Posts Tagged 'Branding'

Organization’s Effects


If you take a group of people, a subgroup of the larger population, and expose them to focused messages again and again, you will start to change their point of view. If you augment those messages with exposure to other members of the group, the messages will begin to have ever more impact.

We generally tend to align ourselves with those we’re around. We don’t fully understand why. There is a lot of psychology we know, and then other stuff we can’t explain. Yawning, for instance, can be statistically shown to be contagious. It has been studied for years, yet we don’t know why it happens.

Once a group starts to become aligned, and starts acting like a tribe, the messages of the tribe will become self-reinforcing. When someone is born into that tribe, there is a very high probability she will never know the difference. It is simply her common sense about the way the world works.


Duality of Labels

IMG_9048Labels give us an idea about something while also limiting our ideas about it.

We need them. We gain a lot of efficiency by packaging things up into easily recognizable forms. But then it’s really hard for us to see beyond the form which we have given them. Sometimes life requires that we muster the wisdom and will to examine things more deeply. And to even break things, including ourselves, out of the labels that trap us. The closer it gets to our self-imposed boundaries the harder it is to even recognize the need to do it, not to mention mustering the courage to try.

We must remember that while adventure is dangerous, routine can be lethal. Bravery is needed to have contrary opinions and to take unexpected paths. If you’re not courageous, you’re going to be hanging around the water cooler, talking about the person who actually is.

Do not follow where the path may lead. Go instead where there is no path and leave a trail. – Harold R. McAlindon

Of course it’s extremely uncomfortable at times, but with the application of some discipline one can learn to summon the courage necessary to fight the fear and forge ahead. A good goal for the year.


No Win Scenario

Politics in Indiana have had a spotlight shone on them recently.

As polarizing issues arise, most businesses appear to be quiet, hoping they will go away. There is no upside or way to win from a purely business perspective. Someone on one side or the other will not be satisfied, and if no side is taken, then the people closer to the fringes of either side will be unhappy. So it doesn’t usually matter what you believe, or what you do, you’re going to lose some revenue. If revenue is a major concern the best action is to do and say as little as possible. It seems cowardly on the surface, especially to those who are passionate.

Some people feel compelled to use whatever small amount of power they may have to influence things. It’s accepted that customers may take their business away from an organization if they don’t feel the organization is acting correctly, and an organization that happens to reside in an affected area may be deemed to be guilty by association. What I have observed recently is a sort of misguided bullying. While it may sometimes be true that laying low is taking an easier way out, it is also true that expecting a company to take a unified stand one way or the other isn’t logical if they have dozens or hundreds of employees. Those individuals invariably will have a rainbow of differing perspectives on and understandings of controversial issues. How is a company really supposed to speak for all of its employees accurately when it comes to personal choices? A CEO or company owner may speak about his/her personal stance, but it’s difficult to do that without forcing everyone in the company to become associated with that opinion. It could be considered more considerate to stay quiet on the matter.

As individuals demand that a stand be taken, the individual employees of a company can begin to feel victimized. It’s almost like a mild form of terrorism, especially if the threats are taken to extremes. I totally get that people with strongly held opinions, and little actual power, feel they must vote with their wallets, and obviously it doesn’t do a lot of good unless you let an organization know about it, but once you’ve made your move based on your principles then you can stop and let them stand. To continue to outrage against an organization that has nothing to do with what you’re mad about betrays you as someone who isn’t rational and cares about all people (regardless of whether that’s your claim). At the point where it becomes spiteful and mean, you have gone too far.


The Next Thing Up…

Check out the ads on the right. These are things I looked at within the past few days.


This is the next thing that’s about to run its course. You visit a website and look at some stuff. Next thing you know images and ads for those very products are following you around the web. It was a brilliant marketing idea…for a minute. It gets tired pretty fast. Probably because it’s not very intelligent.

For messages to work, they need to be perceived as relevant. Anything else is a non-starter. At face value these seem extremely relevant, and they can be. But once you see enough of them, for things you only casually looked at, or maybe things already purchased, one figures out pretty quickly what’s happening, and soon becomes nearly as desensitized to it as all the other advertising. It will get smarter/better, but that won’t help for long. What’s the next thing? People are too smart for these tactics to last. As the pressure for revenues mounts, the consumer pays by getting pummeled with noise, which degrades the experience overall, and makes all of these ‘free’ services seem much more costly. It’s a paradigm that ultimately can’t be sustained.

Two Kinds of People

ManGirlThere are two kinds of people – those in the group who are like me – or who I choose to be like – in some way, and all the rest, otherwise known as…”them.” The people who are like me depends on what characteristics are being measured.

An advertisement that appeals signifies that one identifies with a particular group of like-minded people. We often choose a product based on our sense of feeling like we are similar to other buyers of that item/brand, or because we want to feel more like our perception of the buyers of that brand.

