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5 Ways To Rebrand & Their Implications

(Madonna photo via Wikipedia.)

The most successful rebrands are continuous - the Kardashians. Madonna - because you keep the audience with you the whole time.

A second is the amnesia strategy - wherein you pretend "not to know" that brand you once were. Ronald Reagan the President not Reagan the actor, same with Schwarzenegger. Works of you can pull equity from the prior brand, e.g. polished or tough image.

A third rebrand strategy is the facelift - JC Penney - works if you stick with it and make it convincing. Difficult to execute though because it implies "aging brand" and a recognition that you dropped the ball for awhile.

A fourth is the apology - Domino's Pizza - where you simply vow to improve the existing brand. I like this approach though some disagree.

Yet a fifth is the drop-out-of-sight approach - Molly Ringwald 80's movie princess - you go away and come back as an icon for another era, e.g. a mom on ABC Family. Again related - mass entertainment - but a different niche.

* All opinions my own. 

Mommy and Daddy Are Fighting (The Hidden Cost Of A Turf War)

Did you know that in 2012, the average CEO was paid 354 times as much as the average worker? 

Potentially that is an inspiring fact. Anyone can "make it."

Well, sort of.

Most aspiring CEOs will likely hit a brick wall. 

Because the gap between themselves and the people at the top is so vast.

We all know this in an academic sense.

But how often do we stop to think about it?

Imagine that we had only 100 people in the United States and $100 in total.

* One person would have about $35.
* Sixty would have less than $2 - ALTOGETHER.

Well, you say, perhaps these people at the top are very wise owls who keep the rest of us from destroying Planet Earth.

Image via

But then again, it is also entirely possible that they

I guess it bothers me that some people have everything while others sleep in their cars. (Check out Tyler Perry's Good Deeds, now out on Netflix.)

But what bothers me more is when the people who have everything waste their time with petty turf wars, instead of steering the ship.

* All opinions my own.

What Is Underneath The Talking Points, If Anything?

So I was surprised that my sister came to my mother-in-law's funeral.

I have missed all the family functions in New York. I just don't go there. Too much information as they say - once I leave a place I move on. 

But as much as I lean on my cognitive side to deal with life, that's how feeling my sister is. It would be unthinkable not to show up, and be there for me and for my husband.

It was just before she left that I thanked her one last time. We were standing outside my parents' car. My dad drove four and a half hours to get there by morning, and they were facing another similar drive back.

"Hey, thank you," I said. 

She replied softly, "I know."

She looked at me very closely. We were standing not a foot apart. I realized that I never really looked at my sister and knew little about her at all. Only vague and distant memories from childhood. Things like chasing her around the living room with a vaccuum cleaner and pretending it was a monster that would suck her up.

"You know me underneath all the brand bullshit," I said. "It's only you, and a few other people."

"I know."

"And you love me anyway."

"Yes, I do."

"And I love you just the same."

She got in the car and I found that I was crying again. Crying, really sobbing.

I guess I didn't know the real purpose of going to a funeral. You think about what the hell it is you're doing with your life.

And then the next day I was privileged to moderate an event in town, for work and for an organization whose mission I feel strongly about - promoting excellence in government communication.

It felt so odd to me to go from being a mourner to being a joyful host. I wondered how that could be anything other than false.

When it was time to start I began to read off the talking points. Gah! I hate TPs, they are so labored and boring.

That was why my voice shook. It was not at all me. The lie was making me nervous.

So I put the papers down and just spoke from the heart. About how much it meant to me to be there. I connected.

And thought about some advice a friend gave me months ago, about how to make decisions.

"Focus on what is real and clear and true."

Later I surprised a friend who worked in my previous agency and we chatted for awhile.

I noticed when she tuned out, and then back in to my words.

It was when I stayed with the talking points that I lost her attention, and vice versa.

And when we got to what was real and clear and true that the conversation became meaningful.

What I want to say is, of course you have to do corporate communication appropriately. 

But at the same time, there is little tolerance for B.S. anymore.

People just don't have the time, and it rarely adds anything to the conversation. 

In fact it tends to make the conversation worse, because now you have a layer of a kind of lying.

So don't be the expert, or the preacher, or the "best of all things" when you get out there and talk.

Just be yourself, and trust what is real within you.

Believe that the rest will follow.

Happy Friday everyone and I hope you have a good and peaceful weekend.

* All opinions my own.

Why Community Is Built In Congregation

Today for the first time I understood why people find consolation in synagogue. 

I went to the funeral of my beloved mother-in-law, Gerda Blumenthal. 

Never in my life have I felt one with the community. But today we set all differences aside to honor her.

Every person said the same thing: She always asked how I was doing.

The rabbi said that she always asked about his sons, even when she was in the hospice.

