The greatest last place finish ever

09.08.17 Out of the cold darkness he came. John Stephen Akhwari of Tanzania entered the far end of the stadium, pain hobbling his every step, his leg bloody and bandaged. The winner of the marathon at the 1968 Summer Olympics in Mexico City had been declared more than an hour earlier. Only a few spectators remained in the stadium. But the lone runner pressed on. Earlier, Akhwari had cramped up due to the high altitude of the city. He hadn’t trained in these conditions back home. Then, halfway through the 42km race, Akhwari lost his balance while jockeying for position with other […]

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What rules are keeping you on track?

07.28.17 It’s summertime, and the living is a tad easier here in the Northern Hemisphere. Many of you are likely outdoors… on a beach, in a lake, on a dock, in a boat, hiking through a forest, meandering around a golf course… you get the picture. Whatever you’re wonderfully distracted by, please enjoy. In the meantime, I’ll leave you with something brief and light to ponder (it’s summer…) before we get back at it in September. Cartoons. If you know the iconic Road Runner Show from the ‘60s and ‘70s, you’ll recall that the premise of each episode never changed. The crazed and […]

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Are you being true to yourself?

07.07.17 It was late in the evening a few weeks ago when I struck gold in my channel surfing. This was no ordinary spin through the likes of Colbert, Fallon or Kimmel. Instead, I stumbled on the epic concert film, Woodstock.  And, for me, it shone an unexpected light on a useful business lesson. The movie documents ‘three days of peace and music’ at Max Yasgur’s farm in the summer of 1969. While I was too young (eight years old) to remember Woodstock when it happened, I’ve always been fascinated by the concert event that defined a generation. In watching Woodstock dozens of times over […]

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Are you losing track of your real competition?

06.16.17 If you’re of a certain vintage (like me), you remember the peak years of the Coke-Pepsi wars. Coke was The Real Thing. It went to battle every day against The Pepsi Generation. For most of the ‘70s and ‘80s, “Taste Tests” were the norm. Brand-to-brand combat was a constant as the top two makers of black sugared water scrapped it out over micro-blips in market share. Coke typically came out on top, but no lead was ever too great. During this time, in 1985, I began my marketing career as a junior copywriter hoping to change the world of […]

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Are you messing up enough to be your creative best?

05.26.17 Write drunk.  Edit sober. Those words have often been attributed to Ernest Hemingway over the years. No one really knows if the quote is real, but we do know Papa was a prolific writer and drinker… so we can imagine him saying it. But I don’t think Hemingway was suggesting we keep a bottle in our desks. If we take the quote too literally, we miss the power of what it’s teaching us. It’s a lesson that applies not only to writing, but anything we’re trying to create: A new product design. Our latest blog post. A game-changing approach to […]

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The good, the bad and the ugly of brand promises

05.05.17 There’s a scene in the 1993 movie Falling Down in which an angry, just-fired, over-the-edge Michael Douglas loses it at a fast food restaurant. What makes him snap?  Being served a flattened, unappetizing burger that doesn’t come close to matching the plump, juicy one advertised at the counter (or like the one being prepped for photography above). “Doesn’t anyone see what’s wrong with this picture?” he screams, looking around the restaurant. In a nutshell, it’s a promise made… and broken. This predicament plays out every day with brands in all categories – from those oversold flights on United to PwC’s […]

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What can your brand learn from Augusta National?

04.07.17 I remember it vividly, even though it was seven years ago. It was just me, my Dad and my brother John. It was near the end of the day as we made our way toward a little-used exit near the fifth hole at Augusta National. Most of the crowd from the day’s practice round was closer to the main entrance at the front of the golf course. So it felt like we were all alone. The sun was setting.  Shadows were lengthening. It was so quiet as we walked through Amen Corner that we had a distinct feeling of… we’re not supposed […]

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What trades-offs are you making?

