Thursday, April 30, 2009

Obstacles Are Only In Your Mind

Boundaries...Walls...Fences...Small budgets...Short time lines...Personal limits...Insane bosses...Tough clients...Wacky agencies...Impossible challenges.

They're all in your mind.

Our previous two posts (Brainstorming Part I and Part II) talked about how to free your mind and break through to never-been-done-before solutions. In that same spirit, free your mind visually with this amazing Danny MacAskill video.

Be inspired and achieve the impossible. Go over. Go around. Go through. Fix the problem. Be in harmony with. Break the rules. Try another way. Try and try again. Do or do not. And let me know if you'll ever look at a fence the same way again.

Video: ©2009 Danny MacAskill.
Blog: ©2009 Paul J. Hydzik. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.
Paul Hydzik grows brand value. As a brand marketer and award-winning creative leader, Paul has more than 15 years of experience driving business success from start-ups to blue chips. His strategic resume covers all aspects of B2B and B2C branding from go-to-market to consumer insight to identity development and all forms of marketing communication.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Brainstorming—Part II: Making it Go

Techniques that work and what to do with all those ideas you generate.

In our previous installment, “A Dozen Reasons Your Brainstorm Sessions Don’t Work,” we examined the why most of us, at one time or another, are disappointed by the results of our brainstorming. We covered everything from problem definition to ground rules and expectations to who, when and how.

In Part II, we’re going to look at some proven techniques. Interestingly, in their own way, each automatically solves many of the key brainstorming issues—as well as produces loads of ideas. Then we’ll quickly look at how you turn these ideas into incredible, creative solutions.

With a nod to the Nike, “Just Do It” tagline, brainstorming is simpler if you follow these suggestions.

Do it Fast!

Speed is very freeing. Recall from our earlier installment that judging early creates fear of failure and stifles creativity. When you work fast, you don’t have time to judge ideas as they develop. Just write them down and move on. So you keep fear of failure and negativity out of the picture long enough to get fresh thoughts on the table.

You also generate loads of ideas. That’s good because in brainstorming, more is better. You get the law of averages on your side. The more ideas, the better your chance of having a stunner in the bunch.

How fast is fast? How about 20 ideas in five minutes?

That’s a new idea every 15 seconds. Can’t be done, right? Wrong. My brainstorm teams do it again and again. In the space of an hour, with multiple small groups, they routinely develop several hundred ideas! Much to their delight and surprise, I might add.

Do it Again!

Your team has just come up with 20 or more ideas. Give them a moment to be proud of themselves. More than likely they never believed it could be done in the first place. So let them bask in the glory for a bit. Then ask them to select their two or three favorites and share why they think they’re the best. Discuss how they turned something on its ear and broke rules.

Now have them mentally “toss them out!” The whole 20. And brainstorm again. (See why stopping at the first good idea is a big problem in our first installment.) Before any complaints can begin, prod your team, “Twenty MORE ideas. Five minutes. Go, go go!”

Generally, the first round or two gets the expected solutions out of the way. The best stuff usually—but not always—comes later.

Do it Wrong!

It’s tough to come up with brilliant, breakthrough ideas and solve tough problems. The very thought is intimidating. But one thing we all know how to do is to do things wrong. To make mistakes.

Use this to your advantage. Have your brainstorm team, “Do it Wrong” and come up with awful, simply terrible, ideas. It’s fun to see who can come up with the absolute worst and watch what happens. Suddenly there’s no pressure to be brilliant and generating ideas is easy and fun. Immediately your team is loose. In a happy place. And productive!

Once you’ve gotten the worst down on paper, make a U-Turn. Have the team select favorites and turn those ideas around—into great ideas.

Do it Weird!

Pick a color or an object. Any color. Or any object. When you need a new idea, get away from anything remotely familiar and start someplace entirely new. The weirder, the better. New places allow you to make brand new connections. You have no expectations or preconceived limits on where your thoughts can take you.

For example, let’s say your group picks the color red. Have them make a list of everything red. A red rubber ball. Lipstick. Stop light. Red door. Bullseye. Fire truck and fire hydrant. A red and white striped barber pole. Raspberries and apples. Early morning airline travel on the “red eye.” Visine (speaking of red eye!). Red Rover Red Rover.

Use your “red” list to make connections with and trigger solutions to your problem. Will this work? You bet. Because the best thing about “weird,” it puts everyone off their guard. They’re in a strange new place where bold new thoughts are welcome.

Do it with a Genius!

Ask your team, “How would Albert Einstein solve this problem?” Or Marie Curie? Or Igor Stravinsky? Or Pablo Picasso? Each of these incredible minds brought a new approach to the world in a different field and by a different means. Through imagination. Through insight and perseverance. Through expressive rhythm. Through the fracture of representational rendering.

Part of the reason you and your team feel like you can’t solve the problem is that you don’t expect to have the answer. You haven’t had it before, so why should you have it now? Step outside yourself and turn to a genius for your solutions.

More helpful hints

  • Be obvious. Consider this option—especially when you’re dealing with people who have loads of expertise. First thing you do before you really begin brainstorming, invite your teams write down every solution they already know. Gets the known stuff out of everyone’s systems quickly. Then at last, you can prepare for fresh thinking.

  • PostIt! Have your teams write each idea on its own little sticky note. Use separate colors for each team, if you like. Post them on the wall or a big sheet where everyone can see them. Why separate notes for each? So you can easily combine them and build on them, and organize and categorize them later.

  • Compete. At the start, announce a little friendly competition between teams to get the adrenaline flowing. This is another reason I like brainstorming with small teams of three to five people. See which team can come up with the most ideas. The worst ideas. The weirdest ideas. The least ideas. Give awards. Dinner. Theater tickets. Give the losers an incentive, too. Like buying coffee for the winners.

  • Treat yourselves well. Bring coffee and healthy snacks. Tell folks to dress comfortably. Take shoes off. (OK, maybe. Maybe not. I don’t know your group!) Get away from the desk and get rid of the conference table. They’re too formal. Gather your chairs into small clusters, one for each group. Play music or otherwise stimulate your team’s creativity. See our earlier posts, “Want to be more creative? Be less comfortable.” and “Be more creative…do something different.” for more ideas.

