Writing A Great Tagline

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Writing A Great Tagline

Last night I noticed that Lexus has a new tagline.

Even though I don’t drive one of their cars, I am a big fan of the company and their advertising. That’s because Lexus and their marketing professionals clearly understood the All About Them mindset.


Launched in the United States in 1989, Lexus was a brand created specifically for an emerging market. 20 years later, Lexus was the fourth-largest premium car make in the world by volume and was the number one selling premium car brand in the United States for 10 years in a row.

How did they do it?

Lexus combined engineering from Toyota’s most reliable models with the various creature comforts and status cues that newly affluent consumers craved. The result was a car that was proficient at comfort, luxury, status, and performance without being the best at any of those things. The brand was successful because it spoke directly to its customers. Plus, it gave them exactly what they wanted and nothing they didn’t.

Writing A Great Tagline

But besides building the car its buyers wanted, and providing them with the dealer-service experience they demanded, Lexus also excelled at communicating the car’s brand value. This was especially true with their tagline: “The Relentless Pursuit of Perfection.” The slogan suggested that the car company would never rest in their ongoing quest to build the best car in the world.

But the tagline did something else. It also represented its buyers’ attitude.

After all, Lexus were not first purchased by people who were already buying Mercedes Benzes and BMWs and stepping down to the Japanese marque. Instead, Lexus were driven off the lot by newly-affluent strivers who were trading up from mid-tier domestic and imported brands. These drivers were attracted both by Lexus’ Mercedes-like looks and quality and their significantly lower prices. And so the line, “The Relentless Pursuit of Perfection” did not just talk about the car. The line represented the aspirational lifestyle of the car’s customers, too.


But after 20 incredibly successful years, Lexus’ fortunes began to change. Thanks to a global recession, along with changing consumer tastes, Lexus lost significant market share in the U.S. and lost their best-selling luxury status to BMW and Mercedes Benz. In response, the brand edited its message to the shorter “Pursuit of Perfection.”

Whether or not this edit referred to Lexus’ former achievements or continued to represent its consumers is hard to tell. After all, while the relentless pursuit of perfection is, by definition, an impossible hunt, it certainly seems more romantic than the truncated message.

But this year Lexus changed their tag again. Lexus’ new tagline is “Experience Amazing.”  And what was once an extremely powerfully motivating life mantra has been watered down into generic pabulum.

Writing A Great Tagline

Porsche warns us that, “There is no substitute.”

BMW tempts us with, “The Ultimate Driving Machine.”

Volvo reassures us, “For Life.”

Mercedes Benz promises, “The Best or Nothing.”

And now Lexus wants to inspire us with line that would be just as appropriate for Cirque de Soleil’s new show, Disney World’s latest theme park, a new IPA, or even Dr. Scholl’s newest shoe liners?

Where’s the learning you can apply to your business? Simply put, while a good brand makes people feel good, a great brand makes people feel good about themselves. Just like the relentless pursuit of perfection!

A Good Brand


Jeff Bezos has a lot to teach us.

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Jeff Bezos has a lot to teach us.

It has now been three years since online retail visionary, Jeff  Bezos, bought the Washington Post.

On NPR this morning I heard about how the tech entrepreneur has changed the newspaper. There are lots of things Bezos has done, but the major change will come as no surprise. Bezos completely redesigned the way the company operates. Bezos transformed the Post from a newspaper company to a technology company.

Jeff BezosTo do this, he commissioned in-house software to run all aspects of the business, from the newsroom, to production, to ad sales. Being an ad guy myself, it was these changes that I found most interesting.

Thanks to Bezos’ understanding of the online environment, not only does software run the Post’s ad department more efficiently, but big data also makes their advertising more efficient.

Thanks to Bezos’ changes, the Post’s ad revenues are up to almost $100 million. This is significantly more than they earned before the changes. And in a day and age when all we hear about is how newspaper profits are falling, this is startling news.

