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5 Personal Care Tips for 2011

1. Eliminate stress where possible
2. Be your own parent (not like a child) when it comes to nutrition
3. Enjoy a nice walk anywhere, anytime
4. Eliminate sugar from your life
5. Get enough sleep

Good luck!

REI, Invent This Brand: Rugged Childcare Gear

These days it is common to see fathers taking care of their kids in public. While this is a great step forward I find myself asking why the men must be "punished" by having to use childcare brands that look like they were meant for a mom to use, not a dad.

I wonder: If a well-known sports equipment brand would come out with items meant for taking care of kids, could this be a vehicle for supporting father-involvement?

Imagine that REI or Coleman or even Nike would develop a line of childcare items that included such things as:

* Strollers
* Diaper knapsacks
* Snugglies (those things where you hold the baby in public)
* Car seats

Or, how about a line of organic food for kids that was marketed to dads? (Read: pureed steak! Uch, that sounds gross, but you get the picture.)

Consider too the minivan meant for a Dad - whereas now they basically look like they're meant for soccer moms. (I saw a commercial for one of these the other day but I can't recall the name.)

For too long the marketing mistake has been to focus on the gender of the child. Instead, focus on the parent and the cultural norms associated with who provides childcare.

There is money to be made in social progress.

Personal Branding for Women in 5 Items Or Less

If you're a busy person like I am, you don't have time to look high and low for fashion statements. Get these 5 things.

1. Blazer - tailored - this should be the item you focus on most - go anywhere for inspiration
2. Pants - long and a bit loose - I like Banana Republic Martin Fit
3. Shirt - white - collared or a T - I like Banana Republic
4. Earrings - the bigger the better - I like H&M
5. Shoes - black, well-cared for - I wear black men's construction shoes from Wal-Mart actually!

Remember - it's not about paying a lot of money, but make sure that your clothes:

* Fit you well (not too tight or too loose)
* Are clean and well-pressed

Finally, don't forget good grooming. Great resources for this include Target and don't have to break the bank.

Good luck!

The Perverse Psychology of Selling At An Airport

What a strange marketing setup.

I walk in and see an enormous array of shops, storefronts and
eateries. I want to stop at all of them. Especially the one that says
"20 Minute Teeth Whitening Here." And Brookstone – they're flying
gadgets in the aisle over there. And the others ones too.

The problem is, I'm whirring past them fast trying to make sure that I
get through the TSA on time to get to the gate.

And when I get through the TSA line, what do I see?


Famiglia Pizza.

And a couple of other no-name stores. (Let's not forget Hudson News,
boy is that exciting!)

There must be some regulation preventing the good stores from living
behind the TSA line.

When I get to the gate, G-d help me, all I see is a Quizno's, a
Pizza-Hut Express, and some other no-name place selling Budweiser.

What happened to the fun places? What happened to the Disneyland of
brands that existed seemingly so long ago?

If retailers want to make money at the airport, they should locate
their stores inside the area where the gates are if possible. That's
where you really have a captive audience, eager to do something with
their time besides juicing up their devices.

Rude Brand Value: When Customers Want To Be Mistreated

While it is often true that treating people well is key to
establishing a strong brand, this is not always the case. As Woody
Allen once famously said, "I wouldn't want to join any club that would
have me as a member."

Consider these examples:

• The "Soup Nazi," made famous on Seinfeld because if you said one
thing wrong he wouldn't let you in
• Big-city nightclubs where the draw is precisely that the bouncer
will probably exclude you
• Fraternity hazing rituals, traditionally humiliating, often
dangerous, and sometimes illegal, that typically involve an assault on
the initiate
• Gang initiation rituals (see above – and yes, gangs are a form of brand)
• Exclusive co-ops, country clubs, etc. that don't admit "just anyone"
• The Devil Wears Prada (entire fashion industry) with its cruel
idolization of the anorexic waif
• New York, period.

In Miami there's a pizza place that serves salad, Pizza Rustica.
Unfailingly they get the order wrong – every time. They make me wait
forever. They play the music so loud I can't hear anything. The tables
are dirty, and the Parmesan cheese is usually missing.

I won't eat anywhere else.

Why do we patronize rude brands?

