Showing posts from January, 2012

Your Profile Photo as Your Personal Brand

Image by Christopher S. Penn via FlickrI am so sick of hearing the phrase "knowledge economy," all right?

The truth is it's all about relationships. Like always. Who you know, how you know them, who knows your name.

Whether someone picks up the phone when you call.

In the social media sphere, you've got to start that personal brand from somewhere. And so nothing is as important, especially when you are starting out, as your profile picture (or avatar, etc.)

You may be thinking it has something to do with looks. Not so!

It's about getting your USP (unique selling proposition), your positioning, across just right.

If you want to approach it strategically, consider these 5 things before you launch:
Exaggerate one quality rather than trying to be "all things to all people"Be yourself in the sense that you are conveying a unique brand - but then again, keep it relatable.Pull back a bit - those facial close-ups are frightening. (And no cutouts of your left eye!)The…

The Kardashian Mystique and The Paradox of the Great Brand

Image: Screenshot from E! Online of Kim Kardashian at her wedding to Kris Humphries

 Do you want to know why branding is so hard?

It's not because audience demand is unpredictable. That part is easy - find an underserved cluster and wow them.

(Elderly folks need a place to kibitz that isn't a nursing home; dads-on-weekend-duty probably don't want to be feminized by frozen yogurt places or the kiddie section at Barnes & Noble.)

No what is hard about branding is that it requires you to live a deeply personal and yet coldly professional paradox: On the one hand you can only create a vision of what you know and love. On the other you can only sell effectively when you don't care - or can be objective enough to ignore your feelings when they get in the way of sound business judgment.

Kris Jenner and the Kardashian sisters, along with Kourtney's partner Scott Disick, are absolute masters of this game. Maybe the mental rift caused by such an unhealthy life will bring Kim …

Conversations, Your #1 Branding and Marketing Tool

In the world of innovation, I occupy that weird age space (or maybe it's a mental mindset-space) where I'm too old to be an actual nose-pierced, tattooed, spiky-haired innovator but young enough that every forward-thinking best practice I present is at first still considered insane.
So it is with trepidation that I re-emphasize to you the importance of that '90s classic, The Cluetrain Manifesto, a treatise that has now found its time. Either you'll tell me that this stuff is old news, or you'll say it's as nutty as it ever was.
Either way.
Do you remember Cluetrain? Are you so obsessed with it that you remember where you were sitting and what you were doing when you first came across it? I am, and I do.
It was approximately 2001. I was sitting at my desk in Georgetown, Washington DC. Looking out at the cobblestoned street. Then back to surfing, surfing, surfing the Internet always looking for that brand new brand idea.
Somehow I ran across this amazing text, and - …

How To Encourage Innovation In Government

The other day I was urging that we do something or other and got the response: "You're so cutting-edge."

It wasn't a compliment.

In the government, innovation can be scary. But we can do it if we focus on the "how" - meaning the technology platforms we can use to move us forward.

Thinking about technology, rather than the amorphous term "innovation" - which sounds like "new" and "scary" and "untested" and "change" - can help bring people together.

Further, using technology to mediate brainstorming can enable the sharing of new ideas and comments on those ideas. It can help us think scientifically and generate pilot testing rather than leading us down the road of endless whiteboard exercises.

Focusing on technology helps to overcome some of the obstacles that have bogged us down thus far:
We can all agree on the process issue (need to find methods for innovation) but we don't all agree on the specific innovati…

28 Things I Should've Known Earlier

The neurons in my brain connected a few dots this weekend, so here you go. What do you all think of this list? How would you add, change, modify?
The Creator of the Universe is not a man (or a woman), but the perfect synthesis of love and justice. Suffering is not to accept but to strive to overcome.Poverty is a human invention and humans could end it now if we wanted to.Blind faith is sometimes necessary, but only if it's truly impossible to get the facts.Hatred from others is a form of feedback.If we can't solve a problem often it's because we begin with the wrong assumptions.The worst kind of discrimination is the kind people level against themselves.Giving charity is selfish for a lot of reasons, but letting that stop you is just an excuse.People intuitively know how to find your flaws, so you may as well laugh about them.Marketers distort the truth only to the extent that customers want them to.Rarely is there a problem so unique that you can't find an example of …

5 Rules to Market an Unknown Technology (From Redbox To Roku)

Image via Wikipedia Blame Woody Allen.

I was walking around the office generally singing the praises of Midnight In Paris.

I said, "I can't believe you can get all these movies for just $1 from Redbox." (Well a tiny bit more with tax.) I was bragging of course. Going to the machine to rent and return was a bit of a pain. But I didn't talk about that. It's about crowing about the money you save without spending up to ten times as much in the theater - and that is per ticket!

Somebody chimed in, "You can get Netflix from the computer. My sister does that and it's great."

Damn! One-upped again! I had to find out who was getting a better deal than me.

Rule #1: Nobody wants to be the idiot who overpays. Make me compete!

So I went on the Internet to find out more about this.

