Search This Blog

Anyone Can Build A Brand Online | 5 Steps

1. Marketing Strategy
Think about what you're trying to accomplish by building a brand online - e.g. develop a very short and high-level marketing strategy. It should include the following elements:
  • Summary of the situation
  • High-level goal and 2-3 sub-objectives
  • Challenges getting in the way of achieving the goal
  • Things you're already doing to achieve the goal (includes available resources - money, people, etc.)
  • Things you need to be doing to achieve the goal - the activities will be different - this is the online-brand building activity in the context of broader marketing activities
  • A rough timetable for the next 6 months-1 year (e.g. calendar events you can take advantage of)
  • The people who will fulfill key roles in implementing your plan
2. Name & Visual Icon
With respect to online brand-building specifically, you can't do much of anything without an identifier.
  • For the name: You need a) catchy 2) relevant to the user (somewhat descriptive or evocative of what you sell) 3) unique
  • For the visual icon: It can be a photo, it doesn't have to be a logo and it should be consistent across all social media.
3. Social Media Accounts
  • I'm in favor of taking as many as you can, even if you don't use them.
  • Don't forget a LinkedIn company page - they will give you a custom URL if you contact the help desk.
  • You can use an automator, like Hootsuite, TweetDeck or IFTT to help you post 2-3 times a week across channels.
  • No matter what you're selling, I completely love Instagram because it gets the word out in a way that is visually immediate, and enjoyable and the hashtag works to get the word out just like Twitter.
4. Content Strategy: You need one of these, too. "Content" simply refers to what you are saying.
  • Remember that social media isn't something you can force people to read or pay attention to. So you want to give people something interesting, enjoyable, entertaining, useful - etc. Your content should leave them richer than before they read it.
  • Focus your message - don't be like all the other voices out there - there are probably many others saying similar things as you.
5. Consistency and Repetition: This is the "boring" part, the hard work of getting the word out.
  • Keep at it, even when you don't feel like it, but don't publish stuff you wouldn't want to read.
  • You don't have to "go crazy" with metrics, but you should take notice of what people respond to, and what they don't. For some online brands it will be photo and/or video; for others, blogs; for others it may be as simple as a marketing email that gets shared on Facebook.
There are other aspects to building a brand online, of course, but this is the basic idea.
Copyright 2015 Dannielle Blumenthal, Ph.D. Photo by Toujours Passages via Flickr (Creative Commons). Dr. Blumenthal is founder and president of BrandSuccess, a corporate content provider, and co-founder of All Things Brand. The opinions expressed are her own and not those of any government agency or entity or the federal government as a whole. Contact her if you would like to request support.

You Always Had The Power

So of course we saw Star Wars because it's New Year's Day and it's our tradition to go to the movies.

We are a very traditional family. We are also strict, like many other Jewish people we know, about going out for Chinese food on major holidays. (And Sundays, and pretty much any day off when there's time.)

In the beginning this wasn't a movie I wanted to see. I would have been happy with a comedy, like Sisters with Tina Fey or Daddy's Home, with Will Ferrell. But the viewers at were not very kind to either, there were 40 bucks involved for all the tickets and so in the end we went with probabilities.

"The comedies will come to VOD in a few months anyhow," said my husband.


Within ten seconds of the movie starting, I was sure my apprehension had been justified. Three three paragraphs of bold yellow block text, streaming backward on a galaxy-type background, tell you the background of the story and where we are now, and I hung my head in misery.

I wasn't alone.

"This is how you start a $1 billion movie?" said my husband.

"They paid $1 billion to make this?" I whispered back incredulously, and also way too loudly.

"No, they've already made $1 billion on tickets," he responded, at which I sat back with my head in my hands.

The beginning of the movie is really slow and bad and I started to shift uncomfortably in the seat.

"Is it hot in here? Are you hot?" I said to my daughter. "Maybe there's something wrong with the vents?"

She looked at me sympathetically and I looked over at my husband.

"This is horrible," I said.

"I know."

"Can we leave, and go into another movie?"

"They track the seat numbers, remember?" he said.

"Oh my G-d. Maybe just this one time they won't notice."




So I shlumped down in the chair and tried to watch. It was really, really bad.

I tried to tell myself that everybody else had liked it.

Not working.

