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Here’s an idea that works well when you’re trying to uncover how to be more creative: force yourself (or your business brand) into completely new strategic situations.

The Brainzooming Group will be doing that this Thursday. Barrett Sydnor and I will be participating in the Freelance Exchange of Kansas City’s 2010 Portfolio Showcase, along with a talented group of creative talent – designers, writers, web developers, and artists. We’ll be there showcasing how Brainzooming helps make smart organizations more successful by rapidly expanding their strategic options and creating innovative plans they can efficiently implement.

Barrett identified this opportunity, and while it may seem a stretch for Brainzooming to hang with the creative Freelance Exchange organization, the preparation alone has had a strategic and creative  impact. The opportunity to meet prospective Brainzooming clients in a very different situation (i.e., event marketing) forced positive refinements in our marketing message and creative delivery.

This event has made us think strategically beyond the one-page capabilities piece we’ve been using. In this venue, we need to provide visually eye-catching creative material to capture attention during a quick walk by our table. This new situation led to more case study-oriented pieces, such as those shown here.

Thinking about our strategic messaging from the perspective of the solutions and benefits Brainzooming provides, selecting images can be a challenge. Typically, our tangible output is a concise, actionable plan that’s tremendously valuable, but not all that visually intriguing. Changing our messaging focus to a potential client’s business challenges offered many more creative opportunities to place images with our message. It’s been much easier to depict business people challenged by too much data (without relevant insights), too few strategic options, or being left out of conversations about their brands in social media.

The point is this: presenting at the Freelance Exchange 2010 Portfolio Showcase was so different, it forced both a new look at our marketing and moved an important to-do higher up on our list. Whether you’re on your own or inside a company, look for brand experiments to force re-examining and innovatively approaching what you do from a new strategic perspective.

If you’re in Kansas City Thursday afternoon, April 22 from 3 to 6 p.m., stop by the Terrace on Grand (1520 Grand St., KCMO). We’d be eager to talk with you about how the proven Brainzooming process can help address your strategic challenges and catalyze innovative success for your organization! – 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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2

At the invitation of Brainzooming email subscriber Terry Kincheloe, I attended the second 2010 meeting of KairosAnalytics, a Kansas City-based web analytics strategy forum last Thursday. Tony Fortner, Consumer Experience Strategist at Sprint, presented on “Social Engagement Strategy.”

In the course of laying out his perspective, Tony covered culture, values, economic theory, World of Warcraft, strategy creation, the challenges of measuring social community business impacts, plus a few anecdotes on the internal politics at Sprint. Needless to say, it was an evening full of stimulating strategy ideas!

Rather than trying to play back notes from all of Tony’s presentation, here are a few takeaways:

  • So much of creating a vibrant online community strategy goes back to culture, values, and much of what we were taught as children: decency, helping one another, the golden rule, keeping your “hands clean”, loyalty, trust, etc.
  • Tony commented about feeling ethically bound to “say something” when a decision was being considered which would harm a customer. This creates a clear distinction for me. I’d place the emphasis on being bound to protect customers by actually stopping a harmful action. “Saying something” can be a self-serving exercise (esp. when you walk away in frustration), when what’s really needed is creating a positive result from the discussion.
  • For many (most?) companies, embracing the idea of a real community goes beyond innovation and is a radical strategy. If you’re trying to introduce a new, visionary strategy such as this inside a company, be sure to match up with someone who excels at the steps it will take to make it happen. And if implementation is your strong suit, go out of your way to align with someone who can communicate the strong vision necessary for the organization to make strategic changes necessary to be successful with a community.
  • Despite all the discussion on best practices, real learnings often come from the ends of the spectrum, not the middle. To understand where things are headed, look toward the people and companies pushing the limits.
  • Not every brand is going to win with a social community strategy. Some pre-existing business models simply aren’t going to fit with the innovation imperatives a community-based strategy implies. It’s clear some businesses are going to lose because of social networking-driven strategic change.

It was a great session. In July, I’m speaking to KAIROS on what could ostensibly be seen as the same topic Tony addressed – social media and strategy. Because there are so many ways to address the topic, it was reassuring to see our angles will be complementary, but different enough to have new things to say. – 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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11

This post has been too long in coming, dating to an outstanding presentation at the American Marketing Association Market Research Conference I chaired. In one of the fastest paced 90 minute presentations I’ve ever seen, Robert Adams, CEO and Founder of Infact Insight, delivered tremendous content (and lots of it) on “Supercharging Presentations – Charts Worth 1000 Words.” As I rapidly tried to live tweet, the session certainly lived up to its supercharged billing!

