Showing posts from July, 2012

Nicolas Cage: Actor, Meme

My daughter showed me the picture above and at first I didn't get it. Of course the orange juice machine is not a toaster. Then I saw the little comic on the upper right - "You Don't Say?" - and I realized that it was sarcastic.

Looked up "You Don't Say" on YouTube and this video popped up with 1,627,393 views. It's a seen from the movie "Vampire's Kiss" with Nicolas Cage.

There isn't one mention of the words "You Don't Say" in the video but I'm starting to get it...the whole meme thing is sarcasm, making fun of popular culture, things we've said again and again. And anonymity - in meme culture I have never once seen an author.

It's meta-commentary, post-branding, reflexivity, fun.

Want more information? Here's another video, "The Origins Of Meme," with 2,251,585 views.

Even if you've never heard of a meme before, time to get on the communication bandwagon. Start with pronouncing "meme&qu…

Hire for Brand, Train For Technical Skills

In response to: "That's Not Your Area To Worry About; That's Above Your Pay Grade; You're Not Being A 'Team Player!'" at GovLoop

Just saw this post and wondered why nobody had replied. Then realized that of course, nobody had replied as there's really no diplomatic way to say that you've gone through this at work even though employees, federal and nonfederal, go through this all the time. The problem is really that we're hired to do specific jobs, that fit into a specific functional area, that fits into a specific kind of hierarchy, that is situated within a culture. The unspoken but understood contract is that you you get a performance plan and you fulfill its requirements and then you are secure. Unfortunately this model is very outdated. In today's economy/work environment we need to be hiring people who fit in well with the overall brand of the organization. By "brand" I mean the culture but a little more than the culture - it&#…

CVS For Lunch

Usually I don't have time to run out for lunch nor do I want to spend the money at the food court (eats into the Starbucks budget). Therefore I went to CVS one day and stocked up on various things that seemed somewhat edible. It took me way too long to find something. Generally it is sort of a mystery to me why the "grocery" (so to speak, it's more like half an aisle where I go) section is stocked the way it is. Whatever, it's probably marketing research combined with sales volume data that determines what's on the shelf. Given the various restrictions in my diet, including general calorie/addictiveness of food considerations, eating kosher, and not wanting to spend too much, I pick out the following: General Foods International Coffee - it just tastes way too good to be true and I don't know what each chemical in the ingredients does. Don't care.Red Bull - to which I am so addicted that at a recent offsite, where I was sequestered in an anonymous office …

Facebook May Not "Get Marketing," But They Still Have A Great Brand

Last night I saw a TV commercial promoting Lay's Facebook contest where you can name your flavor and maybe win $1m.

Let me start by saying that I'm not a fan of potato chips, or Lay's, and normally could not care less about any commercial promoting same.  If I were to crave potato chips it would either be anything "kettle style" (except Utz, because I hate the name "Utz" and it seems cheap) or anything Pringle's, which always tastes very flavorful and indeed is very hard to put down (the famous tagline "Once You Pop, You Can't Stop." The logo is also great.

In any case I was watching TV and the commercial came on. It showed New York, a city still enveloped in myth and mystery for me, so I paid attention. Then there was Eva Longoria doing a Desperate Housewives bit in character, trying to get someone to pay attention to what she was saying. I didn't recognize the other person she was talking to, who seemed like a restauranteur-celebri…

A thought about national security, social media and branding

After reading the New York Times op-ed "Israel's Settlers Are Here To Stay, something occurred to me. (This requires developing further.) Due to the ubiquity and availability of social media, it is no longer possible (if it ever was) to develop a nation-brand the traditional way.

National security demands that not everything be transparent; but the expectation of the audience is that brands will always be authentic. A possible solution could be a bolder stance about what the national vision is (rather than trying to please every stakeholder), and also a bolder assertion that there are simply some things that cannot be discussed.

In the context of Israeli settlers' insistence on a one-state vs. two-state solution, this sounds controversial. But in the end, is it better to simply say clearly what it is that your goal is, or to be more circumspect? In a social media age, I am leaning toward the former - but the problem is that such definitiveness can be too divisive to sustain…

Seriously, Duct Tape Art @ AC Moore

There is a certain kind of person who goes crazy at the sight of raw creative material. That is not me.