There was no possibility of doing social media in the theater so eventually I removed my coat, took off my shoes and leaned over. At some point I closed my eyes and as the money we'd paid for the tickets drained away, tick tock minute after minute of movie going unwatched, I let myself drift off to sleep.

"Can we leave now?"

I'd woken up and apparently this show was still going.

"Ask her," my husband said, motioning to my daughter. "If she wants to go, we'll go."

"Rebecca, everybody wants to leave," I said to her. "Don't you want to go too?"

"No, it's alright," she said contentedly and turned her eyes back to the screen.
Well that was it, then, I would have to watch the thing. But miraculously, as it happened, by that point the show had gotten good and I was able to actually enjoy it as well as take away a lesson.

At the highest level of course, the central conflict in Star Wars is really good versus evil. Evil is on a rampage to try and control the world.

"The Force," as in "May the Force be with you," is the idea of universal energy. It is symbolized by light. Blue light is the use of energy for goodness; red is the opposite.

Also there are Nazis, which you probably knew if you are a big Star Wars fan but this is new to me and I couldn't help but be taken aback at the constant reminders of Aryans, "stormtroopers," the "First Order" which is like the "Third Reich" and the constant barrage of propaganda and physical threats and terror used to keep the people down.

And then a light switch went off in my mind.

Why are we drawn to watch these kinds of shows, over and over again?

I realized that they play out a war that is endless through the ages, that takes place on the largest and smallest scales, in our homes and at our jobs and on the world stage, every second of every minute of every day.

It is a war between those who want to save the world from evil, and those who have succumbed and like infected walking zombies, only "want" evil to spread.

The evidence in Star Wars is the Resistance. It's no accident that they are diversity - not just in gender or culture or color but encompassing aliens and artificial intelligence. Good people nurture other people in their uniqueness, like gardeners they water the saplings and give them light and air and eliminate pests so humanity can grow.

But bad people are different. And as a human race we collectively, subconsciously want extremely badly to thoroughly eliminate them from our lives.
  • Bad people try to control other people by telling them there's only one way to be, one way to think, one way to look, and inevitably it is very similar to them. They take pleasure in bullying those who are supposed to be "lesser" than them, but who are actually far more capable.
  • Bad people are selfish - they try to take everything for themselves. They don't believe "it's a big planet and let's share" or "the pie gets bigger when I give you half." For them, the only acceptable outcome is ownership or dominance of everything. 
  • Bad people take pleasure in not caring who or what they hurt. And when they go on the warpath, they take great pleasure in going beyond whatever might be necessary. They laugh at other people's suffering; it is fun for them to watch.
  • Bad people are emotional and physical vampires. This is worse than a narcissist, who just doesn't see that other people are real. Bad people are very much aware that other people have value, and they seduce and connive their subjects to effectively suck all the value out. As Harrison Ford (Mark Solo) says to his son in the movie, the bad guy "only wants to use your power and throw you away."
So we pay the 40 dollars, again and again, to watch movies like Star Wars and others. For we live in a world where justice is rarely done, and we desperately need to see justice.

A truly evil person only stops doing bad things when they're dead.

And how often does that happen?

But more deeply than that, on some cellular level, we also understand we have a role to play in the war between good and evil.
  • A war that is very vivid and clear, if you look at things closely enough.
  • A war that plays out all the time, on every inch of the our globe.
  • A war that is largely unarticulated, because we all are so embedded in our own little worlds.
Most people are focused on practicalities. So how would we even talk about this war, without sounding carried away?

In Star Wars the answer is hidden in a piece of advice from a good woman to a girl. In effect:

"Close your eyes, and feel the light, which is your power."

The lesson for me, in the end, was:

You always had the power.

Remember The Wizard of Oz?

Dorothy made a really long shlep in a foreign land, when all the time she only had to close her eyes, concentrate and click her heels together.

Today is January 1, 2016. New Year's Day, and it's become a joke but not-a-joke that if you can keep your resolutions for a year, then you'll be "powerful," because you'll respect yourself.

But even if you aren't totally focused on New Year's...doesn't it always seem like there's some reason why you can't do what you need to do?

Do you ever wonder why the things you know are important in life, somehow always get submerged under things that matter quite a lot less?

