On this site, in these writings we will explore the strictures of identity all of us carry and how, when understood, they can positively inform our relationships; on a personal level and on a community level.
Behavior change can come about from many motivators, including negative ones. However, as motivation wanes, the behavior change will go with it. If you’re interested in true, long-lasting behavior change, the key is in identity.
The way we imagine our personal and national identities makes us liable to act and think in certain ways and, just as importantly, makes us liable to interpret other people’s actions through the prism of our own imagined identity – not through theirs.
Prior to 100 years ago, people had fewer distractions; no internet, no computers, no TV, no radio. When you are left to invent your own world, then you put your mind to work. You create instead of consume.
From dieting to drug prevention, there is much talk around behaviour change. But the problem with behaviour change is that, on its own, it doesn't mean that the person has changed. And so recidivism is high.
Analyzing, interpreting and mapping data and evidence are extremely important tools to both inform and direct conversations, but if they are not used in conjunction with human dynamics and a love for your audience, you risk sowing seeds onto concrete; nothing good will grow there.
How we see the world influences how we interact with it. But most people never think about what influences how we see the world, will never draw a line between far past experiences and current behaviors, or examine their learned behaviors and habits.
Life lived online can become anti-life. For young people especially, who have known nothing else, it has turned many friendships and relationships from the quality-made, user-serviceable, lifetime-use model, into the low-quality, break it and replace it model, and we see its wreckage everywhere.
Why go through the needlessly arduous task of actually asking other people their opinion or the reasoning behind their beliefs, if you can simply claim to know what they are?
The joy of connection is the biggest payday a human can have. And we quickly unravel without it.
When you reach the point where the guiding principle for your goals is solely to be in opposition to the other side’s goals, it guarantees a shrinking future.
Plausible deniability is a term well known around Washington, DC. Much bad behavior escapes ramification because of plausible deniability. Often part of the planning process for scurrilous activity is how responsibility for the actions will be subsequently skirted, if and when the piper starts playing.
When rigidly formed emotions exist, the people holding them are easy prey for a proliferation of increasingly sophisticated manipulations via social media and self-selected “news” outlets.
When people get combative in communications, it is often as a counter-punch to imagined slights and opinion. These unspoken, unchallenged and too-often inaccurate self-generated “truths” dictate way more of our interactions than most of us are aware. Which is why it's important to steer clear of conversations about "right and wrong" in communication campaigns, since that is likely to engender reflexive opposition.
We need to be vigilant about jumping to conclusions and then unconsciously self-selecting research that only supports that conclusion. When we stop asking questions, we become very manipulable.
The decision to be “funny” or “provocative” in an ad should only come from the pursuit of the most effective message. When this priority is flipped in social marketing campaigns, the under-represented party ends up paying the price because the focus ends up in the wrong place.
I always saw branding and strategic communications as being protected against outsourcing or automation. But, a couple of years ago, while basking in the knowledge of my irreplaceability, it occurred to me that my obdurate certainty was based on a fast-disappearing future: that people would get to make up their own minds.
For the average person, no matter the words that come out of their mouth, there is an awkward inherent stigma attached to the way we think and talk about mental health. An urge to talk quietly or use euphemisms, but by doing so, the inadvertent effect is to promulgate the stigma.
The biggest problem with the tech giants is not their monopolistic control of the market, it is their unrestrained and growing control of Americans’ behavior. The power that the large social media companies wield over our lives and the level to which they are controlling us is frightening.
Imagine if we used our current experience to reinvent schools and redesign cities. If we had a mixture of learning online with “playing” on-site; if we gave less real estate to our cars and more to housing. The beauty about going through such a time of fracture is that the opportunity cost for deploying bold ideas seems low.
How will it affect our society when we stop telling people that they have already lost the game of life if they don’t have a degree? What will be the destigmatizing effect when people without degrees can still be “smart”?
Only good can come from asking questions: What are the potential negative consequences of the words and imagery you use to expound your initiative? What are people’s legitimate worries and are you taking them into account or fanning their flames?
Recognizing that we all have a tendency to hold positions that are not as clear-cut as our indignance might tell us, is a first step toward taking a giant and well-needed societal deep breath.
Love and like are two very different emotions. They feel very different and they come about in very different ways. And we rarely ever think about the difference between them. We should.
The best time to plant a tree was twenty years ago; the second-best time is today. It is critical, as we go through these extremely important times, to consider whether the state's efforts are best spent creating communities or criminalizing communities.
