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The latest social media “strategy” to land off the mark, be co-opted by the crowd, and subsequently crashed into the ground comes via Bill Cosby.

As Internet reports recount, a meme creator was installed on the Bill Cosby website. Using the meme creator, visitors could combine classic reaction photos of the comedian coupled with the visitor’s own funny / pithy / scathing / inflammatory copy to create a shareable meme.

Within a short time, the tone of the user-generated memes turned scathing and inflammatory as the crowd started creating memes directly centered on long-standing rape allegations against Bill Cosby.

To deal with the meme debacle, the meme creator was removed, and the Cosby camp tried to eliminate evidence that the whole thing ever happened.

This joins a string of examples and brand lessons where a brand, as part of its social media strategy, decided some type of user-generated content would be great to promote the brand because all user-generated content for big brands goes viral on social media (yes, I’m being sarcastic, but it’s what many brands seem to believe).

Exploring the Downside of Social Media Strategy with User-Generated Content

In case your brand (or an agency that does not know any better) is thinking about a comparable social media strategy resting on giving your brand’s fans the venue, the means, and/or the opportunity to express their opinions about your brand in an “organized” manner, please run through these questions first. PLEASE. For your own good:

  • Have we thoroughly “listened,” both online and offline, to the very worst things our brand’s haters are saying, even if they are being said by one crackpot that NO ONE would ever listen to?
  • When we put together and read the list of all the things we hear our brand haters saying, how much of the list would we regret all of our current audience starting to hear and believe?
  • How much of the aforementioned brand hater list would we regret our potential audience learning as they form their first impressions of our brand?
  • How much more attention will our brand haters receive (than they do currently) if we were to share with them the most visible venue our brand has ever used to get our message out to our audience?

Exploring an Alternative Social Media Strategy

Now compare the cumulative impact of all that potential downsides against what we hope to accomplish with this social media strategy . . . More people visiting our website? Extending our brand’s reach? Getting more people to talk about our brand? Free PR? Or something that’s not even that well defined? Are any of these impacts big enough that we’re willing to risk the potential downside?

If we’re not willing to risk the downside (including the exposure of all our brand’s dirty little secrets), how can we adapt this social media strategy, exploring ways to:

  • Give the public a narrow set of choices with which to generate content instead of encouraging open-ended creativity on their part?
  • Filter the user-generated content first and then giving greater exposure to only the best examples?
  • Celebrate the great content our brand fans are already sharing without being heavy-handed about it?

So how about that social media strategy tied to user-generated content?

A Smarter Social Media Strategy Approach

Running through this exercise should, ideally, put things in a lot better perspective when it comes to thinking user-generated content is the answer to a great social media strategy for your brand.

Maybe there is value to it, and your brand haters aren’t THAT bad. Or maybe you can adapt the strategy to reduce the potential downside significantly.

Either way, you owe it to your brand to do this type of strategic thinking before you give the power of your brand’s attention and its big corporate microphone to the people who most hate what your brand does and what your brand represents. – Mike Brown

 

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

9 Diagnostics to Check Your Social Strategy

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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.”

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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During our Brainzooming “Outside-In Innovation” workshop at the Compete Through Service Symposium, participants applied several of our benefits-based strategic thinking exercises.

These inter-related strategic thinking exercises help explore higher-impact benefits. These longer benefit lists highlight new innovation opportunities, improve messaging, and suggest potential competitors.

One participant struggled on the strategic thinking exercise to identify competitors. Participants were trying to list three types of organizations delivering comparable benefits to their own. The three types are:

  • Expected competitors – Those on a brand’s typical competitor list
  • Surprising competitors – Dissimilar organizations that could still clearly be competitors
  • Left Field competitors – Completely non-traditional, out of category organizations that could possibly compete with yours

As an example, here’s a left field competitor someone identified. A health insurance company selected Google as a left field competitor. Google has massive amounts of information on healthcare needs. It could also introduce ways to collect more. Additionally, Google has dabbled with delivering online healthcare.

The participant stymied in pushing his thinking on left field competitors asked for help to push further.

