Enlightened Conflict

heritage brands should not concede ground to clean slate brands

July 30th, 2014

head ache rub



“There’s no bigger sucker than a gullible marketer convinced he’s missing a trend.”


Bob Hoffman






I will admit.


This topic makes my head hurt. When older established brands & companies decide to concede everything they have earned up to this point to “re-invent” themselves with the intent to become ‘relevant again.’


To be clear on what I am talking about ….



Heritage brands.



These are products and services that have been with us for a while. They may not have grey at the temples but suffice it to say they have some history.



heritage clean clean mind

Clean slate brands.


Just born. Being shaped day by day <and oddly many are being initially offered to people in the market with as much ‘heritage’ type credibility crammed into it as possible with the objective of gaining some credibility that you can only shake your head>.



Before I begin on the main topic <heritage brands should embrace their heritage and quit trying to be like the young whipper snappers> I will point out that there is a very odd relationship between heritage and new <or clean slate>.



The new fresh ‘unique’ <don’t they all seem to come out from day one suggesting that no one has ever seen the likes of what they offer?> inevitably are doing one of two things:



-           Injecting a core ‘history’ piece into their gestalt.

Kind of like a ‘here is one component or thing which you know and love’ just so you know it will not ….


o <a> fall apart


o <b> not work with anything else you may already own


o <c> be credible in some form or fashion



-            Leveraging from some ‘history.’

Kind of like ‘I know my shit because I did this and worked here but now I have seen the light and …’




On the other hand.


age is no importance

Heritage brands are constantly trying to inject some false youth into their brand with the intent to suggest they are not … well … old.




Unfortunately the years suggest otherwise.


Fortunately they are just years.




Old, or age, at least with a brand … is about attitude & in the mind. Or at least it can be.



An old product is certainly just an old product.


But a constantly fine tuned contemporary old product is not old … just from an older wiser company.



I began there because I think heritage brands should take a page out of that clean slate playbook.


Far too many of the older brands are simply conceding … throwing out what they have as old <unsalvageable> … and trying to use their operational marketing savvy to reenter the market as a ‘clean slate’ brand.


Silly. Maybe even absurd thinking.





Here are a couple issues with attempting this:


-           their savvy is savvy … but most likely savviness on & from a wide array of existing attributes & attitudes & perceptions. This savviness is very very different than trying to create something from scratch


-           old dogs are very hesitant to learn new tricks <’nuff said on this>.


With that said.



While difficult to reimage or reenergize a heritage brand … conceding to a clean slate brand is wrong, silly and impractical.



I say this all the while watching what seems to be a massive shift in power taking place in the business world.



There is a whole new onslaught of new brands creating their own rules trying to attract people <buyers> to their unproven and unknown brands the way they were attracted to established brands in the past.



In fact it almost seems like ‘established’ is a swear word if not just another word for ‘tired & old’ if not tainted.



But the future should not, and does not, belong to these clean slate brands.



And to kick their ass you have to embrace the concept of re-imaging <not reinventing>.


And reimaging or revitalizing companies and brands really centers on the tried & true marketing and business objective – ‘finding relevance.’
heritage old ideas

The relevance in this case is about resurrecting dormant attributes in an existing company/brand that still have some appeal <just need to be dusted off and shined up a bit> and resurrecting things that are dormant in the collective consumer conscience.



Some people may call what I am discussing as re-imaging <I know I have in the past>.


And re-imaging is an appropriate term because reimaging is NOT about re-inventing an organization but rather assembling characteristics or attributes and then repackaging them, or highlighting something, to make people look at the organization <or brand> in a different way.


The simple truth is that successful re-imaging typically resides in the past.


Gathering up characteristics that made that company successful in the past and simply reminding the internal company and the external constituents all the reasons why that organization was “liked” in the first place.




Another truth is that sometimes re-imaging is simply a process of “clarity”, i.e., insuring that people clearly understand what the organization does, believes and stands for.



This may seem simplistic or irrelevant but I often find, particularly with B2B focused, organizations focus so much on customer service and features & benefits to differentiate themselves they have lost sight of the value of a higher order positioning in creating value and distinctness.





Here is the hard part to wrap your head around <to many business people today>.

heritage aging strength


This ends up being about believing that success often resides somewhere in the past.
<insert a loud DOH! Here>




This is all about something old and something new <and being relevant in the marketplace>.


Think about it.



Sales are flagging and I am an old brand/company and how do I look new?!?



Hmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm. Sound familiar?



Most of the time it because the brand has simply lost relevance in consumers’ minds <it has nothing to do with being cool or uncool>.


But they can be re-imaged <and not concede to a clean slate approach>.



I do have some examples.


Maybe the best example I can think of is Adidas in the United States.



Huge popular brand in US years ago.


Dropped off the face of the earth in the American consciousness <especially as Nike and Reebok stepped up>.


Then someone stepped in and made them relevant again <part old school positioning and part ‘new relevant’ status>.




vw zen



Did the same.
And maybe the second best example.





Someone really stepped up to the plate on this one. Someone fought the battle that “big blue ain’t that bad that we should throw it under the bus” <and I bet that was a tough discussion> and then threw in some nice human characteristics <some tongue in cheek relevant humor> and all of a sudden IBM <which had one foot in the grave perceptionwise> became relevant all over again.


They didn’t throw away all their old characteristics <in fact they kind of suggested that an aspect of their oldness was good> and simply started adding on relevant “todaylike” characteristics.



But please note.