A news story appeals because the message resonates among people who want to feel a part of the group who would like such a story. Maybe at face value: who doesn’t like a nice ‘feel-good’ story? Or maybe on a more conceptual level, such as a story that paints a particular politician in a light that’s congruous with an already held view.

Maybe a particular political agenda is initially favored, not because it’s beneficial (quite the contrary can be true), but because it is promoted by a party or individual one already supports for other reasons. Sides are chosen. It’s ‘us’ versus ‘them.’ And almost no matter what ‘we’ do, one chooses to support and believe in the action of his/her chosen team. We will learn the rhetoric and reasoning why our position makes sense and own that explanation, even in the face of evidence to the contrary.

There are multiple facets to it. One may like a certain type of music and therefore begin to associate with others who are of like minds in that respect, but very different (on the ‘them’ team) in other respects. Someone could like the skill/sport of shooting a gun, but vehemently disagree with the political sensibilities of most others who do. An automobile enthusiast may become a fan of open wheel racing as opposed to stock car racing due to the perceived stereotypes of other members of that ‘tribe,’ not to mention the history/narrative of the endeavor itself.

The matrices can be quite complex, however, they usually start to erode. The gun shooter may become uncomfortable being associated with others of that kind and decide the crossbow is more sporting. Or, after hearing more of ‘their’ thinking behind their political views, may warm up to some of the ideas. (We will really listen and try to understand the perspective of a friend we disagree with, but generally will not turn on a news station whose views we believe are contrary to ours.)

We’re smart enough to see and understand that people are multi-faceted, but we still instinctively break them down into various ‘us’ and ‘them’ categories, and we still find that the more someone looks, feels, sounds, like ‘us’ the easier it is to like and respect them. We make more of an effort to try to understand them. Offer more help to them. And we subconsciously make lots of small choices to be perceived as a member of that tribe.

We ARE prejudiced. Not all the time. Not in every way. And often not when we’re thinking about it. But it’s wired pretty deeply. Recognizing this is the start to trying to find ways to rise above it. To reach across the perceived divide, even when it’s uncomfortable, recognizing and celebrating similarities that can connect us further in a spirit of true understanding. Watch that ‘other’ news channel for a while. When you begin to get over feelings of anger and frustration at the content you will find that there is something deeper to get. Listen – really listen – to a style of music you don’t respect. Try to understand why people like it. Try to get the joy or identity they seek in it. When you reach half way you will find some others will do their part to reach back. The world just got a little better.

Can This Be Real?

JeterBookLast night Derek Jeter hit a walk off single in his final appearance at Yankee Stadium. His 20 year career winding down in a way that plays more like a movie script than reality.

What must it be like to be Derek? He is a beloved character in NYC, and pretty much throughout all of sports. So much so that in his last season other teams are going overboard honoring him when the Yankees come to town to play.

He has had a great career filled with championships, MVP awards, etc. He is legitimately respected amongst his peers.

He has managed to avoid all of the controversies that surround sports and most sports figures even though he’s been in the center of the media for his 20 year career. There’s never been so much as a serious insinuation that he has used PED’s, beat up any women, pulled a pistol on anyone, isn’t a good teammate, or does anything other than work hard and come through in a pinch for his team.

Of course he is rich. He’s been one of the highest paid athletes in sports, with many lucrative endorsements to ‘supplement’ his income. And the chics seriously dig him. He dates models and celebrities.

The team practically carried him off the field on their shoulders last night while tens of thousands of people in the stadium all had tears of joy in their eyes. Is this really someone’s life? What more could one want?

Well, there is always more, isn’t there? They aren’t going to win a championship this year. They didn’t win one last year. Derek is the quintessential ‘winner.’ Wonder how he feels about that?

He’s a bit of a playboy. He’s not married and doesn’t have children. Does he care? Is that a goal? Is he going to wake up one day and wonder why he didn’t make starting a family a priority? Was he really in love and got dumped by one of those hot models he dated? Money and fame can’t exactly remedy these things, though it might be able to compensate in some superficial ways.

A woman told me recently she wished she had my life. I laughed ironically because she doesn’t know much about what my life is really like. It must look fantastic to her. But of course there are pains and challenges. Thought it’s far from perfect, I should appreciate it more.

We don’t really know what Derek’s life feels like to him. It might not be filled with rainbows and unicorns at home. Maybe he is driven to be a great ballplayer to compensate for other issues.

Who am I kidding? It would be awesome to be Derek Jeter. I sure hope he appreciates it as much as he appears to.


CreativeFunnelWhat actually is creativity? Most of us think we have some, but how do we identify with it, and why do so many of us struggle to put it to practical use?

Many think creativity is the ability to come up with good ideas. That is part of it. Some are very good at the thinking required to generate ideas. They seem less inhibited by fear, and generally more wondrous and open to possibilities. This is the divergent thinking part of creativity. The ability to author ideas, no matter how wild, relating to a single subject. Kids are inherently great divergent thinkers…until the world beats it out of them in favor of conformity under the guise of obedience.

