punk rock

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NYC painter Jean-Michel Basquiat once told a friend as they walked home from a gallery one night “I’ll learn to draw later, first I want to get famous.”  Sounds awfully backwards, unless you were a child of the 70-80s in NYC where punk rock and musicians were inventing a new scene.   Lots of people had established personal brands through dress, hang-outs, hair and behavior while working on their art. For instance, on any given night if you saw a black Schwinn with a leather jacket chained to it in front of a rock club (in the winter), I was inside. (Lines for the coat check at 3-4 in the morning were way too long.)   

While these artists-in-waiting fiddled with guitars, paint or prose during the day, between shifts as a waiters or bike messengers, they were focused brand builders. They had a vision, a sense of the time and an organizing principle.

Think if them as startups. I’ve helped build startup brands before and they all tend to over-hang the market — meaning offer promise before availability. And if you think of it, most small companies without brand strategies are startups. Even if fairly established. They are businesses, not brands. No brand plans in place to establish behavioral identity.

It’s always better to be aware of brand while building your art or your business.  It focuses you.   



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So there’s this question bubbling over in social networking and social media that’s on the minds of engineers, entrepreneurs, demographers and account/brand/communications planners: What’s a friend and what’s a community?

The internet and the social web have flattened the world to the degree that language has allowed. (Language, a major usability problem.)  Let’s say you like the punk rock band X but your best friends don’t — you might have to go outside for X soul mates. To Des Moines, Jakarta, or just across the tracks.  These X-ophiles may be your people. Share your love. Be potential  friends.  But now they are just part of an un-gerrymandered community.

Google+ is working on this, allowing circles of people with common interests to become connected. But Pandora and Spotify are trying to do this with music, Artspace.com is trying to do it with art, Ology.com with millennials, and the list goes on and on.  For every topic there is an entrepreneurial with an idea and an answer.  And a VC behind them to feed the frenzy.  And I love it. I loved exchanging punk rock stories with a 20 something in Qatar. It wasn’t creepy, it was awesome.  The kid wasn’t a friend. The kid was part of a community of interest. Danah Boyd, the future CEO of Microsoft, is right about the web; it is an amazing tool, with the ability to harness and free all our positive and negative human energies. But the goods far outweigh the bads.

The debate and commercial applications surrounding what is a friend and what is a community will continue.  And evolve. Marketers and publishers who figure out the different and the byplay will build powerful, powerful things. You friend in the ether, Steve.  Peace!

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I’m not saying we are shallow but if you are walking on the street and 4 people stroll by and one is stunningly beautiful – my pal Terrence tells me men are beautiful too – whom do you look at?   If they are all similarly visaged and one has amazing clothes, whom do your eyes go to?  This is the case for advertising.  First impressions are important.  The more beautiful, the more colorful and artful, the more the ad is likely to strike the consumer.

Many, many ads today are plain, especially those of the digital kind. Consumers have trained themselves not to look at ads. We’ve become immune.  But a pretty ad, an incongruous or stylish ad, gets seen. And always will.  Art directors get this more than copy writers. Great copy writers are on board.  (A punk rock aside, did anyone know the Bush Tetras are in town?) Once seen, an ad has to sell.  If an ad is good enough to borrow your interest and register a product name, some say its job is done. That’s lazy ad craft. A great ad attracts interest, makes you feel something, then makes you do something.

A mother and father always think their babies are cute…even if they are not.  Brand planners and brand managers always think their ads are cute, even if they’re not. They feel a love others don’t.

Art, Science and Strategy must come together for an ad to be great. That’s ASS.  Get you some. (See it works.)

Happy Independence Day. Peace.

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