I guess what I got from Star Wars, what made it worth the ticket, was the reinforcement of a notion that already lived in my head, but which I needed to see on the screen, and in the presence of other people who had collectively paid $1 billion for the privilege.

What you choose to do - every minute, no matter how minute - matters. It matters quite a lot.

Don't let anybody else dictate those choices to you, or for you.

You always had the power.


Copyright 2015 Dannielle Blumenthal, Ph.D. Dr. Blumenthal is founder and president of BrandSuccess, a corporate content provider, and co-founder of All Things Brand. The opinions expressed are her own and not those of any government agency or entity or the federal government as a whole. Photo credit: Michael Newman/Flickr (Creative Commons).

How To Reduce The High Cost Of Loneliness

We may live in a more connected world than ever, but in many ways it is also a lonelier one, too. And though isolation may feel like "an intensely personal, private problem," as Janet Choi notes in Lifehacker, the manifestation is both social and costly. She shares research published by Hakan Ozcelik and Sigal Barsade, documenting the link between loneliness and employee disengagement, as well as "weaker productivity, motivation, and performance."

At work, loneliness comes in many flavors.
  • Mismanagement: It could be that the company doesn't pay enough attention to the importance of real connectedness. Observes Choi: "Work is a social thing....when you’re not connecting with the people you spend so many hours a day with, you get lonely." 
  • Lack of Diversity: Writing at, Jennifer Thorpe-Moscon notes that "othered" employees don't get the same advancement opportunities as their peers. Potentially great contributors to the mission gradually become demoralized and don't bother. (Doug Maynard and Bernardo M. Ferdman add that they may never even engage in the first place.) 
  • Bullying: In a survey by the Workplace Bullying Institute, "the 'silent treatment' to 'ice out' & separate from others" was #4 among the top 25 methods used to target victims, with 64% naming it explicitly. WBI researchfound the impact on employees from prolonged workplace bullying includes cardiovascular problems, inflammatory bowel disease, more frequent and more severe infections, auto-immune disorders, fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome, and more. 
Because loneliness is so common and so painful, we see it depicted in Hollywood quite a lot.

Enlightened (2011), for example, starred Laura Dern completely hysterical, and hysterically funny, as she rockets down the ladder of life. Like Alice in Wonderland, she can't believe how she is tumbling down the rabbit hole and in near-complete isolation.

Stripped of husband, home, job status (and social graces), she tunnels with her fingers through the dirt of hell. But in the end, Dern emerges very much whole. She still has nothing - she doesn't have the respect of corporate America - and she doesn't have her husband or her former life.

Yet she is not alone, nor is she lonely. Because she has found herself. And the connections she makes with other people, just like the causes she has dedicated herself to at work - they are really real, they matter to her, and they bind her to the world in a way that no expensive trinket can.

There is no need for a superficial pat on the back by her company. She isn't at the mercy of a husband too drug-addled to see.

I think about the invisible loneliness in young people.

It's easy to miss it: They seem so happy from the outside, bopping around with their friends in school, practically from the minute they walk into kindergarten. Not a minute is spent without someone texting someone, Whisper-ing something, Snapchatting that one, sending selfies here and there.

But inside, so many of them are lost. Cutting themselves just to see if the skin bleeds. And when they get to work, the money just doesn't cut it. As Time magazine noted nearly a decade ago: 
"20-something workers...just want to spend their time in meaningful and useful ways, no matter where they are."
Intelligence Group research from Rob Asghar at Forbes was very similar. Among millennials, "64% of them say it’s a priority for them to make the world a better place," and "88% prefer a collaborative work-culture rather than a competitive one."

These preferences both lend themselves to jobs where loneliness is minimized, because the nature of the work itself requires forging real, meaningful, trust-based connections with one's coworkers.

What about older people?

I read somewhere recently that people get happier after the midlife crisis, which generally happens in the '40s. The Guardian recently shared some academic research, focusing on the responsibilities of midlife, that bears this out: "Happiness is U-shaped."

But there is something else here beyond the practical, and Penelope Trunkcaptures it well. As we've seen, over and over, loneliness and a lack of meaning, purpose and connection in life tend go hand-in-hand.
"Our 50s are—for people in a wide range of cultures—a time of re-calibration, when they begin to evaluate their lives less in terms of social competition and more in terms of social connectedness. So all those people who are getting kicked out of the company for being too old are about to start feeling a lot happier.
Thus loneliness, at its core, is not about being cut off from other people, although that certainly doesn’t help. 

