A Show of Jewish Unity 10 Years In The Making

Today is Tisha B'Av, a holiday of Jewish mourning for the destruction of our two holy Temples and many other terrible events that happened on this day.

We can never understand why bad things happen, particularly to good people. Nor should we, probably. Nevertheless on this day we traditionally focus on promoting Jewish unity.

We believe that pointless hatred is a principal cause of our destruction.

So it was fitting that the Beltway Va'ad sponsored a unity event aimed at bringing together Reform, Conservative, Orthodox and Sephardic Jews. Here's the flier.

The event was held today at Beth Joshua Congregation, an Orthodox shul in Rockville, MD.

As soon as I parked the car I could feel the electric energy of the gathering. 

I snapped this photo of the attendees as they quickly and purposefully walked in. 

When I arrived, the room was filling up rapidly. We took our seats as Beth Joshua's Rabbi Uri Topolosky (pictured in the cover photo) greeted us. 

I sat in the back because I planned to leave early. Synagogue and classrooms are not my thing. But I heard rustling and turned around to see that dozens of extra chairs had appeared, seemingly out of nowhere. 

The space in front of me got taken up, and so did the area on the right. 

The crowd was incredibly diverse.
  • Rabbi Adam Raskin from Har Shalom, whose education and learning experiences spanned multiple denominations, represented Conservative Judaism.
  • The Sephardic perspective was represented by Rabbi Ovadia, of Magen David Sephardic Synagogue.
There were shaitels on my left, tichels on my right, hats in front of me and other women did not cover their hair at all. For the first time ever, THERE WAS NO JUDGMENT OR PROSELYTIZING.

Hip hip hooray.

Here is Rabbi Ovadia. He talked about Sephardic philosophy, and explained why, unlike Ashkenazic Jewry, it has no denominations.

The main points were as follows. Some of this is me paraphrasing:
  • There is no such thing as a secular Jew. Some of us keep some of the commandments, others keep others. 
  • One manages a challenging external culture by appropriating desirable aspects while discarding the undesirable ones - versus retreating or becoming insular.
  • It is unacceptable to tell people that they must conform or leave the community. We focus on finding a practical solution that is livable as well.
  • Just as we move forward in every other field, e.g. science and technology, culture progresses also and "we cannot go back."

Rabbi Ovadia gave the example of married women covering their hair, citing the Otzar HaMikhtavim Vol 3:1884 (1954). A woman wanted to stop doing so, and was given rabbinic disposition based on its halachic status as a minhag, a custom based on cultural norms around modesty. Those norms had changed and uncovered hair was no longer considered immodest.

"if covering hair is the only thing that shows you're religious - that's hypocrisy."

After Rabbi Ovadia spoke, Rabbi Herzfeld introduced the panel. He said, again paraphrasing, that unity across denominations was not his experience in yeshiva. However, he learned this value later on while in school in Israel. "Over time I became fairly passionate about pluralism," he said.

He recalled visiting the church in Charleston, SC where 9 people were murdered in cold blood, by a visitor they'd let in unquestioningly. He noted that they'd done the same thing for him and Rabbi Avi Weiss, also no questions asked, and no security. But would he do the same thing if he were them? 

Rabbi Herzfeld said he felt ashamed to admit that he wasn't sure.

The panel of rabbis spoke movingly about their backgrounds and individual approaches to pluralism. Although this blog might start to feel unending if I recounted each word in detail, a couple of points are worth mentioning:
  • Rabbi Shankman talked about her background in the Reform community. (I found her a compelling speaker and apologize that technical difficulties with my iPhone prevented me from taking proper notes, so I won't pretend to represent the depth of what she said here. If anyone has notes on this, please send them to me and I'll update this.) 
  • Rabbi Raskin talked about his incredibly all-over-the-map pluralistic upbringing. He noted that when we see a large group of Jews, we say the blessing over G-d's mysteries, because G-d created every Jew as an individual with a unique set of qualities to contribute to the group, and to the world. We honor that uniqueness even as we don't always understand it.
  • Rabbi Antine said there is more that unites us than divides us, and noted that he'd never seen a pluralistic event held at an Orthodox synagogue in the ten years he'd been serving in the D.C. area (maybe ever - that's what it sounded like to me.) He further said that the "competition," if it exists at all, is not between the various denominations within Judaism, but rather between Judaism itself and the lure of the mall - or of nothing, apathy.
The clock struck 3:45 and I realized that if I was going to beat the rush, I'd have to leave right then - although unusually for me, I didn't want to.

