Enlightened Conflict

gracefully letting go

March 29th, 2015

 

 
———gracefully let go card

 

 

 

“Teach me how to gracefully let go of things not meant for me.”

 

 

via lilac-veinss

 

 

=====

 

 

 

There are moments in the life of a man, and of a nation, when it is right to say:

 

 

I have done my utmost, and I can do no more, therefore I will cease my striving and seek another road.”

 

 

 

======

 

 

“People will try to hold on when their world starts to tilt.

 

 

They will grab onto whatever is in reach.”

 

 

 

Claire Zorn

 

======

 

 

 

freedom feels like hold

Ok.

 

 

Letting go of shit may be one of the hardest things to do in the world.

 

 

Even more difficult?

 

 

Letting go gracefully.

 

 

These are the moments in which you have decided you have done what you have done, done what you consider enough … and you are … well … done.

 

 

These are the moments in which you actually consciously think:

 

 

How do I let go?

gracefully let go lemons

Where do I begin?

Do I let go memory by memory?

How many goodbyes will this take?

Do I leave words with everyone until I have no more words left to give?

 

 

Oh.

 

 

And if I do all this, will it even matter?

 

 

In addition.

 

Maybe I should do nothing.

=

Maybe I should just stand here and let others let me <or ‘it’> go.

 

This stuff, letting go in general, let alone gracefully … is hard. Really hard.

 

 

And while we typically suck at letting the right things go, let alone anything I imagine, we REALLY suck at letting things go gracefully.

 

 

Suffice it to say..

 

 

 

Most people don’t let go gracefully let alone let go at all.

 

 

You just get stuck.

 

You just hold on tight … and then when you do let go you just want to throw it away and ignore it as if you never held it.

 

 

And maybe you get a little confused.

 

 

 

Well.

 

 

There is no handbook for “how to let things go gracefully. “

 

gracefully Yep time let go

 

It does not exist and so you must try to find ways to figure it out on your own.

 

 

Frankly … it seems almost cruel that a handbook on “letting go” doesn’t exist <let alone gracefully>. Because it may be one of the most common things we do in Life.

 

 

We don’t seem to notice the almost daily experience as we let go every single day of countless amounts of things:

 

 

Moments.

Minutes.

Objects.

People.

 

 

 

Well.

 

 

We may not notice until we are faced with a situation that we want to hold on or that we are the ones being let go.

 

That must be it.

 

 

There comes a moment where we realize we are the ropes in a tug-of-war.

 

Someone holding on at each end … until one decides to let go.

 

 

Someone watches you leave.

 

 

Or maybe you end up watching someone else leave.

 

 

 

Regardless.

 

 

We have lots of personal experience letting shit go.

 

 

Most times things are let go little by little. And in these small but significant changes we don’t really learn the ‘gracefully’ part … just the letting go part.

 

 

In addition.

 

 

Not only do we let most things go in small insignificant increments … often you have no control.

 

 

Things get lost.

 

 

People are going to begin to let you go regardless of whether you ask them to or not.

 

 

I have said it before … but part of growing up is leaving shit – regrets, stuff, people, choices, etc. – behind.

 

 

Well.

 

 

That is the gracefully part.

 

 

Learning to let things go that you not only made the ‘let go decision’ but also the things that were ‘let go’ by someone else.

 

 

In other words … learning to let things go even when your world starts to tilt.

 

 

Simply.

 

 

Holding on is a shitload easier than letting go.

 

 

And, in fact, I am not sure there is such a thing as ‘holding on gracefully.’

 

 

You are just … well … holding on.

 

 

Sigh.

 

 

Let’s end with this thought.

 

Unfortunately … I tend to believe you encounter more things not meant for you than those things actually meant for you in Life.

 
And while we may eventually get better as we get older with regard to sifting through all these things inevitably you will end up with a lot of shit that … well … aren’t really meant for you.

 

And even more unfortunately … there really isn’t anyone to help you sift thru … no one is going to … ‘teach me how to gracefully let go of things not meant for me.’

 

 

That is something you just gotta figure out on your own.

 

gracefully Life

Me?

 

I am a work in progress.

 

 

 

I have certainly learned to let go of things … but still learning to do so gracefully.