From a rational perspective, we think these brands must have better
quality and can afford to be rude.

From a psychological perspective, being drawn to a rude brand is the
same as insisting on an impossibly high level of customer service. It
goes back to an unconscious issue that the person has, stemming from
needs that were not met (or that were abused) early in life.

It's sort of like why people are drawn to high school cliques that are
bad for them.

If you are building a brand, you can calculate rudeness into the
picture in order to draw a certain kind of customer.

On the flipside, you can become the Four Seasons of your industry,
being excessively solicitous of your particular customer.

Either way, remember that when you're playing to an unconscious need,
that issue can come back to bite you, if you're not careful and hit
the customer's trigger the wrong way.

Generally, the trick with rude brands is to distance the customer, but
then bring them in just a bit so that they have the idea that they may
eventually gain a form of "acceptance." But never truly accept them –
always keep them back just a bit.

With super-customer-oriented brands, you need to pay attention to the
finest details. Let nothing escape you. Anticipate their needs before
they even articulate them – that is the way to stay ahead.

On the customer side, if you are confronted by a super-rude or
super-solicitous brand, you may want to ask yourself what you're
really buying. If it's the positive treatment you're getting, is the
price premium really worth it? I just bought a coffee for $1.49 that
didn't have half the solicitousness of a Starbucks, but it was twice
as good.

On the other hand, sometimes an attitude is worth it, even a bad one.
That salad is worth the hassle; I would buy quality soup even from a
rude store owner. And there are times when gaining access to certain
social circles requires you to stomach a certain amount of
mistreatment. But if you're a masochist who just likes getting hit,
maybe you should visit a therapist instead of the "Soup Nazi."

9 Days of Atkins Hell & And 1 Great Lesson: No Sale Is Too Small

What an eventful 9 days it has been.

On a positive note, I am emerging from Week 1 of the Atkins Diet Plan relatively unscathed by the usual trio of "induction flu" symptoms: brain fog (left me literally dumb), tiredness, and a bit of muscle pain. Thank G-d for Google and the many Internet sufferers who reminded me to drink a lot of water, take calcium and potassium (salt), and be patient. 

Also a note of thanks to Chicken of the Sea for coming up with packets of wild-caught tuna and salmon that you can take anywhere and rip open at a moment's notice, relatively discreetly, so that you don't starve while in the company of others who aren't suffering quite the same way as you are. I am buying these for $1 apiece at CVS, which is a pretty good deal, and you can get them online too.

While I'm on this I will note that although I don't endorse any company or brand, Chicken of the Sea has a nice FAQ section on their website that addresses typical questions about mercury and other nutritional issues related to the foods they sell. 

I will also note that if you are on Atkins and you are going to take literally the advice that you can smother your food with oil (healthy fats preferred but any mayo will do in a pinch), you may want to ask your table-mates to avert their eyes as you start pouring. (Let's be frank: Plain fish in a pouch needs a little help if we are going to get through Induction. I've lived by tossing it with spinach, olive oil, parmesan and salt, but when the oil starts flowing it really freaks people out no matter what bed of greens it's on.)

OK so you are waiting for me to get to the point. Will do.

During this vacation I have visited many a shopping establishment. I saw salespeople both good and bad. But one thing that really stood out, which applies whether you're behind the counter of a Starbucks, selling shoes, or dealing with people in general is:

No sale is too small.

Meaning: You are never so high and mighty that you can afford to blow people off. 

Meaning: Don't decide how you will treat people based on their looks, their mannerisms, their title, or the price of the item they are considering buying.

Here are two stories that illustrate. Details altered to protect the innocent from an annoying email claiming it didn't actually happen this way.

Example #1: Expensive product, average-seeming customer (me)

I go into an establishment to inquire about a particular product. It costs a lot.

Salesperson - fully, artificially manicured and featuring Bath Fitter-type teeth (gleaming but with no indentation between the teeth, as if someone had fitted shocking white dentures over the normal set)  - asks what I want politely. I explain. Salesperson says, "Give me your email address. I will send you some information, and then follow up."

Email never arrives. Salesperson seemed sincere. But it was all just an act.

Needless to say I got the message: "You don't look like someone who would buy what we sell, so I am not going to waste my time on you."