  • Embrace failure. Am I saying I want your brainstorming effort to fail. No. What I want you to do is to create an environment in which it’s OK to fail at least some of the time. An environment where risk is rewarded. Think about it. All the world’s greatest talents and minds fail. Sometimes often. The best hitters in Major League Baseball fail in more than two out of three at bats. They risk swinging big and their coach wants them to swing big! The coach knows a big home run hitter is going to strike out…a lot. But when they connect, it’s out of the park. And that’s what you’re looking for isn’t it? To hit one out of the park.

"Would you like me to give you a formula for... success? It's quite simple, really. Double your rate of failure. You're thinking of failure as the enemy of success. But it isn't at all... you can be discouraged by failure—or you can learn from it. So go ahead and make mistakes. Make all you can. Because, remember that's where you'll find success. On the far side."

--Thomas J. Watson, Founder of IBM

Now that you’ve got tons of ideas. Now what?

Before you wrap up your brainstorm sessions, you might have hundreds of ideas. All in random order. It can feel like a real mess. How do you take all these “baby ideas” and nurture them into mature concepts that can stand critical scrutiny.

  • Combine and categorize. Work with your teams to separate ideas into three to five clear categories. Here’s where having each concept on an individual PostIt! really helps. If you find some of the ideas defy categorization. Don’t force it. Free-floaters are often good bridges and connectors. Combine them with other strong ideas. By looking at categories you also identify areas that were not well covered during the initial brainstorming session—or an important area that was missed entirely. Categories can also help you make a strategic link back to your objectives so you can check to see that you’re on target.

  • Pick leaders. Have your teams vote on the strongest ideas in each category. Talk about why they’re so strong. See what common threads exist among the leading ideas. And what’s different. What about the ideas that don’t come out on top? Aren’t they a waste? Absolutely not. Those ideas are part of the process and help springboard people to make new connections and more novel ideas.

  • Improve and strengthen. Brainstorming is more of a process than an event. You’re trying to do something, create something or solve something that’s never been done before. Game changing ideas are worth the investment in effort and a little more time. You haven’t failed because the first brainstorm session didn’t produce a final product. What you’ve done is set the stage for success. Take a break and plan Round 2. Use the categories, leaders and common threads to direct your next session.

  • Empower the team to finish the ideas. Too often I’ve seen the leaders of brainstorm sessions take the ideas away from the team and either develop them by themselves or to hand them to others. That’s really demoralizing to the team because it sends the message that they’re not good enough to pull the ideas through. So resist that temptation. Empower the team to grow the ideas themselves—and make them responsible for hitting the target.

Trying other things

Picasso once said, “God is really only another artist. He invented the giraffe, the elephant and the cat. He has no real style, He just goes on trying other things.” Good advice for brainstorming. If you want new solutions you’ve got to try other things. Give some of the suggestions from Brainstorming Part I and II a try and turn disappointment into amazement.

Art: Pablo Picasso, “Landscape with Bridge” 1909 from Artchive, “Portrait of Stravinsky” from the Internet Public Library, “Les Echecs” 1911 from Online Picasso Project.

Blog content: ©2009 Paul J. Hydzik. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.


Paul Hydzik grows brand value. As a brand marketer and award-winning creative leader, Paul has more than 15 years of experience driving business success from start-ups to blue chips. His strategic resume covers all aspects of B2B and B2C branding from go-to-market to consumer insight to identity development and all forms of marketing communication.

Monday, April 27, 2009

A Dozen Reasons Your Brainstorm Sessions Don’t Work

At one time or another, you’ve been disappointed by the results of a brainstorm session. We all have. The problem is, what to do about it.

Perhaps you feel that you’ve just never been great at inspiration. Or you don’t feel like your team is all that creative. Perhaps you blame the idea of brainstorming itself. (That’s right, blame the tool. It’s the hammer’s fault you bashed your thumb!)

Brainstorming is a process and a skill and there are some common reasons it may not be working for you. Every time. See if these thoughts don’t break you and your team out of your rut.

1. It’s a problem of “problem definition.”

The first key, if you want better results, is to define your problem better. Too often, teams rush into a brainstorm session without adequate strategic thought. “Quick, the client needs a solution by 3:00” is a recipe for disappointment!

The best solutions are the result of asking the best questions.

Quiz yourself: Are you just after an incremental gain—or do you want to break through and change the rules of the game? If you answer with the latter, then you’re heading the right direction. Go deep. Wide. And long.

Brainstorming is not about small ideas. It’s about generating great, big, bold, scary new ideas. Stuff that’s never been done before. And the better you define the problem, the better you’ll brainstorm the big ideas you need to create fresh new solutions.

2. Forgetting the ground rules.

When you’re trying to break the mold it may seem counterintuitive that you need ground rules. But you do. Try these:

  • Define the problem and set objectives.
  • Give everyone a brief background to digest beforehand to prime the mind.
  • Loosen everyone up and engage them with the subject at the start. Say, you’re brainstorming a new chair design. Have your team spend the first minutes talking about chairs. What they like. What they hate. Cool chairs. Boring chairs. Do something fun. Suspend a chair from the ceiling. Have a chair race. If folks are smiling and laughing and freely talking about the subject, you’ve done it just right.
  • Leave titles at the door. Everyone is equal in a brainstorm session and no one is more expert than another. This goes for the facilitator, as well. The facilitator is there to keep the ideas flowing. Not to be a subject matter expert.
  • Absolutely no judgment or criticism of ideas during the session (If you can have only one rule. This is it!).
  • Building on others’ ideas is encouraged. Highly!
  • Set a time limit.

3. The wrong people. Or too many of ‘em.

All kinds of people can be surprisingly and extraordinarily creative when you manage your brainstorm session right. But someone who cannot set aside negative or judgmental feelings will hurt your progress. If you find yourself with someone who continually tramples ideas, make sure they know the ground rules. And if they still don’t get it, politely un-invite them. They’re not helping you.