It is about the need to find your purpose. 

Once that happens, the more you are encouraged to be yourself — everywhere you go — the less likely you are to feel so alone.

It’s a formula, so amazing it’s hard to believe that this is true. But as your level of personal fulfillment increases, the less of a financial toll loneliness takes on your employer. 

So it’s in everyone’s best interest when “you do you.”

Copyright 2015 Dannielle Blumenthal, Ph.D. Dr. Blumenthal is founder and president of BrandSuccess, a corporate content provider, and co-founder of All Things Brand. The opinions expressed are her own and not those of any government agency or entity or the federal government as a whole. Cover photo by David Ingram via Flickr (Creative Commons). Enlightened screenshot via

Some Thoughts On Religious Extremism

My side of an interchange today with a friend.

* * * 

The greatest threat to our planet is not climate change (!) but religious extremism of EVERY kind. 

Why do people fall for it? We underestimate the lure of being "chosen" "anointed" "appointed" "blessed" and "saved." There are a million hucksters all ready willing and able to "give away" their special brand of snake oil.

Here is a newsflash: G-d is automatically available for all to be close to, and loves us because we exist. We need not be "just like" anybody else in order to be "saved." 

Be a mensch. Most people cannot even manage that.

* * * 

To amplify this. I am old enough to remember when religion was not a big deal. Like my grandmother (a"h) used to say, "Don't make such an ISSUE out of everything." As religious Jews we went to synagogue, watched TV, had a tuna sandwich and ice cream at the diner, and mothers wore pants and mostly short hair but uncovered. 

Now we are seeing, across religions, this kind of crazy fundamentalist fire that has imposed rule upon rule upon rule where none need exist. And all religious belief systems that do this are the same in type, and vary only by degree.

ISIS has rules for how to kidnap women and rape them! 

And all of it - all of it, to the letter - it is all branded sold and packaged as piety. When it is really an escape from the difficulties of real life.

In the Jewish world, the sociologist Samuel Heilman documented the shift years ago, in The World of the Yeshiva. 

Now in Judaism we have "OTDs" when there never even used to be such a thing. You were either religious or secular. 

We have a steady drumbeat of messages to young people thirsty for meaning - that "if only" you will join the group (cult) and cover your hair/face and dress differently and follow the rules and give up your freedom -  then and only then will you be saved. 

It is immoral to exploit young people like this. It is not serving G-d. It is the opposite.

* * * 


But: There is a Jewish maxim: "There are 70 faces to the Torah," meaning many different ways to observe and all equally valid from a G-d's eye view. 

So the problem with the nice sounding idea of absolutes is that the Bible requires interpretation by humans, who may be sort of right or sort of wrong and whose motives are naturally mixed. 

In reality this means: If you add Bible plus other scripture plus Talmud plus interpretation upon interpretation plus culture plus history plus geographical variation the result is something nearly impossible to codify. 

Jews also have a saying "you should live by it," meaning the law should not be onerous. 

So abstract stuff aside I can only conclude that each person has a conscience and will either listen or not listen, and if they listen they will follow as much as their level of goodness can bear. 

But the issue is not me because I am older than the targets of extremists, who by my definition take the general principles too far.

The issue is vulnerable young people who want a simple rubric just like the kind they got for homework assignments in school. "It depends" does not work for them. "Morally gray" sounds like lying and hypocrisy. 

The shift toward dumbed down education is part of this. We have bred our children out of complicated critical thinking and analysis and toward a made up infographic Wikipedia-Google-instant search mindset where a quick summary in 140 characters or less is all they can take.

We have stopped demanding excellence and praised every single thing so that their achievements don't feel real to them. Because we sugarcoat.

We have, in the name of giving them a better life, focused on money and career and external signs of success and they feel hollow from the nothing of it.

We have minimized and deemphasized the critical time and effort and bonding that happens when parents actually get to be with their kids without one eye on the Blackberry or one foot out the door to work.

In short our young people are starving, and we have starved them with good intentions, and the result of their spiritual emptiness and inability to think critically and stand on their own two feet is tremendously harmful to them and to our planet.

Cults are Satan in G-d's clothing.

