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First-time workshop questions always trigger blog posts. A new question from last week’s Outside-In Brand Innovation Brainzooming Workshop at the Brand Strategy Conference is no exception.

The intimate size of the brand innovation workshop afforded a rare opportunity. The participants decided to select one brand from among the attendees with everyone working together on outside-in innovation exercises for that brand. Using this approach with the strategic thinking questions, we created a tremendous jumpstart for a B2C brand whose brand manager admitted struggling with differentiating itself from its closest direct competitor.

The group’s responses to the strategic thinking questions and their brand innovation ideas filled many easel-sized Post-it pages.

Modifiers

7 Keys to Creating a Brand Toolkit for Brand Innovation

The voluminous poster-based output led one participant to ask what we do AFTER the strategic thinking questions and exercises to document the Brainzooming results.

That’s something I don’t typically cover in workshops, especially since most involve participants working on exercises individually.

After reviewing the poster photos to begin documenting a session, here are the next strategic thinking questions we ask ourselves to create actionable report outs:

  1. What big ideas jump off the page (or stand out in our memories) as natural big messages?
  2. What are big ideas people overlooked that should be brought to the forefront?
  3. Are there big themes that emerge when we aggregate multiple ideas from across exercises?
  4. How do we best call attention to the expected deliverables and outcomes from the workshop?
  5. If we are putting results into a table or matrix, are there obvious dimensions for organizing them? Are there less obvious dimensions to organize them in new ways?
  6. Were there any ideas that took my breath away when they were suggested? (From our Brand Strategy Conference workshop, one attendee shared an insight that could be a million dollar idea for a differentiated brand position. Those ideas make me gasp when they emerge.)
  7. Are there interesting parts of ideas that emerged during different exercises that need to be put together?

Asking and answering strategic thinking questions such as these helps develop what we characterize as a “strategic brand toolkit.” A brand toolkit (in electronic form) provides a brand manager so many possibilities for ongoing brand innovation.

Does that sound like what your brand needs?

Let’s talk about making it happen for your brand! – Mike Brown

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

 

Looking for Brand Innovation to Grow Your Business? Brainzooming Has an Answer!

Brainzooming Outside-In Innovation Strategic Thinking Tools eBookBusiness growth can depend on introducing new products and services that resonate more strongly with customers and deliver outstanding value.

Are you prepared to take better advantage of your brand’s customer and market insights to generate innovative product ideas? The right combination of outside perspectives and productive strategic thinking exercises enables your brand to ideate, prioritize, and propel innovative growth.

Download this free, concise ebook to:

  • Identify your organization’s innovation profile
  • Rapidly deploy effective strategic thinking exercises to spur innovation
  • Incorporate market-based perspectives into your innovation strategy in successful ways

Download this FREE ebook to turn ideas into actionable innovation strategies to drive your organization’s comeback!


Download Your Free  Outside-In Innovation Strategic Thinking eBook

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 compare how we approach creating Brainzooming strategic thinking workshops to how a band develops a live music set list for a concert. For example, I read somewhere that when Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band go out on tour, they have more than two hundred songs ready to slot into any one concert. They play some songs nearly all the time; other songs might only appear once.

That’s comparable to how we select specific strategic thinking questions and exercises from among our large (and always growing) repertoire for a client session. We include some exercises (in one form or another) in nearly every workshop. These are supplemented by less frequently used strategic thinking exercises serving a particular role to address a client’s needs.

Similarly, we select specific exercises to teach at conference workshops to best address a particular conference topic or learning objective. For the Brand Strategy Conference in San Francisco, we used the Outside-In Innovation Fake Book of Strategic Thinking Exercises as the basis for a brand innovation workshop. We concentrated on how companies can use customer, market, competitor, and other external, outside-in looks for brand innovation.

8 Strategic Thinking Exercises for Brand Innovation

Among the sixteen exercises in the Fake Book, we picked eight that were most relevant for brand innovators. Want to apply them to your own brand innovation needs? Here is the set list we used in the workshop (along with the Fake Book page numbers):

1. Looking at Your Brand as a Set of Benefits (Page 7)

This brand innovation exercise is central to most of the following benefits-based exercises that unlock innovation opportunities.

