Tools | The Brainzooming Group - Part 184 – page 184
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Strong researchers share a variety of characteristics, including:

  • Asking open-ended questions
  • Being attentive, active listeners
  • Patience
  • A healthy dose of skepticism
  • The ability to distill information and provide solid advice

To the extent I display any of these traits, it’s a gift from my mother, whose birthday is today.

At the core, my mother is an incredible listener. From as far back as I can remember, we always had a steady stream of people, mostly relatives, stopping by our house, grabbing a chair in the kitchen, and proceeding to unburden themselves of their joys, pains, and dreams while Mom (on the right) patiently listened. She’d ask questions, probe for information, challenge some of their pre-conceived notions, and often, provide advice for their life situations.

I’ve had people tell me my mother is a great conversationalist. She’d probably laugh at that, not seeing herself as one. But people seek her out because she does the two most important things people want: she asks questions about them and patiently listens to what they have to say.

That’s a great lesson for all of us, whether we’re researchers, or just hoping to be more effective in our interpersonal relationships. Thanks Mom for those early, consistent lessons on how to sincerely care about others. Happy Birthday!

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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Following up yesterday, sometimes when you’re working on a project, it’s hard to quit so that you can work in a creative mental refresh.

Doing live events leads to many short nights from getting ready and wrapping up results. Earlier this year due to delayed United Airlines flights, I didn’t walk into the hotel room until 2 a.m. and had to be up at 5 a.m. to prep for hosting a 7 hour session. While your situations may be different, chances are you also have times where you haven’t had enough sleep but have to be on top of your game. Here are some tips that work me:

Eat – There’s a lot to be said for refueling your body with healthy food. When producing a conference in Vegas once, I was among the walking dead. Friends forced me to sit down and eat a salad. Afterward, I was good for five more hours. Another person told me once that during long work sessions, he needed at least one “hot” (meal) per day. Single-serving, microwavable soup can be a quick answer there. You can heat them in most hotel rooms or at least in the lobby, and a quick shot of Campbell’s Chicken Noodle Soup can do wonders for a creative mental refresh.

Caffeine and Water – Specifically for me, Diet Dr. Pepper. I know caffeine isn’t good for you, but pounding diet drinks can help sustain you over the course of a day, especially if you’re alternating it with water. Thus the inside joke among co-workers that my sessions never go more than 90 minutes without a bio break!

A Nap (on the floor) – This isn’t for everyone, but I’m blessed with the ability to fall asleep very easily. I started sleeping on the floor doing all nighters at my first job. Because the floor isn’t comfortable, you tend not to sleep for very long. Especially with lights and noise going, you’ll wake up soon, but usually with just enough rest to give you a burst of energy.

Exercise – Walk the hall, go up and down stairs, or run around the building. Anything to get your mind focused more on physical than mental exertion will do the trick.

Shower & Get Into Casual Clothes – If you don’t have time for sleep, a quick shower and change of clothes can give you a refreshing break and reset your perspective. For me, there’s something about throwing on jeans that simply helps me think better. And the shower will help you to smell better too, especially if you just ran around the building.

Pray – Remove yourself mentally for a moment and reflect spiritually. It can not only give you greater peace of mind, it can also provide a creativity boost.

There are my six tips for a quick mental re-charge. Please leave a comment to let everyone know what works for you!

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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Someone forwarded a statement made by GE CEO Jeff Immelt at the Business for Social Responsibility Conference in early November 2008:

“The economic crisis that we’re going in right now doesn’t represent the cycle. It represents a reset. And I think people that understand that will prosper in the future, and people that don’t understand that will (I think) get left behind. The era of transparency, accountability for corporations, responsibility is profoundly different today versus where it was even six months ago . . . I think when we come out of this fog this notion that companies need to stand for something and need to be accountable for more than just the money that they earn is going to be profound.”

He went on to talk about people being afraid and the importance of leaders to help shape fear into self-confidence.

Very true words.

So what do you do to get through the reset as strongly and innovatively as possible? Three suggestions:

1. Although some things have diverted from the expected path, determine what important fundamentals are still in place from which to move forward.

2. Imagine the range of relevant possibilities that may yet unfold. Amid what may be presented as tremendous uncertainty, look for common elements among the possibilities. Figure out actions you can take that make sense irrespective of which scenario plays out.

3. Identify what everyone else is doing in reaction to short-term swings and irrelevant possibilities. Then dig deep (maybe pray hard) for the fortitude, wherewithal, and mental composure to move forward relative to the long-line with your sights focused beyond the “fog.”

That’s my 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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Amid a challenging business environment, look for opportunities to tune-up your marketing approach. Here’s a starter checklist that could be valuable for you:

Maximize What You’ve Got – Inventory creative that’s already developed and make sure it’s being used in all ways possible, i.e. Can customers get collateral as web downloads? Can you get your new TV commercial to customers in more ways? And when developing new creative, think through all potential uses before beginning. Get the extra paragraph, photograph, take, or edit that will extend its uses or effective life.

Align Messages – Pushing all-out for increased sales can create a proliferation of messages as you try to ensure every possible product and feature gets visibility. One downside can be confusion and lack of clarity among both customers and the internal sales organization. It’s a good time to revisit a solid strategic messaging platform, working hard to tie messages back to it to improve clarity.

Develop New Capabilities – Are there processes or skills that you’ve been putting off developing within your marketing team? Now might be the time to create a skunk works effort and get a new approach to an old challenge underway. To also develop your team, involve staff members not typically on your usual list of participants. That will pay dividends later as well.