Example #2: Inexpensive product, also average-seeming customer (me)

I go into establishment and order a sandwich. (This is before the Atkins thing.) We're not talking 99 cent special here, and it's not the million-dollar truffle hamburger, just an average sandwich from an average place that sells them.

I sit down thinking that the sandwich will arrive soon.

Ten to fifteen minutes later I am still waiting.

I go up to the cash register and ask politely where my sandwich is.

The cashier seems not to recognize me. Then I repeat my order. She points to the back of the sandwich preparation area, where two or three similar sandwiches are lined up. 

She says, "We have a big party here today. You will have to wait."

The message there was clear as well: "Big sales come before little ones."

In both cases, the salespeople employed faulty logic.

First, they both assumed that the sale began and ended with the sole interaction, and wouldn't have any consequences later on.

Second, they assumed that it's the dollar amount of the sale that determines the way one treats the customer, and not the fact that the potential customer had taken their time and chosen, out of a plethora of choices available, to visit that establishment.

The reality is, I carry the memory of both of those interactions with me. I wouldn't patronize those establishments again. And given any opportunity, I will tell other people what happened specifically and in a more general way.

Eventually, retailers who approach customers at any point of interaction, with anything less than respect and minimal keeping of promises, are going to find themselves at a huge disadvantage versus those who instinctively act with basic human decency.

These days, with the economy so tight and the competition for jobs fierce, you can never afford to alienate a potential contact. And you also never know whether the person looking out at you from the no-name outfit is average or simply an influential person who tends to dress a little shleppy. (Especially in D.C.)

Moral of the story: All the old adages are still true and I will now mix old and new. "Don't judge a book by it's cover," because "It's the content that counts," and regardless of how much the potential contact can bring to you, "Treat others the way that you would want to be treated yourself."

Happy holidays!

5 Issues Needing "Good Branding" - Not "Mental Environmentalism"

The L.A. Times reported yesterday on the decision to stop a planned anti-Israel ad campaign in Seattle from moving forward. Under the slogan "Israeli War Crimes: Your Tax Dollars At Work," the "Seattle Mideast Awareness Campaign," attempted to brand Israel as a vicious victimizer of the Palestinian people that violates human rights on the Americans' dime.

In a brilliant response to this cover for anti-Semitism, the David Horowitz Freedom Center came up with some ads of its own that said "Palestinian War Crimes: Your Tax Dollars At Work," with countering images.

The point here is not to debate Mideast Politics. It is that the best response to "bad branding" is not "no branding," also known as "mental environmentalism" (clearing your head from branding altogether and refusing to add more brands to the fray.) Not only is this unrealistic in a capitalist economy, it also doesn't make sense from a psychological perspective. 

Just as you are more likely to succeed in eliminating bad habits by substituting good habits for them, the best response to a bad brand is to put a good brand in its place.

As we head into 2011, here are 5 key social issues that really need a good social-awareness brand campaign. PETA and the anti-tobacco folks have proved that it can be done:

1. Sexual violence should be branded as a crime against humanity (not just women); misogyny classified as a disorder

2. Natural eating and healing should be promoted as mainstream, not "alternative," with pharmaceutical and surgical options viewed as the alternative to helping the body heal itself

3. Ingredient labels should be transparent and also carry warning labels where their additives have been clinically shown to be dangerous

4. Radiation dangers from cellphones and other consumer products should be shared with the customer when the product is bought, and recommendations for minimizing the danger provided as well

5. Cruelty to animals in the supply chain should be studied, highlighted, and stopped.

There is a world of savvy branding and marketing talent out there that can bring their creativity and insight to bear on these issues. I pray that this happens soon.

How the "Little Fockers" Brand Makes Sexism, Racism, and Anti-Semitism OK

First of all, don't believe the low IMDB rating of Little Fockers - it deserves a 9.5/10, not 5.5. I don't know who these 855 people were who voted but clearly they have no sense of humor. We were laughing literally the entire time, from beginning to end. We even clapped when it was over. 

I enjoyed the movie tremendously, even though it was full of objectionable messages.