As I walked through the hallways where my children had attended school - the building is attached to Beth Joshua - I felt really sad. In fact I started to cry, a loud and terrible cry, as I thought of the missed opportunities to connect more.

In my heart I could feel that there were other broken hearts at the shul today. 

Let's hope our cracked vessels form an opening into which the light can shine in.

We need to replace all the old and accumulated hatred with that light.


All opinions are my own and do not represent those of my agency or the federal government as a whole. Photos by me.

Deconstructing What Is Easily The Best Marketing Pitch Ever

Understand that I am possibly the cheapest person on the planet when it comes to buying makeup. I will cruise past the entire CVS to get a lipstick marked $1.99, because really, who's going to see the label once the stuff is on your face?
A fan letter I stumbled across in a blog post turned that icy resolve into hot steam. It's very likely I'm going to buckle and spend the $75 asking price for Stowaway Cosmetics' mini-kit.
Consider the staggering implications of this.
I am "devoted" to spending no more than necessary on certain things. And a dirt-cheap concealer, red lipstick and mascara will cost me $15 at the drugstore. (That's just the cost to throw out whatever junk has accumulated in my purse.)

This pitch convinced me to spend $75 --> 5x more.

There must be a formula behind such marketing magic.

Let's deconstruct some of its major elements. Again, here's a link to the original post if you want to read the whole thing first.
Jamie Beck, the writer and photographer, collaborates with her husband Kevin Burg on their blog Anne Street Studio together. 

1. The visuals are wow.

The cover photo on this post is the reason I was drawn to read the blog post. The content is full of similarly stunning shots. Of course, we all want to look like that.
The blog is mainly photo-based and the images do the work of a salesperson. According to the writer, it's not a Photoshop job, either. 
I love the name "Stowaway," too. I like it on an unconscious level. Maybe it's about stowing the makeup in my purse, literally, because the size of the package is intentionally small. But I don't really care.
"Stowaway" brings to mind a really positive mental image of myself, maybe on a boat, hiding in the galley somewhere, hitching a ride to some faraway exciting place.
The photography, the name, the whole look of the blog it's set in like a frame - sophisticated, modern and classy.
When I see this blog post, I see me the way I want to be.

2. The endorsement is voluntary and from a cool person.

"I was not paid for this post, I am 100% in love with Stowaway."
I like that the author just wanted to do this.
I like that she says things I didn't know, like "IRL," which stands for "in real life," whooaaaa. As in:
Since we are being super honest here I opted to NOT beauty retouch Chesla’s skin into some sort of idea of beauty industry perfection so you can see the real product in action, the way we actually look IRL." 
I like how she is friends with the founder of the makeup company, who - as we learn in the post - is associated with brand name cosmetics herself.
I like that she used the phrase "some sort of idea of beauty industry perfection," too. It brings to mind the idea that this makeup defies gender norms.
I feel really good from reading all of this, and I suspect I will feel equally good from buying this stuff.
That's great marketing.