And then there are those who see the potential for "semi-homemade" art (like Sandra Lee's cooking show) and get seriously jazzed.

I am one of those people. Sort of like using a pre-made brand to make a unique "look."

Spongebob Squarepants duct tape and a video explaining how to turn it into a fun, individualistic creation?

Count me in.

In a writing mode for now.

I don't know when any book is going to happen. Every time I have a chance to sit down and pull the content together, another thing comes to mind that seems important to write.

That's OK, it'll wait.

Occupy Chesapeake Beach

Surprised they didn't bring a stove.

Very seriously you can do marketing research by watching what people do when they hit a blank strip of beach:

1. Some people show up fully stocked, as if they were literally moving in. Reminds me of how we used to see the cars of city-ites fleeing to Bear Mountain in the summer with their homemade hammocks, boom-boxes, cookout gear, cookers, chairs, and even mattresses (!)

2. Others bring a pet and play catch and retrieve in and out of the water. The pet runs free and it frees them.

3. Some search for seashells very intently even when there are very few good finds to be had.

4. Some seem to do mini-science projects like looking for jellyfish and picking them up on sticks. (Yes!)

5. Finally there are those who tap away at their smartphones, take photos and videos, write blog posts and take care of phone calls. Generally these types being a small folding chair, not for relaxing but to keep the sand away from the phone. I can't imagine who would be …

A Meditation On Angelina Jolie

Having just watched an esoteric Angelina Jolie-Antonio Banderas movie on Netflix I am disturbed. I don't like what Angelina stands for, at least as I conceive it. And yet I am compelled to watch her be that persona.

We had a discussion about our mission at work the other day. What struck me was how uncomfortable people are at being reduced to one simple sentence. And yet they crave that simplicity in the abstract. We strive to reduce other people to categories so that we can comprehend them.

Angelina Jolie a a persona, or brand, is a very simple idea. Maybe it's "dangerous woman." But the movie on Netflix, like all her work, shows that she's a lot more complicated.

I am still mad at her for breaking up Brad and Jennifer just because she could do it, and he was willing to go with her. But then I don't really know the true story, do I? Only what's made up in my head, of the stories other people tell who may or may not know anything.

Brands like Angelina are va…

Jordache Then & Now: From Brand Empire To Business Conglomerate

"It was the time of Studio 54 and Saturday Night Fever, and designer jeans were hot....The brothers concocted the Jordache brand, an acronym of their names." - Bloomberg BusinessWeekBloomberg BusinessWeek has an interesting piece on Jordache then and now. What stands out most for me - aside from the fact that these jeans are the first brand I can recall being attached to as a kid - is the lack of brand-ness that this healthy conglomerate has. 

Eternally memorialized in the 1981 Ryan O'Neal movie So Fine, founders the Nakashes don't trade on the name anymore, and they don't have a brand strategy the way most of us think of it nowadays. Yet they're doing just fine. "Often, decisions are made by whoever argues the longest and loudest at Friday night Shabbat dinners."

A family business making decisions at the Shabbos table. Buying low and selling high, as the opportunity arises. Making business decisions based on profit and product rather than image. It&#…

Reality vs. The Marketing Version

Prophet Brand Strategy has a blog out this week on the concept of a "human library."

Basically in the Prophet model this is a good way to get thoughtful customers with extra money to waste same.

It seems a clothing company paid Prophet to "check out" four human "books" (jazz ensemble, dancers, etc.) to get over themselves and start acting like a team.

I am thinking that the Army could provide this experience for a smaller fee and reduce the deficit at the same time.

The problem with the blog is not Prophet per se. Those who can, do. I say go for it.

No the problem is how removed from reality we have become. The problem is that we accept a marketing version of reality sold back to us as real. Rather than simply living.