So who do you invite? Invite a mix of good thinkers, people you trust to be enthused by the subject matter and people outside your normal sphere of influence. It’s good to create a new mix. People who don’t all know one another or what to expect.

What’s a good, productive number of people with which to brainstorm?

A small handful. Three to five, highly active and energized participants. That’s all you need. Too many people is actually worse than too few.

I recall being invited by the leader of separate client group to a brainstorm session for a new product launch. When I walked in the door there were already more than a dozen people. After a few minutes the brainstorm group mounted up to a total of 35 people. What happened? Fewer than 10 of those people became active contributors. The rest hung back. Not because they didn’t have ideas. I knew many of these people to be strong concept people. No, they hung back because they could. It’s easy to hide or to think others have better ideas when a group is too large. The result: Time wasted. Brain power misplaced. Potentially great ideas lost.

Got more people? Break them into teams. Have them cluster in different spots in the room. Or hold separate sessions with each group. Use them to expand the territory instead of covering the same ground over and over. Use them to build on ideas.

4. The wrong time.

Brainstorming is a high energy activity. So hold them when people have the greatest energy. Not right after lunch or at the end of the day when energy is low.

Keep your brainstorm sessions rather short, too. Think of brainstorming like running a sprint. Or a series of sprints. You want loads of energy and speed right off the gun. But you can’t run at sprint speed for a marathon brainstorm session.

5. The wrong energy.

Negative energy absolutely withers participation and kills ideas. Brainstorm sessions should be relaxed and fun. Like game play. It’s hard to downplay the significance of one negative apple in a brainstorming bunch.

So be positive or go home. Build on ideas or leave them alone.

6. Forgetting to forget what you know.

You’re trying to discover new ideas and breakthrough solutions in a brainstorm. What you know—old ideas, old ways and old solutions—get in the way. So invite all the subject matter experts you like. Just be sure they know the ground rules. No experts! And no, “You can’t do that because…” kind of thinking.

This can be deceptively difficult to do.

Pablo Picasso once said, “It took me four years to paint like Raphael, but a lifetime to paint like a child.”

If you’re going to blaze an entirely new trail, you need to free yourselves of what you know. Forget budgets. Forget time constraints. Forget what’s possible. What you’re shooting for is the “impossible.” Don’t let reality get in the way. There’ll be plenty of time for that later.

7. Too few ideas.

Quantity rules! The more ideas, the better. The more unusual or contradictory an idea, the better. Make waves. Encourage wild ideas. Don’t worry about “bad” ideas. Remember no ideas are bad ideas during a brainstorm session. In fact, any idea can be a springboard that gets someone to make a connection to a concept that leads another person to leap ahead to THE big idea.

Striving for quantity also helps focus the team on generating and building ideas—the task at hand—rather than criticizing them. Which keeps everything positive and growing.

8. Judging early.

Criticism makes people hesitant to share their ideas. Think about it. If someone continually knocks your thoughts, how do you feel?

You feel fearful.

You worry that you're going to be criticized. That your ideas don't measure up. So how inclined are you to share new ideas? The simple answer is less. And that's not what we want. We want more. Bigger. Wilder. Better.

There’s a time for judgment. It’s after the brainstorm. Not during! Ever.

9. Being too restrictive.

Another form of judging early. If you narrow your range down, you’ll narrow down your solution set. Brainstorming is not the time to be focused and narrow. It’s a time to be open and receptive.

10. The wrong expectation.

Brainstorm ideas are not finished works. They’re fresh, green, immature.

Someone once suggested that we should think of brainstorm ideas as baby ideas. I love this analogy because you don’t expect the same things from a baby that you do from an adult. Of course, not. You nurture a baby. Foster it and help it to thrive and grow. And so you should with brainstorm ideas. Don’t expect baby ideas to stand up to adult scrutiny. Remember, it’s not good to judge early. Get out there are feed those baby ideas.

11. Stealing the joy of birthing a great, big idea from the team that birthed it.

Two kinds of thievery exist, here. Glory hounds. And Control Freaks.

Brainstorming is a social act of generosity. Once someone develops a glory hound reputation, their teams know it. And suddenly that team becomes cautious with their ideas. Why share your best thoughts when you know so-and-so is going to “steal your idea” and take credit for it? Great brainstormers are not in it for the personal glory.

Control freaks are just as damaging.

They like to take the brainstorm ideas from the team and then go back to their little cube and “work it out.” Here’s a better suggestion. Why not have the team that develops an idea push it further? More about how in our next installment.

12. Stopping at the first good idea when what you need is a great idea.

Good is just plain dangerous. Because it can prevent you from reaching for a great idea.

So try this. Once you’ve generated a bunch of ideas. Throw them out. That’s right. Toss ‘em aside and have the team continue to brainstorm. Tell them there’s good stuff in here, but we’re working for great! Again and again, the best ideas come after everyone gets the initial thoughts out of their system. The first thoughts are usually the expected things. The ones closest to what you know. The ones you may have heard of before. The ones still in charted waters.

So push for greatness. Especially when you have a good idea in hand.

Check back for our next installment, Brainstorming-Part II: Making it Go where we’ll pick up with brainstorming techniques that work and what to do with all those ideas you came up with.

Artwork: Pablo Picasso, Still Life with Guitar, 1922. Oil on canvas. Galerie Rosengart, Lucerne, Switzerland, from Olga's Gallery. Picasso Factory at Horta de Ebro 1909. Drawing, Femme.

Blog content: ©2009 Paul J. Hydzik. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.


Paul Hydzik grows brand value. As a brand marketer and award-winning creative leader, Paul has more than 15 years of experience driving business success from start-ups to blue chips. His strategic resume covers all aspects of B2B and B2C branding from go-to-market to consumer insight to identity development and all forms of marketing communication.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Kodak’s Bold Print and Prosper Campaign

Will it reposition the brand to compete in a digital world?

Quick, what are the biggest not-so-well-kept secrets about inkjet printers? C’mon, you know. Everyone knows!

Printers are economical. Ink is expensive.