All opinions my own.

"Brand Audit" vs. "Product Review" [Case Study: Hotel]

A brand audit is not a product review and it is the single most important thing you can do to improve your brand. Yet most people aren't familiar with the term, or if they are, they don't understand how it differs from a product review.
But it's actually very simple - exactly what it sounds like, actually. Just substitute some common words for the jargon:
  • Brand = image
  • Audit = inspection
A brand audit is an inspection of your image.
More concretely, it is a comparison of the image you wish to project to the world with the image that you actually do, as seen through the eyes of the auditor - usually, a brand consultant.
This week we stayed at the Gallery One Doubletree Guest Suites by Hilton Hotels, in Ft. Lauderdale Beach, Florida. The visit provides an opportunity to illustrate what a brand audit is, and to situate a brand audit in the broader context of a review of a product (or service, or even an individual's performance on the job).
Let's start with a review. Essentially, this is an evaluation of what is good or bad with reference to a broadly accepted, abstract, functional quality standard. A review is not about "personality," "core values," or any attribute of the product or service that is intentionally inserted to provide emotional rather than functional differentiation.
In a hotel setting you aren't looking at this brand of hotel, but at all hotels, and at how they perform compared with an objective standard of quality.
For example, let's say a common standard of customer service is "picks up telephone calls by the second ring." And let's say you test quality by making 100 phone calls to the front desk. If more than 90 of those calls are picked up before the first ring, this is considered "excellent," versus if most of the phone calls are picked up after 10 rings or even go to voicemail, you would probably rate the hotel "poor."
(At the Gallery One, they have upped the customer service game by allowing customers to eliminate telephone calls altogether in favor of texts, which provided a considerably faster response than the typical phone call.)
A brand audit, however, explicitly evaluates the emotional experience the brand purports to provide. In a hotel setting, brands vary widely and are important to the overall equity of the property, since it is easy to mimic functional attributes. Hotels sell themselves, explicitly or implicitly, in such ways as:
  • "Elegant and exclusive retreats where you may easily find a celebrity"
  • "Funky and cool boutique experiences"
  • "Family fun resorts with an activity for everyone"
Product reviews are often written by members of the public, sometimes paid for by the company involved, and they are posted on social media. In the aggregate these reviews are intended to influence others.
Brand audits are paid for by the company and carried out confidentially. The task is to influence the client directly to improve the emotional experience associated with their brand such that it matches the intended outcome - or to introduce the idea that quality alone is not enough.
The step-by-step tasks of the consultant include the following:
  1. Establish with the customer what they think their brand is about (it very likely will not be what is actually experienced, which is normally why they're calling in a consultant)
  2. Break apart the fuzzy notion of "image" into 5-10 concrete, if slightly abstract, elements that can be tested. Normally these elements will begin with or incorporate the idea of "feeling" rather than a provable fact. (Example: "It feels like a premium property.")
  3. Reach agreement with the customer as to what an excellent performance on each of these elements looks like, realizing that a high level of performance is not necessarily a perfect performance.
  4. Propose a method of testing the elements in such a way that the results are reliable, without being exorbitantly expensive or intrusive of the paying customer's experience. (Since people tend to change their reactions when they consciously think about them, it is preferable to observe people rather than simply interview them.) 
  5. Actually carry out the test.
  6. Brief the client verbally on the results so that they can provide reaction and feedback that is later incorporated into the final report.
  7. Provide a report to the client that sums up the audit and offers recommendations for next steps. These can vary from offering methods to narrow the image gap, to suggesting a different ideal image, and even to recommending further future testing before any action is testing.
At the Gallery One, the brand promise articulated over and over again, in writing and in person, is to "tell us if something's not right and we'll make it better." Over the course of a week, the hotel kept this promise. 
It's why I go there, year after year, again and again.
Copyright 2015 Dannielle Blumenthal, Ph.D. Dr. Blumenthal is founder and president of BrandSuccess, a corporate content provider, and co-founder of All Things Brand. The opinions expressed are her own and not those of any government agency or entity or the federal government as a whole. Photo of the Gallery One, a Doubletree Guest Suites by Hilton Hotel, by the author via Flickr (Creative Commons). No endorsement expressed or implied. No compensation was received for writing this post, nor is any compensation expected in the future.

