Monthly Archives: August 2012

Brooklyn Nets, the brand.



I actually just typed NJ Nets into the headline, that’s how powerful is that muscle memory. From a global standpoint — on the planet today — Brooklyn is a bigger brand than New Jersey.  Jay-Z is a bigger brand than Shawn Carter. Barclay’s Bank and Barclay’s Center are bigger than Bruce Ratner and Mikhail Prokhorov. Messrs. Ratner and Prokhorov, though well-known in certain global circles, are building something truly amazing from the ground up that will transcend Deron Williams, Joe Smith and Dwight Howard.

By allowing Mr. Carter, aka Jay-Z, who happens to own one fifteenth of one percent of the Nets to be brand manager and face of the franchise, Mr. Ratner and Mr. Prokhorov have insured not only success but brand cachet. This isn’t some Robert Moses shizz anymore, knocking down brownstones, this is music. And sports. And rebirth.  This is an overdog story turned into an underdog story. Thanks to Jay-Z, the attachment rate of coolness to the Brooklyn Nets brand is como se rich.

It is all good right now.  (The NY Knicks could steal a page.) Jay-Z is smiling and respected. His empire fits nicely into all of this. But the moment disrespect rears its ugly little head – as power and influence begins to change – there may be trouble.  Let’s not go there. All the players have done too much right. Celebrate. Brooklyn. Where my people are from. Peace!

Doing Good’s Work.


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!

Be original.


Originals are what non-originals are compared too.  If an original is good enough to be parroted, it must have had impact.  Originality stimulates.  It’s lightning in a bottle.  But while marketing companies are all about replicating consistency in product delivery, marketing departments must strive for originality in communications and packaging. Sadly, they often don’t. When “epic” becomes the word for a certain demographic, it’s too late to use it in ads. Stride gum, for instance, “epic” in its tagline and as the maypole idea for new commercials.

Parrots are a novelty, but you can’t keep them in your living room.  Batman 2 will always be compared to Batman 1. The remake of True Grit will always lie in the shadow of The John Wayne version. And in advertising and marketing, being first and original is what creative people live for. Approvers aren’t comfortable with originality and that’s a shame.

Original beauty. Original music. Original design are what capture attention. So go forth (Levi’s) and capture. Peace.   

Price Mobility.


Variable pricing is a brand’s worst friend.  Pricing, one of the 4 Ps of marketing, is something that shouldn’t be messed with.  Typically, brands are categorized by consumers as value, competitive or pricey. Brands can drop their prices for things like trial and loyalty – but a price strategy that consumers can’t grok over time is not helpful.  Catalina and a few other marketing companies are helping brands and retailers use variable pricing on hand-help devices in stores – and it’s a shiny new thing. If you tend to like healthy foods, your store visit might push a special price to you in the cereal aisle. That price might be $1.00 less than your neighbor in the same aisle.  Part loyalty, part promotion, the insight driving this tactic is really the 80-20 rule.  80% of a product is purchased by 20% of the consumers.  So finding more repeaters is a smart goal. Just not sure this is the way to do it.

If variable pricing takes off and product costs changes weekly, it will have a negative impact on brand loyalty. It will create complexity where none is needed. There are much better things to do with mobile devices me thinks. Peace. 

Strategy is not a curveball.


Strategy is not a curveball.  It’s not hard to hit. It’s a fastball.  Strategy should come in straight, have a predictable trajectory and as long as you can put the bat out there and swing level, you make contact.

Here’s where things can go wrong.

  1. 1.    If the strategy, as an organizing principle, is not straight forward. If it’s malleable enough for the person who sets it to approve work product that isn’t over the plate. Strategy is not subjective.  Setting curveball strategy is mismanagement.  Strategy can change, mind you, but not on the fly.
  2. 2.    If the strategy is straight forward, well-explained and outlined, but not adhered to by team members, it’s a fail.  Strategy used as a guide, or directionally – open to personal interpretation — is useless. Carrying out the metaphor, the pitch is a fastball, but the hitter is just mad swinging all over the place.

The “s” word (strategy) is as over-used and misused as the “b” word (brand). But it is the most fundamental word in business. Peace.    


NY Mets and Customer Service.


