January 2013

Ideas Are As Fragile As The Backbones Behind Them

2013-01-28T10:11:53+00:00 Categories: SandBlog|Tags: , |

This cartoon by amazing marketing cartoonist Tom Fishburne and my headline – a quote from Jason Fox @LeeClowsBeard sums up why many companies are failing at innovation.

It is amazing to see the solutions teams think-up in brainstorming/strategy sessions.

The team arrived at the meeting space bright and early with doubt and challenges.
After a long – at times stressful – day of working the brain, our meeting comes to a close… Our results look like the illustration. Loads of ideas…and good ones too! There are at least 10 solutions on the board that will literally transform the company they were thought up for. (And we only needed one!)

The day concludes with confidence and solutions!

But then… this odd thing happens… sometime between wrapping up the meeting and showing up for work the next day. Just as Tom has depicted, ideas get trash talked when we’re back at our desks. Innovative ideas get quashed.

But why?

Do doubts set in? Was it groupthink that caused the strategy team to be so excited? Were people pretending they liked the ideas just to make the day go smoother? Are they afraid to be the ones to suggest change and “rock the boat?”

New ideas can be scary. New ideas – especially innovative ones – mean you’ll be doing somethings differently at your company. This makes people nervous. Especially those who were not in the strategy session to see how all this proposed fancy change came about!

Is my role changing? I’m good at what I currently do? If we do it that way, does that mean my job goes away? This new idea is much better than the way I’m doing it now? Will this make me redundant?

Employee concern for job security and the status quo (driven by poor leadership support) is what kills 98% of potential innovation at our organizations. This is where the quote/headline comes into play…

Champions Needed

Idea are indeed only as fragile as the backbones behind them.

When we strategize with clients we enforce a “Be The Champion” stage in the process. We acknowledge the fear and how others may perceive risk. Change can be scary. Change is a big deal. Some companies have entire change management divisions. Other companies embrace change as part of their culture and success formula.

Champions are idea advocates, ambassadors, promoters supporters, defenders, backers and crusaders!

Be the backbone for ideas! Supporting them until they have the strength to stand on their own.

Sign-up to receive Marketoonist each week, Tom’s brilliant marketing cartoons delivered right to your inbox.

Starbucks: Trying To Be All Things, To All People

2013-01-25T13:39:24+00:00 Categories: SandBlog|Tags: , , |

I saw this ad today on Facebook, for Starbucks Blonde Roast Coffee. *sigh*

Starbucks Blonde Roast

In addition to being awkward to order:

“I’d like a tall blonde with whip, please.”

It isn’t helping Starbucks be remarkable, or stand out… It is causing them to blend in.

What made Starbucks remarkable

A secret to Starbucks success was their dark roast. It was a polarizing flavor – back in the day. You either learned to like their strong bold coffee, or you called the coffee burnt and referred to the company as Charbucks or Tarbucks. You preferred the traditional East Coast coffee we were used to – with milk and sugar – from McDonald’s and Dunkin’ Donuts.

Once you got used to that dark flavor, it was hard to go back to a cup of Dunkin’ or 7-Eleven. That was Starbucks “thing.”

Starbucks took coffee – a commodity – and made it a specialty. It was the best and the tastiest. Starbucks was remarkable.

And it worked. Proof? Today 7-Eleven, McDonald’s, Dunkin’ Donuts – and all the rest – offer bold coffee and espresso-based beverages.

The problem with your competition catching up to what you’re doing is, in the eyes of the customer this potentially creates “parity.” A situation where there isn’t enough perceived difference between one product and another to drive preference. When there is perceived parity between products, but price is dramatically different, this creates a problem for your company.

“Gosh, I can get my McMuffin at McDonald’s and their coffee is bold too. And, it is cheaper. Hmmm why don’t I just get my breakfast and coffee at McD’s? I’m lovin’ it.”

What should Starbucks do / have done?

1. Focus delivering the highest quality, hand-crafted product. (Small batch steamed milk, highly-calibrated grinders, freshest roasted coffee).

Which they have focused on.

2. Create ways to break that parity – differentiate – by making customer service so stellar… so gold standard… so awesome… it makes every penny the customer spends more than worth it. Thus, increasing perceived value and staying remarkable.

Which they haven’t done.

Instead of differentiating, they’ve made Starbucks even MORE similar to McDonald’s and Dunkin’ Donuts by offering a light-roast Blonde coffee.


Starbucks perceives themselves as “leaving money on the table” with all those customers who don’t come to Starbucks and prefer lighter roast at places like Dunkin’.

The myth is… by offering more, we create a bigger net and catch more customers.

The reality is… when you try to be all things to all people, you no longer represent anything specific. You’re no longer remarkable, but common. Customers don’t know why they should specifically come to you. And, if you’re as good or the same as the next place… customers may as well choose the next place.

Starbucks is no longer about great, dark coffee. They have taken their coffee specialty and made it again a commodity.