3. The blog post made the product look easy to use. 

I have always been amazed by women who know how to use makeup. It just seems like a very complicated deal. 
Maybe they're mystifying it so they can feel good about this skill, or charge money for their abilities. But there are so many brushes! And sponges! And wedges! And a bewildering array of products for every single thing having to do with one's appearance.
Makeup as a sport just never seemed really winnable to me. 
Have you ever visited a cosmetics counter and had a makeover "just for fun?" I have. I'll be the first to admit that I have screwed with countless makeup ladies, who no doubt see me coming with some kind of instinct known only to those who can sort the profitable humans from the unprofitable ones, and now they warn me away with a kind of supra-conscious glare if I so much as turn their way at Macy's.
But here's the thing. Each and every time, forty-five minutes and $250 worth of product later, the results are good but the techniques they describe are both expensive and un-repeatable.
Invariably it will go something like this. They concentrate very, very hard and I am supposed to sit there and keep quiet. Then they pull out the mirror and I go "Wow."
"It's easy," they'll then say, as if on cue. "Here's how you do a smoky eye."
Which prompts me to think the following, basically all of this exactly at once, simultaneously, yes I can think a lot of things at the same time:
  • "Andy (my husband) is going to say, 'You spent what?'"
  • "It is a sin to spend forty-five dollars on foundation."
  • "I will never remember this."
  • "This is not how I actually look."
  • "I still can't find that quarter I dropped in the car."
What I loved about this blog post was that I could see how, in pictures, you'd go from looking shitty and raw to looking great in five minutes or less.
With just a couple of small and easily manageable products. 

4. The model is the founder of the makeup company.

What this tells me is that the founder of the makeup company is confident enough about her product that she is staking her entire personal and professional brand on advertising it.
This also tells me that they're doing some pretty forward marketing here, i.e. using social media to get the word out, collaborating on a pretty sophisticated-looking blog post, and so their audience is going to be sophisticated as well.
I like the idea of being associated with this whole "thing," whatever you'd call it.
Again, genius marketing.

5. The value proposition picks up on themes that have been percolating somewhere in my consciousness.

For a long time I subscribed to an online health newsletter that contained warnings about the garbage they put in makeup. I never took those warnings too seriously, but others turned out to be accurate - such as the one about keeping cellphones away from your head.
Then I saw on Keeping Up With The Kardashians that Kourtney won't let anything artificial near her body. I know your personal opinion about the whole "K" brand is probably bubbling up right about now, but the point is that for me her focus on "nothing artificial" really resonates.
And then in the blog I read that the makeup is beyond "natural," in fact natural is such a stupid word to use, as I've always thought, because lots of bad and unhealthy things are natural.
No - the makeup is so carefully made with such good-for-you things, and it's even got an expiration date. I loved the connection the author drew between that and spoiled milk. 
"Would you drink expired milk? I don’t think so, so why is it ok to smear expired makeup on our skin?"
So sensory that sentence is. I can smell it. I can see it. I can almost taste the horror of that spoiled stuff.
I also like how she uses the words "why is it ok," as if to say, "we are worth more," or "we deserve better" than the typical makeup product. 
Does my cheapo tube of lipstick even have an expiration date on it?
Do I even know what is in the tube?
Seriously, I have no idea.
All in all, this was such a great post from a marketing perspective.
It's also a superior example of marketing, specifically, as opposed to someone intentionally "building a brand."
So how would you repeat this? Here are some practical tips:
  • Obviously, get other people to write about your stuff. What you say means very little to the user. So network with people who might want to write about your stuff. And of course, make sure photos of your product, and verifiable information, are readily available.
  • Speak only to your user. This post is brilliant marketing because it appeals to a very specific demographic. Show the copy to your demographic for feedback - not to the whole world.
  • Write as though you're talking. Now more than ever, with all the lies and scandal we're exposed to every day, people are sick and tired of bullshit. That includes artificial-sounding language. Generate language that sounds like someone off-mic, not in front of a curtain. I personally think profanity is okay, in limited doses.
  • Make social media your #1 marketing tool. We live in social, we run from ads. How you do that is up to you, but interactive platforms should never be reduced to an afterthought.
Sometimes people ask me how I can be so fascinated with marketing. It's all been done before, they say. There's nothing new under the sun.
I say nothing could be further from the truth. Just by watching my RSS feeds, I see a million different topics worth exploring. Each could be a dissertation.
If you want to get good at making people want things, don't let the sand slip from within your fingers. Pay attention to stuff, and consider the implications of what you see very carefully.

All opinions are my own and do not represent those of my agency or the federal government as a whole. Photo by Jamie Beck, Anne Street Studio.

3 Ways To Stop Sexism Now

If I were a man in the modern workplace, I would be confused about how to treat my female colleagues.

