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Looking for Innovation? Consider "Brand-Storming"

Posted by Mark Carr

Thu, Feb 06, 2014

Originally posted in the SMEI blog

South Street Strategy and CMBAt some point all business leaders are challenged to “innovate” in order to grow their company’s bottom line.

Done right, innovation creates value for both the company and the customer through new-to –the-world solutions to needs. It’s logical that products and services are where companies start their innovation efforts because, after all, these are very tangible sources of value. However, brand and marketing can also be powerful drivers of value and differentiation and should not be overlooked as potential anchors for innovation.Many innovation initiatives begin with a brainstorming session in which a bunch of internal folks sit around and try to generate new ideas for products or services they think customers want. For a fresh take on this process, consider “brand-storming” as the starting point for inspiration.

What is a “brand-storming” session, exactly? Well, in marketing speak, it’s generating innovative ideas for brand extensions, leveraging brand equity (a very valuable asset) to push into adjacent or even totally new product areas.

Start a successful brand-storm with  a clear articulation of your brand strategy, brand attributes and positioning. Then do creativity exercises that apply key brand attributes to new markets or to new solutions to existing customers.

Need to get the juices flowing? Look for examples in the marketplace:

  • Consumer products are the easiest place to start. For example, consider Arm & Hammer Baking Soda’s extension to toothpaste (“clean” and “white”) or Duracell’s introduction of the PowerMat to recharge phones and other devices (e.g. “long lasting power”).

  • Virgin is probably the poster child for brand-centered innovation, using its well-defined and unique positioning to extend into everything from airlines to cell phones.

All of this is not to say that brand should be the only source of invention. But brand-storming brings a new part of the company to the innovation table and adds another angle for sparking new, powerful ideas for growth. 

In our upcoming webinar we will look at some of the common pitfalls of innovation initiatives and explore how to use “brand” and “brand attributes” as well as innovative go-to-market strategies to unlock growth opportunities in new, unexpected directions. Hope to see you there!

Posted by J. Mark Carr, Mark is co-founder and managing partner of South Street Strategy Group.

Topics: South Street Strategy Group, strategy consulting, product development, marketing strategy, webinar, brand health and positioning, growth and innovation

Targeting the Millennial Consumer

Posted by Lindsay Maroney

Tue, Jan 21, 2014

Millennials 620x384The Millennial Generation, which includes those born between 1980 and 1995, is taking the world by storm. Not only are they the future leaders, with many already making an impact (think Mark Zuckerberg), they are also rapidly becoming the focus of many marketing campaigns from companies hungry to have them as customers. This isn’t surprising: they are the largest generation on earth at 1.8 billion and soon to be the richest, with their earnings projected to outpace Baby Boomers by 2018.Companies attempting to gain share of Millennials’ fast growing wallets need to adjust their strategies. The Millennial generation may look like the others, but it is not. This generation has different likes, interests, and shopping habits, along with a deep-seated dependence on social media. As such, companies from a variety of industries are taking differentiated approaches to reaching this group, all of which utilize an aspect of social media. Some examples of these approaches appear below.

Making affluence affordable: In the spring of 2013, Mercedes released their 2014 CLA, with a markedly low price point of $30,000. This release was coupled with a marketing strategy heavily influenced by social media. Though its own microsite, Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram, Mercedes drove its #CLAtakethewheel campaign. It encouraged consumers to create their own shareable content while further promoting it through an Instagram sweepstakes.

Gaining peer approval: Warby Parker, an eyewear manufacturer, not only sends customers 5 trial pairs of glasses, but provides them the opportunity to upload a video of themselves, trying on their frames, to Facebook. Once uploaded, they can get feedback from their friends, and Warby Parker’s team will even share a recommendation for which frames work best for that consumer’s face.

Supporting a cause: With 83% of Millennials saying that they will patronize a company with a charitable component over one without, companies like Target are taking advantage of this social consciousness by supporting a cause. Target, through its collaboration with FEED Projects, created a YouTube campaign, illustrating how purchasing a FEED-branded product will support the fight against hunger.

