Tools | The Brainzooming Group - Part 3 – page 3
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Last week, The Brainzooming Group was in San Francisco for the Social Media Strategies Summit, where Mike presented a content marketing strategy workshop and a talk on collaborative engagement. In the workshop, he brought up the idea of turning seemingly boring brands into cool brands. That’s important, because brand strategy has everything to do with cool. This is true even if you’re an industrial brand, as Mike pointed out:

Well, okay, you might be thinking, But there’s nothing cool about our brand. There’s no fire. We’re completely utilitarian, unhip, the least sexy service on the planet. Possibly the galaxy. Hear me, friend: no matter what you do, there’s something inherently cool about your services, your product, your people, and maybe even all three. Marcel Proust was spot on when he wrote that the voyage of discovery is not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes. So let’s see about getting some new eyes and putting them to work for you.

3 Keys to Creating Cool Brands from Boring Brands

1. Define Cool

Start by making sure your definition is up to date. Cool used to be a narrow space occupied by a select few, but that isn’t the case any longer. Its definition has expanded, if not outright exploded, and now there’s much more space at this particular table. Within the current landscape, here are a few traits I see that fit inside the broad category of cool brands:

  • On trend
  • Intelligent
  • Humanitarian
  • Rebellious
  • Kind
  • Honest
  • Clever
  • Unique
  • Consistent
  • Simple

What makes these things cool? It all boils down to the same thing. And despite its recent run as an overused buzzword, at its core it’s all that matters. It’s authenticity, of course. When something is true, we know it on an instinctual level that can be hard to quantify. Perhaps it’s easier to quantify its opposite. It’s a scientific fact that phoniness disguised as authenticity creeps us out. To paraphrase the incisively smart Eve Callahan from Umpqua Bank, whose presentation at the Social Media Strategies Summit left my brain…well, zooming: humans are great at spotting blanks.

But when we’re interacting with authenticity, there’s a sense of order and peace about the interaction. There’s even, dare I say, a sense of fun and creativity about it. In this unreliable world, authenticity is as cool as it gets. So whether you’re authentically kind, consistent, rebellious, clever, or something else altogether: you’re cool. Humans love authenticity. (It’s essential for excellence. If excellence were a planet, authenticity would be its carbon, the basis for all its life forms.)

Chances are, your organization can identify two or three of these as descriptors, but generally there’s a standout trait in what you do and how you do it that’s become, in the mind of your customer, a kind of shorthand for your identity. (If that makes you nervous, don’t worry, just keep reading: this is going to help.)

2. Ask Your People

So what is that standout trait? Ask your people. For our purposes, “your people” comprises customers, colleagues, higher-ups, partners, collaborators, and, if possible, competitors. Reach out to as many as possible to get their input. You can do this in person (quickly ask someone on your way to a meeting, or when you’re grabbing a coffee, and jot down their answer), via email, via text, over the phone, using an online survey or collaboration — you get the picture. If you can get everyone to respond on one platform, that’s great, but it’s not necessary. What’s definitely necessary is to have the feedback of multiple representatives from each group.

When you feel you’ve gotten either as much feedback as you need, or as much as you’re going to get, take a close look at it. What words come up most often? Which one most closely matches your brand promise?* Once you’ve identified that, you can move on to the fun part.

3. Amp it Up

This is where you bring it to life. Set aside some planning time, then take that ineffable cool that’s central to your organization and walk it through every available venue. If you can include a couple of trusted associates to help, all the better. Make your cool the lens through which you see, the starting point of everything you do. What does honesty (or rebellion, or intelligence, or kindness, etc.) look like in social-first content, in print, over radio? What does it look it in customer service, in an internal newsletter, in an all-hands-on-deck meeting? How does a fundamentally honest organization start and end the business day?

Chances are, your organization’s doing some (or many!) of these things already, but you’ll find that you’re coming up with simple-to-implement ideas that had never occurred to you before. And while you can’t possibly change everything you’d like to change, there’s probably a whole lot you can amp up to shine a big spotlight on what make your cool brand as cool as it is. Which has the potential to drastically improve the strength and success of your entire organization.

And that’s pretty cool. Emma Alvarez Gibson

*If they don’t match, perhaps it’s time for a little internal disruptive thinking?

Download Your FREE eBook! Disrupting Thinking - 13 Exercises to Imagine Disrupting Your Brand

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 was talking with someone who was wondering aloud about how to boost the creative thinking skills of a group made up primarily of fact- and logic-driven individuals. Think accountants, engineers, compliance officers, and others in right-wrong answer professions.

What a great (and challenging) question. We’ve faced a few situations like this. We don’t deal with it more frequently because we consciously push in advance for diverse groups to engage in creative thinking and innovation workshops.