I would want to treat them politely, just the same as everybody else. But sometimes being polite can also be perceived as sexist, overly personal or condescending. For example:
  • I wouldn't know if I should hold open the door for them, or let them walk in through a doorway first.
  • I wouldn't know if I should ask them about their families and kids.
  • I wouldn't know if I should offer them help or not with a work assignment.
The list of confusing situations goes on and on. Can one make a joke? Can one ask a female colleague to do something, if they are not a subordinate? Can one mentor a female subordinate, without that being perceived the wrong way?
The first thing to know is the Platinum Rule: Treat others as they want to be treated.
But of course if things were all that simple, we wouldn't need a whole bunch of specific rules, right?
Let's face it, complication is a part of the picture, because we are all human. Misunderstanding comes with the territory.
  • Most of us are set in our ways. It's tough to put oneself in somebody else's shoes, and then we're surprised when we don't understand one another.
  • We are controlled by our unconscious drives. We aren't aware of what we aren't aware of, which means that other people see us as we cannot even see ourselves.
  • We are shaped by culture and environment. Our parents, our friends, our teachers and our peers all influence how we think about things. The influence of culture is often so taken-for-granted as to be invisible.
  • It's genuinely difficult to understand the opposite sex. We will never, ever stop debating whether women and men think differently or not and once you add layers of class, race, religion and nationality into the picture, the complexity grows exponentially.
  • We are all very busy, and the busier and more stressed-out one is, the more rigid one's mind becomes. Anxiety actually makes the brain shut down and roll into defensive mode.
So I get it. But still, here are 3 fairly straightforward things I feel pretty confident about suggesting here, regardless of whether one is male or female.
Because we often forget: A woman can be sexist against other women. Men can be sexist against other men. A woman can be sexist against men, too.
Here are some things I personally keep in mind. I don't pretend to have invented them, nor to be a perfect practitioner.
But they are important. The big incentive is that they help you avoid unnecessary problems at work at a minimum. At a maximum they provide you with the strength and stability you need to achieve an executive-level position.
  • Know what things other people are likely to find offensive, and do not do them. You don't have to overthink this; just start by thinking about the other person as a person; know what things are typically not okay; and really stop to consider how they might feel before you act.
  • Don't take it personally when other people are offensive. Most likely it has nothing to do with you, and it is also possible that you are misreading them.
  • Calmly and clearly communicate to other people about behaviors you will and will not tolerate. Often people don't say anything, and then they expect the other person to magically know what is weighing on their mind. Also, choose your battles; if you frequently feel like there is a problem, that particular environment might not be worth your time.
Beyond this, what specific behaviors do I find sexist at work? Honestly I find that most people are pretty careful about this. But if there's anything that bugs me, it's condescension. For example, take my profession: Many think communication is somehow natural, automatically female, and not really a skill - especially when women do it. I think communication is pretty challenging!
What else? It's things that are so very subtle they escape ordinary notice. But when men talk to men, almost over the women's heads, I find that very annoying. Or when there is this assumption that women will somehow, again, automatically play the role of "office housewife," like making plans for group events, or bringing food or even cleaning up after we've eaten together, that just drives me up the wall.
I invite everyone join the conversation. What do you see as hidden sexism at work? What do you find confusing or unclear? What would you recommend as a way to make things fairer?
This topic can generate discomfort, I know. We've all seen other people at their best and worst. So here's a plea to be respectful. Your professional colleagues want to hear what you have to say.  
Photo by st. steele via Flickr (Creative Commons). All opinions are my own and not those of my agency or the federal government as a whole.

5 Updated Rules of LinkedIn Etiquette

So this is going to be the fifteen millionth article on the subject.

But I don't care, and you should read it. 

Because it will make you look like less of an asshole for the rest of your life. 

Isn't that worth five minutes?

Here goes:

1. DO NOT SEND MASS EMAILS EVER unless there is a significant and compelling reason the people on the email would want to receive it. 

