Preoccupations and Observances

You Can Call it a Blog But Only Setting Your Expectations Way Out of Reach

  • 2017-06-16 08:25 PDT Types of Branding Strategies: One Serves 321 Million

    Most brand designers will tell you there are several types of branding strategies; I am a brand designer who holds true that there is just one. Contrary to prevailing wisdom, a brand is an expression of complex, fallible, imperfect, susceptible, error-prone behaviors—not of algorithms. An articulation that three hundred twenty-one million Americans, plus the international citizenry, will interpret as resonant or tiresome, snarky or smart, false or true. There’s a whole lot of judging going on. The truth about branding strategies is that branding is about uncovering truths. ¶ This should make branding sound easy because the truth is difficult and getting down to raw truths is hard work. But it’s the raw truths that you can build on; from raw truths come captivating stories. When you hold back, it is immediately apparent that you’re sneaky. The good news about truths is that they are fundamental to all of us; if we were willing to shelve the bullshit and acknowledge that, if we were to make truth vital to the equation, we could more easily get our clients to do the same and in the mire of all that authenticity, latch on to other qualities of humankind that are innate, even transcendent—not business babble that a certain type of book might call ‘emotive’ or ‘experiential’ types of branding strategies,’ but real life-altering events that inspire and color conversations. ¶ Building your brand starts with a dialogue. By composing a shared vocabulary made up of symbols, intonations, and associations, you and your audience will, in due time and after much stumbling, achieve mutual understanding. Understanding requires agility as you negotiate perceptions and inferences, intentions and expectations, expressions and interpretations. The idea is that this exchange brings about accord, the sweet spot where everyone is on the same page. Commonality brings with it a strong competitive advantage: a kind of kinsmanship, a handshake and a promise; this is your brand. ¶ Brands exist as guests of culture. And culture—who we are, what we do, our quirks and our considerations—is restless and fickle. Culture begs for ideas, new and renewed, to capture its imagination, pique its interest, and move it forward. Now consider this: commerce is as much a member of culture as is any individual, and we all bear similar traits. We want the same things. And, we want to be unique. ¶ It’s a paradox. One can say that her new black suede Kate Spade bag will set her apart; at the same time, she will have conformed; since commerce holds the same tenet, it mass-produces that same bag. A well-considered brand embraces the inconsistencies inherent to human behaviors: the paradoxical pairings of singularity and commonality, individuality and conformity, the simple desire to be unique and fit in at the same time. ¶ If you take away one thing and incorporate it into your way of thinking about brands, it’s this: Understand that inasmuch as each of us cultivates a unique presence, we are essentially the same. Once you’ve squeezed every last drop of honesty from your client and you know his or her truths, a great place to start looking for your audience is in the mirror. Before you bring the outside in, let the inside out. Explore, discover, think for yourself, and draw your own conclusions.

  • 2017-06-13 09:25 PDT Lyrics to Create By (Guest Contributor Cole Porter)

    Cole Porter (1933) ‘Before you leave these portals to meet your fellow mortals, there’s just one final message I would give to you. We all have learned reliance on the sacred teachings of science, so I hope, through life, you never will decline in spite of philistine defiance to do what all good scientists do. ¶ Experiment. Make it your motto day and night. Experiment. And it will lead you to the light. The apple on the top of the tree is never too high to achieve, so take an example from Eve, experiment. ¶ Be curious, though interfering friends may frown. Get furious at each attempt to hold you down. If this advice you always employ the future will offer you infinite joy and merriment. Experiment and you’ll see.’

  • 2015-02-01 11:14 PDT What’s Wrong With Yes

    I wrote this of two people who had set up a foundation and did so hoping they might effect something that would make a meaningful difference in the world. Of their examples for how one might go about doing such a thing, I distilled this: The beauty in the logic was that it was so simple and that it was not even something new, so it was a little sad to be reminded that so few practiced changing the world as part of their everyday routines. It’s a matter of reversing your learned response of first thinking no to first thinking yes, making yes the default, and then it’s as simple as pausing, breathing, and doing what you can. This was something possible and practicable that I could incorporate into my everyday life, and I very much liked the idea of changing the world. ¶ After I wrote it, it nagged at me. We are taught to say no when we are so young. We are taught to shy away. And I understand a parent’s fear, I truly do. But I think that our (re)actions are only feeding the monster we are trying to cloister ourselves from. ¶ My father is a holy thorn in my side and my hero. Two years ago, he spent an entire his year getting a homeless man off the streets and into a home that helped him back to his feet. It was a hard thing to do. Everyday Isaac, the homeless man, was part of our lives, my father fed him, he let him sleep on the porch when storeowners kicked him off public property. He did laundry for him now and then. He took him to the recycling center to turn in cans he had gathered. ¶ If you ask him about it now, he’ll complain. But he didn’t at the time. He didn’t because it required only two small active steps, he allowed the answer to be yes and then he did something. Each day, something, anything. ¶ I haven’t made a new year’s resolution year, I’m picking this one up late. I will say yes and smile. I will say yes and say hello. I will say yes and frisk my pockets and even if all I can find is a penny, I will give the penny, I will value the penny as not worthless. I will say yes as many times a day as I am asked and I will do what I can, even if it is but one small seemingly infinitesimal thing.

