A Case Study in Brand Engagement: CEO

Despite their relatively small size, the brand had evolved to mean different things to different people, and members themselves couldn’t fully articulate the distinct value of the organization beyond naming the beautiful destinations they had visited for CEO events over the years. This made it hard to grow their network, which, in turn, impacted the value of participation for existing members.

Our assignment was twofold: first, to go deep, to understand the most meaningful value of the organization for members, and translate that into a clear and compelling value proposition. Secondly, we needed to surface new ways to engage people with the organization, so they could fully realize all the benefits of being part of this intimate network of executive leaders.

Chatper 1: The Journey
We started by launching a member survey to gather current perceptions of the organization as well as to learn where members spent the most time and energy within the network. With which programming did they most often engage? What were their most valued takeaways from events they attended in person no matter where they took place? Which other organizations did they belong to and how was CEO different?

We continued our learning through deep dive empathy interviews among members. We asked members how they make decisions about how to spend their time? Why do they travel? Could they tell us a story about something on their bucket list—something they’ve already checked off the list or something they were eager to do?

Through our quantitative and qualitative research, we saw some clear patterns emerge. Importantly, we learned travel was frequently a means to more valuable ends—the value members placed in the close-knit size of the membership (despite geographic distances), the depth of the learning experiences with people and places they could only access through this network, and the lifelong friendships that formed as a result of their active participation with the organization. In other words, personal engagement.

Chapter 2: The Breakthrough
This was a key insight—the value members took from CEO was often a reflection of how engaged they themselves were within the organization. We used this insight as the jumping off point for two brand innovation workshops. So, with an eye toward strengthening engagement, we designed workshops to identify and prepare to test 3 new ways to engage new members and engage existing members more deeply.

With a task force of members who had volunteered to conduct the deep dive empathy interviews prior to our workshops, we started with empathy mapping, to create profiles that reflected segments of the target audience. These empathy maps helped workshop participants walk in the shoes and see the world through the eyes of the people we aspired to have join the network. This allowed us to do truly breakthrough brainstorming around the kind of engagement opportunities that would be most relevant and meaningful to them.

Among our favorite ideas were those that engaged current members in getting in touch with newer or prospective members to learn more about them, and serve as unofficial ambassadors for the organization. We hoped this approach would help make those new or not-yet members more inclined to engage. In exploring this idea further, we also realized the very act of serving as an ambassador deepened engagement by the current member.

Chapter 3: The Results
Prioritizing more than 150 ideas co-created in that first workshop, we filtered them by their potential for measurable impact against the resources available to implement. Within a month, we launched 3 pilot programs to test the ideas, and within just 2 weeks of launching the first pilot, an ambassador program, one new member joined the organization as a result. Our second workshop resulted in nearly 100 more ideas and action plans to experiment with another 5 projects this year.

In addition to these results, we crafted a new brand value proposition statement and the team has embraced empathy as a core part of their member engagement strategy. The new board president of the network has declared 2019 The Year of Engagement! And one of the volunteer task force members shared that he found deeper value in the organization for himself through his personal engagement conducting empathy interviews with other members.

By going deep into what was important in the lives of the people CEO hoped to engage, we were able to find new ways for the brand to deliver value for them, thus driving engagement and, ultimately membership value. In other words, we didn't survey or interview them just about their opinions about the brand. We did our best to get to know more about them and what drives and fulfills them. Then we were able to find ways for the organization to add value in their lives.

The Possibility Shop was honored to be a part of the CEO journey. The end of our engagement marked a new beginning and we’re thrilled to know our collaboration catalyzed new thinking, new organizational goals and new programming that continues today.

We’d love to brainstorm breakthrough ways for you to engage your audiences more deeply. Drop us a line any time and we’ll explore the possibilities together.


5 Ways Paris Inspires Innovation Without Even Trying

Ooh la la, The City of Lights. Cultural center for artists, authors, philosophers, fashion, food and abundant “je ne sais quoi.” And in 1889, as a result of Alexandre Gustave Eiffel’s extraordinary vision that challenged architectural status quo, home to the iconic tower that stands tall today as a testament to the idea that anything is possible.

Travel is an excellent way to gain fresh perspective, shake loose new ideas buried in until-then untapped corners of your brain, and fire up neural connections that help us solve our stickiest challenges.
I recently celebrated my birthday in Paris, a soiree with friends in an historic apartment (well, mostly on the balcony of the historic apartment) overlooking the implausibly stunning Eiffel Tower, complete with a farm market fresh menu and Bastille Day fireworks. It was a joyful holiday and the trip delivered unexpected professional inspiration, too.

Here are five things we can borrow from Parisian life to fuel innovation at home.

  1. Visit cafés. If you’ve been to Paris, you know well the abundance of cafes with sidewalk seating. This observation is sort of a two-for-one. First, the tables are outdoors. Year-round. There is nothing like fresh air (even if warmed with a propane heater in the winter) to rekindle our senses. Second, all the chairs face OUTWARD. What better way to see what’s happening in the world than to look out into it? This seating reminds us to look beyond the familiar, beyond the things and people we already know, and to see what else is out there, to the unexpected people or ideas that might come our way if we are open to them.