2. DO NOT CONNECT WITH WOMEN TO TELL THEM THEY ARE PRETTY and to ask for help with your child-rearing. 

3. If you ask someone on LinkedIn for informal advice and you're lucky to enough to get it, SAY THANK YOU. 

4. In that little circle, where it says "Profile Photo," PUT YOUR PHOTO as in ONE INVOLVING YOUR FACE. If you're posting weird photos here, just one question...WHY?

5. DO NOT POST NASTYGRAMS. Do not tell people they are stupid or that their blog posts are stupid or that their comments make no sense or in any way convey your disrespect for their right to exist and to breathe the same LinkedIn air that you do, that we all do. Yes it's okay to think all of those things, but this is a little fishbowl we've got going here, and do you know what? WHEN YOU ACT LIKE A JERK, WE DON'T LIKE YOU.

This world we live in now...it's a very small sandbox. Your etiquette on LinkedIn tells a potential employer, or employee, exactly who you are.

Do your very best to play nice.


Photo via Texas A&M University. All opinions are my own and do not represent those of my agency or the federal government as a whole.

Google's Tragic Alphabet Soup

ICYMI: One of the world's most valuable brands has just burnt itself at the stake.
The cost has since gone up.
As the Wall Street Journal reported in August 2014, over the past decade Google has by far outpaced the stock market average in terms of performance:
The stock has risen 1,294% since it went public on Aug. 19, 2004, meaning a $10,000 investment in Google at its $85 IPO price would be worth $139,458.82 today. Google’s 30.15% compounded annualized return over the past decade outpaces the 6.1% annualized gain of the S&P 500 over the same time frame.
Does Google's performance as a company have something to do with its brand equity?
As of May 26, 2015, Millward Brown's annual BrandZ (TM) ranking had Google as the world's #2 brand.
Based on its methodology, Millward Brown calculated Google's brand value at $173.7 billion.
Whereas market capitalization reflects stock price multiplied by number of shares outstanding and can be hard to penetrate, MB's valuation process can be understood more methodically. 
Here is how they explain their approach, which progresses from a mathematical element to an intangible one:
  • Step 1: Calculate financial value. This involves two steps. The first is to figure out what percentage of earnings are coming from which of the corporation's brands. The second is to predict future earnings as a percentage of current earnings. 
  • Step 2: Calculate brand contribution. This is an assessment of how much product people are purchasing combined with its "brand power," a combination of three things: whether the brand means something to them, whether the brand seems unique to them, and how readily they think of it.
As the research firm notes, the more powerful the brand, the more financially valuable it is. Strong brands outperform the average company not only at any given moment in time, but also over time. 
"The BrandZ™ Strong Brands Portfolio increased 102.6 percent over 10 years...outperforming both the S&P 500, which grew 63 percent, and the 30.3 percent gain of the MSCI World Index, a weighted index of global stocks. This result confirmed the power of strong brands to generate superior shareholder returns."
In short, branding matters. It matters a hell of a lot, it matters completely. It is more important than anything when it comes to the financial success of a business.
Brand value is your only reliable metric of success no matter what methodology you use, regardless of proprietary metrics, despite the claims by one firm or another to hold the Holy Grail of brand value.
This is why, last night, if you listened closely you could hear the collective cry rising from the Internet:
Google, WHYYYY????
This is me, practically wailing, like a wounded animal:
We are crying over the historic implosion of one of the world's top brands, as Google has created another company, "Alphabet," to serve as its parent.
Why did Google do this? A fellow user of Quora asked me if I know.
Honestly, I couldn't tell you.
Often enough, though, leaders do stupid things because they're insulated from reality and they're totally bored. So I found this speculation by Felix Salmon, writing at Fusion, intriguing:
"He’s the founder and CEO of one of the most successful companies on planet Earth, but the company more or less runs itself at this point, and Larry doesn’t want to be judged on margins and earnings and boring things like that. He wants to be 'in the business of starting new things.' So he’s handing over Google, along with all of its management headaches....And he’s keeping the sexy entrepreneurial stuff for himself."
It is also possible that Google, oddly, just doesn't know how to brand. For example, the company's wild creativity has led to a proliferation of experiments that don't seem to have a unifying core. Others have called them out on this. As Mark Ritson noted in Branding Strategy Insider:
"For all its success, Google has been wildly inconsistent as a brand and this has restricted the degree of affection and loyalty it enjoys with customers. Along with its outdated mission statement, Google positions itself using a ‘philosophy’ of 10 guiding principles. A glance at these confirms that Google has been repeatedly and egregiously contradictory to the rules it was meant to follow."
I made a similar observation four years ago, arguing that Facebook would put Google+ down in a heartbeat. Which it did. Here is an excerpt from that post:
"Insanity: The definition of which is continuing to do the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. Examples: Google Wave. Google Buzz. Orkut. Knol. Face it, Google: Social networking is not your thing....Google is a great brand on many levels. But this one was a bad idea from the start. Doomed by its roots in envy of a competitor rather than the expansion of Google's own areas of excellence....Lesson for them and for the rest of us: Stick to your core competencies--your unique selling proposition--the thing you can do better than anybody else, almost effortlessly. Succeed at that and then expand from there."
Many people think that branding is a very complicated thing. But the rules are actually simple and intuitive.
So why can't we all build a top global brand? That, too, is easy to answer: Brands require total allegiance from the people who are building them.
Not only is it difficult for most people to meet that standard, but it is normally extraordinarily risky to confront the person in charge of the brand.
To be blunt about it, you cannot directly tell a senior executive, much less the owner of a company, that their brand is going off the rails -- unless you're willing to lose your job. 
Thus my answer to someone who posed this very question on Twitter:
What you can do, if you want to avoid making Google's mistakes, is as follows:
  • Gain third-party input on the brand, even if you already know the answer. Views from outside the organization are normally expected to be contrarian, versus for those working for an organization, "loyalty" demands that you not rock the boat too much.
  • Establish an authoritative standard of measurement and then evaluate performance against the metric. Never question a leader's decision-making process directly.
  • Highlight an external pressure or force that demands an appropriate brand response. This can be an inquiry from the press, a success announcement by a competitor, or any other situation requiring an appropriate and objective response. 
The key at all times, when dealing with brand decisions, is to avoid pitting one person against another. Keep it professional, keep it impersonal, keep it high-level and focus on what unites and motivates the team rather than what divides people from one another, creating unnecessary tensions and friction.
Branding is a financial endeavor, it is true. But it is primarily, at its core, an enterprise of people. You cannot escape the consequences of their dysfunction.
You disregard the Tao at your peril.
Author's note: To contact me with questions or to request a free initial consultation, connect with me here on LinkedIn or visit my website.  About the images: Photo by Derek Key via Flickr (Creative Commons). Stock chart via Google Finance. Top 10 global brand value screenshot via Millward Brown. Disclaimer: All opinions are my own and do not reflect those of my employer or any other entity, in part or as a whole. No endorsement expressed or implied.