03.17.17 It was a few weeks ago. I arrived home after a long day of travel, stepped inside the house… and immediately knew the furnace was dying. Perfect. A cold house in Canada’s winter isn’t good. Especially after a few warm days in the Caribbean. Thankfully, Ron the furnace guy showed up, did a quick fix, and our heat was soon back to normal.  As Ron was packing up to leave, we got talking about how he started his own business. Maybe it was just furnace euphoria, but his story warmed my heart. There was no big dream to be an entrepreneur. No idealistic […]

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The holy trinity of brand-building

02.24.17 Per usual, I watched the recent Super Bowl with one eye on the game… and the other on the commercials. I had a hand in TV advertising in a previous life, so I’m always curious to see what gets noticed on the biggest television day of the year.  Surprise… this year the ad that impressed me most didn’t involve herding cats, a Clydesdale, an adorable puppy, or a rock star. Instead, it was this spot by Airbnb that jumped out at me. Just as Netflix is changing how we watch TV, Airbnb is doing the same for how we […]

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Are you brave enough to do it anyway?

02.03.17 Our eldest daughter, Julia, is in her final year of high school and now applying to colleges for next Fall. Even typing those words is a shock to my system. It seems like just yesterday that we took her to see The Wiggles in concert.  (Don’t ask.) The whole college process has prompted questions for Julia. Am I ready for this? What do I want to do with my life? Am I choosing the right program? Is this the college for me? What if I make the wrong decision? It’s why the bright light shining on one of Carrie […]

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Are you inhabiting your own song?

01.13.17 One of my favourite traditions over the holidays is to take some time after Christmas, completely unplug, forget about the schedule, and read something new. This year I lost myself in Bruce Springsteen’s memoir, Born to Run, for the better part of three days. The book recounts a life growing up in a turbulent home, a Catholic teenager in blue collar New Jersey who turns his passion to music, ‘sweating it out on the streets of a runaway American dream.’  And achieving it, big time. It’s an enthralling read. And also tough in spots, to be honest. We all […]

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Does a number define your brand?

12.16.16 Captain Chesley Sullenberger’s will always be 155. No other number matters. It was obvious after seeing Sully with my daughters a few weeks ago. We all know the story of the ‘Miracle on the Hudson,’ so I was curious how Clint Eastwood would turn it into a film that grabbed our attention.  If you haven’t seen Sully, I won’t spoil how Clint pulled it off. But, for me, the emotional high point came when we saw on-screen what we already know: against the odds, all 155 passengers and crew survived.  Every soul rescued. The moment was punctuated dramatically when an […]

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Are you being a shift disturber?

11.18.16 It’s said that we’re never supposed to talk about politics or religion in polite company. After the past couple of weeks, I’m not going anywhere near politics. At some risk, though, I’d like to use two religious entities to illustrate a concept that’s fast gaining traction in business:  design thinking.  One, the Roman Catholic church, has been around for thousands of years. The other, Forest City Community Church, is an infant by comparison. It’s 23 years old. Some background:  design thinking is a set of practices that helps any brand (of any size) see old problems from new perspectives… […]

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Are you clear on why you matter?

10.21.16 If you’ve been watching post-season baseball (or early season hockey) in Canada lately, you’ve likely seen a new advertising campaign by the largest children’s hospital in the country, better known as Sick Kids. It’s provocative, at times disturbing, a bit uncomfortable. And also inspiring. Sick Kids is boldly redefining why it matters. It’s moving away from what every children’s hospital promises (helping sick kids get better) to carving its own unique territory: “fighting back” so there are no sick kids at all. It’s proof of a brand confident enough to separate itself from the herd, and bravely go its […]

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Now is your time to move to action

09.09.16 Hear that sound? It’s not the splash from the dive off the dock. Or the crackle of the campfire. Or any other unmistakable sound of summer in Canada. It’s the alarm bell reminding us that it’s September, and that business is back with a purpose. Gone is the, “That can wait until after summer” rationale from the past few weeks. It is after summer. September means greater urgency, and the realization that the end of the year is closing in. (Hey, some stores are already stocking Christmas decorations.) But with this urgency often comes a sense of overwhelm. What […]

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Who’s in your tribe?

