Competitive Strategy | The Brainzooming Group - Part 4 – page 4
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Picking up on the competitor strategy theme from the start of the week, I combed the Brainzooming archives to share a variety of competitor strategy ideas we have covered.

82 Competitor Strategy Ideas to Improve Your Competitive Success

Competitive-GorillaHere is a handy summary of 82 competitor strategy tools, questions, and ideas you can use to hone your competitive success now and in the future:

Going on the Attack for Competitive Success

Playing Defense with Your Competitor Strategy

There should be at least a few ideas you can start applying right away to go after that 400 pound competitor gorilla in the room and improve your brand’s competitive success! – Mike Brown

 

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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 strategy and implementation efforts.

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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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3

DHL-FasterNot every disruptive marketing tactic in a competitor strategy has to be an industry-changing move by a non-traditional competitor against a stagnant old-line competitor. 

Sometimes disruptive marketing might simply involve one behemoth beating up on another one in an unusual way – even through a prank.

A video appearing online last week is an intriguing example of competitor strategy involving disruptive marketing although, according to some reports, it is a prank of a prank.

Disruptive Marketing Pranks

The original video “suggests” that courier DHL shipped several boxes via its competitors, including UPS and TNT. At pickup, each package initially appeared to be black, allegedly from being covered in “temperature-activated ink” that was chilled before shipping. As the boxes warmed during transport, the black disappeared to reveal a prank message on the difficult-to-deliver boxes. DHL (or its agency or some other third party) videoed delivery of the boxes to hard-to-find addresses to create the video shared here.

At the time this is being originally published, there are questions about whether DHL was involved in the prank.

Quite honestly, having competed against DHL where they directly used our company’s name (along with reference to the UPS Brown campaign) in a print ad, I would not put this past them. But whether DHL was involved originally or not, it is still a trigger for strategic thinking about going after a competitor in an unusual way.

Another thing interesting about this example is that from a US perspective, this looks like a small, potentially disruptive competitor (DHL) going after a huge industry leader (UPS).

But that’s not the global picture.

DHL is part of Deutsche Post DHL (which is the German Post Office), the world’s largest courier company. So instead of the little guy engaging in disruptive marketing against the big guy, this would be the biggest guy slapping around a couple of enormous, but still smaller competitors.

Having been in the transportation industry, the delivery side of a prank like this (again, if it is real) would be the least of the concerns for UPS and the other competitor involved. The bigger issue would be the complaints about these boxes that would not move through competitors’ conveyor systems, likely necessitating one-off handling as they started revealing their messages!

Would this fit your competitor strategy?

What do you think?

Would you ever prank your competitor and stick it in the brand’s face like this? Have you already done it? And does the strategy matter based on whether you are the big player or small player in your market? – Mike Brown

 

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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

Grand-Canyon-SkywalkSuppose you have brand strategy responsibility to showcase an industrial brand’s identity.

What can you do to create stronger identity and a cool factor for a brand that may be a component of another product or brand?

Showcase Industrial Brand Identity and Coolness in B2B Brand Strategy

Here are three paths any industrial, business-to-business, or ingredient brand marketer should consider. All were highlighted at the Content Marketing World Manufacturing Summit where I spoke on creativity and content marketing in September.

1. Bringing the Consumer Feel to Industrial Brand Strategy

One theme throughout the Manufacturing Summit was “people” are making decisions in B2B markets. That means there is no reason to automatically walk away from brand strategy tools consumer marketers use, including (as spelled out by Kathy Button Bell, CMO at Emerson Electric):

  • Bright colors
  • Lights
  • Sounds
  • Fresh faces
  • Smiles
  • Vibrant culture

These all make industrial companies more interesting to the PEOPLE. And as a tweet during the conference noted, there are no regulations within any industry mandating boring, self-centered, overly-formal, or stuffy content.

One idea this created for me was plotting industrial brands based on how ubiquitous they are vs. how “sexy” they are. Would any brands be in the upper right quadrant? And if not, how could and would an industrial brand benefit from moving there?

2. Finding the Cool in an Industrial Brand Identity

If you’re directing social media strategy for an industrial brand, how do you get to the “cool” factor in your brand?

