Showing posts from February, 2012

Delicious Inefficiency

Image by U.S. Army via Flickr

Around 12:55 p.m. I would turn the old-fashioned doorknob and sneak in.

There they were, Grandma and Grandpa. Two little people under a huge white downy cover. Normally talkative and debating, now quiet and intent. Snuggled together under the covers with the "rabbit ears" (old-fashioned TV antenna) extended as far out as possible.

The extended family sat on the bed, all over the bed, hanging onto our beloved grandparents. The cool April air blew fresh and clean into the wide-open windows of that little mountain house. Safe and cozy and there was no such thing as time.

My mother filed in quietly. Followed by sister. It was Passover and we weren't supposed to watch TV. We did anyway. Carried out the whole elaborate ritual so that Dad, who was more observant, could pretend not to notice.

The game of watching the soap opera was agonizingly inefficient. Yet it was beautiful. One of the best memories I have.

Watching the soap wasn't quick, either. …

Why We Channel President Reagan

Image of President Reagan via Wikipedia
When the drill went off and bits went flying I panicked.

Madonna singing "Borderline" through my iPhone earplugs didn't distract me. Clearly I was going to die on this day.

The dentist's assistant stood over me solicitously. She saw me gagging on the bite plate. How embarrassing.

The sound of the drill scared me. Bits got stuck in my throat. Water flew in and around. The little hose didn't suck it all up. Maybe it's a simple cavity filling to you but to me it felt like the end.

I steeled myself. "Cut it out." "Be a big girl." Didn't work. The dentist had to pause about 50 times to calm me down and get me to cooperate. I felt like a baby. But it was horrible.

I looked up at the ceiling as if to find an answer. Saw only a circular grate with holes poked in it. Oh good we are safe from fire today. I could visualize my tombstone.

Finally the first tooth was done and the dentist paused for a minute. I could …

Internal Branding: Promise Less

Photo by OakleyOriginals via Flickr

In "Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead" an Australian who has discovered the health benefits of juicing crisscrosses the U.S. to evangelize.

He stops at a diner and talks to two fellow middle-aged men and a teen. They are eating as they talk.

One of the other men says that health food is irrelevant to him. Adding more years to his already lousy life - and losing out on good food - is just not that appetizing.

Was he unhappy because of his personal life or his job? Who knows if one can even separate them.

Once a few years ago I met my aunt for lunch. She is a psychologist and had treated some people suffering from post-traumatic work stress disorder. she told me: People vastly underestimate how a bad work environment affects one's personal life and ability to function.

Based on what I see, hear and read, workplace cultures are a lot like families and farms: They need active and ongoing intervention to fix and maintain.

Internal branding is thus much mo…

How Marketers Create Craving In 3 Easy Steps

Photo by Alberto Garcia via Flickr

"The process within our brains that creates habits is a three-step loop.  "First, there is a cue....   "Then there is the routine...  "Finally, there is a reward...  "Over time, this loop...becomes more and more automatic....until a sense of craving emerges." 

 - C. Duhigg, "How Companies Learn Your Secrets" (The New York Times)
A good marketer knows how to make people want something badly enough to pay for it. A great marketer knows how to sell it to them over and over again. And an extraordinary marketer gets them to prefer one specific kind of thing, the branded thing, over an equivalent item for which they could have paid half as much.

Most of us will never be extraordinary at marketing - only a select few will rise to attain the status of a Steve Jobs or a Howard Schultz. But it is possible to rise above just being "good." You can learn to make customers crave things if you learn to understand the s…

Marketing Is More Important Than Innovation: Febreze

Image source:

Marketing is synonymous with leading the business:
Marketers exist to create customers (American Marketing Association). Businesses exist to create customers (Peter Drucker). Therefore the role of a marketer is to establish, lead, and manage businesses so that customers can be won and kept.Marketing is more important than innovation. Drucker was bold but misguided when he made them equal: "Marketing and innovation produce results; all the rest are costs." (quoted in Forbes)

Febreze is a great example.

Writing in The New York Times, Charles Duhigg, author of the forthcoming The Power of Habit, explains that Proctor & Gamble's innovative odor-killer wouldn't move off the shelves, because the marketers had it wrong.
"A week passed. Then two. A month. Two months. Sales started small and got smaller. Febreze was a dud."The marketers had assumed that people would welcome a product designed to neutralize bad smells. What they did…

Brand Spontaneity Is Immature

Photo by Erika Smith via Flickr

Jewish men are commanded to pray every day at fixed times. Women are not because we are exempt from time-bound commandments.

The prayers are fixed too. The words or method of saying them may vary by denomination or congregation. But the point is ritual: Within that brand, always to repeat the same words of appreciation, of repentance, of praise.

I always wondered how ritualizing prayer made sense. When you are pouring your heart out to God, shouldn't it be spontaneous? Otherwise you are just mumbling anytime you just aren't in the mood to pray. Aren't you?

