Brands, Art, and Fear

I had the chance to meet Seth Godin about 8 years ago. His perspective of marketing and branding is so unique and spot on. I always say, branding is who you are and where you are going.

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It’s about the humans behind the name, product, or company. It’s about making things. It’s about the creation of ideas and the risk of crushing the status quo. We have to care. We have to love what we create. People don’t want to be fooled by flashy logos and bright colors, only to find out, the soul of the individual, product, or company doesn’t give a sh*t. As the old saying goes, “give a damn, many damns.”

Continue reading “Brands, Art, and Fear”

Are You Indispensable?

It’s been 5 years since Seth Godin’s first visit to Orange County. I went with a few colleagues not knowing what to expect. Since then, Linchpin: Are You Indispensable? has become one of my favorite books and I’ve bought many copies to give out to friends. He left us with a charge to think differently about branding & marketing; to think differently about what we make. He told us to make art, give gifts, do work that matters, connect, lead, ship, and make a difference.

Brian Elliot of thegoodbrain.com, former Universal Home Entertainment exec with 15+ years in brand strategy, production, DVD and original content, hosted that evening’s keynote with Seth Godin. This morning, he FINALLY received permission from Godin to post his epic full-length keynote and emailed the link to a bunch of us who were there. There were about 900 people in attendance that day, back in 2010, at the the St. Regis Hotel to hear Seth LIVE. His message about being “indispensable” is even more relevant today.

If you don’t know Godin, he’s the godfather of modern marketing, bestselling author of more than a dozen biz books and has one of the most read blogs on the planet. I hope you enjoy this rare treat!

The Humility of the Artist

I was reading Seth Godin’s blog post this morning and it profoundly hit the nail on the head. Here’s what he said,

It seems arrogant to say, “perhaps this isn’t for you.”

When the critic pans your work, or the prospect hears your offer but doesn’t buy, the artist responds, “that’s okay, it’s not for you.” She doesn’t wheedle or flip-flop or go into high pressure mode. She treats different people differently, understands that she is working to delight the weird, not please the masses, and walks away.

Isn’t that arrogant?

No. It’s arrogant to assume that you’ve made something so extraordinary that everyone everywhere should embrace it. Our best work can’t possibly appeal to the average masses, only our average work can.

Finding the humility to happily walk away from those that don’t get it unlocks our ability to do great work.

Knowing who you are and where you are going is branding. That is the brand, whether the brand is you, a product or service. Being confident in allowing your brand to be itself is not arrogantit is strategic. We must be artists, creators, innovators; we are all original.

I asked a client (singer/songwriter) the other day in a session, “Who was Michael Jackson like?” “What about Prince? Or Miles Davis?” The answer, obviously was no one. They were confident in being themselves and they created forms of music that no one before them had created. We don’t really consider musicians who followed in their footsteps to be legends. Being legendary requires being unique, different. It required these artists to be themselves, not attempting to please everyone, but pushing to have personal integrity and originality in their work.

Michael Jackson Prince Miles DavisNo one can be you. There is no competition to you. When you choose to be yourself and stay focused on a clear path, you don’t really compete with anyone. You now have something unique. Now all you have to do is market, effectively tell your story to a specific demographic. Branding and marketing…defining who you are, where you are going, and sharing that story effectively. 

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What Does the Fox Say?

Love what Seth Godin had to say about the newest viral music video on YouTube.

The viral music video of the moment is right here.

The question for the marketer, music or otherwise, isn’t, “what are the hooks and tricks I use to go viral?” No, the question is, “is it worth it?”

What does the fox say has the hooks and tricks in abundance. It has Archie McPhee animal costumes, nonsense words, just the right sort of production values, superfluous subtitles, appropriate silliness. It would probably help the cause to add spurious nudity, but give them points for getting the rest of it right.

To what end?

If your work goes viral, if it gets seen by tens of millions of people, sure you can profit from that. But most of the time, it won’t. Most of the time, you’ll aim to delight the masses and you’ll fail.

I’m glad that some people are busy trying to entertain us in a silly way now and then. But it doesn’t have to be you doing the entertaining–the odds are stacked against you.

So much easier to aim for the smallest possible audience, not the largest, to build long-term value among a trusted, delighted tribe, to create work that matters and stands the test of time.

“Baby bump bump bay dum.”

This is My Art

Seth Godin, one of my favorite modern thinkers, released his newest book today. “The Icarus Deception: How High Will You Fly?” is nothing short of brilliant. Two things might hold someone back from sharing the art they’ve got inside: The fear of telling the truth or the lame strategy of hiding the truth behind a sales pitch. If you can find the voice, stand up and tell people what you care about.