 

 

I can only hope that I am more graceful on the important things.

when not to let go (and balloons)

March 28th, 2015

—-

hold on let go balloons

“There are times in life when people must know when not to let go.

Balloons are designed to teach small children this.”

=

Terry Pratchett

————–

Well.

 

 

I have written about how difficult it is for people, in business & Life, to let go of things so much I am not sure I can find any new words to share on that topic.

 

 

In fact … if you google “reasons to not let go” you get nothing.

 

Nada.

 

 

You get jack shit on the topic.

 

 

All you get is page after page of ‘reasons to let go.’

 

 

And, yet, there are certainly times to know when to not let go.

 

 

To be clear … a purposeful ‘not let go’ is a different difficulty for us. While not letting go is something that is mostly based on some version of fear or doubt … knowing when to not let go of something seems to be more about our difficulty in discerning what is important, or good, and what is unimportant , or bad.

 

 

In fact.

 

I think part of the ‘not letting go’ difficulty resides in how we learned to hold on in childhood <the balloon thing>.

 

 

We learn very early on that when you let go of something good it floats away never to be seen again. So we have learned to hold on a tightly as possible to goodbye handanything that could be construed as good <even if it is really a crappy balloon>.

 

We have become so good at it we are almost proud of not letting go. Therefore the problem isn’t our ability to actually hold on … it is choosing what to really not let go of.

 

 

Not letting go is complex compounded by the fact we are complex people.

 

 

Why does the complexity matter?

 

Because there is no formula. No ‘rules of not letting go.’

 

Yeah, yeah, yeah.

 

 

Some things are obvious.

 

 

The self stuff, the character stuff, the ‘who you are as a person’ stuff you don’t let go of. They are good balloons.

 

 

 

But after a while you have so many balloons you can’t discern the good ones from the bad ones. Which leads me to suggest I sometimes believe the ‘what not to let go’ choice is an acquired intuition thing.

 

Yup.

 

I just typed acquired and intuition side by side.

 

 

I like to remind people that you are not borne with good intuition. You may be borne with a good intuition muscle but experience strengthens the muscle and it takes some time & experience to ‘acquire’ the intuition necessary to ‘not let go’ of the right things.

 

 

Regardless.

 

I suggest intuition because unless one of the balloons has lost all its air and has sunk to the ground you are choosing amongst a shitload of balloons that maybe all look pretty good to you.

 

 

This may sound crazy because balloons float above you and should seem obvious at all times … but the connections to many of the balloons in your life are actually like links of a chain underwater.

==

“The moment of truth, the sudden emergence of a new insight, is an act of intuition.

Such intuitions give the appearance of miraculous flushes, or short-circuits of reasoning. In fact they may be likened to an immersed chain, of which only the beginning and the end are visible above the surface of consciousness.

The diver vanishes at one end of the chain and comes up at the other end, guided by invisible links.”

Arthur Koestler

==

learning to fly hands
You see the balloons.

Okay. You see some of them.

But the strings get all tangled up and you cannot tell which string to let go of <because you are not sure which balloon will go away> and which one to hold on to. Some of the choices you make as you look at the strings is intuitive. And given some time and experience I imagine the string feels a little different in your hand as you pluck it out from all the others. That is this version of intuition.

 

 

So.

 

 

One of the things I admire most in people is consistent great intuition and how they manage what to not let go of.

 

 

It is an interesting characteristic to assess when you meet people and is fairly easy because you can just look up and see the balloons they carry with them.

 

 

So, in the end, maybe the balloon metaphor is bad … or maybe I simply overused it … but suffice it to say that while there is a lot of free advice on ‘letting go’ there isn’t a whole shitload of advice on ‘what to not let go of.’

 

 

I think it is obvious that there are certainly some ‘be yourself’ characteristics that you should never let go of <although figuring out what to not let go of as you try and improve yourself is not easy either>.
What is less obvious is the other stuff in your life. Experiences, knowledge, even people.

 

birds on hand

I don’t have any answers today. Just questions. And maybe some prompting that this is something we should think about a little more.

 

 

Most letting go advice online is vapid and a waste of time <albeit with good intent>.