Rule #2: Emotion gets them in the door, but rational thinking is what keeps them. Rational = Internet comparison shopping.

I went to the Netflix website, because I know the Netflix name in a…

You Don't Really Serve Your Customers At All

Most important decisions are made informally as a result of conversations between influencers. They're the ones you should keep in mind before you do anything with respect to your career.

If you don't read anything else in this post, remember that. 

Core Group Theory: Who Needs It?

Right now I am reading Who Really Matters, by Art Kleiner*. It's hard to believe that 2003, the book's publication year, is almost a decade ago because the content is extremely relevant today.

This well-researched work talks about what really makes organizations tick and how you can use that to your advantage. (If you like the work of Edgar Schein, Peter Senge, Peter Block, Elliott Jacques or Chris Argyris you will definitely want to read it.) It's useful if you want to:
Get a job, advance in your job, or understand why you can't advance at workHelp an organization get past its dysfunctional behavior and achieve transformational changeMarket your product or service to a particular organ…

Should You Speak Up To Your Boss?

It can be a tough call. Here are seven things to keep in mind:

1) Power: Bosses intensely dislike hearing the word "no." They generally value "team players," "problem solvers," people who will jump right in and take the assignment even if they don't know what they're doing. As long as their heart is in the right place. Part of giving you an assignment you can't handle is to see what you do under pressure from them.

2) Organizational culture: Does the organization expect you to be a straight shooter or are you supposed to diplomatically say "yes" to everything and then figure it out later? Do they expect you to grow by taking "stretch" assignments and learning as you fall down? Then you may have had a mis-impression about your true job scope. I believe I once found the description for my current job in my files, and then I promptly lost it and forgot about it, because the scope is always changing. I like that. Not everybody …

Why Social Media Belongs At Work

A common misconception about social media is that it wastes employees' time by "distracting" them from "work."

Whoever had this idea must have been thinking that workers are still sewing buttons on shirts all day or herding farm animals.

In those situations social media doesn't help. Mostly everywhere else I am for it. Because in fact social media saves money, boosts morale, increases team spirit, and enhances employee productivity and value.

That is why people who aren't allowed to access social media at work will viciously grind the keyboard of their "Crackberry" all day, sending mindless email after email.

They want to hear something back!

So while I am NOT an advocate of opening up the corporate firewall to YouTube and such - cyberattacks are pretty nasty - I am in favor of providing or facilitating access to standalone computers, laptops, tablets, smartphones, etc.

Here are 10 benefits to productivity that result from encouraging employee use o…

The Five Stages of Brand Maturity

Image by Jeff Arsenault via Flickr

One of the central problems with developing a systemic approach to branding, historically, is that we have trouble defining what a brand is.

The reality is that there is no one definition. Actually, brands can be defined in different ways based on their level of maturity - just like people at different ages and stage of their lives. While it is true that babies and Baby Boomers are both human, there are different norms for interacting with them at an optimal level.

Similarly with brands - depending on the stage the rules for effective branding differ. I won't get into those here, but what follows is a rough sketch of the five stages:

1. Linguistic and/or visual icon: "Name, term, design, symbol, or any other feature that identifies one seller's good or service as distinct from those of other sellers." - American Marketing Association via Wikipedia

2. Image: "A successful image is the foundation of every successful company. The im…

Personal Branding and Your Moral Code

How I ended up recently at a Reform Jewish prayer service - when my community of origin would have urged me not to go - doesn't matter.

What matters is that for me it was a small but hugely significant step toward taking back my own religion. Rather than letting other people define it for me.

Disillusioned once, I told my aunt that I wanted to walk away from Judaism altogether. She responded quickly, "It's your heritage. You owe it to yourself to explore it and find your way."

My spiritual journey is not relevant to your life. What matters is that, on a quest for your personal brand, you are really dealing with who you are as a person, your identity. (As Jack Shaw stated in a comment to one of my blogs on So you can't get away from the question of your moral code. As in: must have one.

"The promise you make is the promise that you must keep," they taught me at The Brand Consultancy. That's a moral thing. So when you are building a brand, t…

The Middle Manager's Double-Bind

One of the subtle but standout moments in the movie "Margin Call" occurs when a certain middle manager gets fired.

The manager had been working in-scope, "keeping the train running on time."And above and beyond, sounding an alarm about the equivalent of a bomb on the train tracks ahead.
 Middle management doesn't divert trains. The alert was ignored.

It was only when a relatively new recruit saw the bomb and sounded the alarm that leadership sat up and paid attention.

This is the double-bind of the middle manager - that they should not lead, ever:

* Logically, based on their decades of experience implementing initiative after initiative, they should be responsible for alerting the organization that a plan will likely fail.
 * Yet paradoxically, their job is to "magically" make staff execute on those impossible plans.

Every leader has the fantasy that they are Captain Piccard in "Star Trek: The Next Generation," and it is so fun for them when they c…

Why Brands Rely On The Placebo Effect

My mother was the nurse at a sleep-away camp in the Catskills.