These campaign examples show that there is no single blueprint for how to successfully target Millennials. But there is one thing that they all have in common, in addition to using social media: they effectively identify and appeal to common characteristics of this age group. Whether it is making luxury cars more affordable, helping Millennials gain approval from their peers, or appealing to their desire to help the less fortunate, these companies hit the mark. After all, a diverse generation needs diversity in how they are reached.

Lindsay is an Associate Consultant at  South Street Strategy Group. South Street South Street Strategy GroupStrategy Group, an independent sister company of Chadwick Martin Bailey, integrates the best of strategy consulting and marketing science to develop better growth and value delivery strategies. 

Topics: South Street Strategy Group, strategy consulting, millennials, marketing strategy

South Street Strategy Gears up for the Back End of Innovation!

Posted by Mark Carr

Fri, Nov 15, 2013

back end of innovationAt South Street Strategy Group, we love working on innovation projects as well as presenting  and exchanging ideas with fellow practitioners at innovation-related events.Earlier this year, South Street’s Managing Partner, Mark Carr, presented at the Front End of Innovation Conference in Boston along with Judy Melanson from CMB (South Street’s sister market research firm), and Jeremy Palmer, Vice President of Tauck (our client). The topic was Focused Innovation: Creating New Value for a Legacy Brand and we shared the success story of how we’ve helped Tauck ignite growth worldwide through its baby boomer focused Culturious brand. You can check out a recording of that presentation here.

Next week, we will be heading to Santa Clara, California for the Back End of Innovation Conference (Nov. 18-20) and can’t wait to get immersed in all of the activities – keynote sessions, breakouts, networking breaks, and meals with friends old and new. If you’re in the area or will be attending the conference, let us know. We’d love to meet up! 

South Street StrategySouth Street Strategy Group, an independent sister company of Chadwick Martin Bailey, integrates the best of strategy consulting and marketing science to develop better growth and value delivery strategies. 

Royal Caribbean Case StudyFor more on how CMB and South Street Strategy help executives strengthen their brands and positions, identify opportunities, segment their markets, overcome challenges and drive brand zeal and customer loyalty, check out a few of our case studies here.


Topics: South Street Strategy Group, conference recap

Interactive Storytelling to Make Strategy Work

Posted by Jennifer von Briesen

Mon, Nov 11, 2013

storytellingIt is human nature to love a good story, and it’s no wonder that for centuries storytelling has been a powerful force for human learning, change and advancement. As business strategists, we use stories in a variety of ways in both strategy development and implementation.In strategy development, we often learn from case studies—stories of relevant successes and failures as well as analogs from other industries—to help inform our thinking on problems we are helping our clients solve.

In strategy implementation, we use stories as a catalyst for organizational buy-in and change. The most effective business leaders we work with are expert at communicating a vision with clarity and passion and guiding organizations to implement strategies using stories, ongoing dialogues and narratives. They don’t simply make edicts or repeat the same message over and over. They use their influence and credibility to communicate intentions, future direction and strategies, and invite everyone to participate, interact, and become part of the continuing story. 

Good stories are memorable and engaging and completely believable. They connect us and help us understand and relate to others, whether those others are involved in telling the story or simply listening to it. When leaders want to rally teams and employees to implement new initiatives, they need to be authentic and communicate with conviction and energy in order to gain trust and commitment. By carefully crafting and honing messages and stories that they share and adapt over time, leaders become more effective at connecting and teaching,  guiding and motivating others through implementation successes, challenges and setbacks.

If you are interested in this topic and related research, below are some of my own favorites, from people I’ve worked with or learned from recently:

  • Guide Innovation Through Storytelling  Rob Salafia and David Sollars aptly call themselves story archeologists. Their process really is about digging underneath the outer layer of the what’s and why’s behind change, to help business leaders uncover their own narratives that will motivate and engage larger audiences. South Street recently worked with Rob and Dave in facilitating a large innovation workshop at a top 5 U.S. health care insurance client.

  • Strategy Made Simple - The 3 Core Strategy Questions  John Hagel insightfully points out in this blog post that “the ultimate form of differentiation is a compelling narrative—a unique and unfolding opportunity for the audience that invites their participation to help shape the outcome.” This and some of his other entries discuss modern strategy and the role of an ongoing narrative that’s focused on external audiences, not the executive suite.

