Essays

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.

Getting Schooled?

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”?

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A Snowball's Chance

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?

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Pushmepullyou

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.

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Relationships: A Like Story

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.

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Recalibration

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.

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The Time is Now

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.”

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After COVID

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.

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Ticker of Doom

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.

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Google 2, Facebook 0

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.

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Who Do You Think You Are?

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.”

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Stigma and Identity

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.

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Game of Thrones

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.

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Option B

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.

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Your Fake is My Real

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.

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You, Robot

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?

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Who Are We Now?

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.

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Golden State. Base Metal Plate.

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.

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Swift Thinking

It's always worth it to stop for a moment and ask, “what else could be going on here?”

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What's Really Bugging VW?

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?

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Who Should I Be: Better or Different?

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?”

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Uber or Under?

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?

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Fix the Strategy, Tony

Here’s a nutty idea: Just start making good, attractive, reliable products.

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The Natives are Restless

"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.

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Thank You For Being a Friend…

When a brand is expressed correctly, it takes on manifestations of a real-life character.

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Wall of No's

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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Freedom to Fail

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.

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Ticket Punch

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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