April 15, 2010 § 6 Comments
So where are the posts, David? Yes friends, I’ve been a little delinquent in my writing, but inspired today by a post written by the awesome Fabeku, I decided to just show up.
Now I don’t want you to think I’ve been idle in my absence. I’ve actually been putting out a fair amount of content, but it has been of a more whimsical and decidedly visual bent. I’ve been a doodling fiend. If you’re interested you can check out the magic marker output (along with the occasional picture shot on the go from my phone) by visiting my posterous at http://davidscohen.posterous.com.
I’ve been enjoying this resurgence of my creativity, and frankly a little nervous about ramping up the degree to which I show the world my soft and silly side, but the fact is I preach authenticity in branding, and by gum I mean to practice it as well. (and how often do you get to say “by gum”?) I expect that the current flood of doodle inspiration will abate a bit over time, but it has been bottled up for a while and it feels good to let the drawings flow and not get too judgmental about them. I’ve picked some fairly humble materials to work with too: basically I’ve been drawing on 4″ x 6″ blank index cards and mostly using Sharpies, pens and highlighters. Sometimes I’ll use nicer art markers too – the highlighter palette is a bit limited. I keep it all on the desk so I can take my doodle breaks, scan them and tweet them to the world. So far, the world hasn’t complained, and I’m grateful for that.
I’m also cooking up a new website for Equation Arts. It’s not quite done yet, but I think it will be a better expression of who I am. Here’s a hint of things to come:
There will also be a lot of the color orange ( I love orange), and some crossover doodles will make their appearance there as well.
I hope that people who connect with me know that I’m a big believer that we all have something special to offer the world and each other, but sometimes we find ourselves framed in the wrong context – that “something special” ends up hidden, muffled, suppressed – unable to shine. So the new website is for me a shift in context toward something more authentic. I hope you’ll stick with me through the transition. Thanks! And remember…
December 19, 2008 § Leave a Comment
In my last post I left off as I sped on my way to Walmart with a short, but important shopping list. Well, sped isn’t the right word. I kind of puttered around a bit and eventually got around to it. The problem was the list. There wasn’t a sexy thing on it. Nothing to rev my engine. Just a few of life’s little essentials. Yawn.
Does a recession have to be boring? I’m craving a little pizzazz – I’m hunting for a sexy brand story to be my beacon of hope as these financial waves keep crashing.
So who has a little sex appeal and makes a strong brand promise? Who gives you what you expect every time? Who never fails to captivate, always commanding our attention? You could call him Mr. Aurum, but ask OldGoldBug and he’ll tell you… it’s gold! Shiny, shiny gold.
Oh you can argue about how it will perform at any given moment, you can argue about when to get in and when to get out, but we can never quite get gold out of our collective imagination. Gold happens. It is like a force of nature. But is it really the brand story that I’m looking for? I mean, who controls gold? We get on board, and ride the ride, but we don’t have the reins. We don’t have a hero. There’s sex appeal, but where’s the role model?
Gold may shine, but it is not a beacon.
So maybe we need more than sex appeal. Maybe the hunt is for a brand that sets expectations and consistently meets them.
What about Coke? Coca-Cola is like gold you can drink, right? In a world of choices it is one we love to choose. Small players will flounder, experimental flavors will come and go, but Coke will endure. It has all the comfort and nostalgia of gold – we can taste it in our minds before we even pour a glass. You can’t do a much better job of turning expectation into anticipation than that. It’s refreshing even in a recession. But where’s the new? Coke hasn’t been around as long as gold, but it is older than you and me.
So here I am in Walmart cool-hunting for a brand that might have a story to tell despite the economy. An”it” brand – a “brand that can” in the shaky days ahead. I know you’re thinking “cool” and Walmart… might as well look for a contact lens in a bubble wrap factory, but their might be a glimmer of hope. The rumors are flying about a certain brand phenomenon making its way into the world of “always low prices” – the iPhone.
Yes, I’m picking Apples over Blackberries this season. The iPhone promised fun and great design and usability and cool. And it delivered. RIM doesn’t know what it is promising anymore. It is slipping into the purgatory of “me-too” when it should be trumpeting its difference and focusing on context.
Now there are some who might argue that putting the iPhone in Walmart will dilute the perceived value of the brand, but at this point all the cool kids and early adopters are already on their second iPhone. The allure of the iPhone is now moving through the mainstream middle and starting to convert some late adopters. And they’ll find plenty of them at Walmart. But that’s only part of it. You see Apple gets the idea of context. Steve Jobs understands alignment. The iPhone exists in harmony with iTunes, the App Store, and a continuity of experience with Mac OS X. The iPods and iPhones are gateway drugs for a Mac experience.
Apple is a beacon and the iPhone is their bright light, and even in a recession we’ll be following that beam towards new and better designs, and consistently (and insanely) great brand experiences.