 

 

I don’t have any advice for ‘not let go’ other than think about it. We all learn to hold on to balloons because they represent freedom and hope and good things waiting above us. Those should be the things we hold on to and not let go of.

new normal in marketing … demographics are dead

February 26th, 2015

new normal old normal

———

Demographics are dead.

Successful products, services and brands will transcend their initial demographics almost instantaneously.

As a result, executives who continue to attempt to navigate using demographic maps, with borders defined by age, gender, location, income will be ill prepared for the speed, scale and direction of change.”

==

Trendwatching.com

—————-

 

 

 

So.

 

 

While gobs of people talk about the effect of ‘social media’ on marketing <which is kind of crazy because it is simply another tactic and not a strategy> not many people discuss how people’s attitudes are shifting … and the effects on HOW marketing approaches the voodoo it does.

thinking attitudes change
What do I mean?

 

Well.

 

 

 

 

Not many people talk about the impact of globalization on marketing this way … but … an overall impact of a more connected global world is that marketing is a shitload less about demographics than it is about attitudes.

 

 

Uhm.

 

 

That thought is going to make a shitload of people in the marketing business tear their hair out.

 

Why?

 

Because targeting via demographics is much much easier than targeting attitudinally.

 

 

In addition … the foundational attitude everyone is tapping into is … well … unlearning <wow … that sucks for marketers>.

 

 

What I mean is that as we become more globally aware we also then begin challenging conventional wisdom more often <and change what we think more easily>.

 

 

That is the new normal.

 

Yup.

 

Conventions are increasingly being overturned as we … well … encounter a new normal.

 

The new normal attitude is more often reflected in “why?” … instead of “of course.”

 

 

To a marketer this can seem disconcerting.

 

Shit.attitudes behavior humans

 

To someone looking from the outside in with regard to the world this can seem disconcerting.

 

 

But … you know … while it may seem like you may be suffering from a mild form of chronophobia <fear that time is moving so fast I’ll never be able to catch up> … the reality is that most people like the changes occurring around us … and are quickly changing their behavior to accommodate what, overall, they see as improvements.

 

 

Therefore … as a marketer <or business in general> this behavior shift is less about convincing anyone to do anything … it is more that the bulk of the people are simply seeking permission to do the changed behavior.

 

 

This should change how marketers view what they are doing and how they are encouraging change … because permission is significantly different than convincing.

 

 

It becomes more about reducing barriers and embracing less negative product impacts for a consumer.

 

==

Understanding consumers’ needs and wants remains critical.

However, it will be those that take a broad view and learn from innovations that are satisfying consumers by reducing negative issues in seemingly dissimilar or even opposing demographics that will succeed, regardless of which ‘traditional’ demographic(s) they serve.

==

 

 

In today’s world people can <and increasingly do> pick and choose what products and services they purchase and the brands they identify with, without any regard to demographic ‘conventions.’

 

 

They are sharing a product, and the product experience, regardless of age.

 

This means the only way to sell <or give them permission to buy or do> is to tap into some ‘shared attitude’ of a group you have identified of interest to your product or service.

 

 

 

Now.

 

 

This will confuse a lot of marketing people because … well … shit … they are already confused.

 

Huh? … Why do I say that?

 

Well.

If you stay focused on demographics it becomes easy to become confused when looking at behavior.

 

 

It looks like consumers are constantly not behaving as they ‘should.’

 

 

That said … I come back to attitudes … and permission versus convincing.

 

 

Trendwatching called a version of the idea I am discussing – POST-DEMOGRAPHIC CONSUMERISM.

 

 

==

People – of all ages and in all markets – are constructing their own identities more freely than ever.

As a result, consumption patterns are no longer defined by ‘traditional’ demographic segments such as age, gender, location, income, family status and more.

==

 

 

 

Now … to be clear on demographics … in general … younger, affluent people are the most likely earliest adopters of new products and services. They are certainly more open, more experimental and have fewer commitments.

 

 

But now innovations are being rapidly adopted by, and almost instantly reshape the expectations of, any and all demographics.

 

 

Society is now too fluid, ideas now too available, the market now too efficient, the risk and cost of trying new things now too low for any and all people to ‘up their game’ with products & services. The ability to experiment and, ultimately, identify personally with a wider variety of brands and products fuels increased personalization and yet creates a larger collective attitude <whew … there is an interesting dichotomy>.