Great, so you have all these ideas around. What do you do with them? Many a songwriter has languished in the inability to pull it all together and finish.

We also need convergent thinking, which is the process of developing rules and applying judgement to enable the arrival at a single solution to a problem. This doesn’t feel like creativity to some, but it actually is a vital part of it.

Creativity isn’t just an ability to come up with ideas. That’s way underselling it, and spins it as too much of a gift only select few are born with. Creativity is actually the process of coming up with good ideas. That process includes all of the brainstorming, culling, problem solving, testing, vetting and reworking required to actually manifest the complete idea. Not to be confused with the actual implementation of the idea (like the painter who actually executes the paining), creativity can stop at the idea being compelling in some way, even if not feasible.

These skills can be developed through discipline and practice. For a writer, it takes writing and reading and experiencing and seeing in a way that others might not intuitively see. It often takes years of shitty or incomplete work to finally begin to be able to put the skills together. And in some cases one skill or the other never quite develops. That’s where partnerships work wonders.

Try to make Lemon (something)

lemon-battery-voltageIt turns out that good lemonade requires more than lemons. Nevertheless when what you have are lemons you’re best served to use them. That’s the lesson, right? It’s a nice saying but realistically it usually will not work in the real world with real problems.

Still, there is rarely harm in trying, and on the occasion it does work there can be a nice upside. Maybe your lemonade isn’t tasty, but it might be useful as a cleaning product.

It’s necessary to take some action. The lemons you are given have little chance of being worth much to you without it.

4 Parameters for Communication


Few know, and fewer care about the complexities and challenges of your job or cause. From afar nobody inherently cares much about what you have to say about anything. If you want or need them to, then the burden is on you to find a way to communicate effectively. To inspire. And that is arguably one of the more error riddled and problematic aspects of modern society, which belies how important it is.

At its core the basics aren’t that complicated. Have a look at the four basic elements.

Amplitude — What you say must be spoken loud enough to be heard, but it goes far beyond that. We want to use our amplitude to be noticed. Maybe you need to speak louder, but maybe you could whisper. Of course we often communicate best with our actions.

Medium — The conduit through which you choose to reach out makes a difference in how it is perceived. For a dramatic example, consider the power of merely the words “I love you” compared to combining them with a sensitive touch. This area gets a lot of play today with new platforms for communicating emerging regularly. The number of options is large, and therefore offers us many opportunities – from whatever role and to whatever audience we are communicating. Open yourself to them and the applicability of any particular one or two in some context will become more clear to you.

Frequency — For a communication to be heard and remembered, you will likely have to say it more than once. Why? There is lots of noise and distractions in our lives. There is lots of competition for our ideas. And, as you’ve probably heard before, “repetition is the mother of learning.” If you want to be an effective communicator, you must be willing to share your points over and over. BUT, you can’t continually just parrot yourself. If the repetition is too apparent or frequent to your intended audience you move your cause backwards. You instead have to find different ways to move your message forward. Different contexts where it applies and looks different. But one way or the other some repetition is generally necessary. (By the way, that last sentence was repetition!)

Message — Want your message to be heard and remembered? Then make the message memorable. Think slogans (Just Do It) and alliteration (“Perfect practice makes perfect.”). Think metaphor and analogy (how is your point or situation like something else that is unrelated?). Think acronym or acrostic (where the first letters of the message spell out a real word). Stories are great at cementing a point. Graphics, videos, pretty much anything that effectively appeals to emotions works. These devices provide a shorthand for and a touchstone to your message. And they work because they take into account how our brains work.

Another, more powerful way, is if the message is personal to the recipient. If it strikes some nerve, or appeals to something we perceive as important. You usually have to know your audience to do that, but if you do it’s very effective.

Saying isn’t enough; you must be heard. Rather than lamenting the lack of listening by others, remarkable leaders take responsibility for communicating more powerfully and more effectively.

When the Mojo Goes…

…spend more money.LettingGo

Facebook, after trying to acquire Snapchat did acquire Whatsap. For $19 Billion. Most believe it’s a good acquisition for them and will be part of what helps keep them relevant a while longer.

The phases a company goes through can be remarkably like the phases one goes through in life. Early on there is passion fueled by want, or even need. Later, when you’re fat and relatively content, passion wanes. You may actually feel less happy. Instead money is spent to try to buy the happiness or passion that was lost. Or you find other things to use as substitutes. Soon you learn that only slightly delays the inevitable.

You have to really change. Companies and people often find it impossible to do without forces at work greater than ourselves. Even then it’s extremely difficult. And it often doesn’t look like what we would think it should look like.

General Electric is the only company still in existence that appeared on the original Dow Industrial Average back in 1896. Surprise you? GE? Of course they did it through innovation and great leadership. And an ability to let things go that don’t make sense.

That’s the hard part. The letting go. If only we as individuals could do the same.




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