06.17.16 There are Canadian musical artists more famous than The Tragically Hip. Truth is, most of Canada’s best known entertainers and thinkers – from Neil Young and William Shatner to Frank Gehry and Joni Mitchell – live in the United States. They all found fame south of the border and stayed there. But The Hip, as they’re known here, are different. Even with nine albums reaching #1 on the Canadian charts, they’ve never broken the top 100 in the US. They’re even more obscure internationally. It doesn’t matter.  They’re ours.  As Peter Mansbridge (the Walter-Cronkite-of-Canada for my American friends) once […]

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What’s your line in the sand?

05.27.16 There’s a small, family-owned business not far from where we live in London.  Founded in 1918, it has enjoyed a solid reputation for close to a century. This same business is now in the midst of building a larger home at a new location. A sign at the construction site reads as follows: Future home of Nash Jewellers… for the next 100 years. Don’t you love that level of conviction in a brand? It’s the Nash family’s way of drawing a ‘line in the sand.’ As Jason Fried wrote in his ground-breaking book, Rework: “A strong stand is how […]

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Two word changes that help you perform better

05.06.16 I’m fresh off a five-day golf trip to South Carolina. Par for the course:  re-entry was difficult. My first few days after vacation are always a bit numbing.  I’m not back in routine. I’m sluggish. My productivity suffers. I get frustrated with myself. Why aren’t I firing on all cylinders? Then, last weekend, I came upon a book that offered one reason why I can get this way: it’s my self-talk. Seems I’m using poor language to guide my actions. That’s according to Bernard Roth, the academic director of Stanford University’s Hasso Plattner Institute of Design.  In The Achievement […]

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You’re a writer whether you recognize it or not

04. 15. 16 I’ll be honest.  This sentence isn’t one of my best.   Neither is this one.  It’s writer’s block.  Sometimes it strangles me and won’t let go. It’s maddening, especially since my last few posts have ranted about the importance of brand storytelling and creating interesting content.  I care about these topics. Like that thing called the ‘internet’ in 1995, they’re not going away. In fact, they’re accelerating.  So, assuming you agree on the importance of creating good content, what holds you back from doing it?  (Besides writer’s block.) Rarely do I hear: “It’s not worth doing.” Instead, what I typically observe is […]

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How to create interesting content in a boring industry

03. 24. 16 I was prepping myself to write about Donald Trump this week. Say what you will about Trump the Candidate (let’s not), but Trump the Marketer is quite savvy. I’d even assembled a few thoughts on why. Luckily, my smelling salts kicked in and I realized: I have no energy to write about Trump… and you don’t want to read it. Then the news hit that The Most Interesting Man in the World was retiring Now this is a relevant topic for brands of any size. It’s been a decade since we first heard the iconic line, “I don’t […]

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What’s the story with your brand?

02.26.16 What’s the story with your brand? And, on the eighth day, God looked down on his planned paradise and said, “I need a caretaker.” So God made a farmer. God said, “I need somebody willing to get up before dawn, milk cows,work all day in the fields, milk cows again, eat supper and then go totown and stay past midnight at a meeting of the school board.”  So God made a farmer. You may be wondering. Is this some weird riff on a biblical verse? The obscure creed of the farm lobbyists? Neither.   It’s the opening voice-over for a TV […]

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Turn and face the strange changes

02.05.16 I was 12 years old, and still trading hockey cards in the school yard, when this song turned me on to David Bowie’s sound forever. It was 1973. Panic in Detroit wasn’t the biggest hit from the Aladdin Sane album. But I played it repeatedly, at max volume, on a tiny Sanyo cassette recorder ‘borrowed’ from my brother John. The blazing guitars, the obscure lyrics (…he looked a lot like Che Guevara…), those soaring vocals… they were a lot for a seventh-grader to take in. Somehow, the total mix grabbed me. It spawned some of my best air guitar too. (But I digress.) In the past […]