If you have a crappy team dynamic you don't need to interview anyone. You need to get in a room or out at a boot camp and learn how to talk with other people. Away from the chat and the smartphone and the Facebook and the other distancing dev…

"Celebrities Read Mean Tweets" = 1m+ Views = Post-Branding In Action

The reflexive brand. Self-aware, but not self-conscious. They own it.

Woody Allen, Maroon 5 and Theming As Brand Strategy

Last night my computer crashed. The wireless connection on the backup crawled.

Frustrated, I decided to finish watching Woody Allen's "Another Woman" on Netflix. It has been more than twenty years.

My daughter was nice enough to watch with me. All of it was new so I explained the plot. In the process I realized that many elements in Woody Allen movies are similar:

- A woman who is intellectual, neurotic, tormented vs. one who is warm, nurturing, and uninterested in intellectual matters. Generally the contrast between abstract, snobbish intellectualism (bad) and being in touch emotionally (good)

- A man who is passionately in love with an unattainable woman

- Missed opportunities to connect, to follow our dreams, and the lifelong misery of "selling out"

- A man who compulsively cheats on his wife, is still "committed" to her, and does not feel guilty; a woman who cheats emotionally, and does

- Couples who are always with other couples, friends, and family -…

5 Reasons Nationwide Insurance Is Irritating The Hell Out Of Me Right Now

They have a star, they have a well-known name, and yet their brand strategy stinks. Unforgivable.

1 - Ad: Boring

Julia Roberts is such an interesting actress, but this commercial puts me to sleep. Maybe she only did voiceover because she didn't want anyone to remember her face in a spot that stinks so bad.

2- Slogan: Boring

Reports Dow Jones Newswires: "The Nationwide ads encourage viewers to "Join the Nation."

Oh, wait a minute - just in case, I suppose:

"They also keep the company's longtime slogan, 'Nationwide is on your side.'"

Hey Nationwide. There is no insurance for a bad slogan!

(Anybody got a spare slogan to donate just in case those two don't work out?)

3 - Positioning: Substitute a Celebrity for an Idea

"When we were considering how to bring our message to life, we were looking for a familiar voice that would bring our brand attributes to life," Jennifer Hanley, senior VP-brand marketing for Nationwide, said in a statement.

Read: …

Accenture Wasting Money On Metro Marketing

People on a miserable morning commute not in receptive mood to indecipherable logos on posters. "V" for victory?

Making Change Happen in Government - A Theory in 5 Steps

1 - Clarify the goal

Often leaders assume that employees know what the mission is and what leaders’ priorities are. This is not necessarily true. State the mission, provide a forum for asking questions and clarifying answers, and encourage dissenting views so as to respond to them intelligently. For the band to be on the same song sheet, there must constantly be team practice. In the absence of discussion about the issues, the perception arises that some topics are taboo or that some know more than others for a reason. This destroys teamwork.

2 - Articulate the importance of empowering employees to achieve the goal

At Management Xchange (, Prof. Gary Hamel has initiated a conversation around new and better ways to manage. Primary among them is the idea of getting out of people’s way and eliminating needless bureaucracy and power politics so that they can collaborate and get the job done. Articulate the goal over and over again and provide a…

Brands As Alien Conspiracy! Interesting Cultural Commentary, In Theaters Sept. 2012


Milking “The Dark Knight" Massacre

"Joker Harley Quinn, and the Riddler at Dragon Con 2011." Photo by Robert Williams via Flickr.  Photo is used to illustrate the fun of dressing up like a fictional character. Obviously no connection is implied between the motives of these individuals and that of the Aurora shooter.
“An entire dimension of human reality is therefore suppressed: the dimension which permits individuals and classes to develop a theory and technique of transcendence by which they might envisage the ‘determinate negation’ of their society.’ – Herbert Marcuse, “From Ontology to Technology: Fundamental Tendencies of Industrial Society,” in Critical Theory and Society(1989) I feel cold, not physically cold but emotionally. It’s wrong to feel cold when 12 people are dead and 58 more are wounded for the “crime” of attending a midnight movie premiere. I’m analyzing why I feel this way. There’s a superficial answer – why does this tragedy get coverage, and not others equally as bad (if you can compare) or wo…

Response to - "Is it OK to dress formally in an informal environment?"