Left-Field-Fenway

Two Other Ideas to Imagine Potential Left Field Competitors

As is often the case, one great way to push your thinking into new areas is to combo multiple strategic thinking exercises.

Strategic Thinking Exercise Idea 1 – What’s It Like?

If you’re challenged by identifying unlikely but potentially emerging competitors, you can combo the benefits approach with the “What’s It Like” strategic thinking exercise.

In “What’s It Like,” you list five diverse characteristics of your business situation. You use this list to explore others organizations facing the same types of generalized situations.

To imagine more unusual potential competitor possibilities, you could pick various combinations of only two of the five characteristics. What left field competitors might match just two characteristics similar to yours? The answer can still tie to what you do. But using only two common characteristics should create room for a wilder exploration of potential left field competitors.

Strategic Thinking Exercise Idea 2 – What’s Getting in the Way?

The recent story we shared from Armada Corporate Intelligence about how the Oreo brand is staying fresh inspired another way to spot left field competitors.

Oreo identified online video games as a competitor. The reasons were consumers play with video games – and spend discretionary dollars on them – while they wait in retail lines instead of looking at (and buying from) Oreo point-of-sale displays.

Cookies and online video games competing is a pretty left field comparison, if you ask me.

You can identify comparable left field competitor comparisons. Explore how else your customers may be using the time, attention, and resources they usually would have used to buy from your brand. Even more critically, examine other brands, in or out of your market, that are inserting themselves and disrupting the traditional buying process.

Why imagine left field competitors?

If you wonder about the value of identifying left field competitors, consider the benefit to Borders Books, Tower Records, and any cell phone company of imagining Apple as a far-off competitor twenty years ago! – Mike Brown

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Download: FREE Innovation Strategic Thinking Fake Book

Brainzooming Outside-In Innovation Strategic Thinking Tools eBookAre you making the best use of customer input and market insights to deliver innovation and growth? Creating successful, innovative new products and services has never been more dependent on tapping perspectives from outside your organization.

This new ebook features sixteen strategic thinking exercises to help you ideate, prioritize, and develop your best innovative growth ideas. Download this free, concise ebook to:

  • Identify your organization’s innovation profile
  • Learn and rapidly deploy effective strategic thinking exercises to spur innovation
  • Incorporate crowd sourced perspectives into your innovation strategy in smart ways

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

 

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 25th, Compete Through Service Symposium produced by the Arizona State University Center for Services Leadership was fantastic! There were so many great speakers and intriguing discussions. I was honored to facilitate two workshops on Outside-in Service Innovation and using strategic thinking exercises to expand an organization’s thinking and innovation results.

Speaking of strategic thinking exercises, looking back over my Compete Through Service notes and tweets, here are important points that all seem as if they are begging to become strategic thinking exercises. We will be sending all of these to the Brainzooming R&D lab and see what develops from them!

Danny-White

Former Dallas Cowboy Quarterback, Danny White

Mary Murcott, President, The Customer Experience Institute, Dialog Direct

Culture, a provocative point of view, and simplicity drive service innovation.

To disrupt through simplicity, try to enable people to do more, re-imagine the service experience, remove friction in processes, and figure out how to save people time. (This idea has already become an organizing slide in the Outside-In Service Innovation workshop.)

Mike Gaithright, Director, Americas Customer Services, Amazon.com

The Jeff Bezos formula is obsess over customers, think long term, and innovate.

Amazon looks at opportunities as either one-way or two-way doors. A one-way door is a situation where once you make the decision and commit, you can’t return to where you were. With a two-way door opportunity, you can go right back if something is wrong. Amazon goes big, bold, and fast in two-way door situations.

With customer service, treat your customer as you would a friend. Ask yourself, “What would I do to help my friend when something goes wrong?” Then go out and do that.

Brad Haeberle, Vice President, Siemens

People will pay a lot of money for services that take pain off their lap. Or ask customers how they use your product and commercialize that – you’ll make a lot of money.

Accounting systems go against service innovation. You can depreciate product development investments, but typically can’t with a service.