Here are sixteen creative ideas Robert Adams shared to help rethink how you’re creating and delivering presentations:

General Presentation Reminders

  • While public speaking is among the worst fears, communication skills are important factors in personal financial success. It’s a very worthwhile skill to force yourself to develop, even if it seems uncomfortable.
  • Great presentations take multiple talents, so you’ll likely need collaboration in preparing and delivering one. If you’re presenting regularly, make sure you have a creative team to reach out to for help.
  • Break presentations into three steps: preparation (doing upfront analysis and strategic thinking), creation (distilling the information you need to convey), and delivery (putting everything together and sharing it with the audience).
  • Want to get exposure to lots of powerful presentations? Go to the TED conference website and watch the great presenters showcased there.

Audience Analysis

  • Audience analysis is a fundamental early step in presentation prep. Think through the audience’s composition, personality, and relevant problem definition. Use mind mapping for this last element, starting an issue tree with the primary audience problem, and branching into its components.
  • Determine what it will take to get key audience members to act. What are their wants and needs? What are they for or against, and what’s required to move them effectively?
  • Storyboard your presentation before going to the computer. Sketch an outline in words (and ideally pictures), put it away, and return to review it later. This process takes time, but it pays off in a well-structured, holistic presentation.

Refining Presentation Look and Feel

  • Struggling to think through the right visuals for a presentation? Robert Adams recommends visiting Chart Chooser to help identify appropriate visuals based on your intended message.
  • Since your audience will likely have a mix of big picture and detail-oriented thinkers, look for ways to represent both elements in one graphic to accommodate each type of audience member. Consider how you can use pictures to present quantitative data.
  • Adams recommended using older fonts with historical information – an innovative take I’d never considered.
  • Force yourself to get a presentation to as few pages as possible. The effort to accomplish this will both benefit the presentation and force you to get all the relevant points into your head, avoiding the need to memorize it.

Delivering Presentations

  • Two of the most important moments in any successful presentation are the opening and close. Make sure you have strong, high impact content and staging. Take advantage of the roles primacy and recency play in what your audience will remember.
  • Be open and friendly when delivering a presentation. It’s important to smile, use deliberate gestures, and avoid unnecessary distractions (i.e., poor posture, putting your hands in your pockets, grooming yourself, etc.).
  • Always have a presentation parachute, just in case one or more things go wrong as you’re presenting.
  • When handling questions near the end of a presentation, be mindful of time. Don’t end on questions – instead move into a pre-planned wrap-up in your remaining moments.

Summary

  • Step outside of the typical presentation and be different in a positive and distinctive way. Invest the time in preparation and creation to be able to do different things with charts, graphs, and the ways you’ll ultimately deliver a well-rehearsed presentation.

You can check out additional strategic and creative tips on improving your presentations from the Brainzooming archives. And while you’re thinking about it, what’s working for you on the presentations you’re doing?  – Mike Brown

If you’d like to add an interactive, educationally-stimulating presentation on strategy, innovation, branding, social media or a variety of other topics to your event, Mike Brown is the answer.  Email us at brainzooming@gmail.com or call 816-509-5320 to learn how Mike can get your audience members Brainzooming!

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 listened / watched / tweeted / chatted / multitasked my way through yesterday’s American Marketing Association “Social Media: Cracking the Code for Business Marketers” virtual event.

There was so much great content throughout (which is available on demand until May 2010), but one comment near the end hit home relative to recent conversations. James Clark of Room 214 wrapped up his social media ROI presentation with a slide referencing great work by his company’s “competitors.” As he put it, the subject area is moving and changing so quickly, you have to acknowledge and learn from competitors.

What a refreshing perspective.

In the transportation/ logistics industry, where I spent years, it’s nearly impossible for a company to possess every capability a customer might need in processing, storing, and moving their goods. With increased supply chain complexity, it’s become typical for your most vicious competitor in one business segment to be a valued customer, supplier, or strategic partner in another. If a transportation company can’t figure out how to work and compete at the same time with someone else, they’re destined to be relevant only for customers with very basic needs.

So it was a surprise recently, shortly after going full time with Brainzooming, when two people specifically said, “I think you’re a competitor of mine.”

How remarkable.

With so many companies needing to think more strategically and innovatively and then be able to implement their ideas, my concern isn’t competitors but simply sharing the value of what we can do to help potential clients be more strategic, innovative, and successful.

Can others address these potential clients’ same needs? Certainly. And as I regularly interact with other strategy and innovation providers in person or via social media channels, I hope to learn from them as well. At the same time, nearly everything I’ve produced on strategy, creativity, and innovation approaches is readily available here at no cost for others to use and learn from too.

So what’s the basis of competition for my two “competitors”?

How about fear? Or maybe, as someone said the other day when discussing this, it’s about being a dinosaur clinging to a business model destined to only fulfill very basic needs.

Sure, it’s early in the history I hope Brainzooming will have. We’ll definitely lose out on some opportunities where we have the best answer to help someone. But if we don’t think we really can best deliver on a potential client’s needs, we’ll reach out to folks like my “competitor” friends to see how we might work together. Or if it’s the best answer, we’ll point a potential client to someone who can provide better performance and value for them. I already did it earlier this week.

That’s our model, and we believe it’s the right one to genuinely serve and benefit the cool people we work with at Brainzooming.

