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Be. Prove. Do.

If you say it be it. If you say it prove it. If you say it do it. Branding words to live by.

Every brand needs a claim or promise. The power and relevance of the promise is why companies invest in a brand strategist. Sadly, many brand promises are simple ad taglines. The one that comes immediately to mind is Northwell Health’s “Go North.”  It was developed, I believe, by JWT, NY as a smile at the end of each TV Ad.  Luckily, Northwell CMO Ramon Soto, hasn’t used the line on signage, called a logo lock-up. Monigle, the Northwell re-brand agency, probably counseled so. They know the difference between a brand strategy and tagline.

Go North is not a promise. It’s not much of anything except perhaps a dose of name-onics, a term initially coined by NY ad shop Jordan Case McGrath (I think). Go North-Northwell, get it?

You can’t be north. You can’t prove north. And you certainly can’t do north.

I rant here today because I saw another Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center ad over the weekend whose advertising tagline is actually a brand idea. And a good one. “More Science. Less Fear.”  As good as MSKCC is at cancer, they are not good at brand strategy. The ad, a wonderful cure story testimonial, attempted to “prove” its more science claim with the words “groundbreaking treatment.”  No explanation. As if potential cancer patient aren’t patient enough to read about a real treatment.

Be. Prove. Do.



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I was reading a story this morning about ResearchGate a social media community for researchers. It’s a place where they can get together online to share ideas, sources and projects – the end game of which is to accelerate project completion. If Facebook is the 800 lb. gorilla, social media plats (short for platforms) are smaller more discrete communities where people can commune and learn. Edmodo is one such for educators. Houzz is one for home remodelers.  And Etsy for people selling their home made crafts.

These category-specific social media plats bring the world’s resources to our fingertips. I remember talking and thinking about this while in a strategic role at (start-up) Zude in 2006.  Then, a few years later, while working for JWT on a “future of work” project for client Microsoft, the topic came up again under the guise of something I named the “logged and tagged workforce”  — an idea where was the project was more important than the workers.

The web opens up worlds of information and data to everyone. Google’s ability to search this information has transformed our lives. But as search matures and we pull back in search of better ways to get stuff done, I’m realizing how random and mis-organized is the Google sphere. Smaller learning and sharing communities are the future. And they won’t be free either.

More to come, once I dump the cache.




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Truffle Insights

Brand planning insights are a dime a dozen.  Upper echelon planners know which insights are the truly special ones. They know which to chase and which to leave alone. Insights that change markets are like truffles. Truffle Insights make you sweat. They set off the galvanic skin response.  Truffle insights spark what Maslow referred to as a peak experiences.

I once did a deck while freelancing at JWT on the Microsoft Office business, containing 7 or 8 truffle insights. There were so many the deck got filed.  It impressed but was hard to deal with. Too many truffle insights creates the “fruit cocktail effect,” it tastes good but leaves no visceral differentiation. So savor your truffle insights. Don’t re-bury them.

I’m reading David Brooks’ NYT Op-Ed piece today in which he discusses the 10,000 hour rule researched by Anders Ericsson and written about by Malcolm Gladwell. It suggests 10,000 hours of practice can trump innate intelligence.  Do 10,000 hours make you a truffle insight digger? Not necessarily. But it certainly helps.

If you put in the work and burnish your instincts, you may just becomes an effective truffle insight hunter.



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I had three meetings yesterday in the city (NYC) all of which touched upon the on-demand economy. My first was with a strategist leaving full-time employ for a freelance arrangement. Following a merger and reorg, this senior employee was thought to be more valuable as an on-demand or freelance employee. This planner also now has a business card from another agency, as chief planning officer, for use in on-demand situations. My picture, BTW, is on a couple of company websites as a brand strategist (stringer?), but these are just bits in the ether.

we work

My two other meetings were at We Work campuses. We Work offices are “rent ‘em when you need’em” places that provide full office services, on demand. It’s a wonderful business model if not a little “Just Mayo.” The upside of We Work facilities is they tend to be peopled by a younger generation of workers who are good fits for the agile on-demand economy. For start-ups and end-ups, We Work is a great solution. I suspect We Work’s will soon come in flavors and one day account for 40% of NYC rent, but that’s a tale for another day.

Suffice it to say, the on-demand nature of business today is an exciting response to the times. In a deck I did for JWT, Microsoft’s ad agency a few years ago, I called foretold of this phenomenon with a slide on the “Logged and Tagged Workplace.” A place where individual workers become less important and their work product and assets more. Another cool, if unsettling, concept.


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Brand journalists aren’t for every company. Certainly most small companies can’t afford them. The first brand journalist I ran into worked for JWT, a forward thinking ad agency. He worked on Microsoft and helped the brand do some really smart things in the B2B space. But he worked for the agency. When I moved client side to an educational technology company, I was lucky enough to have a chairman with enough vision to see the value of a brand journalist. We hired a photographer/videographer who was also a wonderful visual storyteller. His ability to make people feel things was amazing and powerful.

Thomas Simonetti was his name and he came to us with a newspaper background. The company we worked for, Teq, had a great brand strategy and I helped Thomas understand it: the claim and the proof planks. The plan was Thomas’s story guide. His mission: Go forth, research, compile and communicate stories that convince consumers that are what we say we are. We do what we say we do. We live how we say we live.

A traditional journalist has no agenda. That’s what makes them good. Brand journalists have an agenda. And that’s what make brands great. And rich. And successful. Peace.