The list of failed ‘re-imaging’ initiatives is extensive.
Resurrecting, or renovating, a brand to revitalize it in the marketplace and make it relevant again is a tricky path.



It isn’t easy.


Because it is just easy to look old.



Or worse … look old trying to be cool <think the middle aged crisis guy who is almost laughably sad to look at>.


I am not sure if business people are lazy, scared or simply dazzled by the newest shiniest object.



I do know for sure that I often find that people spend so much time trying to find something ‘new and revolutionary’ and they overlook something older that just needs to be pulled off the shelf and shined up a bit.


how we survive makes us

Whatever the reason for the brand fading away or disappearing or losing its relevance <blame mergers, globalization, mismanagement, stagnant thinking, poor strategic repositioning, or whatever> not conceding to clean slate brands should be the main path forward <or at least the first path considered>.






Imagine the gazillions you could save by not having to create instant name recognition amongst tens of millions of skeptical twenty, thirty or forty-somethings.


Imagine not having to play an entire season of ‘away games’ where you are constantly walking onto their field with their rules.




In the end re-imaging doesn’t mean new perceptions cannot be ‘attached’ to existing attributes it simply means that it is:



(1)           Easier if the desired image/identity is leveraged from something existing (think heritage again), and


(2)          More believable to internal & external audiences if as many existing perceptions/attitudes are utilized as possible (so old is good here too).




And to be clear.


It takes a disciplined process <or let’s say it helps a lot> which effectively recognizes and identifies dormant-like meaningful characteristics.



And it also takes people who are in tune to uncovering insights using the ‘resurrected’ factoid findings <because many people just focus on the new shiny objects>.



And, lastly, success is dependent upon knowing how to use those insights to make the brand relevant and increase sales.
Candidly …. not everyone in business has or can do all three of these things I just outlined.
This whole thought process, and practical process, is not really that easy <or maybe better said it is easy to do this badly>.


Not many can meet the challenge to resurrect something old with reverence and apply it with relevance.



Three thoughts to end this article.


heritage shared
1.             People often forget that success often resides somewhere in your past <if you look hard enough>.



It is all about pushing off from some past strength and leaping forward in a relevant way.

Anyone who doesn’t want to looks backwards at all <the infamous “that information is dated” comment> will not understand or benefit from this approach.



I believe companies with some heritage and strong values provide a strong platform for success.

Some people consider being old as having baggage, I do not; I believe that represents a competitive advantage.



2.            I love reimaging.
I love this strategic approach.


It’s like putting a puzzle together using a lot of existing pieces but at the end having it look slightly different than it did when it was put together previously. It is simply showing people what was already there but helping them look at it differently. Plus (frankly). It is always easier to edit then create.


Reimaging is all about identifying meaningful distinctive existing characteristics & attributes with the intent to develop a relevant positioning which creates a desirable image to some specific target audience.




3.             Wisdom.


While I could go on and on about re-imaging brands, revitalizing brands and re energizing them <an invariably having to re energize the organization offering heritage mix old newit> it really comes down to one thing.



Selling wisdom.



If you concede the wisdom ground as a heritage brand you will lose.





Maybe you are just lost.






If you are a heritage brand … do NOT concede ground to clean slate brands.
Do not play their game.


And if you do it right?
It’s fun <from a business perspective>.



It is REALLY fun.






And it can create some amazing sales results.

a maverick leaves us

July 27th, 2014

garner rockford



“When I started working, I didn’t have a clue what I was doing, in that I was just wandering around, hoping that I could succeed. Then after I got a little under my belt, it took me about 25 years to feel like I knew what I was doing.”

James Garner




garner maverick

When James Garner passed away last week it wasn’t like some famous celebrity died where people lined the streets and mourned … or like some royalty had passed … it was like a good friend had died … and a few old friends gathered in a bar and raised a beer or two in tribute to someone who always seemed to be there when you needed them.




James Garner was never the toughest guy … in fact … he was only tough as a last resort.


He was a wise ass.



He was wise.


He had character.



He was never a coward but certainly preferred talking his way out of something rather than fighting his way out.
He was Maverick <in an old tv series and movie remake with Mel Gibson & Jodie Foster>.
He was Rockford in The Rockford Files.



And he was the original Polaroid camera spokesperson.



This was good stuff for advertising. And maybe most importantly … it was good use of a character driven actor.



It didn’t really ask him to be anything other than what he was … it did not demand him to overact … it didn’t demand him to be overtly sales-ey.garner polaroid




He was simply Rockford <with a dose of Maverick> which I imagine we all felt James Garner was in real life … showcasing a product.



This advertising is neither showy nor overtly entertaining … it is simply good simple watchable likeable straightforward advertising.



And my gut tells me … this was James Garner type advertising.

Garner Polaroid TV commercials: http://www.technologizer.com/2014/07/20/james-garner/


I will admit.


I didn’t miss James Garner until I found out that I wasn’t going to have him around in our lives anymore.


But then I did.


It’s a compliment to him … and a nudge to me to pay attention to the people who blend in seamlessly with Life … and enhance lives in doing so. Some people just blend in and make everything around them better <but you gotta pay attention to notice them>.



Because that seems to be the man James Garner was.



I didn’t know James Garner … but he not only seemed like a good man … but a good person.

weird mission statement

July 25th, 2014

bullshit language



a word that is used way to much to the point of annoyance, and to a point where everyone uses it just to sound like everybody else.
Urban Dictionary






This is part fun and part serious … and both parts connected by the business world we live in … all connected by buzzwords and buzzword usage.
The fun first.


