Leonard Cohen Dies at 82. He was important.

Leonard Cohen

Leonard Cohen died yesterday at the too young of an age of 82. He was part of my personal brand.

What is your personal brand? You can read about it in other articles I have written on the subject in the rest of the site. It suffices to say that it is who you project yourself to be to the world around you and their perception of you.

My personal brand is an accumulation of all the influencers, ideas, teachers, peers, bosses, colleagues, friends, books, TV shows, movies, individuals, discoveries and belief systems that formed my own perception of what it means to be Tom Dougherty today. Without my brand, I would wake up every day confused and without a rudder. It is exactly that memory of myself that directs how I live today.

Leonard CohenThe importance of personal branding helps my small society of human beings function. When we think about the orbit of objects in our lives, we all see ourselves as the center of that universe, The Sun, if you will, around which everything else orbits.

In a small way (even as it is ego centric), it is true. Others can navigate our foibles and tap into our strengths because they are aware of our brand and feel confident in predicting our actions and their reactions to it. It’s different than reputation because it is not simply an accumulation of facts. It also is a measure of our emotions.

Leonard Cohen is representative of branding

As I get older, I have come to realize that many of my brand precepts are older than me. The religious beliefs that influence me are more than 2500 years old. The heroes of my youth have long since died. Most of my heroic figures, as I think about it, are at least my age. I have respect for many people who are younger than me, but they are not part of the foundations of my personal brand.

Still writing and singing until days before his death, here is a single from Cohen’s heralded new album— You want it darker.

Leonard Cohen was one of those building blocks. I was touched by the fire of his music and poetry in my youth. He has helped form my sense of self and forged part of the preceptive fabric of ME.

Lyrics From Suzanne

And Jesus was a sailor

When he walked upon the water

And he spent a long time watching

From his lonely wooden tower

Leonard CohenAnd when he knew for certain

Only drowning men could see him

He said “All men will be sailors then

Until the sea shall free them”

But he himself was broken

Long before the sky would open

Forsaken, almost human

He sank beneath your wisdom like a stone

And you want to travel with him

And you want to travel blind

And you think maybe you’ll trust him

For he’s touched your perfect body with his mind.

Leonard Cohen is not the first part of my brand to pass away. Much had passed away long before I adopted them or it. But part of my sense of myself died yesterday. It is with a reflective heart that I wanted to say thank you to Leonard Cohen for a life well lived. You touched my perfect body with your mind.

Leonard Cohen, rest in peace.  9/21/34-11/10/2016

Rebranding Do’s and Don’ts for marketers

Rebranding is an effort that shouldn’t be taken lightly. That’s why, when the decision to rebrand is made, it should be completed with honesty and no holding back.

Many don’t choose that route, however. Most rebranding is actually just a refreshing of a logo, holding on to sacred cows that may not have any meaning in the marketplace anymore. Brands simply update their logos, refurnish their locations, add a category benefit-defining message and call it rebranding.

RebrandingThat’s not rebranding. That’s spitting into the wind.

The reason you rebrand is because your current brand does not resonate with target audiences. It isn’t helping you steal market share from the competition. Revenues have become static (or are in decline) and you understand that the brand’s meaning has lost relevancy.

Most companies who decide to rebrand understand the reasons why. But few know how to accomplish it successfully, especially when the effort must result in increased market share, an uptick on the bottom line and increased importance to target audiences so they cannot choose anyone else.

Rebranding for the right reasons

Every CMO would agree that rebranding without compromise is the only way to go. But getting there can be difficult. It takes a marketer with a strong spine and backing from the company leaders to get it done. There is simply too much at stake.

If you get the rebrand wrong (or, less than optimum) then you are stuck. Rebranding without truly becoming meaningful drops you into conducting the Burger King approach. You just keep adding meaningless menu items in the hope that something will catch on and give some oomph to the brand.

So what are the pitfalls during the rebranding process? Where are the opportunities to get it right?