 

 

Just look at smartphones.

 

 

While we look at the disconnected/connected world as a ‘young person issue’ … smartphones has an almost 75% penetration of people aged 12 to 54.

 

Yes.

 

 

I just said almost ¾ of anyone under the age of 54.

 

bond smartphone why attitude

 

 

 

Anyway.

 

 

If you end up skipping the whole demographic thing and are not clear where to start … let me help you out.

 

An attitudinal marketing world actually almost begins not with the people … but the enabler.

 

 

Huh?

 

 

If I am selling an app I look to smartphones <and attitudes of smartphone buyers>.

 

 

If I am selling a book I look to amazon <and attitudes of amazon users>.

 

 

If I am selling a car I look to car lots <and attitudes of car lot shoppers>.

 

 

Attitudes get driven by who uses, and likes to use, the enabler.

 

 

 

Well.

 

 

This actually makes this whole attitudinal thing slightly easier because now I have a place to at least start … some existing behavior <and the attitudes attached to that behavior>.

 

 

The enabler also enhances a latent ‘purchase desire’ … for other things.

 

 

What do I mean?

 

 

The enabler enhances a desire to ‘do more like this’ or a desire wrapped around a sense of ‘shit, if I can do this this way … why can’t I do this thing this way?”

 

 

That is a powerful desire to tap into.

 

perfection looking at htings differently

And that innate desire simply comes down to ‘permission to do’ rather than ‘convince to do.’

 

 

This attitude is an odd <interesting?> aspect of democratization of purchasing.

 

 

This attitude also bleeds into a larger ‘how will I enter the world’ type attitude.

 

 

Because there is this democratization of the purchase it almost eliminates an aspect of early adopter <which has a “get ready for me world’ attitude> and instead almost forces a mass of people into more of an ‘I need to get ready for this world’ attitude.

 

 

This democratization of purchasing impacts attitude so significantly <creating this ‘new normal’> because the overall ‘heads of the people’ has changed at the same time. The ‘head change’ has been driven by a world where, increasingly, conventional <traditional> basics can no longer be taken for granted.

 

 

What i mean by that is because people perceive they are facing a seemingly never-­‐ending onslaught of challenges and issues, people tend to see today’s world as a tough, difficult place where someone needs to focus on survival long before someone can consider ‘thrive’.

 

 

 

And, once again, this is not a demographic thing … this is a pervasive attitude among all demographic groups.

 

 

This is the new normal.

 

 

And the new normal attitude leads to some rebelling against, or complete rejection, of conventional beliefs, conventional way of ‘doing things’ … and also traditional businesses. As people reluctantly adjust to today’s version of a mature reality, all the while professing they will never lose touch with how it feels to be young and relevant, the democratization of purchase feeds into an ‘I can be young & old at the same time.’

 

 

This attitude is easy, and difficult, to track because while almost all the ‘individuals’ carry this mindset around wherever they go … the actual ‘individual’ chooses when & where to apply it in Life.

 

 

“They choose when and where they will attack.

If the issue seems below their threshold of importance, they save their energy and let it go entirely.”

Neil Howe, Demographer

 

 

 

Well.

 

 

This means that if the issue seems below their threshold of importance, they save their energy and let it go entirely. This thought captures an overall attitude among all people.

 

Ok.

Maybe not everyone … but it is an increasing attitude among a significantly increasing amount of people.

 

 

We could call it simply … a survival response.

 

 

Survival?

 

Well.

The world has shown people that shit happens <and some pretty fucked up shit> that you can’t plan for … but you can kind of prepare for.

 

 

 

Sort of prepare for.
Anyway.

danced on the edge

 

With this new normal attitude and the fact marketers have to focus on tapping into attitudes and not demographics … I feel the need to say that … well … edges matter when you talk about attitudinal.

 

 

No.

 

 

I am not talking doing something ‘edgy’ … I am talking about drawing some lines in the sand. Avoiding fluff and focus on the fold. Eliminate ambiguity and dial up some certainty.

 

 

Why does it matter?

Raised on a steady dose of truth <and untruths>, straight talk <and double talk>, honesty, and some heavy doses of reality, people today expect the world to be a tough place.
They’ve been taught the motivations of brands, corporations, and institutions are seldom what they seem.

