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State of the Plate

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Feb 272019

The Successful Brand Workshop—steal these exercises for a killer meeting

With nearly any product or service at our fingertips every moment of the day, a strong brand has become more vital to success than at any time in marketing history. So, how do you create a new brand or revitalize an old one? A workshop can align brand champions and lay the groundwork for all future branding efforts.

But it’s all too easy for workshops to go off track with great discussion but no real conclusions or commitment to tangible action. Our team at Charleston|Orwig works on branding constantly and has held numerous workshops for teams ranging from a half dozen participants to more than a hundred. These tips and exercises have proven themselves time and again—from startups to M&A to making what was old new again, globally.

Ice Breaker—getting beyond silliness to personal connection

Relate to the task at hand. If you’re meeting to brand a health food, encourage everyone to reveal the unhealthy food that’s a personal guilty pleasure. Or make a local connection. If you’re in St. Louis ask for a personal story (true or false) related to the arch, then have them reveal whether it was real. Or just have fun: If you could be any animal, what would it be?

At first glance, ice breakers might seem a silly waste of valuable time. But people who know one another—even a little—make better workshop partners because they can relate to what’s funny, touching and interesting in another’s life. 

Movie or Song—sometimes funny, always insightful

If your company were a movie, if your company were a song, if your company were a specific make and brand of car, … you get the idea. For larger groups beyond a dozen or so in number, as well as for those predisposed to being stiff and distant with each other, this exercise will uncover essential brand insights at the same time it’s doing some icebreaking of its own.

Don’t be surprised if it also yields some passionate exchanges as individuals defend their choices. And that’s the real purpose here—to tease out why (there’s that word again) someone might choose a Jeep Wrangler versus a Tesla S as most representative of the brand.

Then, proceed to something more specific such as The Golden Circle or Pixar (see below).

Musical Instrument—cross language barriers and cultures

Yes, American culture is universal, but movies, music and car models can be quite different in various parts of the world. An exercise using those items may fall short when language and cultural barriers are present. Everyone, however, knows what a piano is.

If your brand were a piano, electric guitar or trumpet, what would it be? We want you to defend your rationale for choosing one. This, too, can set the stage for other exercises while getting the group engaged.

The Golden Circle—why not find your “why”

Yeah, you probably already know Simon Sinek is a brilliant marketer and that his renowned Golden Circle breakouts work because they are a fun and challenging way to determine a brand’s “what,” “how” and “why.” One word of caution: You’ll want to watch Simon’s videos and read his books if you plan to facilitate this one.

By getting participants to focus on purpose, you can encourage even the most technical of engineers to think beyond product attributes. Many have never even considered their “why.”

Pixar Pitch—find your Nemo (and the narrative arc of your brand)

Thank you, Daniel Pink, for explaining why we get sucked into Pixar movies and enjoy every minute of the emotional ride they take us on. As with the example above, make sure you read the books, watch the videos and practice on yourself before conducting a breakout using this exercise.

Carefully select unlike individuals to collaborate in groups of no fewer than three and no more than five. Give them at least 30 minutes to write their Pixar pitch, as described by Pink, before sharing it with the group.

We guarantee this exercise will reveal new insights and help you better articulate brand attributes, even if it’s a product or company with which participants have had a long association.

Setting yourself up for success

We always go into workshops with a relevant icebreaker and a plan for which exercises, such as the Golden Circle, might work best with that particular group. We may even send out an advance copy of Simon Sinek’s book, Start with Why, or hand it out at the meeting. We’ve also learned the importance of being nimble, adapting exercises and calling “audibles” as needed to ensure the group arrives at the ultimate outcomes: a robust discussion where many voices are heard and a commitment to tangible action.

All of this, of course, is just one part of a successful branding effort. Audience segmentation and personas, journey mapping and establishing a message platform also come into play. The proven exercises shared here, however, lay a strong foundation for that later work, helping to ensure buy-in and commitment among brand champions. Conducted well, they will work for you, too.

We are happy to answer questions or share additional information. Just reach out to Mark Gale—mark.g@charlestonorwig.com.

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