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“Apple’s emerging global brand is privacy,” is a statement Farhad Manjoo made in his cover story in today’s New York Times. As someone with access to Tim Cook, Mr. Manjoo has a leg up on me when it comes to statements like this about brand, but this one caught me by surprise. There is an interesting video I watched recently by NYU’s Scott Galloway, in which he shares brand ideas of the top tech brands in the land (Google, Amazon, and Facebook). He smartly pointed out that it’s hard to articulate the Apple brand idea. Using my framework for brand strategy, which is “one idea, three proof planks,” I have to agree with Mr. Galloway. In all my studies and hypotheses of and about the Apple brand I can tell you privacy isn’t a plank I would come up with.  That’s not to say it’s not possible, it just feels a little off-piste. A little “of the moment.”

So when Farhah Manjoo, bandies about the “p” word in a branding context, in the midst of Apple’s kerfuffle with the U.S. government, I think he’s either taking some license or Mr. Cook is playing fast and loose with the brand.






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This is a political commentary and a branding commentary. I was reading an article in The New York Times on ISIS-Syria-Iraq and noticed how the words Islamic State were being used to refer to ISIS, ISIL and the lands occupied thereby. I believe it’s time to stop. If a terrorist organization of Christians were lazily called the Christian State, it would be deemed off-putting and unfair.

Words are important — and if we lazily say Islamic State rather than ISIS or ISIL aren’t we fostering disregard for the 1.6 billion peace loving members of Islam?

I understand using short hand in branding and naming. I plan for it and strategize about it. But you have to look at the downside. From the POV of fair non-Islamic peoples worldwide, we cannot afford to be careless and misleading in how refer to this small group of outliers.

Let’s stop today. Are you listening New York Times?



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A wonderful expression was used in a New York Times article today on the expansion of the American Museum of Natural History. It referred to the changing nature of museums and the old role of museum as “cabinets of curiosity,” where things were collected and catalogued. Museum president Ellen V. Futter, nicely captured the new role saying, “Now what we’re interested in is what the connections are among the different things we have. It’s a much more interdisciplinary world.”

Brand planners sometime get caught up in cabinets of curiosity. And we obsess about them. I know I can. We find an insight that just screams “importance.” And uniqueness. And cultural spark.  But to use Ms. Futter’s words, we must not forget the interdisciplinary role the insights play in the buying habits and behavior of consumers.  The insight we unlock may actually be trumped by another factor. And though it may be a mundane factor besmirch our exciting, newly uncovered insight, we must not overlook it. Awesome insights don’t operate in vacuums. So find them, truly see them, and make sure they fit into the full pattern of the buying consumer. Peace.



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The Jimmy Kimmel’s You Tube video about the Twerk-and-ass-fire, or whatever it was, as of yesterday had 12 M hits. The video explaining it was a hoax had 9 million. Cool idea for the today’s media socialists.  The idea was just that, an idea…an attempt to get noticed.  Heightened by pop culture.

I love reading Cathy Horyn, The NY Times fashion writer, during NY Fashion Week.  (Sponsored by Mercedes??) She reminds me how difficult and amazing the creative process is.  And how powerful opinion leader coverage can be.  These are things brand planners care about. Things ad agencies (didge included) also should care about. 

Agencies could take a page from clothing design houses.  They should occasionally open up the creative process to random creative development — a la what some tech companies do, allowing employees to dedicate 10% of their time to personal free-flow creative projects.  Agencies should just have a place where people of all disciplines can meet and play and invent.  I’m not saying creative for creative’s sake and slap a logo on in; I’m saying play with the new tools, audiences and insights then see how they might apply to specific client business problems. Where unlikeminds can exercise.

Ad agencies today use a serial approach and it stifles creativity.  Just as clothes designers who play around the cutting table with color, drape, pattern and motion, ad shops need a place to play a little more. Feel me?


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Office Depot, according to Stuart Elliott the ad writer for The New York Times, will be conducting an anti-bullying, back to school campaign this summer, using a boy band called One Design (or some such, JKJK). The grab-all idea is: “Live. Love. More” — as in “Live kind. Love everyone. Move together against bullying.” I’m not into 3 word taglines or ideas and the ones that require 8 more words to explain are even more perplaxing but I do love causes. Unfortunately, using causes as a way to break through with your advertising is a fairly common mistake.  They are easy to talk about, easy to surround with quotes, advocates and a powerful narrative. Often though, they are off the brand plan and only slightly tethered to sales — if at all. Plus they are kind of transparent.

That said, bullying is bad so let’s hope this campaign works. The creative idea is a montage too far. It’s almost ad-silly. The idea would be best boiled down to “Live Kind.”  I don’t think Lance would mind (not Lance Stephenson).  You see, if you “live kind,” then you probably try to love all and shun bullying. Live kind is memorable. Familiar, yet unique. It’s also a baby step, not the whole enchilada.  

This campaign is more for parents then kids, I get it. And like aroma therapy, it may provide a nice glow for the brand.  Were I the brand manager, however, I’d do this through the PR group and use my ad dollars to de-position Wal-Mart, Office Max and Amazon.  With a kick-ass, 360 retail effort – trotting out some mobile and twitch point planning tricks. Peace.  