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The only brand resolution that matters

01.15.16 We’re two weeks into 2016, and already my New Year’s resolution to quit Oreos is pretty much kaput. That’s just the way the cookie crumbles.   If you’re like me, many of your own resolutions will fall away before too long. When it comes to business, however, I see only one resolution that we need to pay keen attention to – all year long. When we do, all of our other concerns take care of themselves. To borrow one of Stephen Covey’s best lines: “The main thing is to keep the Main Thing the Main Thing.”  Jim Stengel, former CMO of Proctor […]

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Are you overlooking your most important marketing?

12.18.15 Are you overlooking your most important marketing? The term seemed to pop up everywhere I turned in the past month. A major artery in our city re-opened after two years of construction. Local leaders hailed it as an improved driving experience for motorists. The ownership group seeking to lure the NFL back to Los Angeles promised a state of the art stadium “designed to deliver the most entertaining and enjoyable experience” A link on my Twitter feed prompted me to view the article on Flipboard for a more enjoyable reading experience. So what is this thing called “experience?” Many […]

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The one question you may not be asking enough

11.13.15 The fourth anniversary of Steve Jobs’ death passed a few weeks ago. With it came a flurry of media coverage spotlighting all sides of the Jobs we remember – the creative genius, the master innovator, even the (apparently) prickly and over-demanding leader. But it was one slant, in particular, that caught my attention. It’s widely known that the Apple co-founder had a special relationship with design chief Jonathan Ive – the guy who made all of Jobs’ product visions come to life. I think we all knew this. But I was surprised to read that Jobs would stop by the design […]

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The one element of your brand you can never compromise

10.23.15 It was more than 50 years ago that Volkswagen ran this print ad, its most famous ever.   The one-word headline described a 1961 Beetle that would never make it to a dealer showroom. The car had a single blemish – enough for VW’s engineers to reject the vehicle and inspire the infamous Lemon campaign. The copy mentions 189 checkpoints and a willingness to say “no” to cars that don’t cut it.  VW’s bold campaign launched a creative revolution in advertising. Soon, other brands began promoting their ‘personalities’ instead of just their product features. The Lemon campaign also introduced what became one of the […]

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Are you failing enough to be successful?

10.02.15 The largest private landowner in England… the man who owns more acres than the Queen herself… runs a vacuum cleaner company. (Let that sink in for a moment.)  He’s Sir James Dyson. Self-made billionaire. Vacuum cleaner idealist. And the UK’s best-known living inventor. In the late ‘70s, Dyson, a former industrial design student, was exasperated while vacuuming his home in the Cotswolds. His old Hoover constantly clogged with dirt and lost suction. So Dyson did something about it. His idea was to use ‘cyclonic separation’ to create a vacuum that wouldn’t conk out. He tinkered for more than 15 years to […]

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Is your brand trying too hard?

09.11.15 It was 25 years ago this month that Caroline and I bought a carpet in Istanbul. Actually, we were married 25 years ago… and then spent September traveling Turkey for our honeymoon. While (ahem) that wedding detail is pretty important, it’s the carpet I want to focus on here. Istanbul’s Grand Bazaar is the mother of all markets.  Its 4,000 shops sprawl over 60 covered streets in one of the biggest cities on the planet. As the oldest covered market in the world, it’s a massive tourist draw that attracts 100 million visitors a year.  The Grand Bazaar is fascinating, overwhelming and exasperating all at […]

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What’s the one thing you do immensely well?

07.17.15 I’ve learned more about tear ducts in the past few months than I ever thought possible. What started as a watery eye last Fall eventually led to a recurring (and ugly) infection in the Spring. At its worst, it looked like I’d gone 15 rounds with Muhammad Ali in his prime. By mid-April, Dr. Larry Allen, a surgeon at the Ivey Eye Institute, had weighed in. “You’ve got a blocked tear duct, badly infected. You can live with it for the rest of your life by treating the infection, or I can operate and remove the blockage.” So, on June […]

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Do you know the size of your own shadow?