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Yesterday I had two meetings that excited the heck out of me. The first one was in NYC with a geotechnical and foundational engineering firm nobody knows. Okay, maybe 10,000 people know them.  The office looks like any other: water coolers, file cabinets, a library, cubicles, some offices, an oversized printer. Young men and women tread the halls with folders and laptops in hand. You might think your were at Razorfish or JWT. What is cool about the place is that this firm is the premier engineering firm for what goes below ground to undergird huge building structures like the new Freedom Tower. There’s very little they don’t know about soil, pressure, rock and water. If you are taking a building down and you are afraid the neighbor’s building might be compromised, these guys are your first call. With over 100 year history in NYC, their foundations are keeping the city standing upright. To walk through the offices? Just a bunch of smart people.

My other meeting was with a healthcare company that is changing the way healthcare is ministered. The current model of healthcare is to pay physician to treat the sick. This group is paid to keep patients healthy. Before you get diabetes, this group of physicians wants to catch it. Before your grandma falls and breaks her hip, this group wants to remove the loose rugs. Walk through their office and you’ll see PCs, coffee machines, cubicles and other nondescript equipment. Just a bunch of smart people. Saving lives.

The first company was a hundred plus years old, the second about 4. One company is rock steady, the other fluid and evolving. Both have strong leadership, good culture and serve markets with pend up demand. There is an amazing amount of good in the commercial world, you just have to pay close attention. Peace!


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In a presentation I wrote while with JWT during its tenure on Microsoft I came upon an insight I called the “logged and tagged society.”  It was intended to be a business insight identifying how employees at larger companies are somewhat interchangeable – with knowledge workers being replaced by armies of freelance soldiers with log-ons and access to tagged assets, information and data. But that was then…a couple of years ago.  It’s still true but logged and tagged now is also extends to consumer life.

Facebook yesterday launched a new search tool called Search Graph which does more than count likes, it attempts to get one to personal proclivities faster.  I tried to read the story but got a little tangled and bored and twitched away. That said, it is Facebook’s way of trying to improve search results keeping people on “the book” and making more of da monies.   Using my logged and tagged lens, it’s their way of fighting through the tags and searchables.

As the searchable words and tags grow in this exponentially data driven world (Can I read any more big data stories before breakfast???), search will continue to become less accurate and in need of improvement.  And as communications agents continue to spread the pop marketing fallacy that consumers own brands, this environment will create greater demand for brand planners. Brand planning is about returning control to marketing…not algorithm tweaking.


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Brian Clark of GMD Studios in NYC and Winter Park, FL, home of Rollins College, is a diamond-in-the-rough marketing consultant.  He’s kind of like Jonas Salk the inventor of the polio vaccine, before the invention.  Brian gets marketing, he really gets film, his views on transmedia (the flow between media types) are prescient and he keeps his eyes open. Brian enjoys his view beyond the dashboard.

I met him a couple of times, once while we worked as contractors for JWT on Microsoft, and he knows where we are going with this multimedia thing. A statement like that presumes I know where we are going, but follow Brian’s lead first.

He’s a diamond-in-the-rough, I say, because this stuff is hard to fully comprehend. Selling better is hard. Experiential marketing is real but much of it is still theoretical. So when Brian does presos on phenomenology, he’s in the ballpark but it’s a bit rough. And heady. (Check it out on Slideshare.)  Transmedia, as a term, is in the ballpark too but lacks poetry. My view of the experiential and transmedia realm, using language like “fast twitch media” and “twitch point planning” is a bit more intriguing and motivating, but still theoretical.

Thanks to technology and thanks to art forms – with more art forms to be invented – we are on the verge of major media and marketing advance. The inventions are a comin’.  And fun it will be. Do help! And watch Brian and his company.  Peace.    

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Google’s brand strategy used to be “organizing the world’s information” or putting the “world’s information one click away.”  Larry Page, seeing that his market share slipped 1.2% last year has decided to change that. He’s renamed the search division the knowledge division.  This, ironically, is the Microsoft Bing strategy – so eloquently presented in the “information overload” campaign developed by JWT a couple of years ago.  The difference between “information” and “knowledge” being that the latter takes you closer to a decision — closer to a sale.  This is a mistake.  The strategy did not move the market significantly for Bing and won’t for Google.  Google needs to stick to owning search and leave our brains to us.

cave art

What has disrupted search on the web is the smart phone. (See cover story in the NYT today for excellent piece on this.) Mobile phones are not built for full screen search, so app developers and VCs have set their sights on specialized, robust search and retrieve mobile experiences that remove the chaff and get us to information right away.  These apps, by specializing and using geo-location, trump Google and search on mobiles. They are hot — but proper monetization still isn’t happening. Ads on mobiles are still cave art.

Let’s solve the mobile ad thing by 2015.  Any ideas?   Peace.

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My current company Teq is looking to hire a person who is part blogger, part videographer, part brand raconteur. At JWT there is a great writer and mind — Kyle Monson, whose title was Brand Journalist. Today, he is titled Editor and Content Strategy Director.  I like his previous cognomen better.  I’ve used the words Media Socialist a few times in my blog but never put a job spec together for it. Media socialist, to me, suggests all media are important and all parts of the target are important.  But my company is in the business of selling educational development, with the emphasis on selling, so I’m going to use the title Content Socialist, putting the focus on the message rather than the media.

The hire will have to manipulate readers and viewers with strong content, but that will only work if the content is good for the community – the tribe.  Too many social media professionals are about their brand and the pass along.  They should be about what’s good of the target community.  One of my guard rails for social is “be interested in what your target is interested in.” That’s social. 

Social media professionals will abound in corporate marketing departments in coming years. Soon, ours will have its first content socialist and I am ecstatic. Peace!

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