One word (equity) is not enough

"Could you define the brand in one word?"
In one word?  How about "No."

Albert Einstein was quoted saying: "Make everything as simple as possible, but not simpler."
I don’t know any worthwhile stories or conversations that contain one word, or that focus on just one word. Any brand needs more than that to craft its narrative.

I’m tempted to say something like "The age we live in is very much about creating (new) meaningful connections." but actually, that’s what life’s about, isn’t it?
Well, no connections if there is only one thing. Two are a minimum requirement, and you need a third one if you want movement. The math of stories, one could say.

And if you do take one word and try to use it to link yourself and your audience – you already have something that goes beyond this single word, just by making that connection, you have three points of reference. If that’s the case, you’d better have a better idea of what it might be. And an attempt at articulating it, not necessarily only with words.

If your team or agency get only one word, what they get is a wide open brief to do almost anything with your brand.
Sure, great brands become iconic. Talking about one word alone may give an iconic impression. But being iconic is a result, not a cause.

And if you tell me you want to "own" something, then I’m really going to reach for my gun.

Poetry for these Facebooked times

(the Hebrew version after the fold)

I lost my identity card /Yehuda Amichai

I lost my identity card.
I have to write out my curriculum vitae
all over again for many offices, one copy to God
and one to the devil. I remember
the photo taken thirty-three years ago
at a wind-scorched junction in the Negev.
My eyes were prophets then, but my body had no idea
what was happening to it or where it belonged.

You often say, This is the place,
This happened right here, but it’s not the place,
you just think so and live in error,
an error whose eternity is greater
than the eternity of truth.

As the years go by, my life keeps filling up with names
like abandoned cemeteries
or like an absurd history class
or a telephone book in a foreign city.

And death is when someone keeps calling you
and calling you
and you no longer turn around to see
who it is

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Some thoughts on the significance of lip-syncing (miming) to music

The most successful Israeli viral video of all times (so far, and probably by far), is Tasha’s lip-sync of “Hey” by The Pixies . This video received about 30,170,950 million views, and counting. There probably isn’t an Israeli TV show watched by so many in history, a film or a book seem an unfair comparison.

Lip-syncing was one of the genres which indicated the rise of YouTube and rising dominance of user-created video content. But why did so many people find it engaging as viewers or performers?

On a semiotic level, I find lip-synching fascinating, as it emerges as such prominent “sign of the times”. So this is my go at some “history of the present”…

Lip-syncing seems to me like the child of karaoke, it is the next step in a series of social activities centred around music. Additionally, both of them are socially acceptable ego-trips. Before both, we had sing-songs, with people coming together to sing in a group (The T-mobile singing flash-mob campaign looks more like a mass karaoke than a traditional sing-song).

With karaoke, the original performance remains the central subject of the performance. The performer becomes bigger as she connects with the original cultural artefact. Simply: I sing Bowie’s “let’s dance”, friends and strangers cheer, and for a moment – I touch glory.
The original self melts away, I’m now a vehicle for the song, and my gestures signify the original’s concept of stardom. I’m a prophet and my god is the original pop-culture artefact.
Many karaoke moments are compromised of people getting together to celebrate their mutual cultural history, performing the anthems of their youth, whilst celebrating their chance at feeling the kind of attention saved for pop-icons.

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The mirror case

So I remember this kid I used to know, and we’re talking mid 80’s, yes?

And this kid was 7, maybe less. And he had this thing, for years, when he’d walk up to the mirror and watch himself for a while, and he’ll make faces and concentrate, and then he’d start crying. With big, round, wet tears. Often he’ll be truly bawling.

All this time he’d be staring at his own reflection in the mirror, and I seem to remember him having this intense look. Like he was amplifying and looking through it the same time.

Like he was trying to understand.
Who is this kid?
Why is he crying?
Whose body is this?
Why is it crying?
Whose kid is he?
What do those “crying” signs mean?
Who do they belong to?
And so on…

So lately I’ve been thinking this kid was a pioneer. It seems a lot of kids are doing that these days.
Or maybe he wasn’t and they always had.
Anyway, for some reason, nowadays kids are often quite happy doing it.

And in London they say: jyouknowhaamean?