Rebranding pitfalls

Let’s start with the pitfalls. To start, throw everything you know about your current brand out the window. While you have knowledge of your industry, that can sometimes be a hindrance to having a truly innovative brand.

Think about it this way. Every industry believes it is unique. There are market forces that exist in your industry that my not live in others. But the end result of any rebranding is still the same: Understanding human behavior. That is even important in B2B businesses where emotional preference often overcomes price.

RebrandingThe auto industry, for example, is one that believes so strongly that its market is unique that it rarely looks outside the industry for help. In fact, an agency must have auto experience in order to work on most auto brands.

Sounds reasonable, right? Well, like many other industries, that means that the players within that industry just trade agencies back and forth, believing that it will someday make a difference. Yet few industries spout such similar messages as automobile manufacturers do and market share stagnates.

Truly rebrand against the competition.

Another pitfall. Listening only to your own customers. The art of rebranding is to steal market share, not just keep the customers you already have. If you have preference with a portion of the audience, that means they have already bought into what your brand. It’s the customers of your competition that you are looking to attract. And, right now, they are ignoring you.

That means you must focus on them. Focusing on your current customers often leads to the stale refresh of a brand rather than something designed to steal market share. That’s how you become stagnant.

Where are the opportunities?

Quantitative research uncovers the main strategies of any rebrand. But there is research and there is research. Most do usage and attitude studies that rarely tell you anything groundbreaking that you already didn’t know. While some of that data is useful, it doesn’t help in the rebuilding of a brand.

There are honest values to test, but they should not be the category benefits of what you offer. “Better technology” or “low prices” are not switching triggers to test because they are simply definitions of what the category offers. The switching triggers to test are often the emotional messages that prompt audiences to prefer you in the face of rational reasons to not.

RebrandingThat’s where precepts come in. Few, if any, advertising agencies or brand companies understand how human behavior works. Our actions as humans are driven by our belief systems. Our wants and needs come from a belief. Most marketing and branding stops at needs and wants, without any understanding of why they are important.

Those belief systems are the emotional triggers to preference. These precepts are first uncovered in behavior modeling, then tested in the research.

Rebranding is difficult because it asks its guardians to take a hard look at what the brand is currently doing in the marketplace – and the news is usually not good. It means letting go of past efforts that are actually holding you back from creating true preference.

The root of emerging with a meaningful brand is understanding the emotional drivers of your target audience’s behavior. The brand is not something you own. It’s something the people you are attracting own. Therefore, a successful rebrand comes from those audiences, not yourself.

The US brand. What is the United States of America?

The US brand is under siege. Is anyone else worried about the future of the US?

The US BrandI don’t mean in terms of which candidate you support in the upcoming election. There are sane people on both sides of that debate. I’m talking about the very fabric of what it means to be a citizen of the US brand. An American.

At our root, we claim to be a nation bound by a Constitution that dictates our civil behavior. Since the election of Washington until Lincoln, every election has been followed by a peaceful transition of power. It is what it means to be an American.

The one time that process failed was in 1860 and it resulted in a bloody war that ended in the complete defeat of those that opposed union. The debate for peaceful transition had been decided once and for all with an anything but peaceful five years of blood soaked division. I believe, despite all of the posturing today, that this election will also be a peaceful transition of power from the incumbent to the newly elected leadership.

The US brand has been under siege in the past

I don’t think I am alone in looking back upon the last decade with a bit of distain. Our national genius for compromise has been replaced by vitriol and obstruction. When FDR was first elected, humorist Will Rogers said, “Well, if he gets to the White House and it catches fire and burns to the ground, we will say at least he got something started.” Just like Will, I have become weary of partisan posturing and I want to get SOMETHING done.

The US BrandMy worry is not over the election itself, although the personal attacks are hard to hear. After all, one of these two candidates will be our next President. In many ways, I would love to hear what each candidate will do to help our country if they lose. My sincere hope is that either candidate will try their best when elected. That is the minimum I think we can expect. The rest is just politics.