At Lincoln Electric, Craig Coffey, U.S. Marketing Communications Manager at the welding equipment brand found the brand’s cool in realizing it “joins metal with fire. That’s cool!”

It’s easy, however, in an experienced B2B company to lose a sense of coolness and simply think about what the brand does to perform daily as devoid of any “cool” factor. Yet finding the “cool” in a B2B brand is the primary hope for generating audience interest. In discussing content successes at Lincoln Electric, Coffey pointed to several success factors helping to tell a cool story:

  • A rich brand history
  • Ambitious goals to reach audiences in new, meaningful ways
  • Open-minded leadership
  • A willingness to invest in marketing

An exercise The Brainzooming Group developed based on this conversation is a set of strategic thinking questions to help experienced people reimagine the “coolness” in a B2B brand they long ago stopped seeing as intriguing.

3. Showcase an Industrial Brand through Its Customers

To generalize one of Craig Coffey’s comments, “No one will ever care more about what your product does than you do.” The goal then becomes getting people to care about what your product enables them to do. But how do you build brand identity and awareness for an industrial brand that is better known based on the customers who use it than for what it does?

These situations create an opportunity to put customers front and center in brand stories, letting happy customers talk about what the brand enables them to do.

For Lincoln Electric, this thinking led to telling customers’ stories that are positioned not as “by” Lincoln Electric, but where the brand is instead “with” customers.

For a great story where the product is in the background yet its importance is unquestioned, check out this Lincoln Electric video. As I tweeted during Crag’s presentation, when you’re 4,000 feet over the Grand Canyon walking on a glass bridge, you want your welds to be DAMN good!

Ultimately brands can find it challenging to downplay their own products in the interests of playing up other engaging elements, but Lincoln Electric shows it can be a smart brand strategy to do so. – Mike Brown

 

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Learn all about how Mike Brown’s workshops on creating strategic impact can boost your organization’s success!

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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Seth Godin wrote a post last week that seemed to be the inverse of his book, “The Dip.”  (Affiliate Link)

PeakWhile “The Dip” was about the deep trough that can take place right before things take off (or don’t), this new blog post called “The Moderation Glitch” was about “The Peak.”

This Seth Godin post discussed the challenge of knowing when the marginal benefits from your strategy peak and additional incremental efforts will yield negative rates of incremental benefit.

As is frequently the case, the blog post was more about pointing out a problem than how to do something about it. In fact, Seth Godin offered little in the way of even knowing WHEN you hit the peak.

That’s where this piece comes in.

While we don’t have the answer to WHEN the peak happens for your brand, his article got me thinking about questions you should be asking to better understand your peak as early as possible so you can take appropriate strategic action.

6 Strategic Thinking Questions for “The Moderation Glitch”

So from the Brainzooming strategic thinking R&D Lab, here are six strategic thinking questions to aid in estimating the potential timing of the peak Seth Godin identifies and who might help anticipate its arrival.

Gauging the Peak’s Timing

  • How long do customers in your market typically stick with something before moving to the next new thing? Cut that number by 1/3 or by 1/2 – or maybe 3/4 to get a sense of when you should start looking for the peak.
  • How long do you need your current strategic direction to work before you’d be okay with it falling apart on you since you’ll be doing something better already?

Use the answers to these two strategic thinking questions to estimate the initial timing expectations for when the peak may appear.

Identifying Your Strategic Guides

  • Whose sense of fatigue with this strategy will be the best indicator that it’s “enough” – whether it’s enough in the opinion of your customers, your organization, or someone else?
  • Will your salespeople or Finance people first know that things aren’t as good as they have been – or will it be your market research people or someone else?
  • Who understands the leading indicators in your business?
  • Who in your organization isn’t so enamored with the current strategic direction that they are willing to step away from it before everyone else in order to start thinking about the NEXT strategic direction?

Based on answers to these strategic thinking questions, you can identify the canaries in YOUR coalmine – those individuals who will sense a problem before anyone else does.