Why We Just Can't Agree On "Alphabet"?

A question about why Google would defocus attention from their tremendously valuable name and initiate a whole new one prompted me to write a blog post yesterday and some additional thoughts today. Here's the original question on Quora with a link to all the current answers.

For the convenience of my fellow "brand geeks," please see the follow-up reprinted below. I am most interested in your comments.


Key points from the original post:

1.  As a brand, Google has attained the three characteristics of "Brand Power" (Millward Brown/BrandZ) - meaning, difference, and salience.

(Meaning = meaningfulness/affinity; difference = uniqueness; salience means that you think of the brand when you want to buy something in the category; a.k.a. it's "top of mind.")

2. Its name is therefore extraordinarily precious. Accordingly the stock value is exponentially higher than the average search engine would be. (I hate Bing and Yahoo Search with an irrational passion.) Since its IPO in 2004 the stock price of Google has shot up from $85 to $633.
3. At the same time, we know that Google repeatedly violates the basic concepts of branding, such as focus, consistency, and sticking with one's core competency. An example of the latter is the failure of Google+, which I predicted back in July 2011. See link: 5 Reasons Why Facebook Will Beat Google+ Easily

4. To the original question, we do not know why the company chose to de-focus its audience on its core name. (It should be noted that the accuracy of this decision has yet to be determined; saying it's a bad idea is articulating an opinion rather than a fact.)