06.19.15 It’s an old Sicilian saying, supposedly tied to Mafia lore: “The fish rots from the head.” This was never more obvious in recent weeks as arrests, corruption and scandal tore through FIFA, the global organization that governs soccer. For years, Sepp Blatter ran FIFA like his own personal fiefdom. Bribes, secret deals and self-enrichment were the norm. Now, after a damning investigation and Blatter’s resignation, it’s clear FIFA not only has to change its leader but also its entire culture. As Henry Kissinger once remarked about the messy politics of FIFA, “It makes me nostalgic for the Middle East.” In business, there are both […]

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Four practical business lessons from Mad Men

05.29.15 I’m still in denial that Mad Men is over. I watched all 91 episodes over the past eight years… many of them more than once. Having spent much of my working life in or around advertising, I found the portrayal of the Sterling Cooper Pryce agency to be surprisingly legit. (Okay, the three-martini lunches are a thing of the past.) I especially enjoyed how Matthew Weiner, the show’s creator, blended real life events and iconic moments from advertising in the ‘60s and ‘70s into his storyline. Right up until its end two weeks ago, Mad Men also helped me […]

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Are you turning customer freedom into un-freedom?

05.08.15 Caroline sent me out to buy hummus the other day. It was more complicated than I expected. Turns out, more than 50 different hummus options awaited me in Aisle 2. The photo above represents about half of the total offering. (The pic is blurry? So was my head.) I stood staring for awhile before Ally finally announced, “This is the one Mom gets.” I might still be looking for hummus if not for an 11-year-old. Ours is a world of almost unlimited choice. Our supermarkets now carry an average of 43,000 items, according to the people who track this […]

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The high cost of not declaring your own view

04.17.15 Here in Canada, university and college students are madly sprinting to the end of their academic year and prepping for final exams. It’s a time that always brings me back to my own university days – and one particular year when I was under the gun to produce a final paper in American History 236. It was end of term. I needed to write 10,000 words on Lincoln and slavery, and the walls were closing in. My finals were bunched tightly on the calendar. Multiple papers were due. Plus, golf courses were open, the NHL playoffs were rocking… and […]

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Are you staying curious enough?

03.27.15 Columbo was, far and away, my favourite TV show as a kid. [If you’re under 50 and reading this, you’re saying, “Who?”  So here’s a primer.] The premise of every Columbo episode was identical:  Bad guy commits a murder. Rock-solid alibi. Columbo joins the case and befriends the murderer to explain to him the things he doesn’t know (or understand). Murderer is fooled into under-estimating a rumpled, absent-minded Columbo. Gradually, by asking more and more questions, Columbo lures the murderer into revealing critical information. The murderer eventually implicates himself through Columbo’s persistent curiosity. In the end, Columbo is smart […]

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Is your brand built for the long haul?

02.27.15 I’m sure Mom thought there was something wrong with me when I was a teenager. [Insert your own joke here.] My habit was to lay on the floor of my bedroom… in total darkness… wearing those funky ‘70s-style headphones… and listen to the same album, over and over. Every so often Mom would pop in with clean laundry, or to call me for dinner, or maybe out of strange curiosity. Looking back, she had to have wondered, ”What is he doing?” Mom, I wasn’t just listening to music. I was having an experience. It was called Dark Side of […]

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Are you sticking to your fundamentals?

01.16.15 It pains me to write this, but I barely recognize my favourite hockey team right now. The Bruins haven’t been themselves all season. They’ve been average. Lackluster. Languishing in the middle of the standings. Living on the edge of the playoffs. It’s not the Bruins way. Nor is it difficult to see what’s gone wrong. The staples of ‘Bruins Hockey’ have been the same for years: physical play, tight checking, disciplined defense, maximum effort, winning the hard way. It’s rarely pretty (Boston is never the most talented team in the league), but the Bruins way gets results. They win […]

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How will your brand be remembered?

