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Showing posts from May, 2012

When You Lack The Language To Describe What's Happening

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"Shadow Man" by Jaqian via Flickr
Once I had a supervisor who used to call me in and do her e-mail while I sat there.
She would check it and respond; take phone calls; talk about the weather, and her home, and her weekend; and once in a while give me a task or two.
Sometimes she would say, "I have to go to the restroom," and would say something like "let's go."
I was young and inexperienced and fearful. So I went. Fortunately all I had to do was wait outside, but it was still pretty humiliating.

She talked and talked the whole time, and I had to nod and go along with it like it was totally normal.

I share this not for gross-out value but to talk about one aspect of the experience that stands out for me.
At the time, I did not have the language to name what I was going through. So although I knew there was something wrong, I couldn't really confront the situation.
Today I have the words, of course:
* Boundary-crossing * Exploitive * Sadistic
...and so on.
This …

Anything But Feelings

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Photo: "Strangers' Stories" by Alyssa L. Miller via Flickr. Caption: "A superimposition of two shots from a short film I made in New York City about two strangers who form a silent friendship on the streets of New York. Inspired by the real people we walk past on the streets of this big city without a second glance, without wondering why or how they got there. We’re all innately connected, even if in our intrinsic lonliness. An yet, we forgot that everyone is the protagonist in his/her own story. And everyone has something to offer. It’s wonderful. Sometimes I think, 'life would be so much simpler if we didn’t have to make everything so complex.' Then again, I’m a culprit. Too." _______________________________________________

The Outsourced Self,” a new book by sociologist Arlie Hochschild, is about people who make money by selling friendship and love – think “Rent-A-Friend.”
The entire industry of branding today is exactly about this. Adding value…

How To Display Bananas

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Not sitting down, like this (Au Bon Pain). Starbucks does that too, except worse.

Hanging (Whole Foods).

If you don't care about the item you are selling, stop selling it.

Good luk!

The Brand Strategist's Bias

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People knowledgeable about branding tend to think that the case for branding is self-evident.

The best brand strategists are able to talk to non-brand people who are completely unconvinced or even hostile to the concept of branding.

(Mars and Venus if you will.)

When I was younger and more immature I resisted the concept of using "reputation" as a substitute. Now, I see the wisdom. (Hat tip: The Brand Consultancy, Mark Morris and Diane Beecher.)

In the end you can have the best ideas in the world. But those ideas are actually implemented through people.

Think objectively.

Good luck!

5 Ways to Really Honor Our Soldiers This Memorial Day

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Photo by Josh LeClair via Flickr 

It's so hard to write about Memorial Day and other celebrations. Either you sound like everybody else or you seem like you're trying to exploit something for your own gain. Hopefully this blog doesn't do either.

For me this holiday brings five reflections.

1. Gratitude for the self-sacrifice involved in military service and to the full spectrum of self-sacrificing patriots - including women and homosexuals
 2. Anger that there is not justice for soldiers who are sexually assaulted - something that happens to men and women alike
 3. Appreciation for our military families, whose sacrifice is quieter but no less real. The wish that men could be given more permission to be "soft," fair and human rather than always "macho" without being stigmatized. Especially because when they come home, the post-traumatic disorder leads often to family turbulence and domestic violence.

4. Resist the temptation to stifle those who disagree with…

Scarcity Branding & Its Cousins: Cults, Tribes, Local, Luxury, Handmade

At Nike the other day I saw the lines were out the wazoo.

It made me wonder what would happen if something bad happened G-d forbid and we were lining up for medical supplies rather than 30% off sneakers.

Since I can't handle that kind of reality all that well my thoughts turned of course to marketing. Which leads to this short post clarifying and classifying the variations of scarcity branding.

Just a few thoughts:

1. Most people don't understand when to use scarcity vs. saturation. Basically, you saturate the market to gain awareness and credibility - people "know" you so they trust you as a vendor. You make a product scarce when you have the promise of developing sufficient foothold that you can simply charge more per item. Scarcity is a quality strategy, saturation goes to volume.

2. There are lots of ways to do scarcity. But don't do it unless you can reliably get to influencers who will spread the word that you are scarce. You, the vendor, are not a reliable sour…

How Facebook Can Recover Its Brand: Partner With Microsoft To Make Business Social

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Image: Screenshot of blog post by Garrett Smith for voipsupply.com (blog), August 11, 2011, "The Microsoft-Skype Deal Was About Facebook The Whole Time." Apparently other people are thinking the same thing that I am: Combine them. Except they're missing one crucial element - use the combination to turn the workplace social.
This is going to be a short blog.

Wrong approach: Figure things out about people and put customized ads in front of them.

Right approach: Partner with Microsoft and get Facebook inside every business in America and around the world, as the internal collaborative social network. (Kill off, absorb, replace Sharepoint.)

The workplace is the great unexploited center of value and profit. It can be leveraged much more fully to bring employees together to generate ideas, work more closely on projects, and align corporate culture for greater productivity, engagement, stability - RESULTS.

Organizations are more willing than you might think to open up the floodgates…

Principles of Branding for a Post-Branding World

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10 Reasons Why Good People Stay Silent

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Photo by Jason Rogers via Flickr

Recently somebody asked me why I spend so much time publicizing issues like workplace bullying,  abuse, human trafficking, feminism, abuses in organized religion, and the importance of outing and prosecuting child molesters.