Ironically, most people find that the online Post now includes fewer ads than the former print version. In the past, newspaper consumers complained about the number of ads that were blocking their enjoyment of the paper. But the Post has found a solution to this problem as well. What happens now is that the ads readers see are specifically targeted to specific audiences. These targets are based on those audience’s propensity to look at specific parts of the Post’s site and purchase the specific items advertised.

But advertisers are okay with the lower volume of ads being served. That’s because today’s savvy advertisers realize that circulation and frequency are not what’s most important. Instead, they care about being in front of the right people.

That’s worth saying again. Today’s savvy advertiser realizes that what’s important is being in front of the right people. In other words, positioning is now more important than frequency. Advertisers understand that they will get a greater sales return, and greater ROI, if they talk to the people who have the highest propensity to purchase their products. And technology now allows advertisers to specifically target their perfect audiences with greater and greater accuracy.

The old days of “Let’s run it up the flagpole and see who salutes” or “Why don’t we toss it against the wall and sees if it sticks” are over. Ironically, this idea is not new.

Maybe you remember the apocryphal tale from the 1950s:

It’s about a son who thought it was time for him to take over his father’s business. Unfortunately, his dad was not ready to relinquish control. And so the son asked to run marketing and advertising for the company. The father did not agree with this either. But instead of giving up, the son got strategic. He asked his dad to simply give him a small budget to see if he could make their advertising work. The father agreed.

The first thing the son did was buy ads for the company in the newspaper his father read in the morning. Then he bought posters surrounding the subway station he knew his father walked through on his way to the office. Next, he bought the placards inside the subway that his father rode to work.  And, as you’ve already figured out, he also purchased the posters outside the subway station near his dad’s office. Finally he bought ads on the one radio station he knew his father listened to at work.

You know what happened.

After a few days of this onslaught, the father told his son how great his ad plan was because he saw it everywhere. Based on his son’s ad successful ad schedule, he named his son the company’s marketing director, and eventually made him CEO of the company.

The moral of the story? Positioning that reaches the right person at the right time is what matters. Understanding your audience, understanding who they are, what they want, and where they spend their time, is the key to spreading your message. The business owner’s son proved it 70 years ago. Jeff Bezos proved it today.

Proof Positive That You Can Do Anything.

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You Can do Anything.

You can do anythingFor a couple years now I’ve been writing about how the world has changed while you and I were sleeping.

I’ve written about how social media put the power of the media in the hands of each one of us.

I’ve blogged about how the handheld video recorder in your smartphone has destroyed our concept of privacy.

I’ve talked about the ways wireless Internet connections have turned our consumer society into an unending 24/7/365 telethon.

And I’ve pointed out how computer design and manufacturing have made all products “good enough.” This has eliminated the importance of a product’s functional ability in purchase decisions.

But maybe you haven’t always bought my line of reasoning. Or perhaps you’re new to this blog and haven’t been following my points for long. If so, here’s proof:

The canary in the coalmine is Eugene Romanovsky’s ad to sell his 1996 Suzuki Vitara. It proves you can do anything.


Romanovsky created this epic video to unload a car that CarsGuide says is worth somewhere between $2,640 and $6,270. But that didn’t stop Romanovsky from pulling out all the stops to present the 96-horsepower SUV.

In his video, Romanovsky’s little Suzuki stars in cameos from Jurassic Park and Mad Max and also travels with sharks, dinosaurs, and the Space Shuttle.

Of course, Romanovsky is a special effects artist. His Facebook page says Romanovsky works at the Tel Aviv animation studio Gravity and has access to the technology necessary to create an ad like this.

But what’s so exciting is that it proves you can do anything.

Video editing programs including Final Cut Pro X, Screen Flow, Autodesk Inventor, and Adobe Edge are available for less than $100. And if that’s too much to spend, there’s a long list of software that will give you much of the same functionality for free.

Needless to say, just having the software loaded in your laptop doesn’t mean you have the skills or creativity to recreate Romanovsky’s blockbuster. Hell, I have a piano at home but I can’t play it. But the point is that today’s cost-of-entry barriers to so many things that were previously unavailable to us simply do not exist anymore.