3 Ways to Find Strong Creative Thinking Skills in Logic-Oriented Groups

In response to the question, we shared several ideas to identify the participants more likely to display strong creative thinking skills within a group setting such as the one described.

via Shutterstock

1. Profile the Participants Upfront

The first step is to identify the participants most likely to display strong creative thinking skills by asking someone within the organization to profile each participant. They can do this based on their strategic thinking perspectives alone. They might also profile them based on the types of voices each will bring to a group setting.

2. Ask the Math and Music Question

To identify those most likely to display robust creative thinking skills within a logic-oriented group, look for the math and music people. Invariably, people with interests and aptitudes in both math and music are versatile thinkers. They can more easily disengage from the purely logical side to think imaginatively. You can insert a question about who enjoys math AND music within an ice breaker exercise or within a sign-up sheet asking various questions.

3. Have the Group Perform an Abstract Task

Another possibility is to give the group an abstract ice breaker task with no obvious right or wrong answer. Ideally, the exercise should push participants outside their comfort zones. Even mentioning such an exercise will cause many of them to balk or pout. Most of the rest will display that behavior while doing it. Some of them, however, will have fun. Those individuals are signaling more openness to creativity through their behavior. One ice breaker question we’ve used that happened to work will in this regard was, “What is the last thing on your mind?” Participant’s answers made it clear who could have fun with the question, and who just thought it was the dumbest question ever. An exercise that works well is telling them that you are going to teach them to draw a cartoon. It always works (everyone winds up realizing they can draw) and always unveils the participants interested in doing new things.

No Guarantees, but these Provide Possibilities

While none of these approaches is guaranteed, they can all help identify participants with stronger creative thinking skills. You will want to make sure you spread these individuals throughout any small groups. This will help create more focus on generating ideas versus analyzing them to death! – Mike Brown

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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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“Is there a way to decide how much content brands in a multi-brand family can share, and how much needs to be different among the brands?”

I’ve been asked that question multiple times recently after delivering Brainzooming social-first content marketing strategy workshops.

My answer?

Return to the fundamentals we teach for building a content marketing strategy. In these cases, however, you can approach things in reverse order, unpacking your brand strategy framework to answer this type of question.

3 Steps to Find Multi-Brand Content Marketing Strategy Similarities

Step 1 – Audience Personas

The first step is to identify what personas are in use across the multiple brands. Are there separate personas or are they the same? If they are different, how much do their interests overlap with one another?

Step 2 – Content Preferences

Next look at how much the personas’ content preferences and profiles match one another. Which themes and topics are going to be of interest to all the groups? Do they represent a large or small portion of the overall content?

Step 3 – Brand Promise Components

Finally, go through a three-question branding exercise that we use in many situations. In this case, it helps you understand your audiences’ expectations and tolerances for unique content:

  • What does each brand’s audience EXPECT in the content the brand shares?
  • What types of variations from that content will the audience ACCEPT from the brand?
  • If the brand delivers the optimum content, how will the audience REWARD the highly-targeted content?

Across this series of questions, you can begin to form conclusions about your options for creating content that is common across all your brands. – Mike Brown Download Fast Forward Today!

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’m delivering a workshop at the Social Media Strategies Summit in San Francisco today. It will cover creating a sustainable, social-first content marketing strategy. The three-hour workshop will take participants through typical sticking points brands face in developing effective content marketing strategy plans that start strong, build, and continue to deliver results.

Areas where we’ll concentrate and spend extended time as participants work through Brainzooming exercises include:

One workshop attendee, Angelo Harms, Digital Marketing Manager at the Curaçao Tourist Board, has seen me present workshops multiple times at SMSSummits. Angelo has also brought us to Curaçao for content marketing strategy workshops the past two years. Because he’s seen SOOOO much of our content, I wanted to come up with something new Angelo hasn’t seen yet.

9 Ways a Brand Can Sustain a Social-First Content Marketing Strategy

Here it is, with a sneak peek for all of you.

It’s a tool to identify starter topic ideas along the customer journey (X-axis) from three different perspectives (Y-axis):

  • What customers are thinking about and facing
  • Industry and product category considerations
  • Brand content that fits social-first needs

Beyond a content calendar, it’s another strategy way to ensure sure you are developing a strong mix of content that is relevant to prospects and customers, no matter where they are along the journey to your brand.

If you would like to go deeper into the topic, download our FREE eBook on Social-First content. It covers many of the exercises and tools we’ll share in the workshop content marketing strategy workshop.

If you’d like help thinking about how a content strategy helps grow and develop your brand, contact us. Let’s grab time to chat about the possibilities for growing your revenue and customer base through social-first content! – Mike Brown

Boost Your Brand’s Social Media Strategy with Social-First Content!