  • 2013-02-20 02:14 PDT My Problem With Apps

    I have a problem with apps. My problem is much the same as my problem with the dollar store down the street. My problem is I can’t resist something that costs only a buck. ¶ My daily routine begins with two cans of Pepsi, with which I sit down in front of my computer and reflexively type in my URL to make sure my website is still there. I’ll make a routine check of my e-mail accounts and my social networks; I’ll check for software updates, and then—and this is the pivotal moment—I will either engage in the day’s work before me or fall into the gyre of the one half million apps that now populate the Apple App Store. Icons will sprint laps in my mind. I will give in and binge while the App Store utterly defeats my higher power (I.e., the dollar). I will stare slack-jawed and amazed at page upon page of American ingenuity, the mood diary for the clinically depressed, the many versions of a compass. Will I really have my iPhone handy when I am most in need of a compass? No matter, they are all priced at a penny less than a buck. I tell myself I should seriously consider attending the AA meetings at the soup kitchen down the street, or does the A not refer to app? ¶ At the App Store, an actual, or virtual, app of genuine utility procured early on and at a snip can precipitate a reversal. Otherwise I scroll and click my way through scores of productivity tools, disk utilities, and what’s “new and noteworthy.” I download free trials indiscriminately. I hunt down the satiating bargain. I am both an early adopter and a sucker. ¶ Buying apps is a crapshoot. Rather than being denominated by functionality, most can be more accurately categorized as useless, needless, pointless, or redundant. Regardless, the fun is all wrapped up in the transaction. It’s a numbers game; like playing the tables in Las Vegas, pixels are to a dollar as clay is to a sawbuck. The minimal gestures at my keyboard are like round-edged, coated card stock on felt. It’s only when I leave the table that I recognize my gains or losses. The thing is this: when you play the numbers in Vegas, there is always the chance that you might walk away from the cage with something actual in hand, but walking away from the App Store always leaves you virtually empty-handed. Still, on any given day at my computer I will amass a cart full of needless software and for 10 bucks feel like I just dropped a few thousand. What’s more, I’ve wasted hardly a thing but my entire day. ¶ Useful software of the capital investment variety comes with its own disappointments. Now even premium applications come in the form of something like air; I get a virtual enigma that brings to mind a puzzle without an image of the assembled product on the box. Sure, a $799 purchase has great potential to make my day, but if I’m spending more than $0.99 per any one item, if I’m buying software that’s going to hit my bank account like a brick, I will, as I stare at the bright blue bar that counts down the minutes until my purchase appears on my virtual desktop and asks me if it may be virtually installed, bemoan the fact that it did not come in a box. Should I suppress my wont for immediate gratification and order the physical artifact, it too is lacking. As with all new software, it helps to have a user’s manual. Without a sturdy box and a detailed user’s guide, you can write off free access to any instruction of salient value. ¶ For years now I’ve been wondering what the “de-interlace” feature in Photoshop is all about. The Adobe website’s search engine does not return a relevant response. I ask people and they shrug. Because even the big software manufacturers have given up user-friendly user’s manuals and have taken to sloughing off technical support  to the homebound “member” of an online “community,”, which, incidentally, gets you either squat or several conflicting answers or answers that are just plain wrong; moreover, people who spend their time hanging out on software forums are just plain creepy because it is one thing to browse, but to engage, well—; my reticence to dig deeper is a matter of dignity. Maybe prison inmates who use their allotted 15 minutes daily on a computer populate the Microsoft Excel Support Community Forum. If such a person isn’t in prison already, if only the kind of virtual prison that one can fall into, I’ll lay odds he will be; it’s only a matter of time. I am sympathetic; it’s hard to step away from the box.