Erik Peterson, Partner, A.T. Kearney

“Power is ‘easier to get, harder to use and easier to lose.’” – Erik Peterson quoting one of his associates

Derrick Hall, President and CEO, Arizona Diamondbacks

During a period of intense change, reach one person at a time. Don’t allow a single call or email to go unanswered when going through change. Even better, meet with people individually and personally to communicate and bring them into the change.

Have an arrival party for new employees. Don’t invest in going-away parties, making a big splash for someone who doesn’t want to work for you anymore.

Bridget Duffy, MD, Chief Medical Officer, Vocera Communications

The first question to hospital patients (or any customer in a daunting, stressful situation) should be, “What are you most concerned about and how we can address that?”

Develop an “Always Event” list spelling out the customer experience that always has to be in place. One question to help identify easy things to add to the Always Event list is, “What one moment in the experience most touched your heart?”

When you’re trying to tackle major customer experience issues, don’t try to solve everything at once or start with the hardest thing to fix.

Mavericks have to be willing to be burned at the stake.

Danny White, former Dallas Cowboys Quarterback

Failure is a resource. It helps you find the edge of your limitations. – Danny White quoting from the book You2

Ray Barton, Chairman of the Board, Great Clips

How do you ensure the brand experience’s consistency when it has to be carried out by other, non-employee parties? Simplicity and consistency in message and behaviors is the key. With simple messages and behaviors comes the ability for other parties to know what to do and when.

Boredom is the enemy of simplicity and focus. When an organization has figured out what works, it can’t afford to get bored and complicate what works.

Randy Wootton, VP Premier Products, salesforce.com

When you create an app or another capability to monitor how a user is using your product or service, it gives you the incredible opportunity to provide improvement recommendations to users based on broad experiences.

Stephen W. Brown, Professor Emeritus – Marketing, Arizona State University

Collaboration with customers is an incredibly strong opportunity. A brand can co-design, co-develop, co-produce, co-deliver  services with its customers.

“To be successful, you have to put your brand out there and be vulnerable.”

Mike Brown

 

Download: FREE Innovation Strategic Thinking Fake Book

Brainzooming Outside-In Innovation Strategic Thinking Tools eBookAre you making the best use of customer input and market insights to deliver innovation and growth? Creating successful, innovative new products and services has never been more dependent on tapping perspectives from outside your organization.

This new ebook features sixteen strategic thinking exercises to help you ideate, prioritize, and develop your best innovative growth ideas. Download this free, concise ebook to:

  • Identify your organization’s innovation profile
  • Learn and rapidly deploy effective strategic thinking exercises to spur innovation
  • Incorporate crowd sourced perspectives into your innovation strategy in smart ways

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

 

 

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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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Each year around this time, I’ve been running a post with twenty-five lessons learned from the past year away from full-time corporate life. With prompting from a Brainzooming blog reader who is a long-time friend and incredibly kind supporter, here’s this year’s edition of lessons from another year away from corporate life.