So I went for free, which was great.

But I lived with kids who were totally rich. Their parents paid a ton of money for the fees. And so that part was not.

Do you want to know how I learned about branding?

One time a kid in my bunk got a "care" package from home. Like Veruka in "Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory" she ripped it open.

She held up a pink sweatshirt with a weird overlapping squiggle on it and the word "Benetton" written on the front.

"Benetton?" I said, pronouncing it with the emphasis on the second syllable, "E."

"What's that?"

"It's BEN-etton," she gasped, laughing. Of course everyone else did too.

Hands stuffed into my pockets, humiliated, I skulked out to challenge myself to yet another game of tetherball.

What is it about brands that makes us feel safe, insulated, protected?

Over the weekend we went to Jamesway (like Wal-Mart) to pi…

Time to Cut The (You Know)

Remember that show "Melrose Place?"

With little babies running around at the time, I didn't get what valuable workforce training Heather Locklear's character provided (hope she gets better soon - if you're following celebrity news and such.)

Whoever tossed flimsy excuses Heather's way was quickly reduced to shreds as she nailed through all the B.S. and got to the heart of the problem.

My maternal grandmother and grandfather (may they rest in peace) were like that. They used to pick up the phone simultaneously in separate rooms and then stay on. And listen intently. If you fed them a line they would say in unison, "Come on!"

My nuclear family and friends are like that too. Yesterday my daughter looked at my new scarf and started laughing: "You look like a stewardess."

I think of this today as I reflect on the subject of meetings and why they often bore the participants so badly.

It's because a lot of phony talk is flying around and nobody ge…

For Every Brand a Freak ("Milton's Red Stapler")

"Collector's Edition Red Swingline Stapler" photo by Martin Bowling via Flickr

My sister prides herself on being professional and reserved.

But if you put her anywhere near a Staples or an Office Depot, better stand back. As soon as she sees those two-toned binders with the endless organizer flap pockets - she loses all sensibility.

Do you make the mistake of thinking that your product is boring?

If you do, why are you selling it?

You have to be completely excited about whatever widget you're plying, even if it means nothing to me.

Here is where office supply companies really miss the opportunity: We need a Target type approach to staplers, tape dispensers and folders. And everything related to it.

We need it for the office supply junkies like my sister, and me too - I remember leafing through the Quill catalogue VERY slowly as a kid - the same type of people who can spend hours chasing organization at The Container Store.

I also remember when it took me four months to get …

Adding Value vs. Looking Busy

Image by kaysha via FlickrWhen I graduated high school I moved to New York City to go to college.

I bid my parents a fond farewell as they dropped me off at the dorm. Dad idled the car as Mom turned around and handed me a $20 and said, "Good luck."

Looking at this it sounds harsh. But those were different times; in my family it was the tradition to make your own way in the world. Including the girls.

So it was with some pride that I took that $20 to the bank, then set off to find work with which to add money to it. After landing a few menial jobs I realized that office work paid about three times as much AND I didn't have to stand on my feet all day long.

Fast forward to the temporary jobs I held in those early college years. None of them were difficult, except that the computers seemed to keep changing - I went from the early Mac, to WordPerfect and its function keys, then Microsoft Word. That was fine; I could learn.

The boredom factor was simple too. There was no Internet …

How To Turn A Brand Negative To Your Advantage (Whole Foods vs. Trader Joe's)

Image via WikipediaMy mother's cellphone rang about ten times before she finally picked it up.

"What is it?" she spoke all dreamy-like into the phone. "I'm in Whole Foods."

I got it immediately. Whole Foods has that effect on me as well: Nobody is allowed to interrupt the trance.

Normally we're a lively set of Chatty Cathys. us two. But since she was in the equivalent of food synagogue I let her go fast.

"It's alright Ma," I said, laughing. "I'll call you later."

What is your favorite part of Whole Foods? For me there are almost too many to list:

* The delicious natural food bar and hot soups

* The good-smelling natural soaps they have stacked up by the deli

* The "core values" sign near the front of the store

* The fact that I know whatever I buy is going to taste good

* The way they manage to make plain old fruits and vegetables so appealing

But one of the things I love the most is not even inside the store: the "Whole…

Why Govies Sometimes Act Like Zombies

Thanks to Redbox we were enjoying family movie night and the show was a third of the way through.

In this scene the main characters have to go to the local government office and get some help.

Right away the first word out of the clerk's mouth is "No."

They peer over at her workstation. "Why not?" says one.

"Because it's not in the computer."

"But that makes no sense," says the other.

"I'm sorry, it's not in the computer."

The first one has to restrain the second one from lunging over the desk.

Later in the movie they have to go back to the same government office.

"Come back in three days," another clerk sitting in a basement office says.

"Why three days?"


Basically it's going to take three days.

I cannot count the number of movies I have seen where government workers are portrayed as mind-numbingly rule-driven brain-dead zombies.

The reaction of the normal person, played by the main cha…