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3 fresh ways to look at your brand and unlock new thinking

Sometimes your relationship with your brand gets a little stale. Same old KPI reports, same old P&L cuts, same old customer service logs. I get it. I've been there!

Need some new energy for innovative, creative thinking? Try one or more of these exercises to get the juices flowing.

A Store Walk

Spending an hour at your favorite grocery store (or your appropriate retail environment) can be ILLUMINATING. Every time a marketer walks a store an angel gets it wings... er, I mean, they remember how valuable it is and vow to do it again real soon. But of course, our day to day lives prevent that. So here I am to remind you of its value!

Start by spending time in your own retail set -- how do your product and packaging look? The printing, the packaging structure, the label design, the price point, and the feel of it in your hand are all good markers to hit. Then look at your competitors in the same way. What do you see that excites you? Concerns you? Confuses you? Imagine yourself as the consumer -- how does all this make you feel?

Then take a gander down 3 other sections of the store. First, pick two strategically. Categories that are similar to yours, either in usage occasions or consumer attitudes and beliefs for example. If your brand is a yogurt, look at plant-based beverages. If your brand is in electronics, look at office supplies. Then pick one totally random and very different category. If your brand is a battery, look at ketchup. Again, evaluate as much as you can and see what brands are doing that is spot on and what seems way off. Look at it as a consumer as well as a marketer. What do you see here that can help your own brand?

The Happy Hour​

Ok, I'm not actually suggesting alcohol at this happy hour -- unless, of course, that's appropriate for your company, and, in which case, please invite me. For the rest of you, the happy hour is about interacting with competitor or category adjacent products.

Buy a sampling of competitor products -- don't limit yourself to those immediately in your competitive set but instead reach outside your retail customers to find products that are less or more available than your brand. You sell premium popcorn online? Then don't forget a trip to your local Aldi for whatever they're selling.

Then extend that beyond the actual products -- pull up their website on the projector. Check out their social media channels and how consumers are engaging with them (e.g. search for hashtags or FB reviews). Visit YouTube to find brand or consumer-generated video content. And of course, search for reviews, both great ones, and bad ones, to see what consumers say first hand.

Now, this may seem like it's catered to food companies -- and yes, those can be the most logical for this exercise. However, this can work for almost any consumer brand. There is a lot of value investing in competitor products even if you operate in a more premium category -- arguably even more important! You want your team to experience first hand what the competitors offer/don't offer and how they are talking to their consumers, in order to help unlock thinking about your brand and products.

If you ever host a happy hour with curly hair products, gel pens, or standing mixers, please invite me! Just let me know when and where.

The Creative Wall ​

This is a super fun exercise I first learned about during my time at Pepsico on the Lay's brand.

Brands generate an impressive amount of content. I'm not talking specifically social media content but all kinds of content that are used in all kinds of mediums. From sales sheets to websites to possibly hundreds of packaging designs for your many SKUs. The more content you create, the harder it can be to keep a pulse on it. This puts your message and branding at risk, as you want to ensure you have a message consistent with your positioning and offerings at all times (even if your visual design changes).

Enter the creative wall exercise. Print up or find as many examples of your brand content and lay it all out on a wall. The more stuff, the better. Then stand back and look at what you've got. Do all these pieces tell a similar story? Do they all feel like they're from the same brand? Are they all evoking the emotion you want the consumer to feel? Do they all grab the consumer's attention? Do they inspire action?

Take some lessons from this exercise to implement right away. You may decide you can work harder on a particular brand personality trait, or need to create a new standards guide, or perhaps improve the consistency between two mediums.

Whatever the lesson, it's a great way to reconnect with everything the consumer may see about your brand so you can ensure you're always being true to your brand.

Have you tried any of these? I'd love to hear about it.

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