25 Lessons Learned in Year Five Away from Corporate Life

Year-Five

  1. Some things aren’t going to change. Lots of things will get worse; change the hell out of all those things.
  2. When it comes to business development, there’s a huge difference between enough business and enough possibilities to yield enough business exactly when you need it.
  3. You have to replenish the wind in your sails . . . you can’t afford to simply coast forever.
  4. It’s nice to have someone who will call B.S. on you in a constructive way.
  5. Someone new and unfamiliar with what you do may be exactly the right person to throw you the huge challenge you’ve been avoiding even considering.
  6. It’s fine to have a positive attitude and firmly believe you won’t deal with the same issues that other entrepreneurs do in their companies. When reality shows your positive attitude to be ill founded, get over it and learn quickly how others dealt with the issues now befalling you.
  7. Sometimes your family obligations are going to have to take a back seat to doing what you need to do for your business. Other times, family obligations will be so important that you’ll turn your back on business without even a thought. There’s no hard and fast rule (at least that I’ve found) for predicting in advance which will be which.
  8. When a future opportunity goes away for no apparent reason, be vigilant for the often subtle demonstration in the future that reveals exactly why the opportunity had to go away.
  9. Make very few statements about how you will ALWAYS do something or NEVER do something. Things will change. Then you’re left figuring out how to make a graceful change to what you’ve been proclaiming with such certainty.
  10. It’s vital to improve your skills at saying no to the right things.
  11. Maybe I can only write in less than 1,000 word chunks. And putting together one hundred 500 word chunks doesn’t seem yet like it’s a practical way to create a book. But, I did say, “Yet.”
  12. There have been many more opportunities this year to teach people how to do their own Brainzooming. Those experiences have been invaluable in shaping how we present the material and helping to realize “teaching” may be the important piece of the business that didn’t seem nearly as important when we started.
  13. If you would have ever asked me before we started, I don’t think I’d ever have included nonprofit organizations as an important client group for us. Yet, our relationships with the nonprofits we’ve worked with closely have been tremendously rewarding. It’s one thing to work with someone who is looking up two or three layers in an organization to get things done vs. an executive director who may have fewer resources, but can make things happen once the direction is created.
  14. I never thought it would get challenging to write either list posts or recaps from conferences I attend (considering I’m typically generating 100 or 200 tweets as a starting point). But for some reason, both of these forms became real blocks in the past year. It’s important to recognize, however, I’ve stuck with blogging as a form of creative form expression longer than I have probably any other form in my life. It seems as if it’s time to reinvent the boundaries and what’s within them.
  15. This is the year where I feel I’ve done less practicing what I preach than at any time since the business started. Thus, the renewed importance of surrounding myself with people who will keep me honest in doing for ourselves what we’d readily recommend to others.
  16. The coming year has to become the year of recasting content. There is value to deliver from the body of work in blogs, presentations, and workshop material. The job now is to create it.
  17. Feeling alone and not liking it isn’t a new lesson. In fact, it was one of my biggest concerns in starting the business five years ago. In several ways, however, this past year was the year of feeling alone.
  18. Easy answers and good answers aren’t going to be the same. When I wade into social media channels, it seems people are much more intrigued by easy answers than good answers. That leaves me focused on the smaller portion represented by where the two intersect. I just can’t pump out easy answers that aren’t good ones.
  19. I’d never considered the possibility that the golden egg may be golden inside and look plain outside. If that’s common, how many golden eggs have I walked by in my career?
  20. If you want to learn things you would never suspect about your business, categorize and re-categorize information about what you do. Simply putting different labels and different sorts on even skeletal data can tell you volumes.
  21. As much as some people get excited about paying attention to things that are changing, I get excited about paying attention to things that aren’t changing.
  22. I wrote perhaps the most revealing post about myself ever this year. It was the one about the twenty-five steps I go through on every presentation. Now that all the steps are spelled out, I can actually tell where each presentation is and how far away it is from reaching a happy place.
  23. I never realized how often I’d be thankful for my ability to act oblivious when I’m really not oblivious to what’s going on around me.
  24. When you’re getting four hours of sleep on a consistent basis, it’s harder to shift mental gears whenever you need to do so.
  25. It only takes one reader writing a very sweet and completely humbling email to get me to do just about anything differently. This one’s for you, Jennifer Nelson! – Mike BrownMike-Brown-Gets-Brainzoomin

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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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This Thursday, I’m leading two Brainzooming workshops at the Arizona State University 25th annual Compete Through Service Symposium.  The workshops are titled, “Mining Outside-in Opportunities to Expand Your Service Offering.”

The workshop will cover Brainzooming strategic thinking exercises that explore brand benefits for innovation ideas, provide new ways to derive insights from the marketplace, and allow organizations to look at what they do in new ways to find other examples from which to innovate.

Innovation-Fake-Book

Brainzooming Strategic Thinking Exercises for Outside-in Innovation

As a preview, here is some of the Brainzooming content on which the session is based.

Building on Your Brand Benefits

Observing and Exploring New Possibilities

Deconstructing What Your Brand Does

Organizing the Strategic Thinking Exercises

To organize the strategic thinking exercises and other content, we’ve tapped a couple of outside sources that allow you to identify an organization’s innovation profile and tie specific activities to five stages of designing and offering a customer experience.