I am not sure I have laughed harder … at myself … at business … at the ludicrous amount of bullshit speak we spew every day in office buildings around the world … without even know we are doing it.



But Weird Al Yankovic has.

His last song in his 8 song online album release is called Mission Statement <done to Crosby Still Nash’s Suite Judy Blue Eyes>.



You know you have made it big when Weird Al parodies what you do and say for your living.


weird al-bonnaroo-2013





Here is the link to the other seven songs … most of which are fucking hilarious.


Weird Al: http://www.weirdal.com/



The songs are well done. Very clever.



Handy done to Iggy Azalea’s Fancy.

Foil done to Lourdes Royals.



Word Crimes done to Blurred Lines.


Tacky done to Pharrel’s Happy.



Frickin’ awesome.



My favorite Weird Al of all time … Living with a Hernia: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X8Ow1nlafOg





The serious part second.





The bullshit words we flippantly sling about in the workplace.


bullshit beware

I have written about these heinous words several times before:


most recently on innovation: http://brucemctague.com/rediscovering-innovation




Buzzwords creep into our business lives like sinister slippery bacteria infecting your common sense and even well intended business acumen. Like …


Drinking the kool-aid <which is kind of like drinking the kook aid>.


Give 110%.


Win-win, blue sky, outside the box, bla bla bla.





I am as guilty as anyone on this issue. Maybe the difference between myself and many other business people is that … well … I feel guilty about it. I even hate a part of myself for lowering myself into what I consider the mediocre depths of the business world where it seems bullshit words have built mansions for people to lounge around in.



How does it happen?


How does bullshit and buzzwords actually make their way into even the worlds of business people who abhor them?







They creep in … well … consciously <unfortunately> and subconsciously <less unfortunately but still unfortunate>.




bullshit no wayConsciously is a galling affair.



Galling in that it goes against everything you stand for from a business ethics standpoint.



You know its bullshit.


And you know you are going to have to painfully spout out a word or two of bullshit in a minute or so.


It leaves a nasty taste in your mouth.




So why we consciously do it?



You know it makes the audience receptive to something important you want to say.



In Bruce words … the buzzword bullshit can open up the listening box.



Buzzwords are almost like heuristics.


They are cues as to what is to come next … or create some mental visual of a desired scenario. They are also cues to ‘cool contemporary business thinking’ <although they are most typically anything but that>.






Subconsciously is galling … but galling in that it becomes so much part of the existing daily vernacular it eases in without you even noticing.

bullshit word abuse


“If you repeat something over and over again it loses its meaning; You watch the sunset too often it just becomes 6 pm, you make the same mistake over and over you stop calling it a mistake.

If you just wake up wake up wake up wake up wake up wake up one day you’ll forget why.”

Phil Kaye


The buzzwords become proverbial buckets, spittoons if you would like, lying around the office … easy places in which to spit ideas and thoughts and ‘vision.’




It’s just part of what is.



So much so that the bullshit becomes even more meaningless.

What I mean is that while a buzzword may actually have had some business thought in its conception … over time … it has simply become some amorphous distasteful glob of meaningless non-business drivel.



I am pragmatic enough to understand that buzzwords will always exist n the business world.



I am also pragmatic enough to understand that to be successful in the business world you do need to suck it up and actually use some of them on occasion.



I am also idealistic enough to believe if you take a minute to maybe ‘enlighten’ a little … embrace a little ‘conflict’ in the business place … maybe through some good rigorous thoughtful discussion you can make a small dent in the buzzword bullshit armory.


bullshit abusive-word

Maybe I am the only idealistic business person with regard to this issue but I don’t think so.



One of my career goals is to eliminate at least one bullshit buzzword. Then at least I can say I have achieved one worthwhile thing in my career.

growing a brand unevenly

July 24th, 2014

think you know


“I am the sea and nobody owns me.”

Pippi Longstocking


“In short, not only are things not what they seem, they are not even what they are called!”

Francisco de Quevedo







So I just wrote about growing up evenly <http://brucemctague.com/growing-up-unevenly >. And it made me think about the slightly absurd worldview of ‘building a brand.’







First & foremost … because I don’t believe you can build a brand.






I imagine you can certainly try. But a building suggests a solid unmoving construct … kind of like maybe a shopping mall or a bank branch <oops … not particularly positive examples, huh?>.



And therein lies the underlying absurdity.


The construct. The unmoving unchanging body.



And a suggestion of ‘evenness.’



To be fair <before I begin my constructive enlightening rant> … the foundational aim for any brand has been and remains the same as always … to express singularities which consistently distinguish the offering of products and services.



And within these singularities … or distinctness … people will seek values, leadership, assurance, clarity … and personality <or character>. Maybe better said … some promise a person can attach some value <not values> to.


I say all that because you invariably need to grow your brand … well … unevenly. Yup. Sorry. A brand isn’t, probably shouldn’t be and most likely cannot be <and be successful> ‘even.’ Smooth. Without any ragged edges.


It needs to be grown unevenly <which is actually a natural growth rather than some manufactured growth>.






Just like a child.


You bring up the best kid you can. Build a strong character. Encourage them to embrace their potential. Put them in the best possible situations to succeed.


And, well, you let go of them and let them go into the world.



They’ll make their own friends <some you would not have chosen and some you would have> and they’ll do things that will make you want to tear your hair out over … and at other times they will make you beam with pride.


outcome control

But unless you are some control freak nutcase …  you are not by their side telling them what to do and how to dress and what to not do every minute of the day.
They assume a personality of their own doing what you hope is the right thing because you brought them up right.