I understood the subtext of the question: "You must have been a victim, right?" As if nobody in their right mind would care about this type of thing unless they had been personally tortured.

The truth is not that dramatic, and yet it is. I simply realized one day that G-d gave me a voice and I am supposed to use it to try and speak for those who can't. I love this video of Daughtry's song "What About Now" - it captures the idea completely:

What About Now? Inspirational Music Video With Solution

It is true that people who take a stand can become victims themselves. Remember Judy Blume's classic young adult book, Blubber?
"Though the entire class ostracizes Linda ("Blubber"), Wendy and her b…

Rule #1: Stop Fooling Yourself

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Photo of Cab Calloway by Library of Congress via Flickr
A college friend was a film student at Tisch School for the Arts at NYU.
I vividly remember her practicing her shots, spending hours positioning a rose on a stool with a white sheet draped behind it. Then taking picture after picture.
Went to Pennsylvania once, and spent the weekend with her family.
They had a beautiful, small wooden house.  I remember walking up the steps from the main floor to put my things down upstairs, looking up at the ceiling, and thinking that it was beautiful. (I grew up with popcorn ceilings.)
They had some kites, or flags, or something like that affixed to the ceilings as well. I stood there in joy and wonder, thinking of the heavy books and heavy framed pictures in my house in New Jersey.
Airy in her house, heavy in my own.
I never wanted to be religious like my parents were. But I couldn’t admit it then.
I returned to New York and confessed to my mother. Normally open-minded, she gasped. Driving…on Shabbos……

Do Your Employees Know Who You're Competing With? (Au Bon Pain vs. Chop't)

The other day I decided it was time to ingest something green again.

I have been eating largely white and brown foods for the past week and am starting to feel pale.

Normally I would love to go to Chop't and get a salad but there are two problems with that plan.

First, at lunchtime the line is out the door and second, the salads are usually too big and I wind up feeling sick afterward. (Holocaust families don't leave food over.)

So I went to Au Bon Pain and glanced over the soup. I don't know, that stuff they call "12-vegetable soup" - is it really as healthy as it sounds? Tastes good, but I was after fresh. And I don't count starchy vegetables as healthy.

The new salad bar at Au Bon Pain is not as appealing as Chop'ts is but it was empty.

I walk up to the counter and look at what's behind the glass.

Same kind of food as Chop't, I guess. Not as good.

Spinach is safe. So I say to the person who serves the food, "I'd like a salad please."

We go…

"The Dictator" & Comedy As A Political Tool

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Video: Trailer for the new political comedy "Veep" on HBO, starring Julia Louis-Dreyfus of Seinfeld fame

You know how men tend to clap their hands over their ears when women start lecturing them about feminism?

It turns out that humor works a lot better, without the nasty side effects:
"The popular dismantling of entrenched feminist stereotypes began, perhaps, not with the feminist movement itself, but in comedy....on “The Daily Show”: 'What’s the difference between a fertilized egg, a corporation and a woman? One of them isn’t considered a person in Oklahoma.'"

- Rebecca Traister, "How the 'War On Women' Quashed Feminist Stereotypes," The Washington Post, May 11, 2012 A similar principle is at work in Sacha Baron Cohen's new movie The Dictator. It is not Borat - but you would be forgiven for confusing the two. Both are shocking, sometimes unwatchable, offensive and endlessly funny. (Warning: It's very graphic, NSFW or for the yo…

3 Signs of Brand Malaise: Facebook's Arrogance, Starbucks' Complacency, and Google's Mania

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So I stopped to get gas and as usual could not maneuver the car properly to the pump.

After a tortuous 15-minute thing where I turned the wheel this way and that and reversed about twenty thousand times, finally we landed.

As I looked up to find the proper pump from among regular, unleaded and diesel (why is ordinary life so confusing?) I see that a bunch of high school kids are running a car wash at the station.

There was one car getting a wash.

Eight kids surrounded it, wiping and wiping without much sign of success.

Another two stood out on the street, waving "Get A Carwash" signs sort of aimlessly.

Everybody laughing all round.

What were they doing out there? I guess just having fun, and the car wash was an excuse.

A few miles later we passed another place that really did car washes. Like, for a living.

I was stopped at a red light and watched. Three or four people furiously scrubbed a car inside and out. They made that gray Kia look gorgeous.

Looking down at the unfortunate seawe…

Someone Needs You To Give A Damn

This seems to be the week for stories. So be it.

A long time ago there was a teacher who creeped me out. No abuse, fortunately. But still, something wasn't right.

I told my parents and my dad had a secret conversation with the school board. He had done a little digging and sources told him that the rabbi was in fact a predator.

My dad is Eastern European in manner and dress and they laughed him off.

Then my mother went into action.

You have to understand that my mother is quiet, short, and normally extremely shy.

But on that quiet sunny Friday she drive her little old car at top speed to my school.

I watched in awe and fear.

She harrumphed up to the curb. She had on old jeans and a T-shirt like always. She is the polar opposite of my dad, 100 percent Middle America.

My mother stomped up the broken brick walkway. She flung open the heavy metal door. She raced through the hallway and up the rickety stairs.

I couldn't keep up with her. I felt like I was going to fall.

My mother grabbed the…