“Brand strategy reconstructed”, a series of lectures at the London College of Communication

I’ve been invited to lecture at the LCC, one of London’s finest creative education institutes.
Starting next Monday, I’ll be giving a series of six lectures/talks (with view to extend them if it all goes well) to postgraduate students across the different disciplines. This adventure was sparked by prof. Ian Noble while collaborating with his “Graphic Branding & Identity” students on a Brandinstinct pro-bono project.

I’ve always rejected the myth of the suits/creatives split. Have always maintained a common language between marketing, design and other media is important and empowering to everyone involved. Hopefully, I can introduce some useful concepts and break some myths.

(And in case it doesn’t come through: OMG!!!!1! I’m so bloody psyched about this!)

Brand strategy reconstructed
How marketing lost the plot
and how it might find meaning again

Marketing is a discipline in crisis. For the last decades it has become evident to practitioners and scholars alike that many of the trusted old methods were just not cutting it any more. Worse, it now seems some of them weren’t valid in the first place. This series of contemplative talks brings together ideas from narrative studies, semiotics and cultural theory to drive design thinking in solving the challenges of postmodern marketing. Numerous examples will be given from actual projects, popular culture and recent marketing cases.

The first six talks:

1. Marketing, meaning & decadence: an introduction to the sophistication of marketing sign-systems and their tendency to degenerate.
2. Suspicious minds: the myth of “a consumer subject”.
3. On branding and meaning: can a simplified theoretical tool-box cut through buzzwords and hype?
4. Advanced narrative marketing: the untold story of brand stories.
5. Marketing plots: cultural pattern-recognition as a strategic tool.
6. Embracing the mess: how clients and agencies are changing their work culture and methods to encourage more sustainable marketing strategies.

Mondays@17:00, Starting May 18th, excluding 25/5 (bank holiday) and 8/6 (prior obligation).

To my non-UK readers: London College of Communication, formerly London College of Printing, is the largest constituent College of the University of the Arts London, Europe’s largest university dedicated to art, communication, design and related technologies.
Two graduates Israeli readers will know are David Tartakover & Alex Livak.

Things which are everywhere

Which way to go? (Rorschach Test Version) by Thomas Lieser Here are things that are everywhere according to Google. A side effect of working late on a talk about Marketing and meaning (like most of my talks are, as Life is always about something & meaning) taking place in Tel Aviv, this Tuesday, in Hebrew (otherwise it probably wouldn’t have been on Christmas eve):

Recovery, Java, Latency, Change, Art, RSS, Socialism, Elvis, Economics, Rotis, Analog, Location, Design, Snackr, Diversity, Violence, Prishtina, Enterprise search, Music, Elvis (again!), Prishtina (again), Matter (duh), The Pentagon (shiver), Elvis (lives!), Evolution, Ingrid Michaelson (lucky lady), Wildlife, Firefox, Elvis (never underestimate him ever again), Corruption.

End of page three, but it stays interesting.

There’s a web art installation waiting to happen here somewhere.

In the meantime – happy holidays and a happy new year.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(good night and good luck)

Marketing plots: The leader’s lament

 Last time I talked about the generic trap loop. This time I want to talk about another generic trap, a “golden generic cage” of sorts. Another case where being successful brings with it the curse of becoming generic.

I’m fascinated by stories where leading brands become stuck in that generic spot everybody is trying to get out of. These are players who worked very hard to get to the top, only to discover they’re all pretty much the same up there.
As a consultant I really like working with challenger brands, but often find them trudging through a painful plateau, that is something quite depressing for a hard-working
over-achieving team.

This is a plot that repeats in highly competitive global categories, especially with big service oriented B2B companies. In these categories it is common to have hundreds if not thousands of global players, but there will usually be a group of leaders that tower among everyone else. They may be top-5 top-10 or top-50, it depends on the category, but they stand apart from all the rest.

When a brand enters this exclusive club a common mistake will be to get stuck on things that no longer matter for audiences:
“We’ve grown a lot in the last couple of years – nobody seems knows it. Let’s make more noise about how big and good we are.”.
News-flash: no one cares. Of course you’re big, that’s why you’re a top-X player. Thus, this fact becomes boring and irrelevant. Counter-intuitive, eh?

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