Right now, across our nation, forces and passions have been exploding in response to the homicide of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and the thousands of deaths, assaults and miscarriages of justice that preceded them. It feels like we have reached a fulcrum in race relations in the US. and, perhaps, a pivotal moment in human rights. Perhaps the “created equal” part of the Constitution is finally becoming “self-evident.”
It is not lost on me that the USA became the great nation it is as a result of how its people responded to huge historical existential challenges. The Civil War; the Depression; the Second World War. As tough as this time is, I am focused on seeing it as a similar challenge for us all to rise to.
I have noticed a number of public health sites around the country running what I have been calling a “stock ticker of doom” across the top of their websites. It lists the number of people infected, hospitalized, under quarantine, etc. I know it is there for a singular honest purpose: to keep citizens informed. But let’s take a step back and look at how this might play out.
The two ads from Super Bowl Sunday I found most interesting were those from Facebook and Google. Both of these companies are feeling a lot of heat around the subject of data and privacy, but they took very different routes to tackling the privacy tsunami that each is facing.
I was meeting with a long-time client today who wanted to chat with me about a specific East Coast higher-education institution that is doing highly-important and relevant work and yet is on almost no-one’s radar screen. We talked about the dean of the institution and how he did not place much importance on “marketing.” My response was, “Sure he does; he is just working from a very closed definition of marketing.”
Stigma comes in many forms and while most people easily understand the stigma that is essentially tied to judgment from others (imagined or real), what’s often not thought about are the kinds of very powerful stigmas we create and place upon ourselves — or how powerful (and often unconscious) is the drive to avoid doing so.
Soon after Steve Jobs died, I wrote a post that posited that we would “now get to find out if Steve Jobs was a great man, or if Apple is a great company.” My bet was on Jobs. And, although Apple still sits on piles of money, I’d say that I won that bet.
Any time an emotion is labelled a fact, it is an opportunity for conflict. It is an opportunity to see difference instead of similarities. True facts are cold. But emotions, or emotions dressed up as facts, get people, well... emotional.
A few years back, I gave one of my talks at a Ladies America conference in Washington, DC. Once I was offstage, a small line of people formed to ask me questions. One woman had in her hands a marketing mailer she had put together. She was planning on starting an executive coaching business and intended to send out the mailer to drum up business. Sadly, her mailer was not destined for success.
Over a decade ago I started pointing out to clients that websites were a new leveler. Big companies can look small; small companies can look big (or vice versa). But websites also provided a new way to warp the truth. Promises can be made or implied that can be hard to suspect or disprove, except in the rear-view mirror.
Do you really know what “being you” means? Because if you don’t, then how could you possibly know whether “who you are” is being manipulated?
Identities shift and we’d all be wise to pay attention. The way you talk to a group today may not be the way to talk to them tomorrow. Whether it is your company that is changing, or your customer base, or the market conditions, you need to stay alert to how your customers perceive you, your product, but especially themselves.
Some of the things most important and most effective for brand strategy almost certainly save the company money, while at the same time pushing forward a unified brand message. I have found not realizing this to be an all too common situation in large organizations.
It's always worth it to stop for a moment and ask, “what else could be going on here?”
What is your driving force? Is it still being the best purveyor of what you do? Or has it become doing what it takes to meet the numbers?
When asked to explain the meaning of “brand,” I say it is the answer to the question, “What do people think of when they think about me?”
I had a conversation this week with a client about the fact that a brand is not just about “outreach” – it is about “inreach.” – What kind of company do you want to be? What kind of a company do your employees think they work for? What kind of culture are you building?
Here’s a nutty idea: Just start making good, attractive, reliable products.
"Shoe-horning" is no way to build a relationship. If your product or your campaign is not good enough to win customers via truth, get a new product or get a new agency.
When a brand is expressed correctly, it takes on manifestations of a real-life character.
When you walk into a restaurant and see that they have several "Best Of" awards but the most recent was from, say, 3 years ago. What does that mean? They forgot to put up the most recent accolades? They now suck? Well, we don't necessarily know, but as I often remind clients: "if you fail to put out a message, one will be put out for you" - perhaps by your competitors.
It seems that more than ever our students are frightened of failing. And so they don't risk it. Without freedom to fail I'm not sure you have freedom at all.
How easy is it for your customers to deal with you when things are not going well? Friendships born in the crucible of fire are quite often the strongest.
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