2. New Ways to Enhance Benefit Delivery (Page 8)

Using your audience’s needs, this exercise lets you imagine new ways to address them through the brand experience.

3. Innovating Brand Experience Proof Points (Page 12)

This exercise explores ways you currently deliver and could potentially strengthen your brand experience backstage and onstage.

Brand-Experience-Mapping

4. Determining Your Benefit-Based Competitors (Page 8)

Your competitive set looks dramatically different when you identify competitors based on brands delivering comparable benefits (instead of simply picking those that look like your brand).

5. Identifying New Markets (Page 10)

If your brand is seeking growth, where else can you deliver benefits central to your brand in new markets? This exercise yields the answers.

6. Messaging Benefits in New Ways (Page 9)

There may be many brands in diverse markets providing benefits comparable to yours. Go to school to discover new ways to sharpen and improve your messaging.

7. Deconstructing What Your Brand Does (Page 22)

One of our favorite exercises (What’s It Like?) provides multiple strategic and brand innovation ideas to change the game for your brand.

8. Disrupt or Be Disrupted (Page 20)

There’s no one way to disrupt your brand or others in the marketplace. These strategic thinking questions are a starting point, however, to imagine a range of potential disruptions.

 

If you have brand management responsibilities in your position, download the Outside-In Innovation Fake Book today (it’s still free to download!).

Then you can use this set of exercises to start thinking about your brand in a dramatically new way.

Chances are, there will be a million dollar idea in there for your brand too! – Mike Brown

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

 

Looking for Brand Innovation to Grow Your Business? Brainzooming Has an Answer!

Brainzooming Outside-In Innovation Strategic Thinking Tools eBookBusiness growth can depend on introducing new products and services that resonate more strongly with customers and deliver outstanding value.

Are you prepared to take better advantage of your brand’s customer and market insights to generate innovative product ideas? The right combination of outside perspectives and productive strategic thinking exercises enables your brand to ideate, prioritize, and propel innovative growth.

Download this free, concise ebook to:

  • Identify your organization’s innovation profile
  • Rapidly deploy effective strategic thinking exercises to spur innovation
  • Incorporate market-based perspectives into your innovation strategy in successful ways

Download this FREE ebook to turn ideas into actionable innovation strategies to drive your organization’s comeback!


Download Your Free  Outside-In Innovation Strategic Thinking eBook

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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You want input from your employees and partners on your branding strategy, but you cannot afford the risk of the input getting out of control.

Why the big risk?

DSCF6618

You are two-thirds of the way toward finishing your brand strategy development. And, while you are seeking input from others, you cannot afford the input to needlessly and non-strategically unwind the branding strategy work you have already finalized.

One option is to not seek any input. Another is to stipulate to certain topics are off limits. Another is to have a town hall type meeting (a few individual speakers with lots of listeners) so people have to acknowledge (if they’re being honest) they were in the room as the branding strategy was discussed, even if very few of them had a chance to offer ideas.

All of those options are weak.

Not soliciting input sets you up for multiple issues, including looking as if you are trying to hide something. Taking certain topics off the table makes it OBVIOUS you are hiding something. Holding a town hall meeting runs the risk of exposing your most negative and toxic audience members to the widest possible audience.

3 Ways to Invite Productive Branding Strategy Input

The far better alternative is bringing your larger audience together and maximizing the benefit of the input they provide through several techniques:

  • Have them work in small groups (which you assign or let naturally develop) so each person have a greater opportunity to contribute.
  • Give them specific questions to respond that focus on areas where you need input you can actually consider and incorporate.
  • Provide a way to capture their input and conversations in a way they can easily share it with you.

Using this type of approach, you can focus interested brand participants on topics that are additive to your branding strategy. And it ideas or other input surfaces that runs counter to your strategic direction, you can see it in the small group output and react in a sound strategic way – rather than having to field a hot question off-the-cuff in a big audience setting.