Today you can learn how to use the tools yourself. Or you can go online and find someone in India, Malaysia or perhaps the Philippines who is more than willing to make your vision a reality. And they’ll do it at an astoundingly low price.

For years we were told that anyone in America could grow up to be president. But based on how similar all of our presidents looked up to that point, I’m not sure we entirely believed it was true. Until 2009 when Barack Obama was elected the 44th president of the United States, that is. Suddenly anything was possible.

By the same token, motivational speakers have made it a cliché to believe that you can do anything you put your mind to. And I don’t think many of us believed that was true either.

But that was only until Eugene Romanovsky created an ad that would have cost millions of dollars to produce less than a decade ago. And he did it to sell a four-thousand-dollar car.

What can you do?

You can do anything.

The Streisand Effect and Your Brand

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The Streisand Effect and Your Brand Value.

The Streisand EffectPhotographer Kenneth Adelman took an aerial photo of Barbra Streisand’s Malibu mansion. In return, the singer sued him for $50,000,000 citing violation of privacy. Before the suit, “Image 3850” (the photo of Streisand’s mansion) had been downloaded from the California Coastal Records Project collection of 12,000 images only six times (and two of those downloads were by Streisand’s attorneys). After the suit was made public the image was visited over 420,000 times.

Hence the Streisand Effect.

Wikipedia defines The Streisand Effect as “the phenomenon whereby an attempt to hide, remove, or censor a piece of information has the unintended consequence of publicizing the information more widely.” This is otherwise known as “psychological reactance, wherein once people are aware something is being kept from them, their motivation to access and spread the information is increased.”

When you apply the Streisand Effect to your brand, the results can be either good or bad.

The outcome depends on how you employ the technique. Miami Republican state representative Jose Felix “Pepi” Diaz was a competitor on Season 5 of The Apprentice. But a few years later he decided that being associated with president Donald Trump was not a good thing for his senate bid.

The Streisand Effect - Pepe DiazAnd so Diaz’s picture of the two of them smiling together, along with the post “Just ran into the first guy who ever fired me. The next president of the United States @realDonaldTrump #Apprentice #POTUS #ElPresidente”, was removed from Diaz’s website and Twitter feed.

The Miami New Times pointed out that it’s not hard to figure out why: “Diaz is worried about the image that would project to voters in Florida’s 40th state Senate district – especially because Hillary Clinton crushed Trump in that district 57 percent to 40 percent last fall.”

In response, the New Times has now distributed the story. Also, Democratic activists are making sure that the photo of a chummy Pepe and POTUS is not forgotten.

Clearly this is a negative example of the Streisand Effect.

But the Streisand Effect can also be put to good use thanks to its uncanny ability to generate interest and attention.

Think back to The Beatle’s masterful “Paul is Dead” campaign. This hoax culminated in the clue-laden Abbey Road album cover. That resulted in the band’s November 1969 record sales breaking all records.

Ferrari puts the Streisand Effect to good use, too. Unlike virtually every other auto brand that sells cars for money, you cannot simply walk into a showroom, throw down your black American Express card and drive out in a special edition Italian sports car. Instead Ferrari uses scarcity to keep demand – and prices – skyhigh.

Hermes does it with their Birken bags.

Augusta does it with tee times and Masters tickets.

Rao’s does it with dinner seatings.

Nike does it with their special release Air Jordan’s.

And Apple does it with almost every product they sell.

If familiarity does indeed breed contempt, then these brand masters know that we desperately want what we can’t have. And rather than being upset or walking away in anger, we’ll wait longer, pay more, and use every angle and connection we have to overcome the Streisand Effect.

The Key To Building Your Brand

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Building Your Brand

The Key To Building Your Brand.

“I blew out my flip flop, Stepped on a pop top; Cut my heel, had to cruise on back home.”

Those aren’t just some of the lyrics to Jimmy Buffett’s 1977 song Margaritaville. They contain the secret message to his stellar success in music and business.

Maybe it’s no surprise that such a powerful branding ethos should come from a Jimmy Buffett ditty. After all, Buffett is a masterful brander who mixed simple country tunes with an aspirational lifestyle to create a powerful and multifaceted brand. The New York Times says Buffet’s enterprises include an $800 million family resort and over $1.5 billion in annual sales.