The Hard-To-Kill Myth Of The Self-Made Man

To read most business magazines is to think that success is born mostly of hard work, a great attitude plus a spark of creative genius. But the reality is that wealth, at least in the United States, has historically come from standing with one foot planted very firmly on others' backs.
You already know about the slave trade in the U.S. Did you know that slave traders covered men and women in iron chains, made them walk over raw terrain stretching not one mile, not ten, but hundreds? And sold them to other people who had little money themselves, but borrowed from the U.S. government to buy people and land, and lived off the loans and the labor to become extraordinarily rich. 
Here is a picture of a group of "Breaker Boys," circa early 1900s, by Lewis Hine, a U.S. government photographer paid to document how children lived and worked at that time. Working in the coal mines, the kids were paid to pick out impurities from coal, one at a time, using only their hands. 
Did you know that today, the average cost of childcare is about $12,000 per year, per child, in after-tax money?  And that is for one shift; full-time parents actually work the equivalent of three. Historically, it is mothers who have done all this work. So if you assume one female raising two children, that's $36,000 x 2 = $72,000 per year of labor she is giving away for free.
And don't forget prison labor. In a 2015 article called "American Slavery, Reinvented," The Atlantic asks, "How is it legal?" There are more than 2.2 million people, earning "pennies per hour, if anything at all," doing "mining, agriculture, and all manner of manufacturing from making military weapons to sewing garments for Victoria’s Secret." That call center you've reached? It might even be staffed by a prison laborer.
You already know that prison populations are disproportionately Black and Hispanic.
A few years ago, an article in Global Research, taken from El Diario-La Prensa (2008) noted that many well-known brands in more than three dozen states are legally allowed to trade in prison labor: "IBM, Boeing, Motorola, Microsoft, AT&T, Wireless, Texas Instrument, Dell, Compaq, Honeywell, Hewlett-Packard, Nortel, Lucent Technologies, 3Com, Intel, Northern Telecom, TWA, Nordstrom’s, Revlon, Macy’s, Pierre Cardin, Target Stores, and many more."
All of this activity is 100% legal, or at least it was during the time that businessmen (men) earned handsome sums of wealth from it - sums that, of course, grew bigger and bigger and bigger, almost un-countable from the perspective of the average you and me, by the time 2016 is just about to roll around.
Maybe it's time we stopped telling ourselves the story that money grows from a magical innovation tree that lives in Caucasian mens' minds.
Maybe we need to stop living in a branded, intermediated reality where the "truth" is defined by movies and magazines. And start looking at what's happening on the ground.
Maybe then we can start making things a little better in America, in reality, for the real people who suffer from our popular myths.
Copyright 2015 Dannielle Blumenthal, Ph.D. Dr. Blumenthal is founder and president of BrandSuccess, a corporate content provider, and co-founder of All Things Brand. The opinions expressed are her own and not those of any government agency or entity or the federal government as a whole. Photo: Jon Hamm as Don Draper in "Mad Men" by Zennie Abraham via Flickr (Creative Commons)

We Don't Do Branding On Shabbat

"The federal government does branding?" he said.

The congregant goes to this this synagogue we visit when we're on vacation in Florida.

He owns a billboard company and was president of an ad agency and is "retired, but retirement is boring."

"Yes, the federal government does branding," I said. "But not the kind of branding like they do in advertising."

The rabbi's wife interrupted us. "I brought you your gluten-free cake," she said with a smile, sailing the clear glass serving tray onto the table and eyeing his plate. "You can have it after you finish eating your bagel."

So obviously bagels have gluten and I turned to her, a guest in the house of worship she and her husband maintained, not sure if I should be a wiseass.

But she seemed very in on the joke and so I said, "consistent" and gave a little chuckle, as did she, but not the congregant who seemed a bit more focused on the fact that there was an entire chocolate cake sitting there, and apparently, just for him.

"Tell me what you do," the man said to me. 

I did not especially want to explain what I do, because it was Shabbos and frankly what I do is very hard to understand unless you're "in it." So I said, "well my day job is to communicate for the federal government," and then I got a little more specific about the where and the when and the how.

"If you want to know the problem with the government," he said - which is what most people seem to want to tell me, given an opportunity - "it's regulation. All of that is well and good, but the businessman can't get things done."