This is just like growing a brand.


And if you do it right people will gladly welcome you into their circle of acquaintances <and sometimes friends> and give you the prime brain space every marketer is so desperate to get hold of.



All that said.

In theory, philosophically, a lot of marketing experts, or normal non expert people, will nod their heads when they read this and sigh <sagely of course> “that is so.”





In practice?



In practice they will freak out over this idea.
Not control the brand?


Not build it so perfectly and then protect the perfection that is the brand <on paper at least>?



Bottom line.
They will freak.



And they will become maniacal brand control freaks.



They do so even though most marketing people know that a brand isn’t a package or a logo.
They recognize it is more like a living breathing personality.



But too often these same experts get trapped in the nice even edges found in a ‘brand symbol’ <think a logo or a package> and they want to try and control how the symbol connects to miscellaneous thoughts, emotions and information stored in the human brain.


uneven wonder

Unfortunately … since everyone’s brain is wired differently … we see and feel different things.



Someone may see a bottle of Coca-Cola and think of ‘the real thing’ and someone else may think ‘happiness’ and another may think empty calories <add in something else on this list>.





We’re not sure exactly how or where the human brain makes the connections that make branding possible.
We may never find out.


But one thing we know is the brain craves simplicity … uhm … and also complexity.



Uh oh.


Simplicity and complexity?


That sounds so … well … uneven.



Therein lies the beauty & power of unevenness.


Before I get to the complex … let’s talk the simplicity part of the equation.


You do have to focus … and gain some simplicity in terms of a tight ‘core’ … from which the brand character resides on <some will call this the platform>.



There are some basics to get the ball rolling on the uneven path to growing a great brand:



Whatever one may wish to call the experience, there are certain basic concepts to take into consideration:

Two fundamental elements:

straightforward presentation of the experience

honesty of thought, word and deed as regards the company

Three keynotes:

corporate conscience,

shared story-building

participatory and open co-creation processes

Four roots in reality:

Although many people may be involved in what is a completely open process, it is the company which creates the intent and is in control.

Even when a story is built, we must at all times remember that success is always enjoyed by those who are backed by great products and/or services.

It is about values and the consistency with which the promise made by the company is built.

Cristian Saracco




Please note the simplicity begins with the organization itself <whew … and when is that ever simple?>.



Beyond the actual product & service the organization has to be the natural <please note the word natural> origin for the products & services.
What do I mean?






The product or service has to ‘look right’ coming from the organization.
Maybe call it the ‘eye test’ <boy … that sounds non-technical and uncomplicated doesn’t it?>.


And getting this part of the brand right matters.


It matters because frankly … it needs to stand out <please note that I suggested the brand stand out … not the marketing or advertising>.



uncertainty 3This part of the brand needs to be distinct because in a complex sometimes overwhelming abundance of choices available to us 24/7 … some simpleness will stand out.






Maybe not simpleness … but the consistency of character <combined with function of course>.


<note: and maybe one of the issues in discussing brands and branding these days is that we confuse simplicity & consistency? … just a thought>


Consistency matters because the world has become more … well … less consistent.


In 1998 the average U.S. office worker received more than 160 messages a day via e-mail, fax, voice mail and conventional mail.


Today the number has almost quadrupled.


Enter a supermarket and you are most often faced with over 37,000 different products with distinct SKU’s <stock-keeping units> compared to 8,000 in 1970.


Orange juice choices have gone from 20 to 70 in the past 30 years. Coke 6 to 25. Even Philadelphia Cream Cheese has gone from 3 to 30.



Choices abound.


And some good choices I may add.


A company’s temptation may be to create even more brands to compete in this crazy world of choices.
On a side note about that last thought <about choices and ‘selections’>:



As we approached the 21st century, consumer and industrial suppliers acknowledged this overload. Unilever, a leading manufacturer of consumer health and beauty products, announced a 5-year plan to slash its brand portfolio from 1,600 to 100. A carefully orchestrated effort was put into place to ensure no loss of market share, while “helping” the consumer by eliminating so many choices. Unilever has been successful in its efforts. The program resulted in significantly lower costs in manufacturing, distribution and promotion . . . and ultimately, greater profitability.


Growing a brand means it has to fulfill a clear promise. Promises are simple and complex. But suffice it to say, in this case, you make a promise and deliver upon it.
Simple as that.



Here are some basic steps simplify <or at least clarify> some things that make up the foundation blocks for growing the brand unevenly:



- company assessment


The first step in growing a brand is to assess the brand ‘parent.’ There are several methods for obtaining this information from the end-users but suffice it to say that if you don’t know your company <culture, belief system, aspirations> you will never rear your brand properly.


- research


Whether you think you need it … do some research.

Research will not only provide qualitative information from key stakeholders, including internal and external customers and influencers, but also flesh out the raw concept that resides in the vision.


The number of interviews <participants in research> will vary according to the typical number of end-users that would have an opinion about your company’s image.


The total number of potential end-users may be very small in b2b compared to a consumer product such as toothpaste.




You are seeking some consistent feedback … you hear the same feedback over and over.


The information collected from the survey is the foundation on which your brand platform will be established. You may find that once all the results are summarized, the information is very much in-sync with your organization’s internal perception of itself.