  2. Practice la langue. (The language). Je ne parle qu’un petit peu de francais. (I only speak a bit of French.) Here’s what great about this—it means I need to try alternate words, expressions, gestures to communicate. Just like in our own native tongue, when we don’t know (or can’t quite remember) the word for something, we work around it, and use alternate words to express our meaning. For example, I was trying to remember the word robinet (faucet) and instead needed to say “la chose dont nous recevons de l'eau a la salle de bain” (the thing from which we get water in the bathroom). This reminds us there is more than one path to success. This encourages us to just get started. We can—and will—get there even we don’t know the most direct path from the beginning.

  3. Embrace limitations. It’s a common problem for hosts of parties in French homes—the refrigerator isn’t large enough to hold the food and beverages for the event. Easy, daily access to fresh food, from the city’s abundant and ubiquitous farm markets, for example, means people don’t routinely need to buy and store large amounts of food in advance of cooking and serving it. On the day of a festive soiree, however, it would be helpful if le frigo could hold the appetizers, white wine, cheese, pate and butter (ooh la la, French butter). Since they often cannot, the host or hostess must get creative, scheduling the purchase of key items closer to the start of the party, having friends bring ingredients, adding a plug-in cooler in a corner of another room for the Perrier, and so on. Our workplace limitations don’t typically prevent us from keeping our pate de campagne chilled until sunset; they more likely represent insufficient budgets, small staff or time constraints. Limitations help us be more creative and solve our business challenges in new ways, forcing us to think outside the box (or le frigo) to get the job done.

  4. Walk. Sometimes when we’re visiting a new place, we start out with our destination in mind and are so eager to get there, we hop in the car and speed to the finish. In Paris, some of the most rewarding moments come from going “off road,” which in this urban setting means going by foot. When we are walking, we have more time to really see what’s right in front of us. We can easily slip through a passageway to discover architectural wonders, hidden shops or specialty bakeries we would never have found from the backseat of a taxi. The reminder here is it really is ok to slow down sometimes so we’ve room to explore, see a new angle and make our own detours as a path to discovery. When we race to the finish, it’s easy to miss opportunities that can enrich the experience.

  5. Be open. Serendipity is a gift for innovation! One evening, one of the families with whom we were traveling invited us to join them in climbing the Eiffel Tower. The most iconic structure in The City of Lights and symbol of everything French! Of course we'd join them, we said! So we tried—and failed—to get tickets to join them that evening. Alas, we opted to skip the attraction (and the hours-long wait in line with our six year old son). As luck would have it, our Parisian friends texted us to share they were in “our” neighborhood, asking would we like to get together with them and their young sons? Instead of battling the crowded throng of tourists at the Tower, we sipped a glass of chilled Sancerre with locals, which turned into dinner and a play date with their sons, which turned into one of my favorite nights of the entire vacation. We walked (see #4 above) to a nearby café that welcomed children (see #3 above) where we sat outside (see #1 above) where the waiter was exceptionally friendly as I ordered for the table to practice my French (see #2 above). By being open to new possibilities, we were generously rewarded. We enjoyed a beautiful evening outdoors, nurtured our relationship with friends, satisfied our palette with Parisian cuisine and created memories we will carry with us for a long time. Maybe we’ll go inside the Eiffel Tower on our next visit to Paris. Or maybe we won’t…

If you won’t have a chance to visit Paris this season and would still like to bring some French joie de vivre and je ne sais quoi to your team and your work, we’d love to explore the possibilities with you. Drop us a line any time. A bientot!


A Case Study in Sharing Brand Purpose: PBS

If you watch PBS, you already know this legacy brand has a long history of expressing its thanks to viewers like you. That’s because its business model relies heavily in individual donations from viewers like you to continue offering great content, on every platform, for adults and kids alike.

To inspire donations, PBS knew it needed to demonstrate its purpose in clear terms, to make sure people knew exactly why this brand matters. Rooted deeply in customer research, the marketing team identified three key attributes that viewers like you said really set PBS apart from the pack and made it worth their financial support.
First was the idea that PBS shows opened up worlds of possibilities for people—whether through historical dramas, science or nature, journalism or the arts. Secondly, because access to those shows is free (as the cord-cutters knew so well), which meant anyone who wanted to explore the world outside their living room, could. Finally, that PBS was the only media company with stations on the ground in every market in America meant there were opportunities for local content and personal experiences complementary to the national offering.
Great marketers know it’s far better to show someone than to just tell someone your story. And even better if fans of your brand are willing to tell their version of the story on your behalf! Marrying this marketing know-how with the research-based findings about what the brand stands for, the in-house creative team produced a first-person testimonial campaign featuring real viewers like you. Each one told a unique story about how PBS opened up a world of possibility they hadn’t considered before.
This is Yuyi’s Story. This is Craig’s Story. This is Denice’s Story.
There are several more, each one personal, authentic and a vibrant illustration of the PBS brand purpose. You can read a bit more about the campaign strategy and results, as well as the DIY testimonial production guide, here.

This campaign is an example of powerful, purposeful storytelling. Individually, each story shines a light on differentiating brand values. Together, they add up to something bigger the a whole—anyone, people in any place on their personal journey and in any town, have access to new worlds of possibility through PBS.