 

 

This translates into the fact that if businesses that pander, condescend, or rely on lazy stereotypes … they will not connect.

 

 

Speak truth, the harsh truth, or die. Get out of the gray. Place an edge on everything you say and create some distinct feelings about whatever it is you 19 speak the truthwant to sell or say. Avoid ambiguity. Clarity & certainty are almost mandatory <and, please, do not confuse this with ‘simplicity’ … because one can provide clarity without overt simplicity>.

 

 

 

That said.

 

 

Standing out, being distinct, may matter more than success.

 

 

This is a reflection of an overall societal thing … kids are more and more raised by parents less obsessed with winning or their kids obtaining traditional status symbols of ‘success’. This results in an attitude more focused on standing out rather than being #1.

 

 

Suffice it to say … being distinct matters.

 

 

Not being better or being ‘unique’ but instead simply being clear with regard to who and what you are. Distinct differentiates in a fluffy grey world.

 

 

 

Both of those things, edges and distinctness, matter when it comes to attitudinal marketing.

 

 

I say that because while the world may feel overwhelming on occasion <mostly driven by what social media fake journalists keep telling us we should be overwhelmed> most of us are becoming quite good at judging … well … the turn on, tune in, or drop out choices.

 

Frankly … it’s a survival mechanism people have honed as a reaction to the babbling insanity that surrounds everyone and which can eat life away if permitted.

 

 

We actually have learned relatively well on how to choose wisely with regard to what to pay attention to.

 

 

 

Anyway.

 

 

If you are a marketer … shit … if you are a business owner … success may often not be found in focusing on some ‘demographic appeal’ to what you are selling or saying. Success may actually be found in tapping into some attitude.

 

The business world is becoming more and more ‘age democratized’ and therefore you are just as likely to piss off potential customers focusing on a demographic as you are in appealing to the demographic you are trying to attract.

new normal marc johns

 

More importantly?

 

 

You are probably leaving potential customers at the table if you use a demographic focus.

 

I can’t remember the source but I know I have read that attitudinal marketing & targeting can be 6x more effective than a demographic approach.

 

 

 

I imagine if I wanted to close this article with a factoid that’s a good one.

pope cracking the habit

January 9th, 2015

Shonagh Rae illustration

——–

“We like security: we like the pope to be infallible in matters of faith, and grave doctors to be so in moral questions so that we can feel reassured.”

=

Blaise Pascal

“The Pope loves everyone, rich and poor alike, but the Pope has the duty, in Christ’s name, to remind the rich to help the poor, to respect them, to promote them.”

=

Pope Francis

——–

 

Well.

 

 

 

 

Despite the fact I recently wrote that the Pope doesn’t care if Fido goes to heaven … I love the new pope.

 

 

Popes in the past have had a nasty habit <pun intended> of pissing me off. Not that they care about lil’ ole me but while being a good shepherd to their masses it just seemed like they were not only carrying an antiquated point of view they just seemed out of touch with:

 

<a> the real world,

and

 

 

<b> some of the shit that was happening in their own city <the Vatican>.

 

 

This pope?

 

 

He’s the ”fo’ shizzle.”

 

This guy is not only rattling the Roman Catholic Church but he also seems to be trying to build a relationship with other religions AND non- Catholics in general.

 

 

He seems to get that credibility, based on knowledge and reality, is … well … dead endgood.

Maybe even … uhm … a path to heaven.

 

 

 

 

 

Look.

 

 

I’m not religious myself, but must say I love this Pope.

 

My only question is how long the crackpots in the Vatican will allow him to do what he is doing <and saying>.

 

I hope he is not stopped or anyone quietens him.

 

Frankly.

 

 

He is a breath of fresh air.

 

I will even go a step farther.

 

 

This guy has more brains and balls than most of today’s corporate CEO’s.

 

 

This guy has more raw management & leadership talent than any, and yes … I mean ANY, politician.

 

 

I like he sees the plight of the poor and wants to do something about it.

 

 

 

I like he sees what appear to be overflowing coffers of the super greedy and I absolutely like he is not afraid to say something about the ongoing class-based fight against the worlds poor.