<note: don’t fool yourself into believing the exercise was a waste of time or a worthwhile effort in this situation … it is not only a sanity check but it also alleviates a lot of second guessing at a later date and plays a significant role in aligning everyone on what matters>


Research can be used for a variety objectives <value of offering, validation of offerings, etc.> but at minimum use research to best articulate your ‘reason for being’ as a business. this information is like placing the pebble in your hand so that you can drop the right pebble into the middle of the pond. The wrong pebble in the wrong dropping zone and … well … you get the picture.

- competitive audit

You are going to be who, and whatever, you are. Studying the competition shouldn’t change that.

However … by auditing and assessing the competition you can better asses how to best articulate who you are and what you are in ways that insure some distinctness.


It is essential to provide a clear differentiated <or distinct> message.


And any value in efforts to growing a strong brand will be lost if you haven’t given people a compelling reason to buy the product.


- identifying the key brand elements

There are several elements that need to be defined in the branding process.

This is the process of establishing both the tangible and intangible attributes to make the brand distinct.

Think of the most basic platform elements as:

wonderland tunnel

1. Vision or Mission Statement

The vision statement may be called the core belief while the brand promise may be entitled the brand essence. The vision expresses the philosophy driving the organization.

It unites the internal team to a common path. It is a clear sense of destination.

2. Core Identity Concepts <character>

The organization’s core identity … the company character statement.

The core identity captures the set of association, and values, the organization wants to create and maintain. The core identity should be easy to communicate and consistent for all products.

The core identity, while very personal, should take into consideration:

- Understanding of customer needs

– Integrity and honesty in doing business

– Passion to meet and exceed standards and expectations

3. Brand Promise

Simply stated it is what the customer gets from your brand. The promise distills the broad ideas of the platform without losing meaning. The promise drives the value proposition and provides differentiation that can last. The brand promise is sometimes also referred to as the brand essence.

4. Value Proposition

This represents the functional and emotional benefits customers expect to receive by working with the branded company. The proposition reflects a balance between the aspirations and reality of what the brand is able to deliver.

The functional benefit is the real world outcome of choosing and using the brand.

The emotional benefit is the ability of a brand to make a user feel something.

5. The Truth line

This is a line, or phrase, which can be used in all marketing and promotion materials.

It should clearly describe “the business” that the brand is in. It is a descriptor of the brand. This may be one of the most difficult elements of the platform to identify. The effort to try to “boil down” all aspects of your company’s product or service offerings into a simple phrase is not easy.

6. Brand Story

An organization doesn’t have to be famous to have an interesting brand story.

This legend of how the brand got started is used to preserve and enhance a brand’s heritage.

It can provide inspiration and motivation for customers, employees and stakeholders. This story can be used anywhere at any time because … well … it is a story. And people like good stories. I say that because this isn’t a technical manual but rather a personal story of the brand.





Those are the basics with regard to the simplicity aspect of growing an uneven brand.


By the way.


Please note that all brand platforms begin internally.
Not externally.


Call it ‘inside out thinking to insure success.’


I am not suggesting completely ignoring the external <market opportunities, customers, attitudes & perceptions> but I am suggesting that a brand exists in the soul of the company <just as in the desires and souls of parents with a child> … and not in the soul of some external constituent.
The outside constituent may define the value of your soul or assess whether it has some meaning … but a brand platform is … well … a platform.


A foundation.
unexpected changeSomething steadier than some whims of a moving mass of irrational people.




That was the simple part of a brand.


Which leads me to the close … which is about unevenness.


And the fact a great brand grows unevenly.


Just like people.


And then there is the complex side of what a human brain likes.


The unevenness that makes brand interesting and … well … human.


Even imperfect in some ways.
I will admit.


I cannot write a lot about the uneven complex dynamics of growing a brand because … well … its unplanned.


It just happens.


As this brand you have nurtured is allowed to leave its home and go out into the world it begins interacting with different brands, different people and different situations. Each of those interactions creates some context in which the brand evolves and adapts.
As it happens you can choose to adapt … or not adapt.


All I can tell you for sure is that the brand you envisioned will grow up to be something not exactly what you envisioned.


That is a truth <that not many branding experts will tell you>.


But you know what?



I am not the same person I was when my ‘brand’ first stepped out of the home. I would like to believe that I some ways I am now a better ‘brand’ for all the experiences and Life I have encountered.
A business should take the same view with regard to brands.


Suffice it to say the the power of letting a brand grow unevenly is that it makes the brand … well … human … and interesting.


This matters because the challenge is that minds are like real estate in that space is limited and we can’t let every brand have a place to stay.



Unevenness improves chances of gaining brain space and making a connection – a brain and brand connection – that will truly inspire something other than a ‘price’ relationship.


Growing a brand unevenly.



Not for the faint of heart. But certainly has its rewards.
It must relate in human terms to human beings.


Because a brand that doesn’t appeal on basic human levels really has no hope of success in today’s marketplace.
Don’t expect this journey to be easy.


uneven embrace

Just as rearing a child with its slight haphazardness … a brand takes some discipline, a strategy that moves from simple to complex and a combination of rational and emotional.
But, in the end, if you grow it right … you will have reared a simple human with character & truth and the power to touch people … oh … and some unevenness.


An uneven brand is interesting. It has some character. And it will be stronger n adulthood after running the gauntlet of growing pain youth.

alone again naturally

July 23rd, 2014

alone bus drop off



“Clair, the moment I met you, I swear, I felt as if something, somewhere, had happened to me, which I couldn’t see, but then, the moment I met you again, I knew in my heart that we were friends.”

Gilbert O’Sullivan <Clair>




So it was this week many many years ago that a musician named Gilbert O’Sullivan had his only number one hit in the good ole USofA.



