Saturday, January 29, 2011

3 elements of your personal brand story (and an idea for your own N-of-8 group)

Purpose, truth and action are three basic elements of a brand story. Beyond brands, these are three fundamentals of a personal story, too.

So as our teams at Stinson Brand Innovation are working on several new N-of-8® brand story development projects these days, it’s also a good time to analyze our own stories.

Let’s take a close look at these three elements:
  1. Purpose is the thing in your life you will fight for. It is the ground you will defend at any cost. Purpose is not the same as “incentive.” Rather, it’s the engine behind it. It’s why you have energy for some things and not for others.
  2. Truth means your story should conform to known facts. Ask if your personal story is a work of fantasy, a lie you tell yourself, or reflects your biases and prejudices. Maybe you’re sidestepping parts of the story that are obviously untrue because they’re just too painful to confront.
  3. Action is to engage, to achieve extraordinary depth. It’s more about energy than just time. The difference between full engagement and multitasking is not incremental. With the one-foot-in, one-foot-out level of engagement characteristic of multi-tasking, a startling number of things, all relatively inconsequential, get achieved in a short time. Consider this quote: “A distracted artist will not produce anything of real worth. An entrepreneur with scattered thoughts will not come up with solutions superior to the competition’s.”
So all good stories must have purpose, truth and action.

Here are several questions to answer when creating an energizing story for your personal brand.

  • What is my ultimate purpose? (Or, what is my company’s ultimate mission?)
  • What am I living/working for?
  • What is my defining principle and goal?
  • What makes me do what I do?
  • What is the one thing I would do, even if I had to walk through fire?
  • What would I work for, even if there were no pay?
  • How do I want to be remembered?
  • Is the story I’m telling true?
  • Is this truly my story, or is it what I believe it should be?
  • Is it grounded in objective reality?
  • What assumptions am I making, and are any of them faulty?
  • What am I white-washing to make myself look better?
  • Is my private voice in synch with my public voice?
  • What actions will I now take to make things better?
  • Which habits do I need to eliminate?
  • Which habits should I begin to breed?
  • Am I an observer or a participator?
  • Are my actions filled with hope — the belief I will succeed and that the change I seek is realistically within my grasp?
  • Does this story inspire or influence others into action?
In fact, why not convene your own N-of-8® personal brand development group with trusted friends, family, or colleagues to help shape your story.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

6 Obstacles to Innovation

A major objective of our N-of-8 technique is to systematically address the barriers to brand innovation.

The N-of-8 tool is designed to address the issues that often get in the way of new thinking for new product development, new communication messages, and new service enhancements.  Overcoming these obstacles is vital to the discussion and dissemination of new ideas and practices.

We avoid going down “blind alleys” by making innovation research and development more deliberate and productive. We don’t waste resources by not sharing “common pools” of knowledge.   We rise above international differences by promoting global policies for innovation.  We solve for the lack of standards by creating harmony of innovation development techniques. We expose the hidden agendas of pet projects by putting greater light on brand innovations that address the pressing needs of our customers in health, science, and technology.

In my upcoming book, N-of-8, I dedicated a chapter on delineating six categories of obstacles to innovation.  By looking at the issues that confront us, we can begin to better address them.  Along the way, I also share how N-of-8 can contribute to overcoming these blocks.

The six categories of innovation obstacles reviewed are:
  • Process & procedures – “This is the way it’s always been done”
  • Practical limitations – “We don’t have the time, staff, budget, etc. to do that”
  • Information deficit – “We haven’t really done our homework on that”
  • Personal conflicts – “We aren’t going to do it just because she wants to”
  • Lack of a back-up plan –  “If we do that and it doesn’t work, then what?”
  • Void of expert leadership – “We can’t act on that until somebody big gives it the okay”
In the coming week, I'll take a look at each of these six obstacles with a view towards creating innovation environments – beyond an initiative, or training program, or other cookie-cutter solutions. We’ll look at what is needed for brand managers to become brand innovators.  Because you’ll recognize how innovation really works and have the skills to drive it in your own team, department, or company.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Examples of stories from multiple vantage points

A couple of weeks ago, I shared an exercise we did using the movie, Vantage Point, to show how the same events can be seen from several viewpoints.

Now, let’s move from Hollywood back to our health, science, and technology markets for some examples of how we can effectively tell brand stories from many viewpoints.

A major hospital distributor learned this using our N-of-8 approach.  The company had created an information management product to manage and integrate clinical, financial and operational information.  They approached me to moderate a series of focus groups to test the messages with hospital administrators, CFOs, heads of pharmacy, and nursing staff managers.  After conducting the groups separately, it was clear that each audience was seeing the product only from its own point of view.