Personally, my gut tells me that this is a case of leadership insulated from reality, either bored or making an emotional decision for some other reason. In this I agree with Felix Salmon, writing at Fusion. See below:26 reasons Google created Alphabet

Incidentally, what great brand owners know is that consistency lies in attaining a certain level of boring-ness --> to the OWNER. It is only when the brand becomes boring to the USER that it requires revitalization. WE ARE NOT BORED WITH GOOGLE.

Here are some additional thoughts in response to blog posts by some of the world's top brand strategists.

#1 - Allen Adamson: Google, Again, Makes A Brilliant Branding Move

According to Adamson, Google did a smart thing because they chose a good name. Alphabet, he says, does three things:
  • Cuts through the clutter --> I agree.
  • It tells a story --> I agree with this as well.
  • It is authentic to the category --> again, agreed.
Yet in focusing on whether this particular name is good or not, he misses the larger question: 
Is it a good idea to focus your audience on a parent name when you've got a brand right now that is one of the most desirable in the world? I would argue that it is a terrible idea to de-focus your audience from your name.

Additionally, it goes without saying that we should not reduce questions of "branding" to literal choice of name, logo, wordmark, and design but rather look at the total brand picture.

With respect to the comment about authenticity: For a company that is known for its pervasiveness, the decision to adopt a childlike moniker like "Alphabet" seems disingenuous. Despite the clever idea to denote "an assortment of companies" similar to "an assortment of letters" I personally find it a huge turnoff.

Joachimsthaler endorses Google's "House of Brands" strategy, which enables the creation of new names, versus the "Branded House," which is a collection of separate names. But he neglects to note that there is a third way, which would involve a hybrid approach. Some brands could take the Google endorsement, while others would not, and the parent company could remain Google.

He goes on to make some other points:

1) A holding company with an assortment of small companies will facilitate acquisition of those that succeed. My response: Similar to my comment on Adamson's post, the issue is not whether Google can be nimble. It is whether they should destroy a massively valuable brand name in order to create a new one. In fact, people will continue to call them Google, even after they change the name, which is the point. They could have retained "Google" and then every spinoff business would benefit from the parent company's luster. With "Alphabet" they look like they are starting from scratch, for absolutely no reason.

2) Facilitation of new cultures will help facilitate new business models. My response: As Joachimsthaler notes, Google is known for its focus on culture. Based on that, I disagree with his assertion that new name = new culture. I believe the founders will touch every company they create, and will shape the cultures everywhere, no matter what name is or isn't used, precisely because this matters to them fundamentally.

3)  "Brand-building synergies and efficiencies are overrated." My response: This comment misses the point. The purpose of choosing a brand strategy and accompanying architecture is not primarily to facilitate synergies within the different operating units. It is to provide the customer with a seamless experience where a seamless experience is warranted, and a unique experience where that makes more sense.

4) The name is logical. My response: This argument rests on two premises. Like Adamson, Joachimsthaler argues that Alphabet denotes an assortment of many different ventures and companies. With that there can be no argument. But again, we are not starting from scratch here, and why should a customer or an investor trust this unknown entity?

The second premise is that the brand is B2B (business to business), and not B2C (business to customer). But again, this premise is faulty because the line between B2B and B2C is not so strict as it used to be. Consumers are business owners themselves, they follow business news, and they talk investor talk. Especially for a brand at the level of Google, they are going to follow the actions of its holding company precisely.

So what should Google have done? What can they still do? 

It's pretty simple, albeit boring:
  • Establish Google Holdings. 
  • Within Google Holdings, have Google (the core search brand) and Google Labs (for experiments related to search). 
  • Outside those two brands, spin off with new names companies that are unrelated to search, such as the driverless car venture.

As always, all opinions are always my own. Author's note: To contact me with questions or to request a free initial consultation, connect with me here on LinkedIn or visit my website.  Image via MemeGenerator.net.

Search This Blog