It’s impossible in one article to figure out your peak moment (or peak period). In just a few moments, however, you can document a better sense of your timing and the canaries who will signal it’s too late WHEN it’s too late, as opposed to AFTER it is too late. – Mike Brown

 

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

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 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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2

I saved the October 2013 issue of Fast Company, its 10th annual innovation by design issue, from the recycle bin when my wife we de-cluttering for me. To justify saving the innovation by design issue from recycling oblivion, I combed through the brand profile articles in the innovation by design section to identify these fourteen strategic thinking questions as innovation starters for 2014.

Strategic-QuestionsYou can use these strategic thinking questions as inspiration for taking advantage of innovation and change, addressing change challenges, and shoring up your brand’s customer experience.

Creating Innovation and Change

  • After you’ve identified the absolutely essential elements of your brand, how can you start changing all the other elements right away?
  • What might be the place or way you start every new initiative so they are all solidly grounded in your brand?
  • How can you more aggressively prototype the huge change you need to start making right away?
  • What can you change that, if it didn’t work, could be completely restored to how it was before?
  • How about expecting everyone in your organization to create something new and improved EVERY day?

Addressing Change Challenges

  • Who in your organization is obsessed with problem solving, and what are you doing to keep them busy solving problems for clients?
  • If you’re trying to inject new thinking into an old organization, what is the senior leader in charge of innovation doing to morph corporate oldsters into new thinkers?
  • What ways can you track things people originally hated about the new big change that they now love – so you can use it to sell-in the NEXT big change?
  • How can you deliberately move the “How do we build it?” question until later in the innovation process?

Improving a Brand’s Customer Experience

  • What are the two next-most detailed questions you can explore about your brand’s customer experience?
  • How are you determining the “ooh and ahh” moments of your new ideas before and after you introduce them?
  • In what ways are you figuring out what you need to deliver to customer’s in the future beyond asking them – since they likely don’t know what they are going to need?
  • How are you improving your ability to prioritize and align disparate innovation processes in different parts of your organization so they maximize value for customers?
  • If you considered everything you have accomplished so far as “day one,” where could you be at the end of “day two”?  – Mike Brown

 

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

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 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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4

For those executives still developing strategies aimed at creating strategic impact and dramatically better business results, we’ve opened up the Brainzooming strategic thinking R&D lab once again to share fifteen newly developed, innovative strategic planning questions.

15 Innovative Strategic Planning Questions for Better Business Results

2014-QuestionsThis group of innovative strategic planning questions is heavy on identifying new market, product, and competitive opportunities to challenge your organization in dramatically expanding the benefits you deliver to your customers.

Fostering  Innovative, Disruptive Ideas

Identifying Innovative Strategic Opportunities

Creating Competitive Advantage

  • What markets can we rapidly move into where we have an underdog’s advantages?
  • How can we do something so big and challenging in a new market that current players will have to follow us, thereby bolstering our market development efforts?
  • How can we go around any parties standing between our clients and our brand in order to simplify buying for our consumers?
  • How can we realize scale economies in new ways through serving and supplying remote, low-density markets from a high-density location?

Prioritizing Market Strategy Opportunities

  • What will it take to dramatically improve the clarity of our marketing message by reducing the number of DIFFERENT messages we blast into the universe?
  • In what ways can we make it easier and more rewarding for our broad audience to share their opinions and take buying action on them?
  • Within our content marketing, what has to change to address five additional facets of both the human and business dimensions of our audience?
  • How do we craft a social media approach that still works hard for us if Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, or some other high-profile social network went away next year?

Addressing Professional Development

  • What are my personal and professional development dreams, and what roadblocks do I need to eliminate (or simply ignore) to bring them to reality next year?

 

Need more help with creating strategic impact – now and next year?

If you need an additional push for your organization in creating strategic impact and dramatically better business results, The Brainzooming Group is here to assist you, tapping into our experience designing and implementing hundreds of strategy sessions to deliver real results.  Email us at info@brainzooming.com or call us at 816-509-5320 to learn how we can help you enhance your strategy and implementation efforts. – Mike Brown

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“How strong is my organization’s social media strategy?”

9 Diagnostics to Check Your Social Strategy

Is your social media implementation working as well as it can? In less than 60 minutes with the new FREE Brainzooming ebook “9 Diagnostics to Check Your Social Strategy,” you’ll have a precise answer to this question.