The song was Alone Again Naturally.



It sold 2 million copies, spent 6 weeks at #1 and earned him 3 Grammy Award gilbert osullivannominations <Best Male Pop Vocal Performance, Song of the Year, and Record of the Year>.



On a historical note … interestingly … it was the second best-selling single of the year in America behind Don McLean’s ‘American Pie.’



Alone Again Naturally is a pretty spectacular song.



I , personally, have always felt that he lifted a nice, but sad, song about being alone again … simply by building in ‘naturally.’



I could be full of a bunch of bullhockey but it created a sense of inevitableness with regard to being alone … the fact that of course it is natural it would occur.


gilbert alone

It has an overall sense of … well … lack of surprise with regard to ‘alone’ and an honesty that probably made it quite relatable to many many people.



Without working really hard … O’Sullivan makes the sadness seem natural and yet insightful.



In addition … while the song sounds relatively simple I think it has some relatively complex chord progressions.



And maybe the real beauty in the sound is that the initial chords are simple … and it becomes more complex as the song progresses.
Despite some of the odder chord progressions the song doesn’t sound discordant.


In addition at about the 1:40 mark he builds in a completely different sounding bridge and segment which is soulful and introspective in its simpleness.


A fantastic bit of composition.


Alone Again Naturally: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D_P-v1BVQn8




About Gilbert:


In the first half of the ’70s O’Sullivan enjoyed a succession of hits in the UK including 2 #1s. They were “Clair,” which was inspired by the daughter of his manager Gordon Mills, 3-year-old Clair Mills, whom O’Sullivan baby-sat. The other one was “Get Down,” which was a plea to his dog to get down off the furniture.

He was the first Irish recording artist to have 2 UK #1 hits.


Gilbert O’Sullivan says:


“‘Alone Again (Naturally)’ has no comic purpose at all, and it is not a song that people can dismiss like ‘Get Down’ or ‘Clair.’ Because it means so much to some people, I will not allow it to be used for karaoke or commercials.”





This song was covered by Vonda Shepard on the television series ‘Ally McBeal’ in the early 2000’s. Her version is very soulful.


vonda shephard-GC
Vonda Shepard Alone Again: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=74JNJ86M4vw




And just in case you have no clue who Gilbert O’Sullivan is … here are the two other song you wish you had heard:

<first one uses wonderful rhymes lyrically by using the name Clair>
Clair: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eAKInjg66fY
And lastly … a semi silly song with an amazing bridge.


Get Down: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=32QBDDSmyfM

being yourself (part 2) … and mockingbirds

July 20th, 2014

be yourself and changing



“Embrace your complexity, stretch your creativity, and live up to your potential, you are what makes the world great.”
Dan Wells






I thought about being yourself the other day when I saw a mockingbird chirping away loudly <as mockingbirds do> … proudly singing its song … and … well … every other bird’s song within ear reach.


Mockingbirds are the world’s best mimics.


They are also quite aggressively protective of their nests and feeding territories.



Their call is a loud, sharp ‘check’ and their song is a long, complex song consisting of a mixture of original and imitative phrases, each repeated several times.


So while ferociously independent … they are excellent mimickers of other birds.



In other words … they are strong defenders of self and self space … and yet more than willing to forfeit any sense of self in their vocalness … how they express themselves.


Being yourself is a topic that ever gets old … because it is so difficult to actually do <and advice spans from ‘don’t go changing to please anyone’ to ‘being different is good’ to … well … suffice it to say pretty much everyone spouts out ‘be yourself despite what anyone tells you’>.
I have tackled this topic twice before:








be yourself self expression





Simply suggesting ‘be yourself’ <with the unsaid ‘so damn the torpedoes and full speed ahead’>is a very poor attempt in simplifying something very complex.
You would think who you are, as in being yourself, would be simple … but it’s not.



And it’s not just that the world is constantly trying to change you <it is> … and that people around you are constantly trying to change you <they are> … but rather your inside <head & heart> are always changing.



And this whole ‘being yourself’ matters because it reverberates not only in your personal life & relationships but also in your business life.





And there is certainly a relationship between talent and personality.


Maybe not talent per se … but rather being as good as you can be at whatever you are actually naturally good at <and figuring out what you are actually good at is a test in itself>.


When misaligned ‘being yourself’ can hold you back or even be detrimental. It also certainly can lead to ‘being different for different sake.’
Here is the issue.


Much of being yourself is a moving target.
Personalities evolve.


be yourself who we are freeI hesitated to say ‘adapt’ … because I simply believe as you mature you are better able to asses yourself.


I imagine I am suggesting there is an inextricable link between being yourself & finding yourself.



“In the long run, we shape our lives, and we shape ourselves. The process never ends until we die. And the choices we make are ultimately our own responsibility.”

Eleanor Roosevelt



It is a Life truth that many things you felt strongly about with regard to ‘being yourself’ at 15 will look very very different <’awful’ different in fact> at 25 let alone 35.


In addition.


In youth ‘being yourself’ may not exactly match up with ‘your best.’ You may want to be the best guitarist in the world … but you find you have no rhythm <or any knack at catching a rhythm>. Being yourself in youth is expansive mostly because you do not really own any particular talent so you own personality.


As life goes on you acquire more & more talent and therefore can afford to lose components of that ‘being yourself unequivocal stance’ you took in youth as you gain other more tangible reflections of ‘yourself.’





Just to be clear … even older people don’t get it right <in a different way … they tend to shrink>.