March 11, 2008 § 1 Comment
When it comes to writing, everyone’s favorite acronym is K.I.S.S. – Keep It Simple, Stupid. Sage advice, but have you ever asked why? Well here’s another acronym for you: S.I.S. - Simple Ideas Succeed.
I often work with technology companies where the product or service is likely to be anything but simple. The desire to explain and build logical chains from features to benefits often eclipses the ability for an idea to get attention. Think about Albert Einstein for a second. Chances are E = mc2 comes to mind before the words “Theory of Relativity” jump into your head. And unless you happen to be a physicist your thoughts are more likely to run to an image of the frazzled-haired genius and not to the concept of energy-mass equivalence.
Does E = mc2 really tell me anything about physics or the nature of the universe? Not really. Not on its own. Not to the uninitiated, or at least not without a good hour spent watching a PBS special, but it is has become a familiar surrogate for a complex idea. The symbol spreads farther and more easily than the underlying complex theory. Thus I give you the sibling acronym, part 2: S.I.S. – Symbols for (complex) Ideas Spread.
Yes, I’m torturing an acronym, but if you want your idea to spread you’ve got to make it portable, and simple ideas are easier to carry around. If the idea can’t be easily reduced to a simple phrase, then roll up your sleeves and keep trying. Look for a surrogate, or an icon that can be invested with meaning. You’ve got to do the work so that the job of spreading your idea, the job you are asking your customers, partners and prospects to do for you, is as easy as possible. That leads to the final sibling acronym for the day: S.I.S. – Simplicity Isn’t Simple.
February 25, 2008 § 3 Comments
Art Butcher of International Business Academies Limited (a.k.a. IBAL) asked me to write a post to share on the IBAL’s new website. While that project is coming together I thought I would share the post here as well:
Everyone has heard of the 3 R’s of education: “Reading, wRiting, and aRithmetic”, but have you heard of the 3 R’s of branding? They are Recognition, Reputation and Reaction.
Recognition: We want our products to be recognized. We want the hard work that goes into packaging our products and services, the money we spend on advertising, and all the planning we do in marketing, to benefit our brand, not the competition’s. This is why logos are important. This is why we craft tag lines and slogans. This is why Coke is so fussy about the exact shade and hue of red in their packaging. This is why McDonald’s is so aggressive about controlling the use of “Mc____” wherever it can.
Reputation: In the end your branding is a suggestion that your company makes about its relevance and meaning, and it is your customers, prospects and partners who get to decide what your brand truly means to them. You can be well recognized, but if your reputation is bad the recognition can hurt you. On the other hand, if your product is undistinguished from your competition, a well-recognized brand alone may not be helping you as much as you think. How often have you sneezed, asked for a Kleenex, and been handed a Puff? Did you notice the difference? Did you care? Recognition is naturally associated with reputation, but the reputation is strongest when it encompasses a unique value or serves the needs of a particular niche.
Reaction: This is where the money is made, or lost. You want your brand to provoke a positive reaction, to get people to choose your product over the competition’s. You want a reaction so positive and strong that it can beat a sale price on a similar item or have a customer choose your service over another solution. But a negative reaction can be brutal. Whether you are being ignored on the shelf, or actively boycotted, a negative reaction cycle can be ruinous to your business.
So how do you tune your branding to get the reaction you want? Well the magic won’t happen if the recognition and reputation aren’t right. You have to take Recognition beyond merely locating yourself in an industry or slapping a logo on your business card. You have to approach Reputation in a mindful way – don’t just let it happen, participate! Align your values with the expectation you set for your brand. Know the boundaries of your message and the expectations you are setting with your brand promises. Be prepared to walk your talk and fix it when you stumble. You are in the business of developing and maintaining trust.
Here a few more R’s for you: Repetition, Reinforcement and Rigor: Consistent and attentive behavior, clearly communicated value, and a track record of disciplined delivery will support the 3 R’s of Branding and will get you seeing the Reactions the matter!
August 22, 2007 § Leave a Comment
That Swiss army knife is great, it has everything in it, and it can do just about anything — if you don’t happen to have any real tools around. The multi-tool sacrifices the ability to do any one thing great, by trying to do everything. Unfortunately, the same is true of a lot of marketing pieces. Anxiety about not missing anything leads to cramming in every last little thing a company can do, so we overload the copy. We think we’re communicating (and therefore selling) the value of the company, but we’re often just causing confusion. In the end this makes messaging less memorable. Each piece of marketing collateral should be serving a purpose, a particular function within your selling process. Don’t try to make every piece do everything. Instead, try to make each piece effective in its given role, and don’t be afraid to hang your hat on the one thing that your company does best. Otherwise, you may end up with a stack of Swiss army knives and still not be able to hammer in any sales.