Many of us spend more on ink in a year than we do on our printers and Kodak is out to change all that for people who love to print a lot.

On March 29, Kodak launched, “Print and Prosper,” a new integrated marketing campaign behind its newest All-in-One inkjet printers. The campaign stakes claim to a bold, value-oriented position that plays well in these economic times:

Switch to Kodak All-in-One inkjet printers and, “Stop overpaying for ink.”

Fully integrated campaign

Kodak reaches out to consumers on television, through a custom online application, social networking sites, bloggers and Twitter followers. In-store execution so far appears missing and, though a Kodak spokesperson declined to comment, it will be interesting to see if the campaign travels in-store.

This campaign is a bold departure from the warm-and-fuzzy Kodak Moments of the past.

TV advertising exclaims, "Drip by drip your wallet is being drained every time you hit "print" on your inkjet printer. Last year America paid the big printer companies $5 billion too much for ink. Feeling ripped off? Then stop overpaying for ink.... Switch to a Kodak printer that only uses fairly priced ink."

In print, Kodak suggests, “The world's most expensive liquid isn't found in the Middle East. It's found in your inkjet printer cartridges….Switch to Kodak and stop overpaying for ink.” Other ads lead with, “Last Year, America Paid $5 Billion Too Much for Inkjet Printer Ink.” And, “There is a $5 Billion Stain on the U.S. Economy and it’s Coming from Your Printer.”

Each of the executions directs consumers to an online application, “Find out how much you overpay for ink at Kodak”

Where does this disruptive new Kodak spirit come from?

A brand that needs to strategically reinvent itself

Kodak, a company still affectionately known for the warmth of its film-based legacy, needs to shake things up if it’s to succeed in a digital world.

“Resuscitating the Kodak brand won't be easy. In 2001, Kodak was ranked the 27th-most-valuable brand in the world, according to Omnicom’s Interbrand. Last year, it fell off Interbrand's closely followed list of the top 100 global brands.” according to a Wall Street Journal article by Suzanne Vranica March 30, 2009.

Worse, Kodak, once the world’s giant in film-based image making, is far behind the digital market share leaders. “HP (Hewlett-Packard) owns the printer ink and printer toner market. With greater than 45% market share, nearly every printer manufacturer is gunning for HP.” according to ConcordSupplies blog, March 13, 2008.

Disruption built on consumer insight

Printer ink is priced like razors and razor blades, where the handles are loss leaders and blades are the high-margin money makers. A Nov. 19, 2007 study, “Inkjet Prices, Printing Costs and Consumer Welfare” Larry F. Darby and Stephen B. Pociask, published by the non-profit American Consumer Institute Center for Citizen Research, states.

“Inkjet printers are priced with little or no margin and, according to some authorities, well below cost in many cases….In turn, inkjet printer ink cartridges are priced inordinately high in most cases, as a means to compensate for low or negative printer margins, consistent with the well-known razor/razor blade model, wherein the durable assets (razors or printers) are sold below cost and “consumables” (blades or ink) are marked up substantially.”

Kodak Public Relations Manager, Jacqueline Mangione states that, “According to Kodak’s research, the top consumer dissatisfier when it comes to printing has been the high cost of ink.”

Saving money on operating costs—namely high margin ink cartridges—plays off consumer insight that’s been as obvious as it’s been avoided, like a sacred cash cow, by the industry. That’s part of the wisdom behind Kodak’s boldness. Because everyone knows the “secret,” it instantly connects with the target, heavy printers.

The campaign addresses a real consumer issue—and aims to put Kodak All-in-Ones into consumers’ considered set where it lags behind competitors from Brother, Canon, Epson, HP and Lexmark.

Driven from the top

If you want to know a company’s strategic direction, look to see what the boss is saying.

Kodak Chairman and CEO, Antonio M. Perez, who joined the company 2003, is “leading the worldwide transformation of Kodak from a business based on film to one based primarily on digital technologies,” according to his Kodak bio. “In the past four years, Kodak introduced an array of disruptive new digital technologies [author’s emphasis].”

In a Bloomberg Press interview with Meg Tirrell, Perez, who spent 25 years at Hewlett-Packard helping develop its printers, “pegged the devices as one of Kodak’s three ‘core investments.’” They’re that important.

In that same Bloomberg Press reference, Jeffrey Hayzlett, Kodak Chief Marketing Officer and Vice President, connects the campaign with the company’s founder. “George Eastman wanted to make photography affordable for everyone….Now we’re trying to make printing affordable for everyone.”

“Paying too much for printer ink is a financial black hole that consumers can easily avoid.” adds Hayzlett in a March 30 Kodak press release.

Heavily supported by social media

Kodak incorporated social media as an integral part of its campaign, holding a live and virtual blogger event in New York city, March 29.

According to Kodak Chief Blogger, Jenny Cisney, “Using social media is about going where the people are, not making them come to you. If they are on blogs, Twitter or Facebook, then that is where we need to be. It’s all about being helpful, finding out what people need and providing value.”

The event, centered around household money saving tips from noted personal finance journalist and author of “Money & Happiness,” Laura Rowley. According to Cisney, Kodak, “directly reached the more than 20 participants, and 30 additional people via Twitter during the event.” Participants also learned from Rowley about how Kodak All-in-One printers can help consumers save on ink costs.

At the time this posting is being written, Social Mention counts nearly 60 blog mentions. And Twitter Search racks up 557 mentions over the days since the campaign broke. The Kodak “Dripping” commercial has been viewed over 500 times on YouTube. Strong social performance.

Certainly strong enough to put Kodak Print and Prosper on the radar screen of inkjet market leader HP.

Angela LoSasso, U.S. Social Media Manager, HP’s Imaging and Printing Group ( has been listening and writing for HP since Dec. 2006. She personally contacted this author (who tweets at and, “a few people who had expressed interest in learning more about Kodak’s cost of ink claims. Because we saw similar claims back in 2007 and because those claims were reviewed by independent, qualified and credible sources, I felt that information was contextual and valuable to bloggers, media and shoppers alike.”