Monitor Competitors’ Efforts and Share of Voice (SOV) – Most – but not all – companies cut back on marketing investments during challenging economic times. Gauge what’s happening among your competitors. Has everybody in your market pulled back, signaling an opportunity to maintain investment (or reduce it at a lower rate) and increase your share of voice? Or are certain competitors using a longer-term approach, investing for the eventual business recovery? Knowing your industry’s situation helps shape decisions on your brand’s best approach.

Spread Out or Heavy Up – Based on SOV insights, determine how to spread your marketing investment across channels. If share of voice is down overall, consider extending your investment into new areas while still maintaining enough frequency and relative presence. If you’re being outspent overall, it might be right to mass your investment in fewer places and “own” what you can, using other means to point customers and prospects to the areas where you’ve heavied up.

Consolidate Marketing Partners – When every dollar of marketing investment is precious, you need maximum efficiencies. One approach is to look at your external marketing partners and determine if there are process and cost advantages in working with fewer partners. Making this type of reduction allows you to manage fewer relationships (time efficiency), grow deeper relationships (message alignment advantages), and negotiate for lower per unit costs (investment efficiencies).

Generate a Guerrilla Tools List – Revisit and expand your list of available marketing tools, particularly low-cost and “free” ones that may be underutilized. A great starting point is the website for Jay Conrad Levinson, the father of guerrilla marketing with its list of 100 guerrilla marketing tools. Additionally, you can customize and expand the list of tools for your business. Be sure to consider blogs, podcasts, and social networking sites that allow you to inexpensively reach new parts of your audience.

Those are seven places to start fine tuning and maximizing your marketing efforts. Please comment on approaches you’re using successfully. – 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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Several marcus evans Customer Segmentation Conference sessions addressed customizing experiences. Some highlights follow from two of them.

Edward Gala, VP of Corporate Marketing Services at Xerox, began his presentation covering a range of customization applications: personalized M&M’s, Heinz ketchup labels, and the recent “Obama losing by one vote” video. This emailed video effectively combines customization and viral elements to challenge the recipient to vote and avoid the result depicted: a news story reporting a one-vote Barack Obama loss traced to the video recipient’s failure to get to the polls.

Within the video, there are several appearances of the recipient’s name in newspapers, TV headlines, and even in a goat herder’s frightened reaction to a McCain win. It makes effective use of an experience memorability model that seeks to maximize personal interest (it’s forwarded by a friend, personal challenge to vote), experience intensity (surprising personalization, humor, anticipation), and a brand’s connection as the experience enabler (frequent references to Barack Obama).

This novel customization approach can trigger all kinds of ideas for applying it in other ways.

On the opening day, John Carroll, VP – Bottler Planning & Operations at Coca-Cola shared work they’re doing customizing and adapting retail store experiences:

  • Coca-Cola segments to the store level, identifying each store’s “unique DNA.” To coordinate strategies with retailers, Coca-Cola maps its store segments to a retailer’s store segments.
  • It’s also using shopping cart RFID to locate hot spots within a store based on movement patterns to isolate specific merchandising opportunities.
  • Similar to a case study from Simon Property Group at the CMO Summit earlier this year, retailers are increasingly being considered as media outlets based on their audience delivery opportunities.

John also offered three great overall take aways relative to segmentation:

  1. Don’t lose sight of your core business, even if you have to segment differently.
  2. Use as many insights as possible in developing and refining your segmentation.
  3. Make sure segmentation is simple, direct, and understandable.

This was a very content-rich event and tomorrow, we’ll wrap with some memorable quotes.

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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After blogging for some time, here are six blogging tips and lessons learned for anyone seriously considering starting a new blog. There’s no shortage of web articles on blogging tips, but these lessons have been learned directly from my own blogging experience:

1. Know why you’re doing this

Before starting your new blog, determine your reasons for blogging. Knowing that blogging is for the discipline of creating content to write a book sustains me while building a blogging audience.

2. Establish blogging guidelines for yourself

Guiding principles simplify blogging decisions and your effort. I knew early I’d cover general work-related topics without mentioning my employer specifically. Additional blogging guidelines include the number of words (generally under 300), how often to publish (daily except holidays), and blog topic categories (limiting content to 20 topic areas).

3. Write for a month before publishing your new blog

After deciding how often to publish, write a month’s worth of blog posts before publishing something online. This blog publishing strategy provides three advantages:

  • You’ll discover how much effort blogging will take and can adjust your blog publishing frequency to ensure you’ll sustain it.
  • It will help refine your blog writing skills.
  • You’ll have a backlog of blog posts for when you hit a creative block.

4. Create a blog editorial calendar

Get a big desk calendar, some small post-it notes, and plan out a few months worth of blog topics. Knowing where you’re headed with your new blog is helpful and the flexibility of modifying where you’re headed (by moving the post-its around) is essential. Another hint – after 6 months, throw out any still-unwritten topic to freshen future content.

5. Capture potential blog topic ideas all the time

Always have something to write down potential blog topic ideas. Never lose a potentially viable blog idea. Ask yourself daily what happened that might have potential. It’s a great relief later to thumb through a notebook of starter blog idea fragments.

6. Keep a hidden blog for experimenting

After setting up your new blog, establish a hidden blog for experimenting where you can test graphics, pre-publish posts to see how they’ll look, and work out bugs as you experiment with your new blog. – Mike Brown


If you’re struggling with determining ROI and evaluating its impacts, download “6 Social Media Metrics You Must Track” today!  This innovative 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 an innovative 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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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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