1 - If dressy casual is the norm, is it perceived as arrogant to dress more formally?

Suggest inquiring as to the reason why dressy casual is the norm - this will be an indicator of how "deviance" (formal dress) is perceived. In my organization, USAID, it is a mark of distinction to have served for many years, beginning with the Peace Corps, and so the norm is a "world traveler" kind of look. If you dress more formally you seem like you don't understand the very specific and unique world of humanitarian assistance. So it's not arrogance that would be perceived, but perhaps lack of subject matter expertise. However, dressing formally is "forgivable" if you are not there as a subject matter expert operationally, but rather an expert of another kind (communications, lawyer, IT, etc.)

2 - Is it OK to dress better than your boss?

Yes. It shows that you are engaged in the job, that you take yourself seriously, etc.

3 - An additional comment

On a b…

Highlights from "Becoming Post-Brand," Presented at IABC-DC, July 17, 2012

Slides here. Some video clips here.

I'm hoping to get notes from participants, but here are some key points for now. If they send anything, I'll post a follow-up or amend this post.
There is a constant tension between wanting brands (which provide a fantasy of reconnection for the alienated self) and not wanting them (to return to a purer time).Brands are a symptom of alienation - from G-d, community, the land, etc. They provide a temporary relief from the pain of that disconnect.Brands continue to have an incredible power over every aspect of our lives. We feel surer about ourselves when a brand endorses our actions - whether it's raising children per an "expert's" advice or buying a brand of paper towels that we "know" won't disappoint the family.When we talk about brands evolving this isn't to say that an old form is going away but rather that there are concurrent streams of activity. It's about choosing the right kind of branding for t…

Comment on Penelope Trunk's "Marissa Mayer becomes CEO of Yahoo, and proves women cannot have it all"

Great post by Penelope Trunk here. Lots of comments. Initially I just wrote a short response:

I don’t agree with #1 because it turns women into prostitutes and men into pimps. I followed path #2. You are a brilliant writer with great insight. Our children need mom and dad more than anything. Keep going and G-d bless!

But then I thought her idea deserved a more thoughtful one. See below:

<<My late grandfather had a saying, "words that come from the heart, go to the heart" and this is one of those posts.

I had to make this difficult choice when I was pregnant with my older daughter. Go back to work and put her in daycare, or stay home. As a feminist I was scared to lose my financial clout. But in the end I couldn't do it.

I am aware that many women don't have that choice and it upsets me because kids need their mothers. They do. We do.

To be fair, the conversation should be about mothers AND FATHERS. Fathers are terribly underva…

New Presentation: Becoming Post-Brand

Repositioning Dunkin' As An Experience


Always On Smartphone

Woman at Hair Cuttery - there is a TV going and newspapers laying around and she can't stop with the smartphone.

Right outside, another woman at bus stop hunched over device.

I wonder if marketers really understand who uses these devices, when, and why.

25 Ways To Get Things Done In A Bureaucracy

Photo by Jesse Barker via Flickr

Don’t make new things sound new.Acknowledge when others have made a good point. Incorporate feedback.Speak up when something seems “off.”Listen carefully when other people explain the culture to you.Be a uniter, not a divider.Don’t be a flashpoint for controversy intentionally.Dress as well as possible. Check yourself at 3 p.m.Get to know people as human beings not just job titles.Try to find out what’s really happening - don’t assume you know.Genuinely collaborate because it multiplies your influence.Settle for an 80% solution rather than nothing.Thank people constantly.Decide not to do some things. This is the painful meaning of strategy.Write things down before you forget.Find ways to make people’s life at work easier.Let your boss have the last word in an email.
Don’t argue with people.Don’t get emotional in

How Important Is Creativity In A Brand Name? (Microsoft & Yammer)

Screenshot via

How important is creativity? Of course it's important.

You can have a wacky name or a non-wacky one. Neither choice to me is creative. What's important is the creativity of the brand strategy.