If you aren’t going to be at the Compete Through Service Symposium, we’ll soon be offering the eBook that attendees can download for these Brainzooming sessions. Look for it soon! – Mike Brown

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Brainzooming-Before-After

 For More Information |  Phone: 816-509-5320  |  Email: info@brainzooming.com

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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There was considerable interest in marketing metrics and ROI at our two-day “Doing New with Less” marketing workshop for the Transportation Marketing and Sales Association.

One question we addressed was, “When do you develop marketing metrics during strategic planning for new initiatives?”

Should you develop metrics as you start developing your strategy? Or should you develop metrics after the strategy is developed as a final (or near-final) step in strategic planning?

Our recommendation is to address marketing metrics as you start developing your strategy.

Metrics-Guy

Why?

Addressing metrics as you first work on strategic planning pays multiple dividends. Doing so can:

  1. Identify gaps in the systems and processes to track the metrics you need.
  2. Suggest new strategies designed to create needed metrics.
  3. Reveal that you are not aggressive enough in your strategy to fully exploit all the opportunities to generate needed returns.
  4. Show that there is a mismatch between management expectations on the timing of business returns and when you will realize them.
  5. Uncover disconnects between your strategic direction and the metrics you currently have to track progress and success.
  6. Help you sequence developing marketing metrics to match up with the timing for implementing other marketing efforts.

If you’re in the midst of strategic planning currently, make sure marketing metrics are getting due attention early in the process before you’re plan is figured out. If not, you may miss that you are missing the marketing metrics you need while you can still do enough about it! – Mike Brown

 

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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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Suppose you see a new opportunity in front of a live audience where there are high expectations.

Do you risk trying something you’ve never done before in front of the audience, or do you go safe and file it away to try in a more familiar venue later?

That was a question at several points during the Transportation Sales & Marketing Association Bootcamp I did this week on “Shoestring Marketing – Doing New with Less.” We covered a wide variety of Brainzooming strategic thinking exercises during the workshop and had the extra time to consider trying some new things.

A Different Test for a Strategic Thinking Exercise

To demonstrate the value of using targeted creative questions to point groups in different creative directions, each row of attendees received a different modifier to explore ideas for how to do more with social media on a limited budget. Two rows received modifiers to “narrow” ideas (simpler, more focused). One of the rows had a “broadening” word (sophisticated), and the other received a “modifying” word (extreme).

Each row had four minutes to generate ten ideas using the assigned modifier. I then asked each row to share the favorite ideas to emerge.

Sure enough, each row had a different favorite answer. More importantly, the only rows that generated the same answer as another row’s favorite were the two rows that were both working with narrowing modifiers.

Modifiers

While I’d never used this test previously to demonstrate why it’s valuable to provide structure to generate ideas (vs. starting with the proverbial “clean sheet of paper”), this experiment was a great validation of the point for attendees.

Issuing a New Challenge to Marketers

In one of the strategic exercises, I asked the marketers to list their companies’ five most demanding customers and prospects as typified by those who:

  • Push for new products and services
  • Have higher expectations
  • Are more complex
  • Are eager to pilot new offerings

I introduced this completely new in-workshop strategic thinking exercise as a pre-cursor to sharing a research approach to stay in front of market trends.

Audience

As I watched the audience work on their answers, however, it was clear some participants were struggling to come up with five customer names.

In the spur of the moment, I told the group I wouldn’t ask them to report who could come up with five names and who couldn’t. But I cautioned those who couldn’t come up with five names that this signaled they, as marketers, were too far away from sales. A strategic marketer should be, if nothing else, in conversations with sales management and sales people that regularly surface the names of both positive and challenging accounts.

Taking the Risks and Getting the Returns

So, in answer to the opening question, I took the risk on both of these brand new twists on strategic thinking exercises. Both paid off successfully.

The learning for the workshop attendees, and hopefully for you, is two-fold:

  • Avoid starting to generate ideas with a clean sheet of paper, absent structure and direction to help your creative thinkers
  • If you’re in marketing, stay close to sales and learn, learn, learn about customers

And the learning for us is that both of these drop-in trial balloons have a high probability of showing up in future strategic thinking workshops. – Mike Brown

Mike-Brown-Gets-Brainzoomin

Learn all about what Mike Brown’s creativity, strategic thinking and innovation presentations can add to your business meeting!

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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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