Want to learn more about the opportunity and value of incorporating more voices in developing strategy? Download our latest RESULTS!!! mini-book to learn more about the advantages of dramatically growing the perspectives shaping your strategy. Do you have many things you want your employees to understand about your corporate branding strategy, what they should be doing to carry it out, and how they should interact with customers to fulfill your brand promise? – Mike Brown

10 Lessons to Engage Employees and Drive Improved Results

FREE Download: “Results!!! Creating Strategic Impact”

Results!!! Creating Strategic Impact Mini-Book

Senior executives are looking for employees who are strong collaborators and communicators while being creative and flexible. In short they need strategic thinkers who can develop strategy and turn it into results.

This new Brainzooming mini-book, “Results – Creating Strategic Impact” unveils ten proven lessons for senior executives to increase strategic collaboration, employee engagement, and grow revenues for their organizations.

Download this free, action-focused mini-book to:

  • Learn smart ways to separate strategic opportunities from the daily noise of business
  • Increase focus for your team with productive strategy questions everyone can use
  • Actively engage more employees in strategy AND implementation success

Download Your FREE   Results!!!  Creating Strategic Impact Mini-book

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

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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Do you have many things you want your employees to understand about your corporate branding strategy, what they should be doing to carry it out, and how they should interact with customers to fulfill your brand promise?

Do you have lots to say about your corporate branding strategy, but no time or opportunity to say it all?

Try these four ideas to prioritize internal messages for employees to help them understand and carry out your corporate branding strategy.

1. Crafting Brief Internal Brand Messages

This idea is from a corporate branding consultant. Assemble all the internal brand messages you hope to share with employees and put them to this test:

“If you had 3 minutes, a megaphone, and all your employees in the parking lot, what would you say?”

Three minutes translates to approximately four hundred words – about this blog post’s length. With that limit, which internal brand messages will make the cut?

2. Even Shorter Internal Brand Messages

This puts your messages to the tougher elevator speech test:

“If you have a 30-second elevator ride, what internal brand message would you want your employees to be able to share with customers (knowing they also have to understand, explain, and carry out that message)?

In crafting the elevator speech, what elements of the brand promise, brand benefits, and points of differentiation are vital?

Elevator-Picture

3. Creating Instantaneous Brand Messages

At a long-ago workshop, author Jay Conrad Levinson challenged the marketers to develop brand memes. Levinson used “meme” to represent a symbol or icon instantly recognizable that conveys your brand and its promise to customers.

A text-based logo with a bland brand name doesn’t pass this test. In that case, what else could you depict to instantly allow customers to get your brand, what it stands for, and what it does?

101002 The Brainzooming Group Logo - No Tagline copy

Our Meme

4. First, Last, Only Corporate Branding Strategy Messages

This final idea is a variation on a reminder for getting the most from church: What would you want your first brand message to employees to be? What would you want your last brand message to employees to be? And if you could deliver only one brand message to employees, what would it include?

Have three individuals or groups answer this question separately. Look for the common messages among the three scenarios. Those are the ones to prioritize.

From Corporate Branding Strategy to Internal Brand Messages

Try these four ideas to prioritize your internal brand messages and fashion something employees can understand, remember, and carry out successfully.  – Mike Brown

10 Lessons to Engage Employees and Drive Improved Results

FREE Download: “Results!!! Creating Strategic Impact”

Results!!! Creating Strategic Impact Mini-Book

Senior executives are looking for employees who are strong collaborators and communicators while being creative and flexible. In short they need strategic thinkers who can develop strategy and turn it into results.

This new Brainzooming mini-book, “Results – Creating Strategic Impact” unveils ten proven lessons for senior executives to increase strategic collaboration, employee engagement, and grow revenues for their organizations.