It will be interesting to see what happens with Microsoft and Yammer. Microsoft is a staid name. Yammer is a wild name. There is a culture clash implied in the name difference. The communications director at Igloo Software (a rival to Yammer), Stephen Rahal, is saying that the culture clash is real:
''If you look at Microsoft and Yammer they really have completely different go-to market design philosophies. Yammer embodies the very definition of anti-Microsoft. That is in terms of agile development, frequent updates and their implementation process." -
"Rahal said Microsoft is playing catch-up in the social enterprise arena, and that is why it was attracted to Yammer."From a brand strategy perspective, should Micro…

Eats Quarters, Service Has Been Called

Executives say inspirational things pretty often. I don’t think they realize the positive impact of their words.

Today I was by the vending machine and saw a woman standing there pounding on the soda machine fruitlessly.

“I lost two dollars,” she said, and stomped out.

I remembered that earlier in the day I had been there and saw a handwritten note scrawled on a paper towel. It said, “Eats dollar bills.”

Without really thinking about it I left the galley and went about my business. Now I felt guilty. That sign had been ripped down, or fallen, and somebody lost $2 for no reason.

It occurred to me that I’d lost money in the vending machine before, here and elsewhere. But I never did anything about it other than curse under my breath.

Somebody else was sitting there as I thought about this. She said, “You could just go to the grocery store and get a six-pack. Six for two dollars, instead of two dollars for one.”

She had a point. The whole vending machine thing is wasteful. But stil…

Brand As Product, Brand As People, Brand As...?

You'll get no argument from me that branding is valued on the product side.
Obviously it is. Look at Dyson. They have a product brand so powerful that
people like me willingly pay 5x the price for the vaccuum and consider
paying the same outrageously elevated fee for their fans, etc.

If Dyson made a stapler I'm sure I would buy it as mine forever jams.

Branding is valued on the product side precisely because you can see the
impact, and in a short enough time for the result to be linked to the
effort you put into crafting its image.

However, branding is not sufficiently valued on the corporate side (my
side) because people don't connect the fact that the way you treat people,
is the way they interact with the public, is the public perception of your
organization and the products and services it produces.

The only time branding gets valued internally, is when it's linked to a
demonstrable financial result. For example - recruitment, retention,
productivity, etc.

All I'm …

Brand as Discipline Requires Rigor, Accountability, Transparency

Brand people are too often perceived as "fluff" professionals: "Anyone can call themselves a brand expert."

Exceptions don't disprove the generalization, nor do concurring examples prove it.

The question is whether the perception is true, and if so why the perception exists.

To get the answer we could look at a parallel profession, sociology.

It is very hard to define what society "is." What the collective consciousness "is." Because it's intangible. You can only measure the effect.

The only reason sociology became a respected enterprise was that the "founding fathers" (Weber and Durkheim) elevated it to the level of science. Perhaps Marx.

Of course this is also its downfall as sociologists who are predominantly qualitative, ethnographic, etc. get less respect than the ones who do massive surveys.

The sociologists I most enjoyed learning about - Mead, Simmel, Goffman, Garfinkel - all focused on the quality of group experie…

Branding As "Fluff": How Greed & Groupthink Get In The Way

Photo by Juhan Sonin via Flickr

Branding is perceived as a "fluff" profession precisely because its practitioners can't agree on a definition. Why can't we agree? It's not because it's irrelevant. If it were irrelevant you would not see a proliferation of definitions, frameworks, and brand valuation methods each claiming superiority and some mystical formula for generating it.

No. Brand people are smart people. Brand people invest a great deal of time in positioning themselves as the world's most knowlegeable folks about their craft. They know that at the end of the day, the firm that is perceived as having the best methodology, the most intellectual and creative capital, and the strongest results - wins.

Most brand books are not worth the paper they're printed on, because they are written by people who want to make a buck from the pseudo-method they're promoting.

Not coincidentally, those same people are the so-called practitioners you…

Co-opt The Symbol Of The Other Side

Image source:
 Screenshot source: Brandchannel. Read their article, it's good.

Screenshot source: The Healthy Beauty Project
Great way to take a bite out of the competing brand.

(That's it.)

More: See the New York Times, "The Branding Of The Occupy Movement."