Any executive can make a thorough yet rapid evaluation of nine different dimensions of their social media strategies with these nine diagnostics. Download Your Free Copy of “9 Diagnostics to Check Your Social Strategy.”

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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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November 10 is the anniversary of the Brainzooming blog’s launch, introducing our strategic thinking manifesto, which originally appeared as the first five Brainzooming blog articles.

The Brainzooming strategic thinking manifesto is the foundation of our business philosophy and how we are creating strategic impact for clients. Yet when it was published at the blog’s launch, there was no other Brainzooming content online to which we could link key concepts.

Now, several years into writing daily articles on strategy, creativity, innovation, and social media, there is ample online content elaborating on the Brainzooming concepts strategic thinking manifesto introduced. To mark this year’s anniversary of the blog and launching The Brainzooming Group, it’s time to re-share the manifesto. This updated version includes supporting links and updates to reflect the learning and growth from The Brainzooming Group client work since our launch.

Creating Strategic Impact – The Updated Brainzooming Manifesto

Dilbert-ThinkerPreparing our original presentation on cultivating strategic thinking, current literature suggested a significant gap between senior management expectations and the impact from strategic thinking. Senior leaders have strong expectations about their employees’ abilities to think strategically and how much time their senior teams should spend on strategic issues. One survey reported senior leaders expected to spend 1/3 of their time on strategic issues. Another survey found though that senior teams self-report spending less than 1 hour per month, if any time at all, on strategic issues.

Why the discrepancy?

We repeatedly see one or more of these reasons present in organizations struggling with strategic impact:

Through meaningfully changing strategic thinking perspectives, it’s possible to address each of these gaps, and involve many individuals throughout an organization into clearly beneficial strategic thinking roles with great results.

Defining Strategic Thinking Simply

One reason strategic thinking doesn’t take place is there isn’t a clear understanding of what strategic thinking is. As a result, ill-fated attempts to be “strategic” fall short, creating a reluctance to broadly address strategy.

The Brainzooming Group starts with a simple definition for strategic thinking: Addressing Things that Matter with Insight & Innovation.

There are three important elements in the definition to  shape productive strategic thinking and invite greater participation and results.

“Things that Matter” – Strategic thinking focuses on fundamental opportunities & issues driving the business, not on far away things irrelevant to creating strategic impact. Successfully focusing on things that matter implies being able to:
  • Understand the Overall Business & Direction – What’s important to the business and its customers – past, present, & future? There are various questions whose answers identify this, but one of the best is, “What are we trying to achieve?” You can always return to this question to re-set a discussion stuck in the weeds.
  • Recognize there are Multiple Strategic Viewpoints – What’s strategic differs on whether your view is company-wide, departmental, functional, or personal. While the strategic views within an organization should be interconnected, what’s strategic will differ between senior management and a specific department. Because of this, it’s vital to clearly identify which view your strategic thinking is addressing.
  • Take “Time” Out of Your Definition of Strategic – Strategic issues can take place this afternoon just as easily as in the future; just because something won’t come to pass for years doesn’t necessarily make it strategic. If you don’t realize this, you’ll never address strategic discussions because pressing issues (which may be hugely strategic) are viewed as tactics requiring immediate solutions – and thinking seems to slow things down, thwarting progress.
  • Use Strategic Thinking Exercises Intended to Creatively Tackle Challenging Issues – Using strategic thinking exercises helps neutralize traditional (potentially biased) perspectives, reducing unproductive politics and blind spots stifling creating strategic impact.

“Insight” – Strategic thinking starts with relevant insights gained from inside and outside the organization. Combining and analyzing diverse information allows you to identify relationships leading to creating strategic impact. You can start by assessing your strategic position in new and different ways through robust strategic thinking exercises.

“Innovation” – One of the best approaches to anticipate future relevant events is considering multiple perspectives and exploring a full range of possibilities that may develop. Simple question-based exercises foster a more innovative look at the business.

Awakening Strategic Thinking

If senior managers are the only ones sanctioned to think strategically in an organization, there is a real problem. A company’s senior team tends to view the world in a relatively homogenous manner – from having shared experiences to holding a common perspective on the company and the market. Shaking up that sameness and familiarity is vital.