LoSasso’s reactions are captured on the HP Communities Inkjet Printing Blog.

Will boldness deliver results

“This is a big, bold idea that doesn’t tiptoe around the issue and lets consumers know Kodak is on their side,” said Linda Sawyer, Chief Executive Officer, Deutsch Inc. “Kodak has a longstanding, deep and emotional relationship with consumers and, by exposing this issue, that relationship will only become stronger.” tells a Kodak press release.

Boldness has a dark side, and can sometimes create a backlash. It also has a time limit.

Print and Prosper will have to show results if it’s to portend a brighter future for Kodak. One thing is certain. Transforming a company with a film-based legacy into a digital realty does not call for baby steps. As a result, it appears strategically essential for Kodak to be bold.

Marketplace reaction

AdWeek awarded the television commercial a creative Ad-of-the-Day mention. But not everyone at AdWeek agrees about the campaign. In “Kodak Goes Negative,” columnist, Barbara Lippert asks, “How can [Kodak] just drop all that equity by selling ink at half price?" Of course, once you’ve fallen off Interbrand’s Top 100 brand’s list, you have to wonder just how much equity is there—and start selling printers.

Ultimately, the number one success metric is sales

Hayzlett demonstrates Kodak’s sales-driven focus as he steps away from the warm-and-fuzzy approach that once typified the company. "We have to have ads that drive sales," he says in a March 30 WSJ article.

I agree.

Kodak has to create a new brand. Holding tight to the past will not turn Kodak digital. I also believe over time, should Kodak succeed with its daring digital rebranding, it will be able to reconnect with its warm heart. Then, lookout. What do you think?

All images, identity, logos, © their respective owners.

Blog content: ©2009 Paul J. Hydzik. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.


Paul Hydzik grows brand value. As a brand marketer and award-winning creative leader, Paul has more than 15 years of experience driving business success from start-ups to blue chips. His strategic resume covers all aspects of B2B and B2C branding from go-to-market to consumer insight to identity development and all forms of marketing communication.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Why Every Social Media Marketer Should Read “The Anatomy of Buzz Revisited”

“We talk because we are programmed to talk.”*

Before we coined the phrase, social media marketing. Before the tools (MySpace, Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter) that we now take for granted were even available. There was word-of-mouth marketing—Buzz! For me, one man put buzz on the map and set the stage for today’s booming social scene. Emanuel Rosen.

Rosen first wrote about the importance of brand relationships and using person-to-person conversations to successfully market products in his book, “The Anatomy of Buzz: How to Create Word-of-Mouth Marketing,” published in 2000.

The original has been a staple of my reference library since it went into print. The strategies it describes help explain why customer relationships matter. They tell how cultivating conversations creates relationships that build business. The book inspired the development of innumerable concepts and client presentations. And it formed an important foundation for a graduate-level marketing communications class I teach.

Nine years later, Rosen is back with his new book, and a dramatic update, “The Anatomy of Buzz Revisited: Real-life Lessons in Word-of-Mouth Marketing.” Today, he kicks off a buzz-inspired book signing tour here in Chicago. (More on that later.)

“Real-life Lessons” takes buzz beyond the original

  • More original buzz thinking. Even if you have the first edition, the new edition brings so much new thinking and material, you’ll want the update. According to the intro, 12 of the book’s 24 chapters are entirely new.
  • Real-life examples bring buzz to life. Everything from the buzz created when the Oscar Mayer Wienermobile comes to town (they were in a parade in St. Petersburg, FL yesterday according to their Twitter account)…to the reason why Jimmy Carter’s boyhood home was a place many Great Depression-era visitors would stop and ask for food or a drink of water…to the always popular “Will it Blend (Have you seen the bailout blended yet?).”
  • Why not to fear negative comments. Rosen cites a Kingston University in London study that finds 30% of the negative word of mouth was about brands that had never been owned by the people who talked about them. Then tells what you can do about them.
  • Broadening of buzz include visual conversations. Now that we all have access to inexpensive tools like camera phones, the Flip Video camera and visual media like, Skype, YouTube, our conversations have incorporated pictures and video.
  • The importance of hubs. Find out the key distinction between an evangelist and a hub. And why calling one of Microsoft’s 4,000 MVPs an evangelist is a no-no. Hint: hubs “gain status not from their source of information but from the people who listen to them.”
  • Buzz measured. When the original release hit the streets, the thinking was that Buzz was so ephemeral, that it couldn’t be accurately measured. Now we know differently.
  • Answers the question, “Can you live on buzz alone? While there are some who believe that advertising is dead and doesn’t matter anymore, Rosen says, “The truth is that very few products can live on buzz alone.”
  • Buzz workshop. Possibly one of the most valuable chapters, once you understand how and where Buzz works, is the last, which Rosen calls his “Buzz Workshop.” Here, he provides a series of questions designed to help you think about how buzz fits with the products or services you’re marketing. And it starts by asking whether the products or services you’re offering will impress your customers.

Follow the buzz tour

Touring the U.S. in support of his new book, Rosen could do no less than dramatically use word-of-mouth—teaming up with the National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS) and their environmentally-friendly, veggie oil-powered bus to spread the news.

How well does this buzz thing work for Rosen? Well, buzz is how I found out about Rosen’s new book. How I found out about his book tour. And how I worked with the Illinois Institute of Technology Stuart School of Business, where I teach, to bring him there to visit with students and fellow faculty. (Am I on my road to becoming a hub?)

I’ll be joining Rosen as he continues his Chicago leg tomorrow at Loyola University and IIT Stuart. Follow him yourself and share the social media marketing buzz.

*Emanuel Rosen, The Anatomy of Buzz Revisited: Real-life Lessons in Word-of-Mouth Marketing p70.

Blog content: ©2009 Paul J. Hydzik. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.


Paul Hydzik grows brand value. As a brand marketer and award-winning creative leader, Paul has more than 15 years of experience driving business success from start-ups to blue chips. His strategic resume covers all aspects of B2B and B2C branding from go-to-market to consumer insight to identity development and all forms of marketing communication.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Understanding Influence - Part II: Seven Beliefs

Yesterday we blogged that social media has fundamentally changed the world of marketing. Marketers can no longer consider that they are the exclusive owners of their brand—because brands exist in the minds of their consumers. While social media empowers those consumers and enables them to actively participate in the conversations that define their brands.