12.19.14 Let me ask you:   What would happen if your brand suddenly closed its doors today? What would people say about you tomorrow? No, I’m not trying to be overly somber at this joyful time of year. I’ve been mulling this question for the past two weeks as Canada said goodbye to Jean Beliveau. His funeral last Wednesday in Montreal had the touch of pageantry typically reserved for Prime Ministers and Premiers, which Beliveau was often enticed into being… yet always declined.  The ceremony honouring him at the game the night before was riveting. Catch a glimpse here, including […]

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Are you open to a brand re-boot?

11.28.14 My friend Andrew in Florida mentioned a few days ago that he was off to see a Steve Martin show. It got me wondering. Was it comedy or a concert, I asked?  Which Steve was it? And this little exchange says a lot about the brand called Steve Martin. Some background:  My brothers and I practically wore out our copy of Let’s Get Small in the ‘70s. “Excuuuuuuuse me!” became part of our everyday language.  (We’ve since evolved quite a bit.)  Conjuring up an image of Steve Martin back then probably saw him in one of three settings: performing […]

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The one brand fundamental that’s never overrated

11.07.14 Was I the only one who knew Game 7 of the World Series was over when Madison Bumgarner (one of the great names in baseball…) took the mound in the fifth inning last Wednesday night? I doubt it. The San Francisco Giants ace had barely broken a sweat in winning two games earlier in the Series.  Now here he was in the deciding game, pitching on two days rest, still mowing down Kansas City Royals like they were Little Leaguers. More striking was that spooky locked-in stare in Bumgarner’s eyes as he sat in the dugout between innings. Didn’t we all […]

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Who helps you hit the high notes?

10.17.14 If I asked you who the Merry Clayton is for your brand, could you tell me? Let me explain. It was late 1969.  The Rolling Stones were in a Los Angeles recording studio, putting the finishing touches on their Let it Bleed album. It was a crazy time.  The assassinations of MLK and RFK.  The war in Vietnam.  Rebellion in the streets. As a result, Let it Bleed wasn’t the most cheerful album of the year.  No song represented this sense of dread better than Gimme Shelter.  (Oooooh, a storm is threatening…) As they gathered to mix the track for the final time, the Stones […]

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Are you having enough slow conversations?

09.26.14 It was mid-afternoon on the first day. We’d been in the conference room for six hours. I was starting to think, when are we going to get to it? A dozen of us branding professionals were gathered last week at the Harvard Club of Boston, complete with a 38th floor view of the Back Bay, Beacon Hill, and the Charles River.  Best of all?  Two exclusive days with Marty Neumeier, one of the brightest branding minds on the planet, and author of The Brand Gap.  We were there to be poked into rethinking our brands in radically different ways – a process Marty calls “ZAG.” Still, […]

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Are you riding the crest or fighting the trough?

09.05.14 The waves tumbled in off an angry Lake Huron. We were vacationing on “Ontario’s West Coast,” having enjoyed 10 days of sun, beach and no schedule.  The way summer in Canada should be. But then Mother Nature abruptly switched things from a gentle offshore breeze to a strong gale from the north.  The lake turned from glass to tumult.  The sound morphed from silence to jet engines.  We shrunk inside the cottage, in mid-August. Lake Huron kept up its agitated snarl for three days.  Finally, cabin fever drove my daughter, Ally, and I back into the lake, armed with […]

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Two simple truths about doing your part

07.04.14 Two simple truths about doing your part When I was growing up, my sister Leslie had a framed copy of Desiderata hanging on her bedroom wall. I’d see it whenever I was called in to rescue her from our killer cat, the innocent Ginger, who held Leslie “hostage” by hiding under the bed.  (Don’t ask. Les has had dogs ever since.) I still remember Desiderata to this day. A common myth is that Desiderata is centuries old and of unknown origin.  In reality, it was written in 1920 by lawyer Max Ehrmann. The myth began in 1959 after a Baltimore priest reproduced […]

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Where do you turn for real candor?