While in youth ‘yourself’ is forming itself in unimaginative ways <or maybe imagined ways> … unfortunately Life has a habit of squeezing ‘yourself’ as you age so that it becomes a smaller shrunken core <not suggesting that core isn’t really really important … just that it can get pretty frickin’ small if you let Life squeeze it too hard>.


Life is educational with regard to ‘being yourself.’



And as with any lessons in education … you listen … you learn … you make mistakes thru trial & error … and you move on to the ‘next level of yourself.’
But the uncomfortable Life truth is that yourself changes … and therefore being yourself changes.
It is uncomfortable because so many people spout the ‘don’t go changing’ tripe <and it is difficult to ignore>.
And that suggests you hold on to the initial ‘yourself’ for far too long.




It is an uncomfortable Life truth that letting go is difficult in and of itself … and even more so when discussing aspects of ‘yourself.’





You have to learn to adapt. To hold on to what is important and let go of what is less important <which sounds incredibly easy in those few words but incredibly difficult in reality>.


This leads me to share a really nice thought from the musician William Fitzsimmons:being yourself apology



“The last couple years have been…full (kind of difficult to describe years in a single word). They have been wonderful, painful, long, incredibly brief, and more educational and rewarding than any I’ve ever lived before.

I finished touring on the previous record feeling very conflicted. The longer I’m given the wonderful opportunity to write and create things, and subsequently share them with others, the more seriously and preciously I take that endeavor and responsibility.

It is something I look upon with the utmost gratitude and respect.

And yet at the same time I find myself making art in a field that is itself quite the opposite of it. I am learning that one of the most difficult things about being human is not merely facing things that you don’t generally find comfortable or appropriate or even good, but actually learning how to live in the midst of it and not let it take over who you are.

When you feel you are on a wrong-headed path, the quickest way to get where you want to go is to turn around, head back, and start again from the point you went askew.

And so I did.

I returned simply to the things, which have always brought me some measure of understanding, peace, and movement.

William Fitzsimmons





Starting again.



Starting again with ‘yourself.’



Maybe that is the most uncomfortable truth about ‘yourself’ … sometimes you need to turn around … head back … and restart.



REstart as in … take a couple steps back … to take the steps forward you want.


“Very few people do this any more. It’s too risky. First of all, it’s a hell of a responsibility to be yourself. It’s much easier to be somebody else or nobody at all.”

Sylvia Plath


Its risky … this ‘restarting’ thing.


Stepping back means … well … shit … that some people and some things may pass you by while you are focusing on where the heck is that one place I can finally get to in order to restart.


being myself agony hope

That is really really hard.
Mentally and practically.


But as with anything in life … its about choices. And what is most important to you.
The mockingbird has sacrificed a part of ‘self’ … and yet has maintained other aspects that make it thrive in almost any neighborhood you visit in its territorial world.


It’s funny.


I used the mockingbird as an example … because I <personally> would never sacrifice my ‘song’ with regard to being myself.


That is the line I have drawn for myself.


And we all should, and need, to draw our own line.





I imagine my point is that we adapt ‘self’ as Life goes on.


We embrace some aspects and let go of others.


That’s what growing up is all about.


It’s a hell of a responsibility to being yourself … and even more so if you actually evolve.




More so.


Because many people – who typically like to slot you in some general category – will struggle with any changes you make and aspects you ‘let go of’ … almost always coming back to ‘but you used to …’ as an example of ‘you are compromising yourself.’


being yourself cahnging
They are wrong.


We change.


We adapt.


Being yourself is not stagnant.


Nor should it be.

the most when least expected

July 19th, 2014

expectations reality diagram


“Maybe who we are isn’t so much about what we do, but rather what we’re capable of when we least expect it.”

Jodi Picoult


“After all, our lives are but a sequence of accidents – a clanking chain of chance events. A string of choices, casual or deliberate, which add up to that one big calamity we call life.”

Rohinton Mistry





So I tend to believe we measure ourselves by what we expect of ourselves when … well … we have expectations of ourselves.





expect seldom occursIf this big ‘calamity we call Life’ is simply a sequence of accidents … a chain of chance events … maybe we should be measuring ourselves by what we are capable of when we least expect it.
Most of us are capable of a shitload.


And most of us give ourselves a shitload of criticism for not meeting expectations when we expect to do something. And, yet, most of life is a shitload of unexpected things.


It would be nice if Life acted upon the same principle as the programming technology industry … the principle of least astonishment.


In other words … if some key technology feature has a high astonishment factor <the surprise factor> they immediately conclude it may be necessary to redesign the feature. The design should match the user’s experience, expectations, and mental models <in other words … surprises are bad>.



expect most all



Unfortunately Life doesn’t work that way.


And neither do we.
Life astonishes us on a fairly consistent basis … and we astonish ourselves on a far equal amount of the time.
Least expected typically refers to something that is the least likely <or most unlikely> to happen.



And yet what we do, what we are capable of, in these least expected moments … are actually the least unexpected.



Because least unexpected refers to something that is the least unlikely <or most likely> to happen.


In our heads, and often in our words, unlikely or unexpected get jumbled up with least likely and least expected and in all the jumbledness the result ends up least unexpected.

<don’t worry … my head started getting confused & hurting when I wrote that>


see what we look forJust to be silly … I would suggest that all the misuses are not in the least unexpected.


Just to be not silly … I would suggest that what we are capable of when we least expect it is typically pretty frickin’ amazing.