And frankly, the potential benefits of the product were not very compelling.

But one comment by an administrator prompted an idea:  it wasn’t the individual data reports that were unique, rather that the program connected them greater sharing of interdepartmental collaboration.

Based on this insight, we reorganized the last round of focus groups in a single cross-disciplinary N-of-8 group, to allow each function to interact more around the story. That’s right. . .all four.  It was in this forum that the true benefits of the information management product came to light:
  • better patient safety and comprehensive clinical systems
  • regulatory compliance and HIPAA compliance
  • financial management and revenue cycle capabilities
  • fast-track to an electronic health record (EHR)
Together, the cross-functional group developed a brand story of service utilization, supply inventory, and time efficiency that would serve them all – and would compel executives to make the substantial investment in the product.

You can read more stories in my first book ForwardFast now available on Amazon.

Monday, January 24, 2011

6 questions about branding answered in our workshop audio summary

If you'd like to hear an example of one of our ForwardFast branding workshops, click here

In the teleseminar audio replay, I answer these questions and more:
  1. What is "brand innovation"?
  2. What can make a brand more likeable?
  3. What your brand looks like is more than a logo.
  4. What does your brand offer to the customer - and how that's what you're really selling?
  5. What brand associations can be connected to your product?
  6. What is your brand experience - and how that can make the most difference?

Friday, January 21, 2011

8 words or less to state your mission

Whether you are a non-profit organization or a for-profit company, a crisp, clear mission statement can help you attract investors, rally your employees, and win customers.

Unfortunately, those statements are often riddled with jargon and grandiose pronouncements that are too abstract to be acted on.

Try to state your mission in eight words or less. Use the format: verb, target, outcome. For example, "Improve African children's health."

Keeping it simple will help others understand what it is you do and get behind it. It doesn't end there though. Once you know precisely what your company is good at, you need to measure it to prove your worth.



Thursday, January 20, 2011

8 more exercise templates -- to put branding in action

I want to share with you 8 additional worksheets from my first book, ForwardFast.  You can apply these “workshop-in-print" templates for your own team meetings.  Click here to download these templates.
  1. Mode of Action Descriptions - Many pharma brands have successfully created new positions by coining unique actions. Some terms have become so metonymic that you forget they were ever branded claims.
  2. Customer Experience Branding - Focusing on the customer experience turned out to be a great method for branding blood-donation technologies. One product we branded was a blood-collection system created by the client, and we branded it through partnerships with Disney, The Ritz Carlton, and Starbucks. The campaign was presented as a different donation experience – and we targeted high school blood drives by creating a special MySpace page for the product.
  3. Global Branding - It is beyond cliché to say the world is getting smaller. The world is flat. Your brand should work across borders, cultures, and languages. Many marketers get hung up focusing on the relatively few differences among markets rather than the overwhelming similarities.
  4. Retail and Environmental Branding - The point of environmental branding is to create a branded space. This has major implications for retail spaces and convention booths. In selling health, science, and technology brands, the environment might be a drug store kiosk or a specialty store display. Or it might be a presentation space that not only makes a potential customer comfortable, but also presents information about your brand in a compact and concise way.
  5. Brand and Product Innovation - Often with pharmaceuticals, the ingredient or product doesn’t change, but the delivery system does. By branding this delivery system, you can capitalize on the inherent innovation of the product. Target changed the packaging for its prescription medications, for example. Not a major change, and the products did not change, but they successfully leveraged this enhancement. 
  6. Consumer Research and Insights Analysis - This is about branding the communication cycle. Customer feedback can have a profound impact on branding strategies, so you should move this beyond a simple “how are we doing?” concept. For example, imagine the brand value of a pharmacy that calls the customer a day later to check up on the patient and then sends out a mailer a week after that to see how the patient is complying.
  7. Package and Structural Design - Like the delivery system, packaging design can make or break your brand effort. This goes back to first impressions. Your packaging is just one part of your brand identity, and since it is a quite visual part, you ought to make sure it looks good.
  8. Brand Evangelism - Never underestimate the value of a spokesperson. Often it is enough for a product to be evangelized – if someone we know and respect likes the product, we assume we will like it. Consider the power of endorsements on political campaigns or Oprah’s Book Club on book sales.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

8 exercise templates for branding in action

As I was writing my new N-of-8 book, I wanted to expand on some ideas people liked in my first book, ForwardFast.

