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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 BusinessWeek
Bloomberg 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's the old-fashioned way of doing business. For the Nakash family it seems to work. 

I wonder if they're at the vanguard of a broader trend, in which people trust not the brands at the periphery of the organization, but the core group of family and/or friends that run them.

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 devices. Away from the brands.

In the end we are all human and frail and weak in one way or another. Becoming a team means accepting that in yourself and others, and taking the time to find points of connection as you work toward a goal.

Brands are great fun but they are only temporary. It's important to distinguish between the fantasy we pay for, and the life we live.

Ironically, learning about humans by "checking them out" of a "library" is about as dehumanizing as you can get.

It's the kind of thing that people do when they subconsciously have no desire to really team at all.

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 - emotional drama before the crowd

- A self-deceiving character who takes long walks to find out what is bothering them, and/or has a dream/fantasy experience to help them resolve their emotions

- The psychiatrist as a cold, all-knowing God figure

My daughter said, "It's a very 'you' movie." Meaning, "not me."

There is a reason I will automatically prefer a movie labeled "Woody Allen" over an unknown: The characters and setting may change but the theme and plot are always the same.

It's always about coming to terms with the self behind the mask.

It's the same with Maroon 5's music. On the Internet the debate rages: Is Adam Levine a misogynist? (They use a cruder term.) In every song/video we see a woman beat him, cheat on him, reject him, leave him.

In addition the women are always like mannequins - caricatures of women - almost doll-like, beautiful in a cartoonish way.

My daughter thinks it's the producers who came up with that common theme but I don't think so.

It's not just the sound of the songs that is similar. It is what is being sung about - the narrative. A fascinating glimpse into the unconscious of the singer.

Woody Allen and Adam Levine seem to have in common the compulsive need to explore a contained area of emotional pain through art.

The result is not what some would think of as artistic genius, because of the repetitive nature.

But as a consumer who finds those themes interesting, they create a brand that works.

I don't think the choice to theme a certain way is intentional. But in a way it makes the work resonate all the more, because it's real.

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: We didn't want to take any chances. Get it? We're an INSURANCE company. And we know our brand jargon, e.g. "attributes."

The statement continues: "Julia Roberts' voice brings an assuring, confident tone to the campaign that resonates well with our target audience."

This means absolutely nothing. It's not even bare-bones communication. You don't talk to one audience about another audience and call the latter an "audience."

4 - Strategy: Think of Spending As Generating Results

"When you have a competitor spending over a billion dollars on ads, which we do, you have to break through the clutter in a relevant way," said Matthew Jauchius, chief marketing and strategy officer at Nationwide.

How is Nationwide doing that? I'm mystified. I also don't walk away knowing how much they're spending:  "Mr. Jauchius declined to say how much Nationwide would spend on the new campaign but said it was the company's "largest campaign both in terms of cost and scope."

Not to worry folks: "This is a serious effort on our part to change the conversation" about insurance, he said.

Based on...???

5 - Innovation: None

"We are going against the grain in the marketplace by taking a more sincere tone, an authentic tone" (this is Jauchius again) "...rather than just a yuk with a phone number, which seems to characterize our category today."

Wow, "a yuk with a phone number." Seems Geico's doing pretty well with that, so I don't know if I would make fun.

Either way, "going against the grain" doesn't mean doing the opposite, it means actually thinking.

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 tool for achieving it.

3 - Develop a clear model - visual and mental - of a new way of working

One idea Hamel has shared for more effective organizations is the notion of employees entering the organization, choosing a project, and getting to work without “approval” by supervisors. Performance appraisal is achieved through peer review rather than supervisory fiat. This can supported by a physical workspace that promotes innovation and by visual imagery in the workspace, such as banners and posters, creating a look and feel that promotes newness, such as the Google “play” workplace model.

4 - Officially support a pilot project to create effective innovation

How do you get from here to there? In “Who Really Matters” Art Kleiner posits that you start with a small group of innovators (or insurgents) who band together to develop alternative and better means of doing business, then slowly incorporate members of the dominant group. The premise is that the unit of the organization is the decision, rather than the person and that to effect positive change one has to influence the key decision-makers. By starting with a small group one can avoid “initiative fatigue” and the perception of always starting new things rather than fixing the existing ones.

5 - Embrace new technology through a risk management approach

Many organizations suffer from a managerial digital divide in which younger employees uncritically embrace technology with insufficient consideration of risk, while older employees fear and block technology while overstating it. Adopting a risk management approach is a means of evaluating logically and critically which technologies stand to bring the most benefit and minimizing the potential insecurity to the organization. Evaluating risk is ideally done by a group of objective parties, minimizing the chance that one or a few powerful individuals will exercise disproportionate influence.