But the key to building your brand is not just the catchiness of Buffett’s tune. It’s the message in his words.

Think about Indian Fakirs laying on a bed of nails. First, they lower themselves onto a surface constructed of thousands of razor sharp spikes. While their audiences gasp in amazement, the Fakirs lay on their ghastly divans in apparent comfort. And when they finally rise – they do so easily, appearing no worse for the experience.

But according to the song, a barefoot Buffett stepped on an errant soda top and had to head home to care for his injury.

I believe this advice inspired Buffett’s entire business and branding strategy.

Why? Because simply put, one point, even a dull pop top, is more powerful than thousands of perfectly sharpened points. In other words, despite all the different ways Buffett engages his audiences, his brand is singularly focused.

Whether you’re attending Buffett’s concerts, drinking his Landshark Beer or sipping his Margaritaville Rum, wearing his jewelry, listening to his online radio station, eating in his restaurants or staying in his resort, you’re always consuming the same message.

Kick off your shoes, enjoy the tropical breeze, and lighten up.

When you think about building your brand, think about the best brands you buy and the brands you love. Regardless of what business they’re in, they also have a singular way of telling you who they are, what they do, and why it should matter to you.

That’s the key to building your brand.

Disney is The Happiest Place on Earth.

Lexus offers The Relentless Pursuit of Perfection.

DeBeers taught us that A Diamond is Forever.

The US Army promised you could Be All That You Can Be.

Nike encouraged us to Just Do It.

And Vegas told us with a wink, What Happens Here Stays Here.

Now compare those singular messages with the complicated and overwrought way you probably describe your own company and your own services.

No matter how critically important all of your facts and figures are, if you need to list them every time you describe your competitive advantages you’re creating a bed of nails. And as we’ve already seen, while that might be a great way to create a comfortable place to lay down, it’s not a very good way to grow your brand.

Or your business.

Killing Good Ideas

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Good Ideas


Do you know where good ideas come from?

Don’t feel bad, I don’t either.

Surprising, perhaps, considering I’m responsible for coming up with great ideas for our clients every single day.

I know how to present ideas; I know how to sell ideas. And like the blind pig finding the occasional truffle, I even create some good ones now and again.

I just don’t know where they come from.

What I do know is new ideas, good and bad, are very fragile and easy to scare away.

And once you frighten them, others don’t show up.

The other thing I know is they don’t suffer criticism well. That’s not to say all ideas are good ideas and should be used, only that criticizing ideas at the same time you’re trying to come up with them is the way to make sure you don’t come up with any more.

Finally, I know shooting down new ideas is the quickest way to prove they won’t ever work.

Plenty of people will shoot down your ideas, whether they realize it or not. And so, you must be on constant alert, vigilant to the telltale signs of idea killing.

I call killing ideas “concepticide.”

Like a feral cat hunkering down before it pounces on an unwitting bird, concepticidal maniacs clearly telegraph their intentions, both with body- and spoken-language markers.

Here are some giveaways:

  1. Rolling eyes. Concepticides often initiate their attacks with signs of frustration at having to explain why your idea will never work. Keep an eye peeled for shrugged shoulders, shaking heads, and waved hands. Those are the ways Concepticides let you know they know your ideas are no good.
  2. Telling intros. Listen for dismissive disclaimers such as, “I don’t know anything about copywriting, but…” If you don’t know anything about copywriting (or whatever), then why are you qualified to comment on it? I don’t know anything about Bulgarian geographical tort reform either, but I don’t offer my opinion on the subject.
  3. Letting you down easy. Concepticides like to feel good about themselves by damning your idea with faint praise before they criticize. Saying, “That’s great, but…” or “I love it. However…” are examples of this. “However” and “but” negate anything said before.
  4. Constructive criticism. Constructive criticism is hardly the former and almost always the latter.
  5. Frying eggs. That’s the little sizzling sound critics make with their mouths when they want to make it subtly obvious they’re not happy your ideas. That’s where the Spanish saying, “No frieír huevos” (don’t fry eggs) comes from. Frying eggs usually goes hand in hand with rolling eyes (see point one).
  6. Historical references. As in, “We’ve already tried that; it doesn’t work.” The interesting thing about this type of concepticide is it’s seldom accurate, mostly because your critic doesn’t usually wait until you’re finished presenting your idea before their heads start shaking. When they do let you finish, you’ll find the idea they tried years ago is usually different from what you’re proposing anyway.

