Be a Smart Fundraiser? Mobile fundraising and other “Smart” Strategies.” Short story, we all approached it from a social networking and mobile strategy angle, with insights applicable to nonprofits and for-profit businesses both.

The Other Speakers

Patrick Sallee covered actual case studies of “text to give” from his career. Patrick addressed the upsides (significant impact opportunities when tied to an attention-getting event) and downsides (set-up and ongoing costs, long payment processing cycles, challenges in reaching sufficient scale). The net of his remarks was that “text to give” yields on average about $1000 for a charity, which makes pursuing this social networking strategy not widely viable.

Dave Svet provided a solid overview of the technical opportunities and challenges of mobile giving. He covered smart phone trends that will make mobile giving more seamless domestically in a few years. Near-term, Dave underscored the importance of a mobile-enabled website and the opportunity to develop app-like features within a web environment at significantly less cost than creating custom apps.

Mobile Content Marketing Strategy

I presented on content marketing strategies for nonprofits before fund raising even starts. The mobile content marketing ideas were tied to a social networking impact model The Brainzooming Group uses. The social networking impact model is focused on maximizing audience interests, how to create compelling communication within a mobile strategy, and methods to employ social networking most effectively in sharing an organization’s stories with its key audiences.

Here are five key social networking points from my section on mobile content marketing:

  • It is no surprise that spouses, relatives, friends, and experts are more important to consumer brand decisions than having a Facebook or Twitter page. Two big opportunities exist for brands in social networking, though. These opportunities are to share content and a personality which moves a brand into a friend or expert role and to provide content to individual social network members they can readily and credibly share within their own social networks.
  • Develop relevant personas for important audiences to improve addressing audience needs and interests with your content. Write content for individuals (not for the masses) about what your organization thinks, knows, and does.
  • In a mobile environment, compelling communication requires brevity, direct calls to action, integrated messaging, a mobile-enabled website, and easy ways to invite people to deeper information.
  • When making the move from solely traditional communication vehicles (annual reports, quarterly newsletters, events, etc.) to include social media, take advantage of the opportunity for greater frequency to share a more complete organizational message. Quarterly Facebook status updates do not cut it.
  • In addition to sharing stories of the people and personalities associated with your organization, make it easy for your audience to share your content via social sharing.

What Questions Does this Prompt?

Beyond the talks from Patrick Sallee, Dave Svet, and me, there were some intriguing questions from the group on social networking, technology, and content marketing. Look for a future post addressing audience questions from the Association of Fundraising Professionals session on social networking and mobile content marketing strategy. Do you have any questions you’d like to throw in the mix before that post? – Mike Brown

 

If you’re struggling with determining ROI and evaluating its impacts, download “6 Social Media Metrics You Must Track” today!  This article provides a concise, strategic view of the numbers and stories that matter in shaping, implementing, and evaluating your strategy. You’ll learn lessons about when to address measurement strategy, identifying overlooked ROI opportunities, and creating a 6-metric dashboard. Download Your Free Copy of “6 Social Media Metrics You Must Track!”

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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Seems like everybody is a “solutions provider” these days. Whether you make a product, provide a service, or do just about anything, you better be telling clients you’re a  “business solutions provider.” In the past, it used to be all about “answers,” but when everybody started doing that, “solutions provider” became the new buzzphrase for every vendor to tout.

Having had a lot of vendors call on me in my corporate life talking about being a solutions provider, I became very skeptical about the buzzphrase and what business expertise might really be behind it.

What Does It Really Mean to Provide Solutions

In light of that, it was refreshing at an event I was helping produce recently to hear a business-to-business services customer offer his perspective on what being a business solutions provider really means for him. While his list was industry specific, his remarks prompted this short list of questions a vendor (or their business clients) should be able to answer “yes” to if solutions really are part of the equation:

This list clearly just skims the surface. For those of you buying business products and services from companies claiming to provide solutions, what do you think separates  companies really solving challenges from the posers who claim to but don’t?

– 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.

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Suppose a collaborative business blog is part of  the right social media strategy for your business, but senior management has concerns about blogging. Not the kinds of concerns which make senior management demand, “Absolutely do not create a collaborative blog.” No, we’re talking passive-aggressive concerns where senior management will allow (or potentially encourage) a collaborative blog to be developed. Right before the blog goes live, however, they clamor for multiple review points on each blog post so management is comfortable nothing will happen (in every sense of the word, unfortunately).

What do you do?

How do you protect the timeliness, relevance, and personal feel a successful collaborative business blog should have from death through a thousand – okay, I’m exaggerating…make it “ten” – senior management tinkerers?

Determining the Underlying Senior Management Concerns

The first step is better understanding and narrowing in on the nature of your senior management group’s challenges. You can do this by probing on a variety of potential issues that might drive their concern. You have to find out if their concerns about a collaborative business blog stem from content which:

  • Violates confidentiality
  • Is incorrect
  • Damages customer relationships
  • Compromises professional standards
  • Is off brand for your company
  • Is personally inappropriate or objectionable
  • Could trigger regulatory or legal issues

Figure out which of these (or other issues) are the real pain points with a collaborative business blog. Additionally, determine who would need to review blog posts to relieve the pain for each area of concern.

Addressing the Underlying Issues

Based on the conversation’s outcome and the breadth of the reviewer list, one of a few possibilities will likely materialize:

  • Upon discussion, you’re able to mitigate the concerns either at the start, or perhaps after some initial “learning curve” period, OR
  • The number of people who’d need to review posts is manageable within your blogging process, OR
  • The level of review is so great it will be burdensome or even crippling to the business blogging effort

If the last bullet is where you wind up, it’s far better finding out ahead of time before launching a blog hampered by its inability to function at an appropriate social media pace.

At this point, it’s critical to get creative with alternative ideas to simplify an unwieldy process, take more comprehensive steps to ally their concerns, or in the extreme, delay or pull the plug on the collaborative blog before it becomes one of those “they started it, but it died out in about two month” blogs.

And nobody wants that.  – 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’ve developed  integrated social media strategy for other brands and can do the same for yours.


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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