One main feature is its style of a “workshop-in-print.”   Here are 8 of the exercise templates presented in ForwardFast that illustrate branding in action.  Click here to download these free worksheets for your own team meetings.
  1. Corporate Brand - Corporate branding is different from product branding and is an important aspect to the overall branding effort. The corporate brand creates interest that leads to preference for product offerings from the company. The corporate brand also serves as an umbrella of ownership for products and establishes a level of customer service at a central level.
  2. R & D Process - For R & D, we are interested in specific and proprietary methods that science and technology companies use to develop their products. The goal is to leverage these processes by branding them. By showing you are on the cutting edge of creativity in your field, you are connecting yourself to value and quality.
  3. Manufacturing Process - Picking up where R&D leaves off, the way a product is made has true branding potential. This relates to specificity, clarity, and purity of manufacturing. For example, with one of our clients, the manufacturing process of their products includes a preservative and nano-filtration system that led to unique branding opportunities.
  4. New Product Information - One of the hallmarks of a new product brand is that you have only one chance to launch right. You’ve heard the one about first impressions, right? For branding, you want to stick to the classic definitions: make the name easy to pronounce and write; make it easy to remember; and make it something positive. Also, you only have 6 months to claim something is new. You should say it while you can.
  5. Product Line Extension - Line extensions are capitalizations on brand identity and equity. The goal is to invest some of your capital to extend your brand’s value.
  6. Interactive and Digital Branding - Before the ink is dry on this page, new ideas will emerge in digital branding. This area is constantly evolving. But we are still a long way from accessing the full value of this venue. The problem is that too many ads use cheap tricks or gimmicks, or worse, intrusive pop-ups that disrupt rather than fit into the audience’s world. Your goal for digital branding should be to move more toward experience and associations.
  7. Services - Services are all about quality offering. Branding a service is a worthwhile undertaking. For example, we have a client that is a professional medical association – its entire line of “products” are actually services.
  8. Clinical Trial and Scientific Nomenclature - The current trend for clinical-trial branding is to make the name connote the benefits or method of the trial itself.
Click here to download your free copies.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Why I'm writing a book about N-of-8

My objective in writing this new book is continue my personal commitment to documenting what has worked for me, then sharing it with current and future brand marketers who want to improve their craft and their results.

Since the publication of my first book, ForwardFast, I’ve benefited from many comments and suggestions.

So in this N-of-8 book, I’ve applied a similar conversational style to present a “workshop-in-print.”  And I’ve added a key-point summary at the end of each chapter, to lock in the main takeaways.

The book will share with you the meaning behind the visual and verbal pun that is N-of-8.  It may seem more like a license plate than a marketing theory. It simply defines how many in an ideal creative group and the purpose of the group.

You’ll learn the essentials of N-of-8. Specifically, you will see N-of-8 from a creative group perspective – and appreciate the difference between “brainstorming” and N-of-8.

Click here to download a free preview of the N-of-8 book.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Telling the same story from 8 points of views

To illustrate the power of the N-of-8 story process, I often use the movie Vantage Point, a thriller about an assassination attempt on the President of the United States as seen from 8 different points of view.

The story screenplay was written by Barry Levy and stars Sigourney Weaver, Forest Whitaker, Dennis Quaid, William Hurt, and Matthew Fox.  This film was directed by Pete Travis.

In the story, the president steps up to deliver a speech in a city square in Salamanca, then gunshots ring out. An American tourist has captured footage of the would-be assassin on videotape, and now, as the stories of the other witnesses unfold, each essential piece of the puzzle quickly falls into place. Only when all of the stories are told will the chilling truth to this shocking crime finally emerge.

The film portrays events taking place within a period of approximately 25 minutes, starting at 11:59:58 on the day US President Henry Ashton is in Salamanca, Spain to promote an international treaty designed to combat global terrorism. Each time the clock rewinds and the episode unfolds from a new vantage point, additional details are added, until the complete story of what really occurred is unveiled at the end.

In an interview on "Good Morning America," Dennis Quaid cited the “Rashomon effect” of the film, a reference to the 1950 Akira Kurosawa film of that name in which events are recounted from several perspectives. Unlike Rashomon's emotionally-charged points of view, Vantage Point deals only with their physical convergence.

When the movie was first released, our company conducted an exercise that was past training and part team-building.  We divided into teams and went to the movie with a listening guide to follow each character’s perspective of the same 15 minutes’ events immediately after the shooting.

Using an N-of-8 Story Development template, each team was assigned a character to watch:
  1. William Hurt as the American president
  2. Dennis Quaid as battle-scarred Secret Service agent Thomas Barnes
  3. A second Secret Service agent, played by Matthew Fox
  4. Forest Whitaker as a foolhardy American tourist
  5. A little girl with an ice cream cone
  6. A Spanish cop
  7. An anti-American operative
  8. Sigourney Weaver as network news producer
In the training tool, we watched our characters for these key visual and verbal cues:  key messages, language and figures of speech, props, symbols and metaphors, key motivations, and actions.