What REALLY worries me about the US brand? A fear that, as a nation, we might be ungovernable in the future. A large percentage of those that are voting say they do not trust the information published from our government. They do not trust what they read in the news and they do not trust our elective process. I then wonder how they plan on making America Great Again or becoming Stronger Together?The US brand

If you don’t read the news, where are you getting your information? If you don’t believe anything the government says or publishes and don’t believe in the right of the majority to rule— well you don’t believe in our Constitution.

I can’t wait to read comments on this post. In the past, my worst fears have been realized in those comments. Aggressive and hateful bloggers post comments that prove my point. They did not read what I had to say.

Until we address the basic problem, which is IGNORANCE, we have a broken system with broken constituents. Just remember that the root of the word ignorant means to IGNORE.

The appealing brand of Shark Tank

I am not the easiest audience to impress. Just ask my son, who this past weekend attempted to share a segment from the Comedy Central sketch series, Key & Peele. While he was laughed so hard that tears streamed down his face (the segment was one entitled “High on Potenuse”) mine barely moved a muscle. I could see his intrigue in the show, but regretfully, I won’t be binge watching that series any time soon.

I love just anything on PBS. It was easy for me to become ridiculously infatuated with the HBO series’ The Sopranos and The Wire. Lately, though, I have been snarked by Shark Tank.

Shark Tank
The appeal of Shark Tank lies in the belief in entrepreneurship.

Shark Tank has filled up the capacity of my DVR. Simply put, I cannot get enough. There is something I admire about each of the “sharks.” They have wits about them, they follow their gut and are willing to take a leap of faith more times than not. And they are entertaining.

Shark Tank taps into a universal belief.

In the past I’ve hinted at my viewership of the Tank and have even blogged on products presented on the show. But now’s the time to give the show a complete piece of my mind.

With the risk of sounding hokey, Shark Tank is good medicine for our county. It’s the “American Dream” at its finest. It’s a platform where entrepreneurs with a great idea (or a bad one, even) has a chance to fully realize their potential. Shark Tank also offers helpful feedback from a group of folks who understand brand remarkably well.

The show’s brand power comes from the belief that anyone can be successful, if they are just innovative enough and work hard. That’s a belief many of us share. So we put ourselves in the position of the those presenting new products and those judging them.

I cannot recommend it enough. As for me, I have another episode, or 30, to catch up on.

Don’t have time to read? Try Audible.

I don’t mean for this to sound like an advertisement. But I’ll tell ya, this might sound pretty close. I suppose when you are in love with something, you want to let it be known. It’s a pleasure to share it with everyone else.

My latest pleasure is Audible.

Audible
Audible is a way to devour books if reading time is limited.

You see, I live a really busy life. In that hubbub, I’ve lost time indulging in my favorite pastime of all — reading books. As a young guy, you would never find me without a copy of something by my side. But as life progressed and my table has become more and more full, the chance for those relaxing moments happens less often.

But since I’ve been using Audible, I’ve listened to six books in two months. I just re-read Dune, listened to John Krakauer’s Missoula and I have intentions on finally listening to The Alchemist.

Audible (now owned by Amazon) is a brand that fulfills a unique need that few others have. Without much competition, save for OverDrive (a public library-based audiobook and eBook site), Audible has a need-based position locked up. (In addition, most of the audiobooks on iTunes are from Audible.)

Audible is unique, need-fulfilling brand. 

The great French general Napoleon based many of his strategies on the beliefs of human tendencies. To paraphrase within the context of branding, with careful planning and insight, you may in fact find an ally and advantage in the market leader. Brand messaging is often overlooked. Napoleon taught us that our advantage often lies in an understanding of human nature.

Audible understands human beings like me by aligning itself with a belief that learning is still important – even if we don’t have time for it. May I add, it helps that most of the books are read by actors too. (Others are sometimes read by the authors themselves.) That takes the already high level of enjoyment up a few more notches.

But enough of my yapping. I need to get back to listening.