Your art is vitally important, and what makes it art is that it is personal, important and fraught with the whiff of failure. This is precisely why it’s scarce and thus valuable—it’s difficult to stand up and own it and say, “here, I made this.” – Seth Godin

Watch this video…go ahead and do it. Now.

At some point, art must involve a human. A human with intent. Your hand can be your heart or your words or your effort or a hug, but, yes, the work of a human. If you de-industrialize the process and return it to humanity, to connection, then yes, it’s art and yes, it will connect to other humans more effectively.


MY ARTThis is my art:

I’m good at helping tell your story to people who don’t really know it, yet need to know it. I create pictures that don’t speak a thousand words, but instead speak a few strategic words that provoke an inevitable response. I’m gifted at the art of ignoring boxes and rethinking possibilities. In essence, my art is helping give your art wings.

CALL ME 626.467.5335

ALSO, check out our LOFT and how it may support you.

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Branding & Public Education

I was reading Seth Godin’s blog earlier this week (by the way, I highly recommend it) and came across an article on his post-industrial view of universal public education. Seth shares how many factories insisted on child labor because they simply couldn’t afford to hire adults. The trade (in creating child labor laws) was to allow kids to learn the skills necessary to be the best possible factory workers.  Large-scale education was never about teaching kids or creating scholars. It was invented to churn out adults who worked well within the system.  Of course, it worked. Several generations of productive, fully employed workers followed.

“Part of the rationale to sell this major transformation to industrialists was that educated kids would actually become more compliant and productive workers. Our current system of teaching kids to sit in straight rows and obey instructions isn’t a coincidence–it was an investment in our economic future. The plan: trade short-term child labor wages for longer-term productivity by giving kids a head start in doing what they’re told.” – Seth Godin

What does this have to do with Branding?

In any industry, workers have learned to accept status quo and comply with what society deems relevant. One of the first questions I ask my clients is, “what makes you different…what sets you apart?” It may seem like a silly question, but in a world obsessed with task driven status quo…consumers secretly long to break rules and try something new and innovative. Is your brand similar to our public education system…set up to create machinists and followers, or is your brand offering consumers the opportunity to reach beyond the walls of conformity and self-martyrdom.

Of course being different just for the sake of being different would help no one. Innovation is only successful when it propels one into a better life.  Differentiating you from all those folks out there who try to do what you are doing and pinpointing exactly why you do it better is key. What makes you different? Why is your brand unique? This is your brand’s essence; the inner workings of your brand’s character.

For the record…my wife & I are heavily involved in our daughter’s school and are working hard to make sure that her and her friends have ample opportunity and support to change the world.

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Creativity on Demand

Most of us are really creative (whether you believe that or not)…all the time, however we have been told that in order to be effective we must sort of shut that part down. When asked to pull from it, we can be confused and frustrated. Setting aside time in your day to unleash the creativity within…everyday, even if you think you don’t need to…is part of the key.

Diving into the “realm of possibilites” without allowing excuses or difficulties to control your session is an amazing discipline.

Alice laughed. “There’s no use trying,” she said: “one can’t believe impossible things.”
“I daresay you haven’t had much practice,” said the Queen. “When I was your age, I always did it for half-an-hour a day. Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.”
(Through the Looking Glass, Chapter 5)

Turning the creative madness into effective ideas that will change the world is the next step. Take your new creative ideas (as strange as some of them may be) and set milestones and a definitive goal.

Do this everyday. Choose which ideas are worth working on in the now…and which ones should be tabled.

As far as “on demand” goes…well, sometimes I feel life is like trying to focus intently on a thin line in the middle of a busy freeway of ideas. Like a kid with A.D.D….doing my best to focus. When provoked for an idea…it seems it may be as simple as looking around you…eyes open and grabbing all you can, like a an old lady in a game show money machine.

A new book by Todd Henry named, “The Accidental Creative” was referred by Michael Buckingham of HolyCowCreative on a post. It’s a book that supports you in establishing effective practices that unleash your creative potential…every day. Sounds like a great book…I’ll put it next to my signed copy of Linchpin…you know, so they can play.

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Seth “Linchpin” Audio Download

Here’s a 45 minute-long live recording of a master class session Seth Godin did last week in New York. No slides, no script, just a some words to mess your pretty little head up.

Download LinchpinSessionSethGodinApril

“This is what the future of work (and the world) looks like. Actually, it’s already happening around you.”
-Tony Hsieh, CEO, Zappos.com