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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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