The other way to know when Concepticides are getting ready to pounce is when their superiors ask them for opinions and they’re in the position to show off. The equation is elementary: when Concepticides compliment you they hear themselves saying, “You’re smart.” But when they practice concepticide and shoot down your ideas they’re telling their boss or their client they’re smart.

After all, if they just left it up to you, who knows what crazy things you’d come up with?

Like children, ideas only live up to their potential and achieve greatness when they’re accepted, nourished, and encouraged to thrive. Whether you’re the mother or father, creator or patron, it is your responsibility to fight concepticide whenever it rears its ugly head.

How do you get to Carnegie Hall?

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You know the old joke:

Q: “How do you get to Carnegie Hall?

A: “Practice, man, practice.”

This joke was probably never funny but it was accurate. In the old days before the Internet was as common as sense is not, the ability to do something well was the best predictor of success.

People paid more money for better products. And publications such as Consumer Reports provided consumers with information about which products performed better than their competition.

But then two things happened:

First, the ubiquity of the Internet meant anything was available to anyone at anytime.

Siri and her friends Alexa and Cortana, know everything and are instantly available. Thanks to their promiscuity of knowledge, it’s no longer necessary – or even beneficial – for you to even try to corner the market on brains.

Remember bar bets? It used to be fun and sometimes profitable to actually know who played third base in the second inning of the 1976 World Series. Or what song was on the flip side of Herman’s Hermits smash hit Mrs Brown You’ve Got A Lovely Daughter.

But today those answers are just a thumb-swipe away. Knowledge isn’t power, knowledge is atmosphere.

Second, function became ubiquitous.

There was a time when people would pay more for Mercedes and Volvos because they were better automobiles. When most cars weren’t made very well, those two marques were known for exceptional reliability, often traveling half a million miles before being sold and shipped off to third-world countries where they soldiered on for millions of miles more.

Having a car that could last for 10, 15, or 20 years mattered when a car purchase was a major percentage of a consumer’s income. But once leasing became the norm for luxury cars everything changed. After all, why bother to pay more for a car that will last for a generation or two when you’re only keeping it for three years? Mercedes discovered that there was no competitive advantage to selling longevity. Instead they had to get their buyers to pay more for something else. In their case, prestige and technology.

It’s the same for professional services. I’m lucky enough to spend a lot of my time traveling the world and speaking at corporate conferences and annual conventions. Because of this, lots of my speaker buddies and people interested in the business ask me what they should do to build their speaking careers.

My answer is always the same. “If you want to speak more, speak more.”

“But how do I do that?” they ask.

“Easy,” I answer. “Just land a plane in the Hudson River.”


Days after Captain Chelsea “Sully” Sullenberger saved USAirways flight 1549 he became the third-highest paid speaker in the country. He was so successful that Hollywood made a movie about his heroic act. Tom Hanks played Sullenberger.

A few weeks ago Dr. Dao was dragged off a United flight and onto a YouTube video that’s been viewed millions of times. If you keep your eye on his career, I don’t think you’ll be surprised to find him lecturing about customer service before long.

That’s what Dave Carroll did that after his video, United Breaks Guitars went viral. What does the singer actually KNOW about customer service? Beats the hell out of me. But his video was viewed over 17 millions times. Carroll’s infamy means he can generate interest in what he has to say and people will pay to listen.

You’ll notice that none of their exploits – Sullenberger’s piloting skills, Dao’s unfortunate ejection, nor Carroll’s busted guitar – mean any of them have the capability to do what they promise. But it’s not important. Function has become cost of entry. Today function takes a back seat to notoriety and branding.