In the unplanned calamity of Life we make choices … and in a least unexpected way we do pretty fucking well.
Remember this:


“Adventures do occur, but not punctually.”

E.M. Forster


Life is not punctual.


Nor is Life planned ahead of time.


Life is often one big calamity.


The only thing we can expect of Life is the unexpected.



The least unexpected thing?


What we are capable of … and who we are is not just defined but what we do <in general> but rather what we do in the unexpected calamity of Life. The create you are whatchoices we make in the unexpected chain of moments that make up most of Life.



Any idiot can ‘do’ in the expected moments.


The measure of a person is truly found in what you do in the unexpected moments.


growing up unevenly

July 18th, 2014

 growing up and shutting up


“We do not grow absolutely, chronologically. We grow sometimes in one dimension, and not in another; unevenly. We grow partially. We are relative. We are mature in one realm, childish in another. The past, present, and future mingle and pull us backward, forward, or fix us in the present. We are made up of layers, cells, constellations.”

Anaïs Nin






No one grows up evenly.




We don’t even think and learn evenly.
<my 2011 post: http://brucemctague.com/intellect-ignorance-the-learning-boundaries>


Here is the truth.


Ignorance is boundless.


Knowledge is limited <only in terms of time>.


And learning is never symmetrical.




If you believe how you think, what you think … and what you know <and what you think you know> is the foundational idea of Life <and growing up> then you would have to believe by expanding the circle of knowledge you are simultaneously expanding the boundaries of ignorance.



In other words, the more things you learn, the more things you become aware you don’t know.


Now that, my friends, is an awesomely simple concept.



The whole idea of ignorance always outpacing knowledge and learning is something I believe we should think about more often.





learn stupid 1 boy meets worldlearn stupid 2

Because <1> … we make comparisons or judgments based on linear standards.
This is relevant to growing up, test scores and even performance reviews.
“If you started here you should be here by this time.”



Because <2> … we feel a constant failure to learn everything <or more>.


Therefore we constantly get discouraged because by remaining in the ‘ignorance zone,’ despite having invested energy in knowledge gathering to actually get out of that zone, one can theoretically never feel a satisfaction of ‘something completed’.



Because <part3> …. Ignorance attacks you in a 360degree fashion.

This only matters because we attack ignorance on a focused limited degree approach.


I will illustrate by showing you this diagram <which I did not do> where the circle of knowledge has inconsistent edges.

uneven Circle Of Knowledge-


When I saw this diagram I thought it perfectly reflected:


-              how people expand their learning knowledge <outside a school construct as well as inside a school construct>

-         my own personal challenge when it comes to increasing knowledge and ignorance

-            why people <in general> grow up unevenly



Suffice it to say … even as we expand ourselves and get better … the choices we make … well … make us grow unevenly.


And that can not only make us feel uncomfortable but it can also make the people around us feel uncomfortable.



“Sometimes you make choices in life and sometimes choices make you.”

Gayle Forman





All this unevenness is simply growth … and growing up.


Each spike in learning and knowledge is the another initial breakthrough in the attack on ignorance.


Each spike inevitably leads to a curiosity driven rounding out of fuller understanding and knowledge.
Using myself as an example … beyond some ’rounding out’ I would imagine there is an inevitable new ‘spike’ somewhere else … I assume I had read or heard something that piqued my curiosity in another direction.


Therefore, and I believe this is the neatest thought, this is a perpetual process with spikes and rounding out but in the end the circle just keeps getting bigger and bigger <and bigger is better>.



Unfortunately … this is also a reflection of growing up.


Growing up is uneven.


You become more expert and informed on certain topics at the expense of others … some experiences at the expense of others.



sitting in doorwayThis also has repercussions on where people end up in Life.


The well rounded circle – that might have characterized the end of the classic education system and the classically defined ‘well rounded person’ – is inevitably being replaced with the profile of an expert <or increased passion on a topic> in some particular domain.



This inevitably means creating a person who will never end up with a perfect circle … but rather an ellipse, at best, or some wacky trapezoid <or some random shape with edges … not rounded curves>. And some people will actually be a straight relatively thin rectangle.

My main point?


There is no such thing as a well rounded person. You may aspire to be well rounded but even at your best … you are some shape other than a circle type person.


I admit.


I like this thought.


I like that we all grow up unevenly and we learn unevenly,


It implies society & culture is like a jig saw puzzle up to us humans o figure out how to fit together.


But his also creates some problems for us wacky ‘comfortable with a plan’ group of citizens.


It focuses us on ‘we need to build this type of expertise’ silos of people. And yet people, in general, are maximize in a more random ‘stimulate and go in whatever direction you want to go way.



“Any fool can know. The point is to understand.”
Albert Einstein




We know what we want.
We want ourselves, anyone in fact, to simply be a well rounded individual maximizing their talents.



We don’t really understand how to attain it <because there is a randomness to the plan>.
While “we are made up of layers, cells, constellations” is a little too poetically nebulous for me … I do like ‘we grow up unevenly.’
And I do believe it makes us a little uncomfortable … this unevenness.


And we try and try <and try again> to even it out as much as we can.





Maybe we should be investing the same energy to encourage passionate energetic unevenness instead.


Maybe if we did that the overall ‘grown-upedness’ or intellectualism of all people would simply reside at a higher level.brain and clever pooh



And then I would have to assume we would be smart enough to then figure out how to put all the uneven jig saw pieces together and create a better happier world <with happier people as individuals>.



Just a thought.


But I am an uneven guy.

Enlightened Conflict