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I half disagree with Marissa Mayer, Yahoo!’s new CEO,  about Yahoo’s challenge.  When asked the question “Does Yahoo needs to define whether it is a technology company or a media company?” she responded “It’s not the right questions.  The most important thing is to give end users something valuable, inspiring and delightful that makes them want to come to Yahoo! every day.”  With that part of her answer I completely agree. But the way to get there — is to become content-focused.  In the NYT article Ms. Mayer’s quote came from, an eMarketer analyst suggested that Yahoo doesn’t own the operating system or the device and that there may not be enough room in the market for a 4th mobile platform. (I hate the “P” word, you can drive a truck through it.) Whatever he meant by platform, my take is there will certainly be enough room in the mobile world for a great content provider.

Ms. Mayer accurately feels that mobile is a growth zone for Yahoo!. If she provides content that is mobile ready, not technology ready – she will grow. Technology-enabled (other people’s technology) content is her north star. Any apps or start-ups that result are gravy.

This gem just needs a little cleaning off. 700 million people can’t be wrong. Peace!


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Leo Apotheker CEO of HP in a recent interview came off as a really smart, refreshingly calm captain of the tech industry.  You know the type, not smiling but almost, methodical and thoughtful in his delivery. Confident, not cocky. He knew his numbers, his trends, margins (everyone’s margins, in fact) and had a plan – a future-proof plan.  Use WebOs as the connective tissue for all computing and communication devices, bolstered by an enterprise cloud play.  Lovely.  Sprawling but lovely. Anyone smell an apple?

Those who read these musings know I am all about focus.  That’s the brand planner in me. HP has been anything but focused over the last 10 years. A printer company. The world’s leading PC company. Outsourcing. Big iron. Smart phones. Tabs. And operating systems. But let’s not forget in the post Carly Fiorina era, this company’s financials have been smoking. So the company’s scale has been a positive.

In a stunning announcement yesterday, Mr. Apotheker went on record as saying he wants to jettison tablets, smart phones and the WebOs as businesses, sell the PC business as a standalone unit and buy Autonomy Software for $10B. Normally, I would support this type of move, especially for a floundering company, but this almost feels other-worldly.

The reported for the New York Times Verne G. Kopytoff (also sounds fishy) used words to describe the PC move such as “dump” and “unload.” What PR person was handling this briefing?   

I understand the need for focus and I get the desire to increase margins through upping the software and cloud quotient, which by the way dials down the need for headcount, but this business move feels bi-polar. I wonder how the story is playing in the HP Personal Systems Group today?  Check the meds. Peace.


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There is a marketing axiom that the majority of consumer product marketing takes place before a buyer arrives at the place of sale. Sure packaging and POS advertising are important but in marketers’ minds most of the heavy lifting has been completed. 

A web start-up assignment I am working on has me thinking about the role of smart phones in the decision making process today. As part of my strategy, I’m asking the web team to make sure the website is consulted before, during and after the shopping experience.  The phone is in hand during all three stages, after all. Why not use it and optimize it.

Toyota is in the news today along with a smart mobile company SpyderLynk discussing ToyoTags, a picture snap-able logo that directs smart phones to online content – the goal of which is to move the consumer closer to a transaction.  An example cited in a NYT suggested that when the Prius was having brake issues not long ago, a ToyoTag snapped in a newspaper ad directed readers to a National Highway Traffic Safety Association report for “truths” about the issue. If you’ve been reading my recent posts on Twitch Point Planning you’ll recognize this as an example of a twitch that moves a customer closer to a sale. A positive twitch.

Finding reasons not to buy and removing them is an agenda of Twitch Point Planning.  Tools like the ToyoTag and SnapTags designed by SpyderLynk are wonderful ammo in this arsenal.  This stuff is not just new for the sake of new, this is purposeful.  Good work. Exciting work. Peace.

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Here’s a marketing challenge:  How do we get the smartest of the smart thinking about renewable energy sources? Michelle Obama has us focused on childhood obesity and is doing a good job. The rest of the government is focused on war and debt and the crisis of financial confidence.  For good measure you can throw in a little healthcare. Sellers of consumer and business goods are “all up” in the digital world trying to leverage Facebook, Twitter and mobile geo services.  Kids are still loving sex, fun and music.

So who is looking out for the planet?  Who is focusing on the fact that we’re literally draining and burning the core of the earth — denuding it of fossil
fuels.  Where’s the water coming from in 5 thousand years?

Pop Quiz.  Name one person in the U.S. that cares the most about the planet? Al Gore is probably the answer. Sad.  Much sad. (God bless him, by the way, but he needs some help.)

Here’s what we need: A VC firm with eyes on the planet prize. Might it be Fred Wilson? John Doerr? Paul Oliver?  Who?  Until that hero emerges, and until the pages of the Wall Street Journal, FT and New York Times start writing about him/her with the alacrity that they use to cover digital tech, we’re screwed. As Thomas Friedman says oil is a destabilizer.  Who is going to step up?  Who dat? Peace!

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