 

 

capitalism desperate

<class based meaning … the wealthy. Or wealthier, have a nasty habit of discussing helping the poor and then immediately turning around and suggesting ‘we are building a hand-out world’>

 

 

 

I like the fact that he sees … well … the planet as almost a living breathing Catholic. One which needs to have the rights of an individual <not to be raped, not to be subjugated, not to be denigrated, and given the opportunity to prosper> and not judging it based on ‘the largest profit margin possible.’

 

 

 

I like the fact he is building a self-image with a clear vision <what would Jesus do> which is simple … but unflinching in facing the corporate and political icons of the world.

 

 

I like the fact his message is clear and simple.

 

 

I like that he sees there is talking a good line and then there is walking the good line when the rubber hits the road.

 

 

 

I like that he appears to be engaging in a, well, noble fight in a world currently battling greed & materialism.

 

 

 

In fact.

 

 

 

I like what I see so much … I am willing to forgive him for not permitting dogs to go to heaven.religion god literally

 

 

 

It is quite possible he sees himself as having to deal with bigger issues.

 

 

He may.

buzzwords aren’t bullshit they are weeds

September 9th, 2014

weeds are flowers too

 

 

——

“We are becoming addicted to bullshit buzzwords.

Emails are full of “I’m an insider” jargon, blog posts brim with tech duckspeak, and resumes are loaded with meaningless action verbs.

Everyone’s always implementing or enabling or optimizing or leveraging.

There are endless value streams, efficiencies, solutions, infrastructures, and enterprises.

These buzzwords are often a mask.

People who use them are covering up their ideas — or the lack thereof.

They are overcompensating.

They don’t have anything substantial to say so they try to use impressive sounding words instead.

But people who abuse buzzwords don’t sound smart.

They sound like they are trying to sound smart.

Big difference.

People who really get it aren’t impressed by this sort of jargon.

They smell BS.”

=

bullshit smell

One Monkey’s Uncle

——

Well.

 

 

 

I will begin my thoughts on buzzwords <see ‘bullshit’ in the dictionary> by mentioning business books.

 

 

 

 

Business books are to the weed industry as to what Scott’s is to the grass industry.

 

 

 

Business books cultivate the most resilient weeds ever known to the business world – buzzwords.

 

 

They set solid roots because most of these words aren’t really wrong … but they are also really not right.

 

 

 

 

They look good … sometimes as attractive as the plush grass surrounding them.

 

 

They can grow in any business climate.

 

 

They are not seasonal … an all year plague to the environment.

 

 

 

That said.

 

 

I just do not read business books <unless forced to>.

 

 

 

Many people seem surprised when I say I don’t read a lot of business books.

 

 

Sure.

 

 

 

I have scanned Tipping Point to 7 Leadership Habits to Purple Cow stuff … but I start tuning out when the buzzing in my ears makes it difficult to separate fluff from the fold.

 

 

 

I guess Voltaire must have faced his generation’s version of bullshit because he said this:

 

 

—-

buzzword lifecycle

“A witty saying proves nothing.”

=

Voltaire

—–

 

 

 

I guess what drives me a little nuts about it all is the fact that all these witty buzzwords are simply old ideas <often very good solid ideas> being covered up in something new and glittery <or gooey> and re-introduced.

 

 

 

They are simply great looking weeds dotting a lawn you are doing your best to maintain.

 

 

And ultimately all the bullshit words, i.e., buzzwords, do two things:

 

 

=

–          confuse people

confused

Whoa.

You would think a word <or simple phrase> that can capture the essence of a thought would be a powerful communication tool in clarity … and not confusion.

Well … therein lies the strength of this weed.

It simplifies to such an extent in this beautiful soundbite that it has to ignore the true complexity of which it actually addresses.

brand obscurity complex

And then the beautiful phrases start rolling off the tongue like honey …
“You can’t have your cake and eat it, so you have to step up to the plate and face the music.”

Huh.

Look.

For example.

Downsizing just means you fired people.

Best practices simply means you had a worse practice … but practice has made perfect <until you revise your best practices to become ‘bester’>.

You get the point.

Straightforward words are … well … straightforward.

They are less confusing.

They don’t sound flashy or sexy but they get you to the finish line faster.