To grasp the scale of this monumental change, “Understanding Influence – Part I” offered a brief historical perspective on marketing influence. Part II picks up with the brand conversations that social media bring. And how, by participating in the dialog, you can influence it.

1. Influence begins with listening, really listening.

Put yourself in a social situation. A group you’d like join is conversing. What do you do? First, you listen. Why? To get a feel for the tone of the conversation and see where you fit in. It’s the same in social media marketing.

Your first order of business should be to see who is talking about your brand and what your audience is saying. Identify the followers and the influencers—who, by the way, will not all be customers. These free tools will help you automate the listening process.

  • Google Reader – Tracking all the people who are talking about you is easier if you aggregate them into a few places. Use Google Reader to search for anyone talking about your brands and gather their RSS feeds.
  • Google Blogsearch – Use Google Blogsearch to take snapshots of brands and subjects of interest. Say your business is solar energy. Blogsearch can show you not only who's talking solar, but who else is talking about helping customers go renewable through the same method--power purchase agreements--as you.
  • Google Alerts – After you've found the people who are talking use Google Alerts to automatically email you updates of the latest results.
  • Twitter Search – Keep track of relevant Tweets. Who's talking about Velveeta, right now?
  • Delicious – Use Delicious save all your bookmarks online, share them and see what other people are bookmarking. The site’s search and tagging tools let you see the most popular bookmarks being saved across your areas of interest.
  • Feedburner and – By sending your RSS feeds through Feedburner you can easily track your blog subscribers. Use Feedcompare to graphically contrast your Feedburner subscriber numbers with others.
  • Technorati – The self-proclaimed, “most comprehensive source of information on the blogosphere,” Technorati indexes more than 1.5 million new blog posts in real time. It also ranks them by “authority,” the number of blogs linking to a website over the last six months.

If you need more detailed metrics and reporting, several services can take your listening to a professional level. Their websites will do a far better job of explaining what they do.

2. Influence is not control

As tempting as it may be to jump right in and control a conversation, especially if it’s not going your way, attempting control is not the best strategy. Social media has customs. You have to be willing to give up the illusion of control left over from Mass Market era-thinking.

A funny thing happens when you surrender control. You actually become more powerful. Athletes will tell you that their best performances come when they “let go,” and get, “in the zone.”

Think what happens in a conversation when someone monopolizes it or makes it all about themselves. If you’re like me, you duck out as quickly as you can. If you want to be around to influence the conversation, you need folks to stick around.

3. Influence is built on authority

Want to have greater authority? Write greater content. It’s that simple—and difficult.

Worry less about chasing authority rankings. Worry more about posting unique and relevant content that reflects your brand and builds the brand experience. That’s what’ll keep your audience interested. And bring them back again and again.

Need help with your writing? Check out “How to Write Great Blog Content” by ProBlogger and follow Copyblogger whose blog focuses on writing great content.

4. Influence is built on relationships and sense of community

Say you’re looking for a restaurant. Who are you more likely to be influenced by: A close friend? Or, a complete stranger? The answer is obvious.

A recent Harvard Business Review study, “The Dynamics of Personal Influence” by Nichlas A. Christakis, finds that “although a person may be connected to other people by six degrees of separation, he or she is influenced only by those up to three degrees away.”

The more people talking about your brand, the more first, second and third-degree relationships you have. And the greater your potential influence. Creating a sense of community—a place—for your customers to gather and talk about your brand allows you to extend those close relationships.

Fan pages can create a hub for brand conversations. You’ll quickly learn what your customers love. And what they hate. You’ll also empower your customers to advocate for your brand.

5. Influence is built on honesty and trust

Trust is incredibly valuable—and fragile. Relationships are built on trust. So it follows that the more trusted you are, the greater your potential influence. Consistency is important. Read, “When Trust Breaks” by Amber Naslund of Altitude Branding.

If you want to have an influence, strive for honesty, humanity and humility in your all your social media communications because they build confidence—and trust—in you and your message.

6. Influence means being responsive.

Bad word of mouth can go viral almost instantly. You need to stop rumors and news about poor product performance or service before they spread.

When you blow it. Admit you’re wrong, apologize and fix the problem. Here, your actions will speak louder than words. And help regain lost trust.

Social media gives you the tools to listen, build positive relationships and a sense of community and provide trust-building opportunities that can help carry you through and resolve the inevitable trouble spots.

7. Influence is more powerful when it’s fully integrated

Those who say, “advertising is dead,” are just as off base as those who ignore social media. It’s not the medium. It’s the brand message and experience. Consistently delivered. At all points of brand contact.

Go and influence better

The aim of this two part series was to provide a perspective for understanding the value of social media in a marketing context. And to help you understand the components of influence. Effective influence—and marketing success—depends on going where your consumers are and joining them in the brand conversation.

Blog content: ©2009 Paul J. Hydzik. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.


Paul Hydzik grows brand value. As a brand marketer and award-winning creative leader, Paul has more than 15 years of experience driving business success from start-ups to blue chips. His strategic resume covers all aspects of B2B and B2C branding from go-to-market to consumer insight to identity development and all forms of marketing communication.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Understanding Influence - Part I

Social media has fundamentally changed the world of marketing and there is no gain in going back. Marketers may no longer consider that they can “own” their brand—if indeed they ever did. Brands exist in the minds of their consumers. And social media empowers those consumers to actively participate in the conversations that define their brands.

To understand just how powerful a tool of influence social media has become, and its potential to further reinvent how we market, it helps to gain a little perspective and understand where we came from—where Part I begins.

A brief history of marketing influence

Mass Market Era. During the 1950s and 1960s, marketers developed a mass approach to selling standardized, mass-produced products to similarly standardized, undifferentiated mass consumers. For major brands, decisions were simple. Advertise heavily on one of the three major television networks and succeed. If success wasn’t automatic, fire the ad agency, freshen the creative and heavy up the media plan. Minor brands were effectively blocked from the game (and turned to more creative solutions).