Download this free, action-focused mini-book to:

  • Learn smart ways to separate strategic opportunities from the daily noise of business
  • Increase focus for your team with productive strategy questions everyone can use
  • Actively engage more employees in strategy AND implementation success

Download Your FREE   Results!!!  Creating Strategic Impact Mini-book

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

 

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 your brand has been battered in the marketplace, you need to develop and implement a turnaround corporate branding strategy. Having been there and done that with a Fortune 500 business-to-business brand, here are five keys to successful turnaround branding.

5 Keys to a Successful Turnaround Corporate Branding Strategy

Traffic-Circle

1. Be prepared for a multi-front branding battle.

A turnaround corporate branding strategy is not a one front battle. If a brand were just a logo, it would be. Since a brand is more than a new ad and a new logo, however, you must fight the turnaround branding battle on multiple fronts. That involves the brand’s strategic foundation, its people, product and service quality, brand cues, and communications channels.

2. Ask questions and pursue facts relentlessly.

Facts are at the heart of driving turnaround branding strategy. Got big data? Got small data? Either way, use it to form strategies and decisions. You have to ensure you are listening everywhere for what customers, the marketplace, competitors, and other stakeholders are “telling” you about your brand position.

3. The real competitive threat isn’t always the obvious one.

It’s easy to think the competitors you are up against with your turnaround branding strategy are the competitors that look like your own brand. It’s vital, however, to identify potential competitive substitutes – even unconventional ones – for the benefits your brand delivers. Niche players could become the competitors that disrupt and crush your turnaround branding efforts.

4. Figure out what your brand is really about in the minds of customers.

Determine what your brand represents right now in the marketplace and what opportunities there are to change your position. Exploring the benefits the brand currently delivers and has the opportunity to start delivering could lead to a very different position than what the brand currently occupies.

5. Your brand story needs to be simple, consistent, and visible.

Getting ready to deliver on your updated brand promise means everything has to be aligned, beginning with alignment to your brand culture. Enabling the brand promise starts with having the right people in place, then training and developing them to carry out what you tell the marketplace you’ll do. The key is making sure everything is ready behind the scenes before you start talking to the market.

A Corporate Branding Strategy Caution

Don’t be fooled by there being just five turnaround corporate branding strategy steps on this list. There’s a lot contained in those five steps, so start early and keep at it!  – Mike Brown

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

 

Looking for Brand Innovation to Grow Your Business? Brainzooming Has an Answer!

Brainzooming Outside-In Innovation Strategic Thinking Tools eBookBusiness growth can depend on introducing new products and services that resonate more strongly with customers and deliver outstanding value.

Are you prepared to take better advantage of your brand’s customer and market insights to generate innovative product ideas? The right combination of outside perspectives and productive strategic thinking exercises enables your brand to ideate, prioritize, and propel innovative growth.

Download this free, concise ebook to:

  • Identify your organization’s innovation profile
  • Rapidly deploy effective strategic thinking exercises to spur innovation
  • Incorporate market-based perspectives into your innovation strategy in successful ways

Download this FREE ebook to turn ideas into actionable innovation strategies to drive your organization’s comeback!


Download Your Free  Outside-In Innovation Strategic Thinking eBook

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’s natural for engineers and operations people to be at odds with marketers over innovation strategy.

The engineering and operations view of the world typically focuses on internal perspectives and ensuring processes conform to standards, are efficient, and cost as little as possible. Success from this perspective is just enough performance relative to the costs incurred.

Marketers typically take a drastically different view.

As natural customer advocates, marketers are more likely to push for an innovation strategy that dramatically differentiates a brand’s customer experience. A marketer will focus on what will be different, attractive to the market, and sell strongly. After that’s solved, they figure out the rest. So instead of the threshold orientation operators advocate, marketers are looking to maximize and create significant advantages in the brand experience.

Spending many years in a B2B transportation and logistics company, I was usually standing in the middle of the street at the intersection of “do just enough” and “do everything possible.”

Trying to better our odds of innovation success and secure the help of the operations team, we used an approach one consultant originally called, “Operationally Smart Marketing.” At the concept’s heart is the idea that pushing for a more robust innovation strategy in an operationally-oriented environment requires being intimately familiar with the roadblocks operations might raise in order to innovate around them.