Even though he was visiting her and she was in agonizing, unyielding pain.

We looked at the casket before us and we cried, together.

My husband, a quiet man, spoke about her life and what it meant to him.

I do not think anybody was prepared for those remarks.

There is no way that a transcript can do them justice.

He spoke with so much feeling that the rest of us cried along with him. 

I cried with people I don't even know.

We went to the cemetery and for the first time I saw a casket being lowered into a grave. 

We took turns shoveling dirt over the casket.

I saw my mother crying. Or really I heard her. She cried, these plaintive heaving cries. And we were all with her. It was just that kind of day.

There is this song on the radio, "Counting Stars." I'm in that phase where I can't get it out of my head.


If you watch the video it shows a prayer service where the people are semi-hypnotized by the preacher.

He gives them the feeling of unbelievable strength.

They clap and sing and urge each other on.

A woman can do backflips, inspired not just by faith or sermon but the combined energy of the people in the room.

We can do great and terrible things in groups and so much of the news is focused on that.

But the truth is that great things are accomplished in groups as well. It's worth figuring out how to do them well.

We spend so much time hiding from each other and ourselves.

But living is really only done when we fuse. With an idea, that becomes a mission, that we accomplish through community.

Thank you to the community that turned out to honor Gerda Blumenthal today. May her beautiful soul rest in peace.

* All opinions my own.

Why Social Media Is More Powerful Than Branding


Brands create a pretend one.

Social media creates a real one, customizable to suit your level of interaction.

Life is lived among other people. When we experience pain, rage and love, the high of a lesson learned or milestone achieved, it is higher in community.

Brands do well when they create community. But not in a way that is at all obvious. And not to constantly push product.

The best thing a brand can do is create a platform around an idea, step back and let the interaction happen by itself.

People will expect the brand to sell them things, at some point - shopping and rating goods is a primary way we interact after all.

But it should always, first and foremost be about bringing people together. That and not the Marketing Department's version of an image is what makes the brand one-of-a-kind and (not unimportantly) uncopyable.

* All opinions my own. Photo of a community bulletin board in Starbucks by me.

Thank You To My Readers Here & Around The World

Judging from the audience stats, this is truly an international blog, with visitors from:
  1. United States
  2. China
  3. United Kingdom
  4. Ukraine
  5. Canada
  6. Germany
  7. India
  8. France
  9. Philippines
  10. Australia
I guess we're all trying to read meaning into the stars. 

* All opinions my own.

Beats By Dre: What's The Strategy? (Identity or Ingredient)

"Beats by Dre" is a headphone brand. Wear the headphones and it says something about who you are: cool, you live for the music, you have discerning taste.

Wait, I forgot. You "become" Dr. Dre, just by buying them. The quintessential identity brand.

Photo of Dr. Dre performing via Wikipedia

Yes, except that Beats may actually be selling "bass-delivery systems" - an ingredient, according to Jesse Dorris. As he puts it, writing for Slate:

"He’s conquered the headphones market, but Dr. Dre isn’t selling great sound. He’s not even selling celebrity. He’s selling the concept of 'bass.'"

--and this ingredient has a very particular cultural symbolism--

"Bass has signified both sex and rebellion at least since Duke Ellington got the ladies on the floor in 1920s."

This isn't an abstract argument. The discipline of brand is essentially reverse-engineering others' success and failure so that others may repeat it and earn money.

And in a crowded market where I can buy a working pair of headphones for $1, Dre built a headphone business in which revenue shot skyward from $200 million to $1 billion within two years.

Is Beats By Dre really an ingredient brand, though? One might more easily be able to believe that people shell out $200-300 a pair because he's a celebrity.

Check out's "Celebrity Sneaker Stalker," below. Obviously the appeal of buying such expensive shoes is largely the feeling of being just like the celebrities wearing them. It is not the "superior" ingredients that go into making them - though they may actually be better.

Indeed, other companies, most notably Bose, have developed equity around sound delivery branding.

But Dorris anticipates this objection. As he notes, an expert review of headphones for the popular productivity site misses the point: These headphones make an asset out of something that a subject matter expert dismisses as unworthy.

"Beats’ raison d’etre is to simply blow the lids off the listener."

At the end of the day, it's not clear that companies have to choose between offering identity or ingredient branding. Ideally, they give the customer both. The key point is to know which thing you are emphasizing, when, and in what proportion.

For example, Splenda does not rely on a celebrity and it is not particularly healthy. So - although it could position itself primarily as an ingredient brand - it leans toward positioning itself as an identity brand. 

Splenda is actually geared to women - in particular women engaged in home and family, who relate to the concept of needing a moment for silence and relaxation. 

To save money or make money, consider what your brand strategy is and why, before heading down the path of implementation. 

* All opinions my own.