Oh.

confusing-street-signconfusing-street-signpresentist Time_Travel_Speed

And remember time is money.

These books make the authors of the weed fostering landscaping expertise but they cost you, in business, money by either having you try and force fit the weed into your landscape or having to invest the energy trying to kill the weed so you can build the environment you want.

 

 

 

 

Next <number 2>.

 

 

 

 

–          make it more difficult for business people who know what they are doing to do what they need to do.

I alluded to this issue as I ended the first point on confusion.

Sometimes you invest so much time trying to not only explain your own buzzwords but try to match them up with whatever buzzwords are buzzing through all the other business mouths around the table you never get around to doing what you need to do.

“How are we going to build a tribe?” <become Indians>.

bullshit detector

“What is the brand going to promise?” <nothing … it can’t talk>.

“We need to build a plan around the customer” <versus an alien?>.

The difficulty resides in the unfortunate fact that, if you want to get something done, you need to know the room’s vocabulary.

And buzzwords have made it more difficult. All they have done is increase the size of the minefield you need to navigate in a business environment. They have increased the complexity to conduct business in a common sense way.

Buzzwords are just good looking weeds.

And while I am truly only interested in creating the most beautiful business landscape you have ever seen … I know I have always wanted to know the most recent business book a person I am meeting with has read so I don’t get blindsided by some new word <weed>.

Is this a good use of time? Probably not.

But that is how business is done these days.

In fact … it has become such a standard road block to doing common sense business that I have also made it a standard business practice with groups I have managed to hand out a list of words and definitions at the beginning of a meeting so there is at least some alignment on vocabulary.

And just as something to think about … oftentimes these are the most basic words – vision, mission, difference, distinctness, character, personality … bla bla bla.

—-

 

 

bull in china business

 

Ok.

 

 

So I say those two things to things to suggest buzzwords & bullshit is … well … a time consuming energy sucking business practice.

 

 

 

These words have been bantered about so often by so many people it is almost like that game you play where you put ten people in a line and the first whispers a scripted thought to the person next to them and then that person whispers it to the next person … and so on … and the last person has to write down what was whispered to them to compare with the original script.

 

 

 

Uh oh.

 

 

99% of the time it has been mangled in some way. And in the mangling it actually loses its true meaning.

 

 

 

This means that, somewhat surprisingly, you spend a lot of time upfront trying to match up their words to your words. But you may as well get it out of the way upfront <and at least you know how much time you have left to talk about what needs to be talked about>.

 

 

 

At their worst I have seen buzzwords bog down a great business idea because someone wanted to make the idea “fit” to a buzzword rather than care about the idea.

 

 

 

It can be frustrating.

 

 

 

But here is the good news <said sarcastically>.

 

 

 

There is an actual Buzzword Bingo game invented in 1993 by Silicon Graphics so you can recognize the words.

 

 

 

The concept was popularized by a Dilbert where the characters play it during an office meeting.

 

 

 

Uhm.

 

 

 

Let me tell you … I do not plan on writing a business book … but if I do … I would not take it as a good sign if it would show up in a Dilbert comic strip or The Office or any sitcom.

 

 

 

Anyway.

 

 

 

 

If you want to generate your own bullshit buzzwords, here you go:

 

 

http://www.dack.com/web/bullshit.html <fabulous word generator>.

 

 

bullshit language

 

And now I will share some of my favorite weeds which cannot be killed.

 

 

 

 

Oh.

 

 

 

You should note the part that really sucks.

 

 

Some of these words are addictive.

 

 

 

You use them once in a sentence, even without thinking, and before you know it you use it again maybe later in the day.

 

 

Then the next day it pops up again randomly.

 

 

 

And then again.

 

 

 

And then … well … you have been sucked into the buzzword black hole.

