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Controlling Your Brand In A World Of Brand Anarchy

Here's an overview of the evolution from brand infancy to sophistication:

  • Stage 1 - Mark of authenticity - a thing is what it says it is; trusted products and services
  • Stage 2 - Relevant differentiation - my brand is more relevant than yours
  • Stage 3 - An integrated experience across "touchpoints"
  • Stage 4 - Person = brand; emotional labor is more important than physical labor; and/or you are always self-employed, building your own separate professional image
  • Stage 5 - Social media integrates with branding - the studied effort to appear "authentic"
Underpinning the above are the following three disciplines:

  • Brand architecture - where and how brand names are applied (corporate brand, house of brands, brand endorsement)
  • Brand operationalization - making the brand the center of the business - always asking "how will this affect the brand?"
  • Brand internalization - employees as brand drivers - empowering the staff to act 
The above presupposes that a brand can be owned. Someone intentionally creates a brand - it's "theirs." But it is common knowledge nowadays that the concept of "brand ownership" is squishy at best. This is due to:
  • Copycatters: No sooner do you innovate than they steal your idea and make another one just like it - well, almost.
  • Conversationalists: They bring other people in to opine on your brand, some of whom understand it and some of whom don't, but your ability to control the narrative is lost in the process
  • Curators: They like your brand so much they contribute to it on social media, adding this, subtracting that, until it looks completely different than you meant it to.
  • Hijackers: Commenting here, blogging there, coopting your symbols and photobombing your best intentions, they subvert the original meaning of the brand.
  • Revolutionaries: They remove you from the center of the brand because they don't believe in you, and/or the principle that a brand should have a center (anarchists).
There are two ways to approach this problem. One is not to care, not to define it as a problem - in that case you don't need to read the rest of this post. And you are also not a Brand with a capital "B" because you're not making any effort to shape your image. Rather you are a brand by default.

So think of brand anarchy as a problem, and solve it by thinking of your brand completely differently than any existing definition would have you do so. As follows:
  • Get away from the idea that your brand is a thing. It's not a thing. It's a work in progress.
  • Brands do not progress in a linear fashion - Point A to Point B. (The tendency to update logos is misleading.)
  • Brands do not evolve like dandelion puffs, constellations of stars, or any other idea where there is a network of related items that together constitute a united front. Your brand is not the sum total of what people think it is. There is no such thing - that is impossible. The idea is a lie.
Rather, here is a definition of brand that you can use in the context of controlling your image:

Brand is the outcome of the dynamic between yourself and those who respond to you. 

Put simply -

Branding is war.

Your job is to understand the nature of the conflict, and like a great warrior, decide which forces to use to your advantage, when to confront and when to lie low, who are your allies and who is out to eliminate you. Here are some resources that can help:
There are those who say that there is nothing new under the sun. I prefer to think that there's a lot that's new, and there are also new ways of combining old information to produce better results than we've been able to achieve in the past. 

Unfortunately branding (like any discipline or realm of scholarship) can be used for good or for evil. I can only hope there are good people reading this blog who use these tools ethically and fight back against the forces of propaganda, dictatorship and yes, terrorism.

* All opinions my own. 

Praying To G-d For Mercy On Israel

Screenshot via Began HaEmunah (In The Garden of Faith), Israel
There are times when time stops, and now is one of those times. My homeland Israel is in imminent danger as terrorists pretending to be statesmen play propaganda games very skillfully. 

I am an ignorant, simple soul when it comes to these games. I know only what my faith, my heart and my soul tell me. There are people who want peace, and those people come from every religion. We must not be afraid of the "bad guys," (and that includes women and men), either because they have guns and can hunt us down, or because they hide behind platitudes of political correctness and will call us names for calling them out for who they are.

I stand humbly before G-d and pray for mercy for those in Israel and the U.S.A. who put themselves out on the front lines to fight radical terrorists, get themselves blown up or killed, and "we sleep soundly in our beds at night" as George Orwell once said.

May we see the end of war in our times, no more young men and women off to die for no reason. Instead of military bases and veterans' hospitals let's see this generation and their children build structures of peace. May they find love and happiness, raise beautiful healthy children in contentment, and enjoy the vast and plentiful world that G-d has given to all of us.

* All opinions my own. 

Seeking Self-Respect On Social Media

For the second week in a row I don't drive on Shabbos (Saturday, the Jewish Sabbath). Instead we walk and talk, and reflect.

There is an incredible, pervasive sense of peace in my mind. Unlike any other, and I don't feel this during the week.

Out of nowhere my mouth utters, "I just want it to stay like today, all week. But I know that it cannot."

We pass mothers wheeling baby carriages, dads walking little girls in pretty dresses toward the synagogue. Remark that we never stop to look at things, we're so busy driving around all week, and working.

I crane my head up and look right. There is a house with a gigantic satellite dish, and two others clipped to an awning.

The relief of small talk and relaxing conversation.

"What is that?" I say, and we wonder whether this homeowner has some special deal with the NSA.

Then bubbling up as if out of nowhere, the thing that's on my mind, but which I fear to say out loud.

"Shabbos is so peaceful, but I'm not sure I like all this time to think."

A pause, because we both know what's coming next.

"What are you thinking about?"

"I feel like I've lost my way."

We continue talking, and walking. It's about the family, and the times we could have spent together, but how work always takes me away.

"I am sorry."

It's the pressure, I say. There are challenges.

"But you have to stand up or you lose yourself. You're the one who always said that to me."

"It isn't always possible," I say.

And then I tell a painful story from my professional life. The one where, immediately after starting a new job, I said something that my boss did not like and the boss threw a handful of papers at me in front of other people at a meeting.

The blood rushed to my face as I remembered that moment and how I had to bite my tongue to stay employed.

"I wanted to scream, how dare you - but knew I'd lose my job before it even got off the ground."

An insight.

"Very often you can't say anything in real life, but you can post a version of your thoughts online, and you can recover self-respect through the community."

The shame of being mistreated. The attempt to recover our self-respect.

We can't let the haters drag us down or define us.

But it can become a vicious cycle, as well. We can use social media to gain self-respect, to "brand ourselves," and fail to address the real-life issues that we need to.

The final, insightful comment, back to me.

"You have to do the right thing in real life. It's the only thing that matters."

Social media isn't a bad thing. It is in fact a phenomenal way to express yourself, to connect with others and find camaraderie as you struggle with difficult issues and through difficult times.

But it's a dangerous path, and you can end up editing your persona online, too, also to get the benefits you think will accrue through a better "image."

This Sabbath gave me a break from all of that. And I liked being regular, and plain, and honest.

No matter what your religion, taking a break is a really good way to decide if you like the path you're on.

For me, I saw the Jewish saying was true.

"If you take care of the Sabbath, it will take care of you."

* All opinions my own.