It is the same thing with brand. If you are pouring out your fanatical desire to serve the customer, shouldn't it be spontaneous as well? Otherwise you are just going through the motions. Nobody is "on" all the time.

No and no.

We ritualize prayer, and brand, for a very simple reason. You don't feel the emotions before saying the words. The words are supposed to stir you to fe…

The 5 Conditions of A Woman's Freedom (In Memory of Soraya M.)

Cover of The Stoning of Soraya M. [Blu-ray], now also available on Netflix.
Odd. I haven't written a directly feminist post in a while but yesterday I did. Just 12 hours later we sat down to watch The Stoning of Soraya M.

None of us could sleep afterward.

If you haven't seen the movie it centers on the death of a beautiful, kind, dutiful young woman in Iran. Soraya died for absolutely no rational reason whatsoever except that she was caught in a horrendously unfair and corrupt web of inequality - religious, political, cultural, psychological and economic.

In the movie Soraya's aunt Zahra tries to save her. Just like in my post I wrote about my aunts as mentors and role models.

Feminism is only the belief that women are entitled to the same rights as men. It's not (or should never be) the belief that women have to follow the dictates of feminists.

Soraya was stoned to death because she had no personal choice:
Economic: Soraya could not make enough money to live alone so she wa…

Personal Branding: A Feminist Issue

Image by Dru Bloomfield via Flickr
"Until women are as ambitious as men, they're not going to achieve as much." - Sheryl Sandberg, Chief Operating Officer, FacebookBy age of seven I had about seven Barbie dolls. They were all beautiful, although some got tangled hair if you didn't brush it right.

One day I gave the prettiest Barbie a haircut. She looked better.

Theoretically I was allowed to be just as ambitious as any boy. Had a real education, library, freedom. Read from the littlest age about smart girls like "Nancy Drew." Eventually found Betty Friedan and Gloria Steinem and bell hooks.

But all around me, the messages lurked. Girls are not as ambitious as boys. Should focus on their looks. Should be smart, but not talk too much. Should be manipulative rather than speak directly. Should find a "caring" job, part-time. Should love babysitting and cooking. Are there to listen, to serve, and to silently do as they are told.

My mother and my aunts res…

It's Amazing We Get Anything Done At All

Photo by Sean McEntee via Flickr

Been reading Bureaucracy: What Government Agencies Do And Why They Do It by James Q. Wilson.

Aside from realizing that Gov 2.0 isn't all that new - they called it "Reinventing Government" back in the Clinton era - I am starting to realize that federal agencies present a unique kind of sociological challenge: Paradox!

As Wilson points out:
Federal agencies are inherently paradoxical institutions- they must be responsive to the Administration (temporary) while also stable beyond it, acting as a permanent civil service outside of politicsAgency missions can be paradoxical- e.g. regulate and serve the same populationManagers must ensure that workers work, but obstacles prevent them from issuing reward or punishmentEmployees are technically accountable to managers,but in reality answer to others - the American people, Congress, etc. - their stakeholders go beyond, may have a different view, and change frequently...and Wilson doesn't say this …

"Auschwitz Hands" and the Importance of Reframing

Photo by Maarten van Maanen via Flickr

My father's mother walked around like a ghost most of the time. Her hands shook terribly. She passed that on to my father, and he to my sister and me.

May she rest in peace.

I hope Bubbie knows that I think of her now. Not with embarrassment the way I used to. Instead with respect, compassion, sorrow.

She went dutifully through life and performed the role assigned to her. Even though inside she had been left nearly dead.

My hands shake when I try to hold things steady. I tell myself nobody can see it or I find ways to avoid being observed. Like I prefer heavy cameras to pocket-size versions. I don't hold papers out to someone for any length of time.

As a kid I saw my dad's hands shaking and it scared me. But as I think about it now it is a mark of a survivor and of doing one's duty no matter what.

She went through the camp and miraculously got out alive. He grew up in the psychological aftermath - kind of a survivor too. And when my g…

7 Ways To Keep Naysayers From Ruining Your Brand

Image credit: Solid Bond via Flickr

In today's sermon (Feb. 5, "Knowing What To Ignore") Joel Osteen talked about critical question, one that every person confronts sometime:

How do you handle the naysayers in your life?

"Naysayers" are not constructive critics. They are people who try to tear you down, bit by bit, under the guise of offering "feedback." But somehow, no matter what you do, they just don't like you!

These people always seem to have something to say. Naysayers don't like your:
Identity - nothing you do is ever rightBeliefs - values, philosophy, conscience, spirituality, religion Relationships - your choice of friends, or a mate; you're not a good enough parentProfession - you should have been this, or thatManner, style, even looks - too formal or not formal enough, introvert or extrovert, so onEven ordinary criticism is hard to take. Osteen recalled a time when he would give a sermon, and it seemed that most people had truly go…

Scenes from Gov 1.5

Photo by Redjar via Flickr
If you want to know why I volunteer with the Federal Communicators Network, an independent interagency group dedicated to facilitating free training for federal communicators, it's because of emails like this one. I received it in response to an invitation to join our February event:"I am located in (far from D.C.)...would love the opportunity to participate in more of your events that are available online or via teleconference...however we have a limited training budget so I wanted to make sure there were no costs involved before I sign up."Our entire mission is to help federal employees (often government employees, or "govies") get the training they need to serve the taxpayer better, in an environment where training budgets are slim to none.