Great strategic thinking springs from diverse perspectives, cultivated and managed toward a view of the current & future business environment that increases the likelihood of creating strategic impact. Achieving this means spreading strategic thinking responsibility throughout the business.

Here are some fundamentals for accomplishing this:

Keep track of who is thinking and how they think – In bringing people together for strategic thinking, make sure three vital perspectives are represented with people that have:

  • Solid, front-line business experience (to help frame business issues)
  • Broad functional knowledge (with an understanding of capabilities)
  • Creative energy (acting as catalysts to view things in new & unconventional ways)

Invest time in productive thinking – Create and protect time for strategic thinking. This requires a willingness to invest dedicated time to consider many possibilities, to narrow focus to the best ones, and then develop & implement the best strategies. Focused time helps create an environment where people can selectively turn off conventional wisdom, triggering many more possibilities.

Use structure to increase output and efficiency – In initial phases, brainstorming techniques help productively manage how people with varied perspectives can increase the number of ideas generated very efficiently. Some starting principles include:

New Types of Strategic Thinking Tools

A challenge with standard strategic planning approaches is people are familiar with standard strategic planning questions and answers. Additionally, if people are entering strategic planning with long histories inside an organization, they know the expected answers to standard strategic planning questions.

Aligned with typical areas addressed during strategic planning, here are some of the alternative paths The Brainzooming Group uses to reach vital insights leading to creating strategic impact.

Combo-ExercisesStrengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats

Vital Trends and Innovative Directions

Setting Priorities

Creating Strategic Impact

Strategic thinking often falls short because specific outcomes are difficult to trace to original strategic thinking or planning effort.

Beyond approaches covered previously to focus strategic thinking, broaden participation, and increase its rigor, a several principles can help create more tangible outcomes.

Creating-a-Strategic-ImpactBe prepared with a rigorous prioritization approach – Frequently, 5 to 15% of the possibilities from a strategic thinking session have near-term development potential or strong relevance. A great first pass prioritization approach is to approximate the number of ideas your team has generated and divide it by 5 to arrive at 20% of the ideas. Divide this total by the number of participants; the result represents how many ideas each person will be able to select based on their belief in an idea’s strength and/or potential.

Let participants start narrowing – With their individual idea “allowances” set, participants can begin selecting ideas that they’ll take through the prioritization process. Ideas chosen can be their own or those of others. The important thing is that participants believe in the ideas they select.

After each team member selects ideas, have them make an initial assessment of each idea using the following questions – What are the idea’s strengths? What are the idea’s weaknesses? What’s unexpected or unusual about the idea relative to the status quo? What’s your initial recommendation about how the idea could be addressed? It’s beneficial to share these initial thoughts aloud to familiarize group members with previously overlooked ideas.

Perform individual ranking with group input – Following the initial report-out, use a 4-box grid to allow individuals to place their ideas relative to two dimensions:

  • Potential Impact – On a scale from Minimal to Dramatic
  • Implementation Ease – On a scale from Easy to Difficult

Brainstorming-Session-Contribute-to-SuccessOnce individuals have placed ideas on the grid, talk through each one to see what support or challenges exist within the group. Typically, team members will overstate the number of easy to implement ideas expected to have dramatic impact. If true, these ideas are very attractive, but often they’ll have less impact or may be more difficult to implement than originally suspected.

Don’t be afraid to consider moving an idea if there’s a clear view from the group that it’s stronger or weaker than its original placement. The result of this combined individual-group exercise should be a much more refined set of ideas, with a good deal of input to set the stage for selecting a few ideas that will be pursued further for development.

Keep track of what’s left over – It pays to track ideas that aren’t selected initially. These often resurface later and it’s nice to be able to tie them back to the strategic thinking efforts that you’ve been conducting.

From Strategic Thinking to Creating Strategic Impact

Ideally you are better prepared to cultivate strategic thinking as a precursor to creating strategic impact in your department or business. Subscribe to the Brainzooming blog, seek ongoing learning, and schedule time soon for fruitful strategic thinking! And if you need ehlp to start or deliver results, let us know. We’d love to help you in creating strategic impact. – Mike Brown

 

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

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 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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