Here are a few findings from our own N-of-8 analysis:
  • The opening scene in which the events are captured by a CNN-like news channel speaks to the manipulability of "truth."  Yet almost all the sequences use virtually identical camera angles. So, like a Rubik's Cube of images that are arranged and then rearranged – often even further from the facts than before – they still form 8 unique cohesive story lines.
  • In each perspective, certain details were denied the viewer, such as what a character might have seen or what they might be reacting to.  In one opinion, none of that technique enhanced the story's mystery or suspense; rather, it was irritating. (A good lesson learned to avoid over-complicating copy or visuals.
  • In terms of the characters, few of the actors express any real emotion on screen.  As a result, the thinness of their characters was a challenge to create a believable person. Quaid's character Barnes benefits the most from film's otherwise minimal expository dialogue, but essentially Fox's Taylor is the respectful replacement who took over Barnes' Presidential post, Whitaker's Lewis is a father and husband on a sabbatical, and Noriega's Enrique is a jealous lover torn between his police duties and his romantic insecurities.
  • That we're never really told anything more about any of these characters means we never become invested in anyone's point of view.
It was both fun and instructional to experience the principles of the N-of-8 process – that only when all viewpoints are considered can a most compelling, truthful story be developed.

(This is just one example from my next new book due out this spring, N-of-8: A Creative Group Innovation Model for Health, Science, & Technology Brands.)

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

4 ways to put N-of-8 to work

Yesterday, I shared with you the five essentials of N-of-8.   Today, here is a look at the four main areas I’ve been putting N-of-8 to work for health, science, and technology brands.

1.    N-of-8 Advisory Boards
  • Engaging “Opinion Leaders” and “Practice Influencers”
  • Gaining  “Reactive Feedback” and “Trusted Advice” 
  • Moving from “Should Do” to “Let’s Do”
2.     N-of-8 Brand Story Development
  • Telling the same story from 8 views
  • Seeing the same hallmarks in new ways
  • Experiencing the same events with fresh perspective
  • Tapping into other kinds of storytellers
3.   N-of-8 New Product Conception
  • Understanding and comparing current practice
  • Solving known problems and exposing new ones
  • Exposing unexpected challenges and opportunities
4.  N-of-8 Vision Advancement
  • Benchmarking
  • Inspiring
  • Leveraging
  • Licensing

Monday, January 10, 2011

5 essentials of N-of-8

I thought you might enjoy a preview of 5 topics to be included in my next new book this spring. It’s entitled N-of-8: A Creative Group Innovation Model for Health, Science, & Technology Brands.
  1.  A View of N-of-8 from a Creative Group Perspective
  2. The Difference Between “Brainstorming” and N-of-8 
  3. Applying N-of-8
  4. Obstacles to Innovation
  5. The Impact of Innovation
Click here to download a free preview of the N-of-8 book.

Thursday, January 06, 2011

What does the N-of-8® symbol represent?

N-of-8 is a creative group innovation model for health, science, and technology brands.

It uses the science of "breakout" idea facilitation:
  • An ideal group size -- 8 -- with participants who respect each other’s expertise
  • An optimum timeframe to create productive group interaction
  • A set of proven facilitation tools and technologies to accelerate ideas and capture action steps

In my upcoming book on N-of-8, I share this quote from Herbert Benson, MD and William Proctor, authors of The Breakout Principle:

“More than a numbers game. Each participant recognizes that the others have been chosen not because everyone is the same or naturally compatible, but for the opposite reason -- i.e., because as many participants as possible are quite different from one another and may even be prone to intense disagreements."

When have you experienced a lightning bolt of innovative ideas from a group like this?  Share your story in the comment section.

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

N-of-8 book preview: love of a story

Most of you BrandInnovator readers know I am completing my new book entitled N-of-8.

It is about using the power of creative groups for innovation. Below is a raw preview of what has kept me working many weekends for the past year to advance it.

I welcome your feedback in the comments section.

I love words, phrases, and stories.  I love seeing a story come to life in pictures, art, and movies.  I love hearing a story put to melody and performed with harmony and rhythm.  I love reading a story and eavesdropping on the dialogue between characters, listening the intonations of their voices.

Even more I love developing a story of a new medical advancement – an effective communication of an idea that can transform health, science, and technology.  Most of all, I love a story that can accelerate the adoption of a new idea.

And “faster” is what this book is all about.