"Tell me about David Ogilvy," I said. "Did you know him?"

"Oh, Ogilvy." He nodded. "Ogilvy was an old man when I was in the business."

"Maybe you could interview him," said my husband. 

But I sensed that the man did not want to be interviewed, he had something to say and it was Shabbos and not time for business, so I would sit back and let him say it. 

Or rather, ask.

"How do you do branding?" he asked.

I was sort of surprised at this question, coming from an "ad man." Did he mean how do you brand the government or how do you do branding in general?

So I proceeded with where we had started the conversation, and after that discussed the second thing.

"Like I said, I don't do branding for the government like in the private sector, because we can't do propaganda."

He looked at me almost quizzically. 

I decided that perhaps regular people don't overthink this subject as much as I do, they aren't as sensitive because they're not in the Washington world, and so I'm talking on a level that seems somewhat ridiculous. Do you do branding or not? If so, how do you do it? That was the question.

"We do a name and a logo for authenticity," I said. "But we don't promote ourselves for the sake of self-promotion. We are very sensitive to that in D.C., because it isn't allowed."

He looked at me. There was a little piece of chocolate cake stuck on the right side of his lip. I decided I would never tell him that. 

"Sounds very frustrating," he said. 

There was a silence. 

We were silently in agreement. Not uncomfortable. 

This guy, whoever he was, completely understood my situation. 

"That is why I study branding on the side," I said in response. "I've written about it for fifteen years. Recently I started a business."

He looked at me. "Guess which one of those ladies over there is my wife."

We were seated at a long and skinny rectangle inside the shul and he was pointing to a circular table about twenty feet away from us, positioned toward the side. 

"We've been married for almost fifty years," he said. "We started dating in high school."

This was a more normal conversation for Shabbos and I didn't mind digressing from my business, and my plans, a bit. "That one," I said, pointing to a woman in black sunglasses, her blonde hair slicked back into an elegant bun. 

"Who?" said my husband. "The lady in the black shirt?"

"Yes, that's her," said the man proudly. "How did you know?"

I couldn't explain it. I knew.

"So back to the question," said the man. "How do you do branding?"

"It's pretty straightforward," I responded happily.

In my mind it felt like some kind of quiz, and the dean of Madison Avenue was quizzing me. It was a relief from the oppressive nature of shul. 

While it is true that I think about G-d quite a bit, I also find it quite suffocating to think about the many levels of guilt I should be feeling at any given moment. Synagogue always reminds me.

And branding is a welcome distraction. Like chess.

"First you determine what it is you have to sell," I said. "What makes it different, compelling, important to the user."

He nodded.

"Then you figure out who the competition is. How are other people selling the same essential thing?"

He nodded. "Go on."

"Then you have to determine who the audience is. Who will pay for this stuff?"


"...and what are the communication methods they use to take in information? How will you break through the information overload?"

He just kept nodding. Keep in mind, this is a man with a billboard company.

"Once you know what your product is and what makes it special, and you know who you're selling it to, and you know how they take in information, and you've figured out how you're going to get past all the other people fighting for their attention, you're in a position to reach them, and market your brand."

"All good." He smiled at me, kindly.

I really wanted to give him a business card.

It was Shabbos. 

You cannot. He wouldn't even want it. 

The rabbi approached my husband and I to wish us well on our journey. "It was such a pleasure to have you here," he said, with genuine warmth. "I hope that you will visit us again."

There are a few people in the world who radiate light. This rabbi, of this shul, is one of them.

"Thank you, rabbi," my husband said and I said, both more or less in unison.

Looking sadly at the exit.

Vacation almost over.

"I guess I have to go now," I said to the semi-retired advertising executive, still enjoying the gluten-free cake. "What was your name again?"

I had half in mind to contact him after Shabbos. Business development.

Wrong! Wrong!

He repeated his first name and bid us goodbye. 

That's G-d telling you that there are limits.

My husband held the door open for me.

I walked out, and I wanted to look back and look.

"Just keep walking," he said. "It's only another fifteen years."


Copyright 2015 Dannielle Blumenthal, Ph.D. Dr. Blumenthal is founder and president of BrandSuccess, a corporate content provider, and co-founder of All Things Brand. The opinions expressed are her own. Photo credit: Olaf Herfurth/Wikipedia.