  • Conversational Intelligence, by Judith E. Glaser. This book is a great place to explore the cultural transformations that companies must go through in order to embrace change. Big hint here: it all leads back to how company leadership approaches change and the narrative around it.

What role do stories play in your willingness to get on board with change? Can you identify one strategic issue where storytelling can support your goal?

Jennifer is a Director at  South Street Strategy Group. She recently received the 2013 “Member of the Year” award by the Association for Strategic Planning (ASP), the preeminent professional association for those engaged in strategic thinking, planning and action.

Topics: South Street Strategy Group, strategy consulting, storytelling

Innovation at Marvel Comics

Posted by Jennifer von Briesen

Thu, Oct 24, 2013

Originally posted on the South Street Strategy Group Blog

marvel avengers logoKristin Vincent, VP, Product at Marvel Entertainment, has been helping the 70-year old company re-define itself in the digital age. Not knowing much about comics when she joined the company in 2011, she quickly gained credibility and influence with her fresh perspective, insights and actions related to the company’s “Re-Evolution” digital strategy, which officially launched in March 2012.At a recent conference, she shared the principles Marvel has used to evolve its comics business so that fans continue to love their experience with comics, while traditional print and new digital formats and channels co-exist and thrive at the same time:

  1. Proclaim your intentions – Declare what you want to do and communicate this publicly. This not only creates anticipation and excitement, but it builds internal commitment and accountability.

  2. Develop new products with connections to existing products – This approach helps to minimize cannibalization, reassures existing customers and channel partners, and adds excitement to established products. Marvel gave everyone who bought a print comic a free digital version, and created an augmented reality application to be used with the print version to get additional behind-the-scenes information.

  3. Challenge the most basic assumptions you have about your products – For Marvel, this meant re-thinking what a comic is, beyond traditional attributes such as paper booklets, panels, and pages, to seeing it as serialized graphic storytelling with excellent graphics, opening up new “Infinite” comic possibilities that rethink what a comic page means

  4. Partner with users – Marvel used listening labs and usability testing to understand how fans experience comics. It brought fans in and used flip video cameras to record them in real world scenarios using comics and computers to understand pain points. Marvel also got fans to register to become Marvel Advisors to test products and provide input to their development pre-launch. Kristin says that as soon as the executive team watched a one-hour video highlighting all of the user issues and opportunities, it made a huge difference in helping to change the culture and continuing the effort to innovate

  5. Develop a roadmap that starts small and builds – Marvel started with one comic in a plastic polybag with a code inside for the digital download. Now users get a free digital download with all $3.99 comics in print

  6. Balance user requests with bold new ideas – Marvel re-launched Marvel Unlimited (a subscription program that gives users unlimited access to over 13,000 digital comics) but also sourced and introduced “Project Gamma,” an innovative new adaptive audio technology. It will be a cool new way to experience digital comics where the sound will change as you move through the story.

  7. Fail fast and pivot – Marvel had to take a promotion down on the first day when demand for free downloads was so great that the third-party servers it was using crashed and fans couldn’t buy digital versions for two days. They corrected course and used this failure as an opportunity to show customers they cared by being honest and transparent.

  8. Re-evolve –Marvel enhanced its print products with digital, and is using new formats.

In 2012, the innovations helped Marvel achieve triple digit growth in its digital business while keeping its core B2B brick-and-mortar store channel partners happy. The digital and print products complement each other, satisfying existing fans while opening up a whole new fan and user base.

Jennifer is a Director at  South Street Strategy Group. She recently received the 2013 “Member of the Year” award by the Association for Strategic Planning (ASP), the preeminent professional association for those engaged in strategic thinking, planning and action.

South Street Strategy Group, an independent sister company of Chadwick Martin Bailey, integrates the best of strategy consulting and marketing science to develop better growth and value delivery strategies. Read South Street's Strategy Group's blog here.

Topics: South Street Strategy Group, strategy consulting, product development, conference recap, customer experience and loyalty, growth and innovation