06.13.14 “Pixar films are not good at first.  Our job is to help them go from suck to NOT-suck.” ~ Ed Catmull President, Pixar Animation So much for sugar-coating. If the world’s most successful animation studio feels this way about its product development – movies like Toy Story, Finding Nemo, Monsters Inc. and a long list of other hits – what does it say about how you and I develop our own ideas? I’ve just finished Catmull’s book, Creativity Inc., in which he describes the secret behind Pixar’s success. It’s called the Braintrust – and Catmull shares openly (and generously) […]

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What questions are you asking?

05.23.14 “We thought we had all the answers. It was the questions we had wrong.” ~ Bono My reading on the train home from Toronto the other night included one of my favorites, Inc. magazine. This particular issue spotlighted the questions that entrepreneurs often ask in order to stay on top of their game. And we all need to think like entrepreneurs these days, don’t we? (Even if we’re working in the big corporate machine.) The complete story is here and well worth a read. In the meantime, here are a few of my favourites – and why I like […]

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How far will you go to protect your brand?

05.02.14 I had a completely different post ready to share with you this week. Then Donald Sterling, owner of the NBA’s Los Angeles Clippers, spoke his ignorant mind quite viciously – and the league responded in a remarkable way. So I crumpled up my original draft, threw it away, and started over. It’s not often we witness a textbook case on how to protect your brand by taking a courageous stand. But this is one of them. The background: Sterling made some ugly racist comments in a secretly recorded phone call that leaked to the media last weekend. The comments […]

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The nine-letter word every business must remember

04.11.14 There’s a scene in The Princess Bride where Vizzini, the hapless Sicilian in charge of the kidnapping of Princess Buttercup, expresses disbelief at how The Man in Black overcomes one death-defying obstacle after another in pursuit of the kidnappers. Not even the Cliffs of Insanity or Andre the Giant could stop him. “Inconceivable!” Vizzini repeats each time. To which Inigo Montoya replies: “You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.” Sadly, Vizzini had lost touch with relevance. And this, too, is an unfortunate truth for many businesses that lose their way. […]

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The most overlooked ingredient in brand building

03.21.14 What does my lousy guitar playing have to do with your brand building? More than you might think. And I have the calluses on my fingers to prove it. Hear me out. Any new player will tell you that the first step in learning guitar is mastering the major chords. Of all the majors, F is freaking tough.  It forces you to keep your fingers close together on the fretboard, contorting your index finger to somehow flatten two strings at once. This isn’t Guitar Hero. Learning F is uncomfortable and painful.  But if you stick with it, your muscle memory improves.  You get […]

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Four marketing strategies that work better than advertising

02.28.14 Like many of you, I’ve gorged myself on two weeks of Winter Olympics television. Along with it, though, came an advertising assault on the senses. (I saw this one a few hundred time. I now know for certain that I can lift up that damned TV and move it.) But here’s the thing: Marketing used to mean advertising. If you wanted to sell something, awareness on a mass scale was an easy shortcut. You didn’t need to build remark ability or transparency into your product. Many ad agencies for rich this way, because out-yelling everyone else was an advantage. […]

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Three signs you’re rising to a new level

02.07.14 I don’t typically come in close proximity to celebrities. But it happened two weeks ago. The backdrop:  By chance, I found myself beside Eugene Levy on a Saturday evening flight from Los Angeles to Toronto.  Eugene may not be A-list, but he’s famous enough for his acting and directing roles in SCTV, the American Pie movies and other comedic moments in both films and TV.  I was determined not to be too star-struck, so our conversation started and ended before we even taxied to the runway at LAX: Me: “I’m a fan.  My daughters loved you in Cheaper by […]

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