For example, while it's true that the movie is fairly anti-sexist, telling us that the equality & emotional openness of the Fockers is healthier than the old-fashioned "he's the boss, keep everything hush-hush" style of the Byrnes family, there was an essential sexist message in the movie that bothered me: "Wives are there to be seen and not heard, and don't cause trouble with their emotions." 

Let's put aside the obvious example of sexism that is the cornerstone of the plot of the movie. I don't want to give it away, but if you watch it you'll know what I'm talking about.

Going toward the more subtle stuff that runs through all three movies so far:

While the character of Roz Focker (Bernie's wife) is supposed to represent liberated femininity, she is also portrayed as emasculating, pushy (recall the stereotype of the "pushy Jew"), and even a bit crazy. The message being that "women's libbers" are all three of these things. 

In contrast, Pam Focker (Greg's wife) and Dina Byrnes (Jack's wife) are portrayed as "normal and stable," wives who know their place, don't make "trouble" (e.g. emotional demands), and support their husbands endlessly no matter how crazy and possibly even unfaithful they act. 

It is precisely Pam's endless supportiveness, as well as her stereotypical Barbie-like beauty, that leads her to be portrayed as the "one true love" of Kevin, who pursues other women, but can never forget her. The most that Pam asks of Greg is to check on the facepainter for the kids' upcoming birthday party, and when he doesn't do it, she simply sighs and leaves the room. When sultry Jessica Alba is clearly making a pass at him, she doesn't make waves, either.

Dina Byrnes is another sigher, who essentially enables Jack to build a complex labyrinth in the basement (note that she doesn't have a comparable office, studio, etc.) and seems to anticipate his every quirk with a knowing and loving smile.

Neither of these women have a job, either. Perhaps that is why they don't complain? Because they depend on their men for money?

In terms of racism, there were very few African-Americans in this movie at all, much less any in power. I saw one character playing a patient, one playing an incompetent nurse, and another on the subway train as an "extra." Do the Fockers and the Byrnes not have any African-American friends, associates, customers, and so on? Why was the movie so "White?" I'm not saying that movies have to be advertisements for diversity but the Caucasian-ness of the movie seemed extreme.

There is another example of anti-Semitism besides the writers' antipathy toward Roz (and Bernie) but I don't want to give away that part of the plot. 

Clearly though this is very much a movie poking fun at "WASP" culture and the difference between it and the movie's Jewish characters. It seems like WASPiness is "idolized," but also seen as dysfunctional, whereas Jewish culture is a kind of corrective. (Interestingly I was reading the book "Stuff White People Like" yesterday and it had a similar attitude toward WASPiness. It was also hilarious.)

When you look at all the examples of stereotyping in the movie on paper you can easily say something like, "How can you enjoy the movie or promote the brand if it is really as bad as you say?" 

I'm not promoting the brand, though I think it is a valuable one. My point here is that Hollywood, and entertainment brands in general, are given a certain amount of "permission" by the viewer to trespass boundaries that would be uncrossable in real life. They are an escape and in providing an escape they enable us to indulge in what is normally considered politically incorrect. The truly great movies, music, books, etc. actually wink an eye at these things and challenge them within the movie itself. 

At the same time, especially when kids are absorbing these messages, I think it's important to point out objectionable messages and talk about them, so that they don't absorb them uncritically. 

All of this is similar to the controversy that took place some years ago over rap music. There were a lot of issues around how women were portrayed in rap music, and some wanted to ban it. But in my view, by talking about rap the music was integrated into so many cultures all over the world, in a valuable way that enabled many messages of equality and empowerment to come through.

Better than junk cereal brands: Good Mood Kid Friendly Natural Oatmeal

I made this up to get "certain people" to ingest lots of omega-3 and healthy oatmeal. Don't have to have all the nuts, of course, or the whipped cream, or even all the sugar, though it makes it edible for those used to processed junky cereal brands.

I am strongly against resorting to artificial sweeteners unless you have to.

Overall, this is a nutrition bargain that someone will actually eat.


1/2 cup oatmeal, unprocessed

1 cup water

3 tablespoon brown sugar

1/2 cup walnut pieces

2 tablespoon Whipped cream


1. Boil water

2. Add oatmeal and let cook on low 5 min

3. Top with brown sugar, walnuts, and whipped cream