Are you with us on this? - 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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Many Brainzooming readers are way out in front on social media strategy. Others are still checking it out. No matter which group you’re in, there’s a great free opportunity Thursday, February 25 to participate in “Social Media: Cracking the Code for Business Marketers.” This is a free virtual event sponsored by the American Marketing Association. You don’t have to be an AMA member to participate.

You can participate in the all or part of the daylong learning event via computer, with access to some of the most innovative thinkers and strategists on social media including Andy Sernovitz (CEO of Gas Pedal & The Social Media Business Council) and Julien Smith (Co-Author, along with Chris Brogan, of Trust Agents). The event includes a mix of 9 general and concurrent sessions, including special chat opportunities for AMA members.  There’s still time to register and expand your understanding on social media.

Look for another free virtual event from the AMA in June. Its focus is on market research and will be tied to the 2010 national AMA Marketing Research Conference September 26-29 in Atlanta. Just so you know, I was the volunteer chairperson for the 2009 conference and will be again for the 2010 event. Be on the watch for more details here on both the June and September events. - 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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As I mentioned the other day, I did a session locally on linking blogs to business strategy. One segment of the presentation addressed writing less for a blog by featuring guest authors and incorporating more videos.

After the presentation, Jill Tran came over to talk. She has her own interior design firm in Kansas City and is also a blogger. When I asked Jill to do a future guest blog for Brainzooming on creativity and interior design, she suggested we video something. And that’s what we did!

So here’s our first video guest blog, with Jill talking about the intersection of creativity and interior design. (You can click on the link if the video doesn’t appear.) Enjoy!

Now that Jill’s done it, our repertoire of ways for you to be featured on Brainzooming has grown. If you’d like to create a short video on strategy, innovation, or creativity, let me know. If you’d prefer to write a guest post, here’s some background information to get you started. – Mike Brown

Guest Author

The Brainzooming blog has a wonderful group of guest authors who regularly contribute their perspectives on strategy, creativity, and innovation. You can view guest author posts by clicking on the link below.

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As we’ve mentioned previously, during Super Bowl XLIV as part of #BZBowl, Brainzooming Strategic Contributor Barrett Sydnor focused on rating Super Bowl ads based on the memorability criteria highlighted in the book, “Made to Stick.” Here’s Barrett’s assessment:

“I loved that ad with the little kids, you know, the one for . . ., Well I can’t remember who it’s for, but I loved it.”

We’ve all said those same words more or less. Most critiques of Super Bowl ads operate on that level. The ad someone “liked” or thought was the funniest is declared the best Super Bowl ad.

But that isn’t why advertisers buy Super Bowl time. They want to sell stuff, lots of stuff. To accomplish that, the message must be memorable. As Chip and Dan Heath write, it must be “Made to Stick.” So in generating ratings for the Brainzooming Super Bowl XLIV ad analysis, I was more systematic in assessing the best and worst Super Bowl ads using the six strategic characteristics Made to Stick says make for memorable messages.

Simple, Unexpected, Concrete, Credible, Emotion, Story

From kickoff to final whistle there were 31 breaks containing 67 national commercials and at least one very memorable promo. I watched each ad only once—as it ran—and made my judgments as to whether each met the six criteria (yes/no only, no shades of gray here) in as close to real time as possible. I haven’t looked at any best and worst list other than Mike’s.

Most Memorable Ads

  • Based on the Made to Stick criteria, I rated Doritos “Keep Your Hands Off My Momma” as the most memorable Super Bowl ad. It hit on all six cylinders.
  • The runner-up is Google for Paris. I thought it hit on five of six. (Mike and I disagree here.  Actually the next best ad was for The Late Show with Dave, Oprah, and Jay–but I think advertising is like therapy, it doesn’t count if you don’t pay.)
  • Tied for Third: Snickers, Coca-Cola (Simpson’s characters), and Teleflora. All had four of six and all were well done tactics with clear strategies.

Least Memorable Ads

  • The least memorable Super Bowl ad was Diamond Foods. The totally overproduced and under-communicating ad for Emerald Nuts and Pop Secret met none of the “Made to Stick” criteria.
  • The next least memorable ad was Vizio. It did meet one criterion (Unexpected), but the rest of it was so bad it drops to the penultimate place on merit.
  • Third worst went to the Go Daddy spots collectively. They met no criteria and made you feel bad for everyone involved.

A full listing of all the ads with their Made to Stick criteria ratings and my pithy comments can be downloaded at the end of the post.

Summary

Using the same criteria, someone else might reach a different conclusion about most and least memorable, i.e. your mileage may very.  But we should be able to agree that memorable communication counts for something in marketing.

Right now, we’re applying these principles for an event strategy project, designing an innovative positioning and strategy to create greater memorability and impact for attendees. What we’ve found at Brainzooming is beyond applying the “Made to Stick” criteria after the fact, the big opportunity is to innovatively use them in developing communications creative strategy. – Barrett Sydnor

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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