Communication in the Mass Market era was all top down, company out. Whether consumers had a problem, or wanted to sing their favorite brand’s praises, their influence was pretty much limited to a closed circle of friends and contacts.

Positioning Era. In 1972, Al Ries and Jack Trout wrote a series of three articles for Ad Age that led to their groundbreaking 1980 book, “Positioning: The Battle for Your Mind,” now in its 20th printing. It recognized that advertisers and agencies don’t position products, consumers do. It suggested that companies need to determine what position their products occupy in the consumer’s mind relative to other products and then to act strategically to reinforce or change that position.

Communication options, however, did not advance with the theory. Brand marketers fought the battle for consumer’s minds with essentially the same mass media to which they’d long been accustomed. Warily, the book also identified communications clutter—that consumers were being bombarded with more and more advertising messages and beginning to pay less and less attention.

High Tech/Media Options Era. Technology and media advances in the 1980s and 1990s began to shift the tectonic plates of brand power.

Media options began to explode with the advent of cable TV. Video recorders enabled consumers to time shift their favorite programs and skip past commercials. Video games gained a large, loyal following. Special interest magazines experienced tremendous growth as well, their success providing proof of niche marketing’s value.

But most of all, the growth of the Internet and effective search tools enabled consumers to do something they never could before. Suddenly, they could find all the information about brands that they might want. And they could get that information from sources they trust, outside of the brand’s control.

The marketer’s top-down communications monopoly was broken. With the ability for individual consumers to choose when they’ll be receptive to brand communication, consumer’s were at last in control. We demanded legislation that soundly trounced unwelcome telemarketers. And wise marketers recognize us as a market of “hand raisers” who can opt in and opt out the moment we aren’t receiving value from our membership.

Social Era. The rise of social media and the ascendance of the individual alters the game again. Totally. You and I and the folks next door now have the ability to directly communicate with and influence large audiences, decision makers, CEOs and celebrities. Even President of the United States. Social media levels the playing field. Big dollars don’t equate to success as they did in the Mass Market era. Niche marketing Davids can slay their Golliaths.

Blogs. Facebook. MySpace. LinkedIn. Twitter. YouTube. Wikis. Podcasts. iTunes. Hulu. Each of us can customize our online experiences as we wish. Invite friends and business associates into our circle. Participate as a brand fan. Create a group. Launch a business. Support a cause.

And actively converse.

Whereas earlier marketing eras were primarily one-way communication. Brand to consumer or brand to distribution channel, for example. The social era is about two-way communication. Success today is about relationships. Conversations. Give and take.

You can ignore the conversation that’s going on. Or embrace it and participate. And by your participation, influence it.

Tomorrow, “Understanding Influence – Part II” will continue with 7 thoughts on how influence works in brand conversations.

Photo of 1950s family, Raleigh City Museum. "Position: Battle for Your Mind" cover from Canon A5 review, Digital Photography Review.

Blog content: ©2009 Paul J. Hydzik. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.


Paul Hydzik grows brand value. As a brand marketer and award-winning creative leader, Paul has more than 15 years of experience driving business success from start-ups to blue chips. His strategic resume covers all aspects of B2B and B2C branding from go-to-market to consumer insight to identity development and all forms of marketing communication.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Top 10 Tips to Do Brand Naming Right

Anyone can come up with a name. But successfully naming a company, brand, product or service is a strategic art. And a value-creating business. If it’s not your business, what do you do?

Common answers include…Brainstorming names with your team. Asking your best customers for a few thoughts. Employing web-based naming tools—hey, they’re free. Trusting your gut that, “this is cool.” Going social and crowdsourcing it. Calling in your advertising agency. Hiring a branding consultant.

The right answer for you, of course, depends on your needs, your budget and your timing. And for some, whether or not they’re feeling lucky.

Whatever direction you choose, luck should have nothing to do with developing a distinctive and memorable name and identity. You wouldn’t trust your business or your product engineering to luck, would you? Then why trust the brand naming process to luck? It’s that important.

What’s in a name?

Perhaps your very success.

Words and images matter. They separate the ordinary from the run-of-the-mill. They define and create brand value that drives right to the bottom line.

This is not just a basketball shoe, it’s the Nike Zoom Kobe IV – Black Mamba. Put this shoe on and “strike again” like Kobe.

The best way to ensure branding and naming success is to organize your efforts around a strategic approach.

1. Start with the customer

If you know me, or you’re a regular reader of this blog, you know how adamant I am that marketing—indeed all business—begins with the customer. All too often, businesses begin with a technology or engineering advantage and then belatedly back into the real consumer connections after the product development is nearly complete.

Don’t be that marketer.

Your job is to create an emotional bond. So, know your customer inside and out. Not just demographics. Know what makes them tick. Get inside their behaviors so well you can predict how they’ll act. Get inside their heads and identify with their psychographic makeup and lifestyle. Go where they go. Do what they do. Would you buy a hang glider from someone who had only read about it? I thought not.

Forget what you know and “ride the truck” to learn your brand experience from your target audience perspective. Go home, take your product instructions out of the box and see how long it takes your significant other, or better yet your neighbor, to put the thing together.

Break your customers into actionable segments: Who has the potential to bring you the highest sales, most profits, repeat business. Who are your influencers. Followers. See my earlier posting, “Find Your Segmentation Strategy Personality Type” for more.

2. Know your competition, know yourself

Certainly you already know who your competitors are, you also need to know how they compare to you and your products and services. Think of it this way, your business strategy ought to inform your branding strategy. Ask…

  • What your competition stands for and what your company and brands stand for, as well.
  • Compare mission/vision and corporate objectives
  • What area of the market space does the competition own and what’s missing in the market.
  • Your competitors’ Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats. And yours.
  • Deconstruct the competition’s brand architecture and examine what their names convey, the positioning, the brand essence and promise, the structure, where they can go from where they are.