Download the Brainzooming eBook on social-first content strategy. In Giving Your Brand a Boost through Social-First Content, we share actionable, audience-oriented frameworks and exercises to:

  • Understand more comprehensively what interests your audience
  • Find engaging topics your brand can credibly address via social-first content
  • Zero in on the right spots along the social sales continuum to weave your brand messages and offers into your content

Start using Giving Your Brand a Boost through Social-First Content to boost your content marketing strategy success today!

Download Your FREE eBook! Boosting Your Brand with Social-First Content

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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In Professor Jerry Z. Muller’s new book, The Tyranny of Metrics (affiliate link), he explores the rush in today’s business environment to measure everything. This dynamic places an emphasis on eliminating judgment as a decision-making factor and replacing it with numbers-based business metrics. It is driven by the belief that motivating behaviors through linking incentives and penalties to publicly-available, standardized data is universally beneficial.

Muller’s challenge to a metrics-obsessed perspective is summed up in this statement: “Not everything that is important is measurable, and much that is measurable is unimportant.”

In The Tyranny of Metrics (affiliate link), Muller shares multiple questions for leaders to ask, relative to business metrics, to ensure they are providing value and addressing their intended outcomes. For each group of questions, we provide an idea on how to adapt your business metrics strategy.

What are the measurement objectives, and how does the available information fit them?

Muller’s first questions focus on identifying measurement objectives and the usefulness of multiple metrics. He suggests a fundamental challenge in applying known measures to determine performance incentives: humans will try to game whatever the system is to maximize rewards instead of the ultimate impacts. Systems and processes with inanimate objects present stronger opportunities for successful measurement, versus human-centric activities, since inanimate objects are unaware of measurement.

He suggests that metrics are more effective when oriented toward internal audiences focused on performance improvement (in contrast to ones developed and shared publicly to set benchmarks, funding levels, and reward performance). His argument? Internal practitioners are more likely to understand and appropriately apply metrics to improve outcomes for the greater good.

Idea 1: Embracing a Broader Set of Metrics

We advise executives to consider a set of metrics that is broader than a few numbers meant to represent performance for an entire system. While there is a certain ease in overall indices and green-yellow-red metrics dashboards, other activities, indicators, and even stories exist behind the simplified numbers. These are no less relevant to understanding overall performance.

Consider both quantitative AND qualitative metrics. Numbers-based metrics are well understood, and are likely what people think of first. Qualitative metrics incorporate stories, images, and other non-numeric indicators that also shed light on process or system performance. While you cannot necessarily make decisions based on qualitative metrics, they are vital for placing numbers in context and suggesting how stakeholders are experiencing the process results.

You can also better represent outcomes by recognizing that important metrics exist before the end results are in place. We recommend three types of sequential metrics:

  • Action Metrics – These are the initial development activities and tactics leading to ultimate results.
  • Reaction or Interaction Metrics – These provide early indicators on the extent that actions are beginning (or not) to bring about changes and positive differences.
  • Return Metrics – These metrics, which are what we associate with the final performance results, monitor the overall outcome.

Consider a broader set of metrics to reveal early indicators that help influence a system for stronger performance before the end results are in place.

What are the opportunities and limitations to developing and gathering business metrics?

Muller poses two questions for leaders when developing metrics: What is the cost of gathering data, and who can best develop the appropriate measures?

Beyond direct costs in gathering measures, Muller advises leaders to consider the opportunity costs associated with collecting metrics. These sometimes-hidden costs need to be evaluated against performance improvement returns. Muller cautions that when data gathering responsibilities fall on practitioners, it comes at the expense of the practitioners performing the beneficial tasks they are trying to measure. Incorporating these trade-offs can present a contrasting view of the value of measurement.

When developing measurements, however, Muller does recommend heavily involving practitioners. Individuals closer to having a stake in the outcome will develop more robust metrics than senior executives removed from what happens during daily activities. He suggests broader extend through evaluating metrics as they are populated and reported. This can provide an important check on accuracy and efficacy.

Idea 2: Plan Early for Metrics

During strategic planning, we always discuss the options of starting or finishing with identifying metrics. Yet, even when developing a plan of action and addressing metrics once the plan is largely done, it’s useful to work back through the plan to see whether the intended metrics will be readily available. If not, adjust the plan to integrate efficient and effective metrics development within the prescribed tactics.

From experience in marketing plan development and implementation, we are struck by how many times the outstanding outcomes a plan promises have no practical tracking approach. By taking time during planning to consider how the metrics will be tracked, you can head off these issues before implementation begins.

Question: How do the business metrics, once in place, drive performance and behavior?

Muller discusses metrics driving under-performance and unintended consequences via healthcare examples. Measure and pay doctors on the number of patients they see, and appointments become shorter and less thorough. Switch the key metric to successful patient outcomes, and doctors are incentivized to take the easiest cases. Muller advises recognizing the trade-offs, judgment calls, and range of behaviors related to any set of performance metrics.