I’m not suggesting you don’t have to be good at what you do. Only that those skill sets are NOT the reason your clients are buying your services.

Bill Clinton and Barak Obama are great speakers – yes – but that’s not why they get paid huge fees. Mercedes and Volvos are no better at getting you from Point A to Point B than Kias and Hyundais but they still command premium prices. Sully Sullenberger and Dave Carroll are not better speakers than all my pals in the National Speakers Association, but that’s not why they get high fees or more gigs either.

Today function is the ante you pay to get in the game. But it’s your brand value and your brand awareness that will help you win. Because while you won’t get to Carnegie Hall if you don’t practice, talent and virtuosity are not enough to get you there either.

Lolly Daskal and The Leadership Gap

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Lolly Daskal and The Leadership Gap

Every day someone recommends a book I should read, a movie I should watch, a podcast I should hear.

Boy, does it stress me out to have to add to my list of Must-Dos. Who has time to digest all this information? And if I do get through it all, how much can I enjoy and retain?

There’s a stack of books by my bed testing the strength of my mid-century bamboo nightstands. My unread Kindle library is straining my device’s memory. And my Netflix and Amazon Prime view lists are growing faster than a 30-year old hipster’s facial hair.

I’m sure you feel the same pressure.

Books I’ve recently read (or reread) include Sublette’s The World That Made New Orleans, Ford Collins’ The Joy of Success, and Pressfield’s Do The Work. I’d recommend you read them too if I wasn’t concerned about adding to your To Do list and your stress level.

But here’s a book you should make the time to read: The Leadership Gap by Lolly Daskal. Lolly DaskalIf you’ve made it to your advanced age without knowing about Lolly Daskal, here’s a brief primer: Daskal helps her clients meet their professional goals and business objectives. Daskal is the most read author on Inc.com. Her articles include How to Successfully Clone Your Best Employee, How to Know When It’s Time to Quit, and The Extraordinary Power of Collaboration.

Daskal wrote The Leadership Gap based on a simple question each of us who is honest with ourselves has asked. “What if there’s a gap in what I think I know?”

According to Daskal, not asking this question – or worse – not answering it “…is the mistake that highly driven, overachieving leaders make every day. They have soared to the greatest heights on the basis of what they know. But there comes a time when they must rethink everything…”

Daskal presents that point in her first four pages. She then fills the remainder of the book with stories and anecdotes to show her readers who they are and who they need to be to accomplish what they want.

Daskal quotes great thinkers from Viktor Frankel to Carl Jung, Albert Einstein to Joseph Campbell. Plus the successful but unknown business people she works with. Their insight helps present both the questions you need to ask – and the answers you need to give – to achieve what you want.

Should you read The Leadership Gap by Lolly Daskal?

That depends.

According to Daskal, “What prevents so many leaders from achieving the greatness to which they aspire isn’t a lack of skill or opportunity. Rather, it’s that they rely on what has always worked for them, even when it is no longer working. But it takes a very special individual to own his vulnerability and find his leadership gap.”

Are you that special individual Daskal writes about? The author warns, “…it takes a committed leader to embrace the search for truth as a criterion for leadership, and not everyone can achieve this. Very few are willing to embark on an inner journey to discover what propels them.”

I’m lucky to have people in my life – friends, family members, business associates – who are both honest and caring enough to point out when I’m doing something that may not be in my best interests. Listening to them and taking their comments to heart without being defensive or combative is not always easy and it’s not always fun but it is always productive.

Daskal wrote The Leadership Gap like that except it’s not personally aimed at you. That means it will make you think about who you are, where you’re going, and how you’re going to get there. But it will also do so in an entertaining and disarming way – the spoonful of sugar that helps the medicine go down.

As Daskal says, “If you want to get your leadership right, you have to get yourself right… You have the power within you not to be imprisoned by your circumstances, or jailed by your setbacks, or shackled by your mistakes, or beaten by your defeats. Every single one of us has the chance and the choice to choose to stand in our greatness or not. What will you do?”

If it were me, I’d read The Leadership Gap. Oh yeah, I did.

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