3. Communicate a compelling new idea

Now that you know your customer inside and out, and you know exactly where the competition stands, you’re ready to think about naming. Start by asking this simple, but singularly important, question.

What do I need my name to say?

The most powerful and most memorable names communicate a unique idea. They instantly tell your customer about you, how your brand is different, what benefits they’ll enjoy and create emotional connections that energize brand relationships.

Often, this is not an easy exercise. You first have to agree on how you’re positioning your product and what you want the name to say before you can create a framework for generating on-target names. Do it right, however, and you can lead the category.

4. Dare to be different

Safe is no place to carve out a new brand space. How many more “Ameri” companies do we need? Ameri-Force, AmeriGas, Ameri-Cure, Ameri-Floors, Ameri-PAC…enough already.

While being original, your new name needs an element of familiarity that instantly makes your audience at ease. Speaking of which, it should be easy to pronounce and spell as well.

5. Brand architecture is foundational

Does your name have to fit within a corporate hierarchy of other brands and products? How will your corporate brand and product brands relate and how will your product brands deliver on the corporate brand promise? Considering brand architecture upfront is the smart move and could save your business an unnecessary and expensive rebranding effort.

Generally, marketers use one of three major brand architecture approaches:

  • Monolithic, where the corporate name is used on all products and services the company offers. Think of “branded houses” like Virgin, composed of more than 200 companies—brands as disparate as Virgin America (airline), Virgin Galactic (space flight), Virgin Mobile (mobile phone service), Virgin Active (health), Virgin Wines (online oenology), Virgin Vacations (travel agency), Virgin Megastore (shopping) and Virgin Earth (environmental).

  • Endorsed, in which all sub-brands are linked to the corporate brand by means of a verbal or visual endorsement. Branding powerhouse, Apple, is a perfect example of the “house blend” approach where the Apple brand halo adds credibility to Apple Macintosh, Apple iPod, Apple iTunes and Apple iPhone.

  • Freestanding, where the corporate brand is essentially a holding company and each product line or service is branded separately for its target market. The “house of brands” parent gets little or no prominence over the sub-brands. Clorox is a “house of brands” company with many well-known product lines under its corporate umbrella, including: Brita (water filters), Burt’s Bees (natural products), Glad (storage bags), Hidden Valley Ranch (salad dressings), Kingsford (charcoal), S.O.S. (cleaning products), Liquid Plumber (drain opener), Scoop Away (cat litter) and, of course, Clorox (bleach).

6. Today local…tomorrow the world.

Even if your small business has no intention of growing outside your home town, don’t constrain yourself with small town thinking. Make sure your name can grow as your business grows in the future to regional, national and even international distribution.

A small, high-quality food delivery service based in Austin, TX could have called itself Austin Food Delivery. Instead the business owners identified a consumer niche, developed a novel business plan and branded themselves Casserole Queens. Their business idea can grow as far and wide as they want to take it. And the name instantly communicates what sets them apart.

While you’re thinking globally, avoid creating an international incident with you new name. Make sure it successfully crosses cultural, religious, linguistic and language boundaries as well.

According to Coca-Cola when bringing its brand to China, the closest phonetic characters translated as “K'o K'ou K'o LĂȘ,” meaning “bite the wax tadpole.” Later a more preferable definition was found, “to permit mouth to be able to rejoice.” Know before you go.

7. Be expansive.

Plan for product line extensions today. Right now. Before your first brand is even out the door. Swiffer now covers a host of cleaning solutions from sweeping to dusting to mopping—both wet and dry—all under the same brand architecture.

8. Own it or regret it.

Making a comprehensive legal search of the rights to your name should be part of your plan from the start. Sure it’s possible to use a name without trademarking it. You risk all the value you invest in your brand if another company can lay claim to it.

Brand naming agencies often supply legal search services or they can connect you with partners who specialize in the area. Sometimes your own lawyers can help. Your legal team should make a definitive search to asses whether a name is both available and whether it’s protectable (distinctive enough that you can “own” it).

Availability and protectability are not binary issues.

Sometimes an availability search will find no relevant hits. Other times it will disclose relevant hits and be unclear about the prospects of availability. It can also save you big trouble by identifying conflicting marks where extreme risk may be involved.

Some names may be unique enough that your attorneys will judge them strongly or likely protectable. Other times a name may be weakly or borderline unprotectable. Some may be likely unprotectable. The earlier you know, the better.

You can make a quick check can on Google. Add more depth by searching the United States Patent and Trademark Office database at But get professional legal help on this.

Make sure the domain is clear or available in the aftermarket before you fall in love with a name. Some places to check.

9. Test it.

See how your names connect and resonate with your key audiences. Budget may decide the level of research and statistical sophistication you apply. But avoid staying in-house. You’re too close. And be skeptical of focus groups where the dynamics may identify weak names yet are no guarantee of finding strong, original names.

10. Integrate it.

All your marketing efforts should speak with one voice. Integrate your branding by developing brand guidelines and make sure anyone who needs them has them.

Be prepared to spend behind the launch of your brand. Brand name associations are not built in a day. They take time and repetition, regardless of the media you employ.

Bring everyone aboard. Employees. Sales force. The board room. Partners and vendors. And, of course, your customers. Everyone should know what you and your brand stand for and how the name and identity deliver.

Don’t trust your brand name success to luck

Great names don’t just pop up—and your brand is too important to trust success to luck.

Many marketers, once they realize what’s involved in creating successful names, find that the professional help of an experience integrated brand marketing agency is well worth the investment.

However you approach your naming assignment, put these 10 tips to work and think strategically about your naming process to ensure a great foundation for business success.



Here are a few web-based resources you may find helpful.

All images and trademarks are copyright by their respective owners, including: Nike, Virgin, Casserole Queens, and Swiffer.

Blog content: ©2009 Paul J. Hydzik. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.


Paul Hydzik grows brand value. As a brand marketer and award-winning creative leader, Paul has more than 15 years of experience driving business success from start-ups to blue chips. His strategic resume covers all aspects of B2B and B2C branding from go-to-market to consumer insight to identity development and all forms of marketing communication.