Idea 3: Broader Business Metrics Signal Early Successes or Problems

Applying the idea of action-reaction-return metrics provides a way to better monitor sub-optimal performance. With action metrics in place, you have an early check on whether the appropriate implementation activities and are underway. Reaction metrics provide a check on assumptions about how specific actions will lead expected changes performance levels. These two early metrics areas both provide vital preliminary indicators to signal the need for adapting a plan well before all the return metrics are compiled.

How do your business metrics measure up?

Originally published in Inside the Executive Suite

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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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January 28th is, according to a Facebook post from my cousin’s husband, National Fun at Work Day. A quick check corroborated his claim, although there are questions about where the holiday originated. Since my cousin’s husband has worked at the same company for forty-two years or something, I’m willing to believe his post: if you’ve worked in one place for four decades, you have to know a little about fun at work, even when the holiday falls on a Sunday this year.

One great way to celebrate National Fun at Work Day? Download our FREE eBook on eleven ideas for fun strategic planning that are not stuffy for work.

Download Your FREE eBook! 11 Not Stuffy for Work Ways to Spice Up Strategic Planning

We released this eBook for the traditional strategic planning season. We’re, however, finding that demand for fun strategic planning ideas now runs throughout the year. This fun strategic planning eBook tells how to incorporate surprise, new situations, and toys to bring life to ANY strategy meeting you conduct throughout the year.

Speaking of toys, we always say they don’t make strategy great, but they do make strategy fun. Fun strategy leads to greater interest in strategic planning and more opportunities for innovative strategy!

11 Tips for Fun Strategic Planning with Toys

If you are trying to figure out what toys are best at meetings, here are our 11 tips for including all the types of toys to include at strategy meetings.

You want toys that:

  1. Allow participants to build things
  2. Twist into different forms
  3. Have bright colors
  4. People can squeeze
  5. Make sounds
  6. Bounce
  7. Stick to things
  8. Are so inexpensive that you can have lots of them
  9. Will make the people at the table that doesn’t have them jealous
  10. People can safely throw at each other during tense moments
  11. Participants will want to take along at the end of the meeting

Toys rekindle kid-like creativity among haggard executives. They give fidgeters something to fidget. Toys (particularly balls) give more aggressive types something to harmlessly throw. Most importantly, though, toys are one aspect of demonstrating that strategic planning needn’t be a completely serious, mind-numbing experience for executive participants.

Download 11 Not Stuffy for Work Ways to Spice Up Strategic Planning today. You’ll be ready to make EVERY DAY National Fun at Work Day! – Mike Brown

11 Hot Stuffy for Work Ways to Spice Up Strategic Planning

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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We have designed several branding strategy scopes of work recently where the available time between developing strategy and implementation is tight. In these cases, a critical question arises: How do you open branding strategy development to other partner organizations to create a seamless implementation process?

5 Ways to Open Branding Strategy to Multiple Marketing Agencies

Photo via Shutterstock

Here are five things we do to bring other marketing agencies in early to set them up for implementation success:

  1. Invite the partner organizations into all the planning activities for developing the branding strategy.
  2. Provide full visibility into all strategy development processes.
  3. Create expanded roles to ensure partners can contribute their expertise and strategic thinking early.
  4. Integrate the partners as active team members, even before their implementation roles begin.
  5. Let them help shape all the strategy outputs during planning.

In these ways, we open strategy development to marketing agencies so it’s not a closed process. This allows internal and external parties to look for ways to jump starts implementation planning as the branding strategy direction develops.

One Cautionary Note

One expectation behind this approach: any external partners must participate with the client’s best interests and success as the top priorities. If a partner expects full access but is intent on gaming the outcome to serve their interests, this level of openness won’t work to its full potential. I learned that lesson when I was on the client side and first put competitive marketing agencies together on project teams. It becomes clear quickly if a partner isn’t engaging with the best intentions. That’s an early indicator of big problems.

So, with an open process and the right attitude from participating marketing agencies, you can move seamlessly from strategy to implementation. – Mike Brown

Boost Your Brand’s Social Media Strategy with Social-First Content!

Download the Brainzooming eBook on social-first content strategy. In Giving Your Brand a Boost through Social-First Content, we share actionable, audience-oriented frameworks and exercises to:

  • Understand more comprehensively what interests your audience
  • Find engaging topics your brand can credibly address via social-first content
  • Zero in on the right spots along the social sales continuum to weave your brand messages and offers into your content

Start using Giving Your Brand a Boost through Social-First Content to boost your content marketing strategy success today!

Download Your FREE eBook! Boosting Your Brand with Social-First Content

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.

More Posts - Website

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