baileys café

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I was sitting in a living room a few years ago in Brownsville Brooklyn at the home of the head of a local non-profit.  There were volunteers there from all walks: educators, musicians, politicians, activists, neighbors and me. The organization, Bailey’s Café, for which I ultimately wrote a brand brief, did what I called “Good’s Work.”

The meeting started off with intros and backgrounds, and then surrounded by markers and large paper pads we got down to strategy work. The marketing guy who called the meeting, had never really done a session like this before it seemed, and asked where we wanted to start. Pin drop time. And so you know, Bailey’s Café helps underserved children and elders within the community by putting on programs, tending a community garden, fostering green issues and recycling, music and art appreciation, young girl issues and way way more. The missions of Bailey’s Café were, needless to say, varied.

To break the silence I suggesting we play the Is-Does game. We went around the room and asked “What Bailey’s Café Is” and “What Bailey’s Café Does.”  It got the room energized and began many conversations and discussions.

In brand strategy, the Is-Does is a great place to start.



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Presenting Strategy

I was doing some pro bono brand planning work a couple of years ago in Bedford Stuyvesant on a project called LUG, which stands for Living Urban Green, and learned a valuable lesson.  LUG is a well-intended program, or subprogram, under the auspices of Bailey’s Café, a local community group. Stephanie Siegel and Kymbali Craig are the founders of Baily’s Café.

The LUG meeting was held at Paul Robeson High School and attended by the two founders and number of high schools kids.  I was there to help.  At least that was my intention. The vision for LUG, as explained by the kids was much greater than the name suggested.  Bedford Stuyvesant is a community that does not have a lot of recycling emphasis.  LUG was intended to change that. The words “living urban green” are descriptive and have a nice call-to-action. Part of the mission of LUG, however, was to clean up another element of environmental pollution: cursing, disrespect of women, disrespect of others. I loved this program. The founders loved it and the kids got the mission.

My problem was with the name. Internally we could make LUG mean anything we wanted, but externally, in fund raising, the project would seem recycling focused. I was pushing for narrowing the focus to hit recycling hard or to alter the name to reflect the bigger mission. My high schools students listened politely, but wondered about this interloper. Who is this guy who disagrees with the founders? Ms. Siegel and Craig understood my POV but were watching the kids and got caught up in their body language. (I didn’t see it. These kids were good.)

My branding observation may have been right, but I didn’t work the room very well.  My corporate was showing. Strategy is important but you can’t truly communicate (sell) if you don’t work the room. Moreover, you can’t connect well when people are protective or defensive. Lesson learned. Bad planner. Peace.

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When the economy is bad often the first things businesses cut are advertising and training; line item entries that are not headcount. Sadly, lack of training is hard to compensate for when recovery comes. Training is teaching. And teaching done well is also learning.  Learning what’s what among the young. It’s bidirectional.

When developing a brand plan for a K12 educational technology company I noticed the young teachers were adept at teaching the not-so (how to use technology).  The natives teaching the immigrants, as it were.  

Corporate and business trainers also benefit from the teaching and learning bidirectional approach.  But they have to listen a bit. Everyone is looking for skills and in a changing world skills are not just top down. While working at a social networking start-up I learned how in Japan, kids and seniors are more agreeable to the mentor/mentee thing. There was bidirectional value for both.  In Bedford Stuyvesant, Bailey’s Café has a similarly focus and it is brining the community together.  

The best teachers understand leaning because they have their own learning switch on. Planners are learners first. Socializers second. Strategists third. Always be learning! Peace.

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Doing good’s work is the brand idea I wrote not too long ago for a not-for-profit called Bailey’s Café, in Bedford Stuyvesant, Brooklyn.  A noble, noble women by the name of Stefanie Siegel allowed me to participate and attempt to organize her brand. Check out the site. Jay Leno, is a fan.

For about 7 months, I’ve been working at a for-profit in the education space.  The goal of that company and brand, not dissimilar from the goals of all educational companies, is to improve student achievement. Again, noble, noble work.

For 5 years I did strategic planning and marketing in healthcare, the objective of which was to convey a systematized approach to improving patient outcomes in the communities it served. Noble.   Today I read about how HCA hospital corporation’s profitability is spawning purchases of a number of other hospitals across the country by private equity firms, hoping to cash in on certain margins that can be squeezedand others that can be expanded.  

Somewhere between selflessness and profit is where America ethos lies. Brands that see this, be they for-profit or not, are the brands that win.  They are also the brands I would like to plan for. Even Doctors Without Borders needs someone with a sharp pencil watching over them. Let’s all try to do good’s work. Peace!

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I love a good cause.  Clean water, sans parasites , in the developing world (Africa) is one such. Levi’s jeans, as part of its “Go Forth” campaign, is sponsoring a Facebook program that ask people to click their support for, and once a 100,000 clicks are gathered Levi’s will donate money.   This is “good’s work” (thank you Bailey’s Café) and it will make a difference. I support it and suggesteth everyone go forth and donate. That said, Levi’s still needs a brand idea and “individualism and independence” ain’t it.


If Levi’s cares about the environment, and I know it does, they should jump on the durability wagon.  Buy one pair, don’t get one free, you don’t have to buy another pair for 3 more years.  That’s environmentalism.  And stop with all the stone washing stuff that wears the jeans out a year early.  The worn-in patina of a pair of Levi’s is the badge.  Faded knees, faded pockets, holes in the crotch.  This is life. Not art imitating life.  Don’t pay some schmekel to pre- tear your jeans…get up on the life cycle and wear them out yourself!

Levi’s is one of the great American brands and it has lost its way.  FCB got it.  BBH got it a bit and sexed it up. Wieden and Kennedy, a brilliant shop, has found a core, but it’s the wrong core.  Individualism and independence a brand plank, not “the idea.” 

The project should be left to the PR dept.  Fight the durability fight (it’s American) and get mad credit for the environment – on so many levels. Peace!


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Pepsi ReFunk

Okay I could be tripping and correct me if I ‘m wrong, but wasn’t the Pepsi Refresh Project going to be funded by taking money normally put into Super Bowl ads and reallocated to well-meaning projects around the world.  You know – “Come on world, tell us how you want us to spend our money and we’ll refresh the planet!!!”

I’m all for doing good, or as I wrote in a strategy for Bailey’s Café in Bed-Stuy “doing good’s work”, but the whole Pepsi Refresh thing seems a little off.  Like a big advertising application in search of a product.  Anyway, I read today that Pepsi has a number of spots on the Super Bowl.  And the two most recent posts on the Pepsi Refresh Facebook page are from 17 hours ago and Tuesday.   

I “like” Pepsi’s refresh advertising, its intent and its lovely imagery, I’m just not so sure I want to vote for Pepis with my mouth.  (Drink it, that is.) Isn’t that the point?  And please, don’t tell me the category is mature and everyone knows what Pepsi is  – a similarly expressed sentiment, from earlier this week in a Tostitos article. 

Refresh should be moved to the corporate side of the business – kept alive and funded – but let’s refresh the strategy and move some cases. (The Coke people probably don’t agree.) Peace.

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