People ask me all the time, “how did you get to be so creative?” And when I was much younger and my ego was much bigger, I might answer with a favorite motivational book (like Zig Ziglar’s See You At The Top which was given to me for high school graduation by family friends, The Lincolns, and that I feel most influenced my early career).  Or later, I might refer to a course I’d taken (like a week-long seminar at the Center for Creative Leadership in North Carolina, at which I learned many valuable facilitation techniques).

But by far my most “creative” ideas I’ve had came not from my mind, but from the customers’ voice.

Sometimes from an individual customer’s suggestion.

Often from a group of customers’ discussions.

Frequently from observing customers’ behaviors.

Always from listening, adapting, translating, and responding to the customers.

That is the inspiration for this tool I call N-of-8 and for this book which I espouse shifting from “focus groups” to N-of-8 groups.

Monday, January 03, 2011

2011 focus of Brand Innovator blog: principles and stories of our branding tools

Welcome to the "Brand Innovator." This blog focuses on the latest applications of our proprietary set of tools and methods for health, science, and technology brands.

Proven to accelerate your brand development process, our tools provide for a disciplined and structured approach to brand building. From market research to strategic development to applied creative techniques, Stinson tools delivering brand campaigns with sustainable long-term results.

Throughout the year, I’ll share principles and stories of our branding tools, including:
  • ForwardFast®
  • Strategic GPS®
  • C.H.E.M.®
  • A2U®N-of-8®
  • Action Shoes®
  • Change Agent®

Saturday, January 01, 2011

Living Now…in Forward Fast

I’m driven to accelerate the use of new medical treatments to improve quality of life for those who are suffering. People with disease, pain or disabilities can’t wait. So, as I start the new year of 2011, my daily wake-up call continues to be "move with urgency."

Learn fast.  Track fast.  Think fast.  Respond fast.  Create fast.  Forward fast.

This is my personal mission for 2011. That’s why, right now, I want to leverage all my experience and skills in marketing, advertising, education and communications to help create “health science brands.”

With the passion I have for advancing medicine, I actually gain energy from being on the move. People might tell me to slow down, or they might say I’m rushing things or we need more time. I’m tempted to think I should rewind really slowly. Certainly there are times when I enjoy rewinding, going back to reminisce and relive an experience. But then I restart. I work hard to be creatively prepared and focused in order to reach the scientists, medical researchers, physicians, nurses, clinics and millions of patients we need to inform.

So I can't sit still—I’m living at the speed of hope.

I measure the journey not simply by speed, but by outcome, because I’ve seen the value our health science branding approach can create in people’s lives. The fact that we can touch so many people so quickly gives new meaning to medical advancement.

I’ve had the opportunity to work with one company changing kidney dialysis and another with a revolutionary device to transport kidneys for transplant. In both cases, we were working to completely change the current practice of medicine and replace older technologies. In fact, the kidney transport device was featured in Business Week magazine as one of the “Ten Devices Changing Medicine.” With the promise of simpler routines, improved quality of life and even better survival, we were motivated to live in fast forward—now.

One of my clients is working on cellular therapy for cardiovascular diseases and another introduced the first approved treatment for a rare disease caused by a genetic disorder in the blood. Both have been years in development, so each day we are able to help speed up the processes and get these life-changing treatments on the market can make a dramatic difference for patients and their families. So, we live in forward fast—now.

One foundation we helped brand is delivering hope to those with arthritis and another is improving and speeding up the way hospital labs identify diseases. Both have strong clinical evidence of a better way to help people who would suffer needlessly otherwise. So, we work to communicate the news in forward fast—now.

One of our diagnostic company clients wants to get the word out that they have a better way to diagnose ovarian cancer. With another company, we need to accelerate the awareness of a treatment algorithm for sleep apnea, an often underappreciated cause of cardiovascular disease. So, living in the “now” means working in forward fast.

In your world, you can look around and see the people who take this approach. They are
the ones who are:
  • taking charge of their personal and professional lives
  • making significant choices about how they view things
  • choosing their attitudes with purpose
  • attracting the right talent to create teams that support their vision 
  • taking action to make things happen
When I meet with new clients or interview potential associates, I always ask, “Are you ready to hit the forward fast button? Because, if not, it will take too long to get where you want to be.” The people who share the desire to move fast come together, work together and achieve amazing things together.

It’s that chemistry of fast-minded people that has made my journey in health science branding so gratifying. I’ve learned so much from so many and I enjoy sharing what I’ve learned with others who want to make a difference.

Looking forward to even greater impact in 2011.

You can read more about my personal philosophy -- and many others who share a common purpose -- in our book entitled, Living in the Now available at Barnes & Noble.