 

 

 

<insert a loud ‘sigh’ here … as I know I have fallen into it on occasion>

 

 

 

Some of the weeds dotting your lawn …

 

 

 
———

 

 

Team player

Incentivize

Synergy <synergize, sin … oh … no … that one is okay>

Cutting edge <bleeding edge, dull edge, anything associated with any edge … but not The Edge of course …>

Transformation <transforming, Transformers>

Reengineering, Reengineer, Fire engineers

Paradigm <paradigm shift>

Leverage <de-leverage>

Best practice <versus … okay practice, bad practice, no practice, piano practice>

Holistic <solutions neutral, 360 view, right solution right time>

Vertical Market <niche market, silo demographic, user nation, loser nation>

Benchmark

Framework

Strategic Alliance <… I have always been curious … would you ever have an alliance with someone you didn’t see eye to eye strategically with?>

Ball’s in your court <delegate, dump, avoid responsibility>

Win – win solution <versus the ever attractive lose – lose solution>

User friendly <client focused, service oriented, customer centric … as if saying it out loud will make it happen>

Team dynamics <no ‘I’ in team>

Value added <because why wouldn’t I seek as many de-valuing ideas as I could?>

Goal oriented

Empowered/Empowerment

State of the art

Smartsize <versus idiot proof … or maybe “murphy’s law proof” which … by the way … is not possible>

Change the goal posts <milestones, re-vision, target goals>

Reinvent the wheel <who said the wheel was so awesome?>

Dot the i’s <cross the t’s, umlaut the o’s>

Think outside the box <which I tend to believe means that you are endless wandering somewhere outside the box of what matters>

Down size

 

 

——-

 

 

 

Ouch.

 

 

 

 

My head hurts from all that bullshit.

 

 

 

Regardless.

 

 

 

I get to end this buzzword rant with an advertising campaign from a company who I would have assumed has a PhD in bullshit buzzwords <IBM> and yet they poke fun at all the bullshit.

 

 

 

 

I truly appreciated IBM’s television campaign which kind of poked at its old image to make a point about their new attitude <and it is actually pretty funny and it is really well done>.

 

 

 

Great campaign using bullshit bingo to communicate a straight talking attitude.

 

=

IBM bullshit: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d5zRe8wa4pM

=

 

 

 

A last thought.

 

 

A quote.

A quote about weeds as a matter of fact.

 

 

 

 

While Bill Bernbach is talking below about advertising I believe it is more about communication in general.

 

 

It is talking about talking about ideas <yeah. that made sense>.

 

 

 

 

So maybe we should think of buzzwords not as bullshit but as weeds to be plucked from the garden.

 

 

 

——

“Our job is to kill the cleverness that makes us shine instead of the product.

simple but significant
Our job is to simplify, to tear away the unrelated, to pluck the weeds that are smothering the product message.”

=

 

Bill Bernbach

 

 

——-

 

 

 

 

Just as weeds are the bane of any good lawn … bullshit words are the bane of the business world.

 

 

 

When in doubt … pluck the weeds.

 

 

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

——-

 

Ok.

 

 

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.
Well.

 

 

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.

 

Ok.

Seriously.

 

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.

 

 

Regardless.
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.

 

 

Now.

 

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>.

 

Smart.

 

vw zen

VW?

 

Did the same.
And maybe the second best example.
IBM.

 

Whew.

 

 

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>.

 

 

Why?

 

 

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.

 

 

 

So.
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.
Anyway.

 

 

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.

 

 

Well.

 

Maybe you are just lost.

 

 

 

So.

 

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.

 

 

Oh.

 

 

And it can create some amazing sales results.

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

——

 

 

Ok.

 

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

 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GyV_UG60dD4

 

 

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.

 

 

Awesome.
Frickin’ awesome.

—-

Bonus.

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

—–

 

 

Ok.

Next.
The serious part second.

 

 

Buzzwords.

 

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?

 

 

 

Well.

 

 

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>.

 

 

Next.

 

 

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.
Regardless.

 

 

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

 

————-

 

 

Ok.

 

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.’

 

Absurd?

 

 

Yup.

 

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

 

 

Well.

 

 

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>.

 

 

Uhm.

 

 

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.”

 

 

 

Uhm.
But.

 
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>.

 

 

Look.

 

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.

 

 

Yup.
Therein lies the beauty & power of unevenness.

 

Regardless.
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?

 

 

Well.

 

 

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.

 

 

 

Well.

 

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>
Look.

 

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.

———-

Anyway.
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.

 

Regardless.

 

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.

 

——

Ok.

 

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.

 

Ok.

 

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.

 

Anyway.
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.

Enlightened Conflict