So I say yes it's free, hope you can join us, and receive this response:"I...have experience in crisis communications following the devastating tornadoes that impacted the state of (far…

Weekend Soup for the Super Lazy

While I do recognize that this is a blog about branding it is also true that we thinkers must eat.

Keep in mind that my family normally begs me NOT to cook anything, and yet this still tastes great. (Try to put out of your mind the fact that it sort of looks disgusting in the picture.) If you have this soup you will feel like Popeye!

You would pay $5 for a measly fraction of this recipe at a place like Whole Foods. Yet if you just take the time to dump some veggies in a pot you will have so many servings for about the cost of a salad and drink at Chop't.

In return for absolutely zero effort, the 5x-benefit you will reap includes:
Healthy - it's just vegetablesDiet-friendly - no added fat or carbs other than complex carbs from vegetablesEarth-friendly - no meat or animal productsCheap - the whole thing cost at most $10 and it made three Tupperwares worthVersatile - have it chunky or smooth  Here's how you make it:
Look in your freezer for frozen vegetables. I picked one 16 oz. b…

5 Management Secrets I Learned From My Mother

Image: My mom shows me an article she found on personal branding.  She still has absolutely no clue what I do.  But she likes that I like it.  Photo credit: My dad.

I've never seen my mom manage people at work. Only once did I visit her there. But to me she has always been a manager - she managed me and my sister directly.

The older I get and the more I observe, the more I go back to what she taught me about how to get people to perform at their best.

Briefly, my mom always did these 5 basic things and still does till this day:
Publicly, defended me: Whenever anyone questioned my behavior, she immediately got on their case first, took my side, and then privately asked me for the facts.Privately, told me the truth: Never pulled punches or said something she didn't mean just to make me feel good.  Everywhere, labeled me a star - and was happy for me: My mom encouraged me to take violin, piano, gymnastics, theater, everything. She helped me give a major national speech when I was ten ye…

Zuckerberg's IPO Letter, the "Shadow Core Group" & Other Strategies for Legitimizing Gov 2.0

Been thinking about concrete ways to bridge the gap between the ideals of Gov 2.0 and the actual reality of government organizations. Have found two approaches that seem to work and wonder if others have additional ideas.

Idea #1 - Organize Around An Alternative Vision and Widen The Group To Include Members of The Status Quo

To me this is basically the GovLoop strategy. Per Art Kleiner (Read a little more here or buy the book):
Organizations act the way they do based on the disproportionate influence of a "core group" of influencers.To change the organization, get together and form a "shadow core group" with a different vision - imagine the story clearly (see "If We Can Put A Man On The Moon") and embody it behaviorally (e.g. collaboration vs. information-hoarding)
The shadow group gradually includes members of the "legitimate" core group in its conversations until the new ideology replaces the old.Idea #2: Be A Living Ambassador Through Your O…

It's Tough To Write A Good Social Media Policy. Here's Why.

Image via WikipediaIn the community where I grew up, at the time when I grew up, there was no Internet.

If you were bored on the weekend you went outside to ride bikes. You listened to bad music (I mean late '70s...we are talking really bad. Serious.) You went to the mall and basically did nothing. You watched TV on those big old floor models with lots of wood.

In my case, you took out fifty books from the library at a time. (Refer to the '70s and lack of any appealing popular culture whatsoever...a situation that fortunately was alleviated with the onset of MTV, Madonna, and John Hughes movies.)

If you wanted to talk about things you picked up the phone and called your friends. Or passed notes in class, or went to youth group events, or sleepovers. But the concept of a "text message" or a "wall posting" would have seemed completely from outer space.

Even those phones we used - oh my. I remember the first cordless models. They were huge and they had those weird…

Branding vs. The Temptation To Conform

Image by soopahgrover via FlickrWhen you work in D.C. it seems like everyone naturally dresses in tan, navy and black.

In New York they all wear black.

In Miami it's surprising when people wear anything.

Even within metropolitan areas there are codes.

The kids at University of Maryland dress different than at George Washington University. But within each setting you can tell who fits in.

Similarly the people walking on Georgetown have a totally different look than at Adams-Morgan.

All I have to do is look down at the shoes and I know where each chicken goes home to roost.

Professionally, your brand is all you have. And if you look like everybody else, you are killing your ability to make your mark.

What distinguishes the brand-smart from the brand-stupid is that the former take conformity into account before deciding to "think different."

In a sense, the nonconformist must be an expert on fitting in - a student of grammar - before s/he decides to misspell words purposely.

To the…