So now, their strategy, like McDonald’s, you choose Starbucks not because it is the best and tastiest, but because it is convenient.

Bummer. (p.s. Starbucks leadership… there is still time!)

Image source: Starbucks.com

What are Key Components to Include in a Brand Style Guide?

2013-01-24T13:59:22+00:00 Categories: SandBlog|Tags: , , , , |

POINT: Paul Williams

There are two types of information that may be included in a Brand Style Guide. I’m going to refer to the entire package of tools as Brand Identity & Standards Guide. The first type of information has to do with the brand identity elements – logo, color scheme, font usage, etc… The second documents corporate guidelines – mission, values, etc…

Based on your company size, you may have some or all of these bits of formally documented. If your company is smaller, this information may only live in the brains of the founder and the person who does your design work. (more…)

Why is a Brand Style Guide Important?

2013-01-15T10:36:15+00:00 Categories: Crackerjack Marketer, SandBlog|Tags: , , |

POINT: John Moore

A Brand Style Guide is important for businesses of all sizes. It’s a must have when working with outside vendors and with departments inside a company to ensure everyone is using the company’s logo in a consistent and correct manner.

The size of your business will determine the level of detail needed in a Brand Style Guide. Small businesses need less detailed style guides while big businesses need more detailed style guides. (more…)

Can a Brand be Built without a Large Budget?

2013-01-24T14:01:30+00:00 Categories: SandBlog|

POINT: Paul Williams


And brands with big budgets can fail.

But what’s considered large, anyhow? Dunkin’ Donuts will spend more to launch a single product than what Starbucks allocates for their total annual marketing budget. Large is in the eye of the marketer.  (more…)

Top 12 from 12: Most Popular Idea Sandbox Posts from 2012

2013-01-08T16:14:30+00:00 Categories: SandBlog|

Interesting to see which posts you found most helpful in 2012. While lots of old posts are being viewed – these are the articles most viewed in 2012. Happy New Year!

1) Tips To Be More Creative and a Better at Problem Solving

August 2012
There are various ways to approach creativity and problem solving in the workplace. Through two interviews, Idea Sandbox founder Paul Williams, shares his insights on how to remember great ideas and how to get un-stuck, creatively.

[link to article]

2) Innovation Requires Both Ideas + Action

May 2012
To be innovative, we need to be good at both idea generation and idea execution. In the same way that seeds need farmers, one can’t get along without the other.
[link to article]

3) Achieve Goals + Resolutions With Bite-Sized Chunks

January 2012
Sometimes, in our excitement (and impatience) to achieve our goals, we forget the basics.  Break down your big goals into smaller, easier to accomplish task. Before you know it – you’re halfway there.

[link to article]

4) The One Question You Need To Solve Business Challenges

August 2012
When faced with a business challenge, start with the “how.”
[link to article]

5) The Marketing Power of a Simple T-Shirt

September 2012
A clever t-shirt generates great word-of-mouth marketing for very little investment.
[link to article]

6) Keep Moving Forward: Five Tips To Turn Defeat Into Victory

June 2012
Salvage something from every setback. Tips and advice from a Disney movie, and from David Schwartz, the author of “The Magic of Thinking Big.”
[link to article]

7) Three Ps For Better Leading: Pace, Process, Pulse

May 2012
One of the characteristics of a great leader is the ability to stay “tuned in” to the needs of their audience.
[link to article]

8) Drive Innovation: Suggest Ideas, Don’t Propose Them

April 2012
Telling people what to do can make them defensive, push back, and shut ideas down. Putting forward a suggestion makes it impersonal – allowing the idea to be adopted instead of forced in the mind.
[link to article]

9) Taking Action: 8 Ways to Classify Ideas

April 2012
A great way to evaluate your ideas is by categorizing them into what Edward de Bono calls “End Categories.” Understanding and applying these categories will help you to focus, prioritize, take action, or reject ideas.
[link to article]

10) Compartmentalize: Brainstorm Like a School Lunch Tray

April 2012
Our brains are wired for quick categorization and judgement. Use this instinctive trait to make brainstorming more effective.
[link to article]

11) Magic of Thinking Big

February 2012
An original infographic on creativity from Paul Williams, founder of Idea Sandbox.
[link to article]

12) Get Quality Ideas From a Quantity Of Options

May 2012
Decisions improve in proportion to the number of interesting, attractive, and doable alternatives you have to consider. The next time you or your team start moving with the first idea that pops into mind, entertain other options. You deserve the right to decide, not simply be forced with an approach due to haste.
[link to article]

Popular Pages…

While we were looking at the popular posts… we noticed two pages stood out in popularity among the rest. They were…


Collection of some of the most creative and conducive meeting locations – from around the world – for strategy meetings, and offsite events.

[link to page]

Brainstorming tools

Some of the most effective tools to assist with all your problem solving needs… from problem identification, through leading a project, and implementation. Brought to you by Idea Sandbox and some of our favorite problem-solvers.
[link to page]