I was at a Met Game last night and fairly normal looking couple, perhaps in their 50-60s, were sitting in front of me. Our aisle seats were 9 rows from the field, 50 feet from 1st base. Midway through the game a suited young man with a badge around his neck came up to the gentlemen, took a knee and chatted him up. The youngish man smacked of customer service, but also seemed a friend.  I couldn’t hear what they were saying but the customer care person did not at all seem solicitous. On the back of patron’s ball cap was an understated logo for Chevrolet, so I assumed he was a return customer.

Later, I saw a nice looking women, similarly badged, walking up the aisle in a dark skirt suit – presumably another customer service person.

The Mets/Citifield experience is really quite good. Especially for the corporate customers. High-end ticket owners are spending money and they are taken care of. Not smothered – but recognized and assisted. The wins and losses are not always controllable; the experience should be.  (Now, if they could just get that waiter to stop asking everyone if he could take their order every 2 minutes. )

The Mets and Wilpons are building a customer relationship experience that is laudable.  No scrimping there. Peace!

i vs. Smart.


There are two brands in the mobile phone business iPhones and smartphones. In the U.S. and U.K. the “i” is winning.  In the ROW (rest of world) the smarts have it. Smartphone is a generic term and more often than not includes phones with Google’s Android operating system. That said, most people just call them smartphones not Android phones. 

As Microsoft starts to improve its standing in the U.S. with its own Windows phone operating system (7 or 8?) it, too, will probably be referred to as a smartphone.  Remind you of Mac vs. PC? 

What I enjoy about branding – way more than using paid media to display my ideas in market – is to listen to the market, hear how it speaks and thinks, and use the market’s own language to  gain conversation.  iPhone is paid, smartphone is organic. Mac is paid. PC is organic.

Xerox is paid and organic.  

Apple is a lovely brand.  It has taught the world how to design and market. The world is catching up. It needs a new I, me thinks.  Peace!



Celebrate, rinse, repeat.


I often use the word “celebrate” when talking about branding. It’s a great word. Once you have your brand idea and planks together, spending money and calories celebrating your product, service and/or customer is the best way forward. A great many ads and sales schemes focus on tearing down competitors.  Consumers don’t appreciation that. They appreciate and gravitate toward the positive.  “If you don’t have something nice to say…” 

When it comes to advertising, too often we build ads that people like.  By celebrating the above, we are building up products people like. There’s a difference.  One can imply a negative, so long as it’s done by superimposing a positive.  One of my favorite ad sayings is “make them feel something, then do something.” Feeling good is good. Peace!

Brand Planning and the Natural Order.


For the first time in over a century the Elwha River in Washington state is running free.  Dammed up for reasons that made sense a long time ago, the gub-ment has decided to tear down those mud walls. And the salmon and others, with mud in their eyes, are starting to reclaim the river that made them flourish. So we found a work around for the original function of the dams and are making ecological and planetary progress by letting the natural order reestablish itself.  In a few years, when we screw up, we’ll simply “stick a few stem cells on it” and all will be right – that’s not a good future.   

Why talk about the Elwha? Because good brand planning is a bit like understanding the natural order.  If a planner truly gets the organic flow of a product and service, then s/he havs a great foundation.  Many planners, marketers, ad agency campaign makers don’t get that flow, they just get the flow of money. They manage the flow of money and mortgage the brand. This approach builds dams. And culverts.  I believed Steve Jobs when he said he wants to market things consumers will need. You can buy the market, but that’s despotism and doesn’t create good brand will. Create product consumers will need, by understating the flow.

Brand planners need to get the natural order of their category and product before they attempt to benefit. Peace!


Target Ad a Bulls Eye.


There is a Target spot running on the Olympics showing high school seniors opening up their college acceptance letters. It is riveting. Had I to do it all over again, I would have studied harder so as to live that letter opening moment.

I don’t remember the casting or any individual kid in the spot; I do remember the excitement and raw jubilation in each performance.  Back to school ads hit August first or thereabout and typically are a bummer.  Muscle memory for back to school is the antithesis of that for the words “snow day.”   

One of the best back to school ads I have seen was from Staples, I believe, and showed the over the top excitement of a mother packing her shopping cart with supplies, dancing and grinning through the store knowing the little treasures were going back to school. Funny yes.  Engaging yes. It did not hold a candle to the Target spot; a spot so pregnant with possibility, aspiration and energy it almost made me smile out loud (SOL). The target spot was about a celebration that should tie parents and kids to the Target brand. Even subliminally.

This is an ad, yet it has the power and depth to be a brand idea. Great work Target. You learned a lot from Wieden+Kennedy. Good on you. Peace!