Closed-Road-Or-Not

This approach can appear counter to a customer-first, outside-in innovation strategy. From experience, however, this strategy is more productive than falling on the sword for innovations that WOULD maximize customer value IF they were ever implemented, but that you can NEVER get implemented.

An “Operationally Smart Marketing” Innovation Strategy

As a marketer, what are your starting points for operationally smart marketing?

Try asking and answering these strategic thinking questions:

  • What drives profitability in the business?
  • How do important operational factors play into whether there is a bigger or smaller opportunity for a bold innovation strategy?
  • Are there certain parts of the business that provide disproportionately greater innovation opportunities?
  • What factors make for disproportionately outstanding efficiency and operational performance? Can they be aligned to increase customer value?
  • What are the critical success factors for the best quality performance your organization can deliver?
  • Are there things customers might be incented to do to enhance performance AND improve the customer experience?
  • Is there anything we didn’t ask about?

This last question is particularly important. I came across many cases where operations people would answer only the question asked without ever volunteering ideas to expand possibilities or introduce greater operational variations. That’s why you should always ask point blank about what else might be possible you didn’t anticipate.

Knowing the relevant constraints and possibilities from the operations side can be vital to turning the strategy approaches we discuss in our Outside-in Innovation eBook (which you can download below) into success within a strong operational environment.  – Mike Brown

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

 

Looking for Outside-In Innovation to Grow Your Business? Brainzooming Has an Answer!

Brainzooming Outside-In Innovation Strategic Thinking Tools eBookBusiness growth can depend on introducing new products and services that resonate strongly with customers and deliver outstanding value.

Are you prepared to take better advantage of your brand’s customer and market insights to generate innovative product ideas? The right combination of outside perspectives and productive strategic thinking exercises enables your brand to ideate, prioritize, and propel innovative growth.

Download this free, concise Outside-In Innovation ebook to:

  • Identify your organization’s innovation profile
  • Rapidly deploy effective strategic thinking exercises to spur innovation
  • Incorporate market-based perspectives into your innovation strategy in successful ways

Download this FREE ebook to turn ideas into actionable innovation strategies to drive growth!


Download Your Free  Outside-In Innovation Strategic Thinking eBook

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 an unwanted opportunity lands in your lap unexpectedly. Maybe it’s an opportunity you expressed interest in prior to it landing in your lap.

Either way, when it ultimately presents itself, it’s an opportunity you are not really interested in accepting.

Do you just come out and say, “No,” to the opportunity?

Maybe that’s what you do. Maybe turning down the opportunity is absolutely the best thing to do.

How about stopping for some strategic thinking first?

Stop-Sign-Wrong

Maybe it’s best, however, to stop and do a little strategic thinking about the undesirable opportunity and consider one of these alternatives:

  • Negotiate to improve the opportunity so it’s more attractive.
  • See if you can defer it to a time when it better fits your objectives.
  • Consider whether there is someone else you can share the opportunity with that would benefit more than you would.
  • Separate out the part of it that is attractive and decline the remainder
  • Sub-contract the opportunity to someone else.
  • Ignore your qualms (i.e., if you tend to over-analyze and look at things too negatively) and pursue it anyway to see how it pans out.
  • Make the opportunity work for just as long as you need it to work, and then abandon it.

There are no hard and fast rules about what taking some time for strategic thinking might yield in the way of viable alternatives.

Just be careful of believing you’re so smart and self-assured that turning down what seems initially to be an unwanted opportunity will still be the correct assessment after you’ve paused for a little strategic thinking.

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ebook-cover-redoBoost Your Creativity with “Taking the NO Out of InNOvation”

Download our FREE “Taking the No Out of InNOvation eBook to help you generate extreme creativity and ideas! For organizational innovation success, contact The Brainzooming Group to help your team be more successful by rapidly expanding strategic options and creating innovative growth strategies. Email us at info@brainzooming.com or call us at 816-509-5320 to learn how we can deliver these benefits for you.

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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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