Be Nice.

Published September 16th, 2014 with 51 responses.

Josh Mayer is a nice guy who runs a wonderful advertising agency in New Orleans with his brother Mark. Josh also has a good enough marriage that his younger employees come to him for advice when they’re thinking of getting married. Josh’s advice is simple:

“Don’t marry for money. Money comes and goes.

Don’t marry for looks. Looks can fade.

Don’t marry for sex. Sex gets better and worse (and better again, if you’re lucky).

Don’t even marry for love. Love also ebbs and flows.”

Josh’s advice? “Marry for nice. Nice never goes away.”

Be NiceYou know, I spend a lot of time writing these posts and even more time thinking about what I’m going to write about. I want you to find these posts useful, enjoyable, and valuable. I’d also like them to be profound enough to make a difference to you and maybe even generate some commentary and ongoing discussion.

But Be Nice? Be nice is not something you’ve never heard before. Be nice is not earth shattering. Hell, be nice is not even profound.

But it is true.

Be Nice is the most important thing you can do to make your life better right this minute. Because being nice changes you and it changes the way the people around you react.

Since hearing Josh’s advice I’ve been trying to train myself to be nice. For example, I greet every jogger and dog-walker and bus stop sitter I pass on my morning runs. The folks I run with make fun of me when the people I greet don’t return the greeting but it doesn’t matter. I’m greeting them for myself. Here are five other simple ways to be nice:

  1. Say hello to everyone when you step into an elevator. This can get weird sometimes because most people in elevators are staring at one of three things: the floor, the floor numbers or their Be nicephone. Because of this, saying hello to people in elevators is not easy to do but it does work. Your new friends leave the elevator smiling. And you’ll get a little better at it each time.
  2. Leave a few bucks for the housekeeper when you spend the night in a hotel. Look at it this way – you give a buck to the guy behind the bar who hands you a beer and all he has to do is reach into a cooler and grab a cold one. Doesn’t the person who makes your bed and scrubs your toilet deserve at least a few bucks too?
  3. Send thank you notes. Not emails. Not Facebook likes. But nice, genuine handwritten notes scribbled on paper and posted with a real stamp. Your mom taught you to do this and your mom was right.
  4. Remember people’s names and use them when you talk. Okay, I’ll admit this is really hard for me because I have no memory for names. And Brad Pitt can’t do it because he says he suffers from prosopagnosia or face-blindness. Pitt told Esquire Magazine that, “even if he’s had a real conversation with someone, he’ll forget what the person looks like almost as soon as he or she walks away.” Pitt adds that, “so many people hate me because they think I’m disrespecting them.” I don’t know if any of that is true but it is something to work on. And it sure would make Brad Pitt seem a whole lot nicer. Not that I’d actually know.
  5. Hold the door for people. It’s easy and chivalrous and maybe even a little old-fashioned but it’s a nice thing to do. Standing when a woman comes into a room seems to me to be a bit chauvinistic and fuddy-duddyish but holding doors is just downright considerate, especially if you hold them for men and woman.

Maybe that’s the point. Being nice means being considerate of the people you come into contact with and going out of your way to make other people happy and comfortable.

Because when you do that it will make you comfortable too.

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By the way, our Tribal Signature Boot Camp is only a few weeks away. No hard sell needed but if you’d like to learn more about it and what it can do for you, please click HERE. There’s obligation but I’m pretty sure it’s an event you won’t want to miss.

Published September 16th, 2014

How You can Stand Out.

Published September 9th, 2014 with one response.

Thanks to Mayor Bloomberg, there’s a lovely little park in front of the Macy’s New York flagship store on 34th street between Broadway and 7th Avenue. I lucked upon a garden table and chair shaded from the sun by a big patio umbrella and cooled by the wind rushing between the buildings. With Macy’s free Wi-Fi and a nice breeze it’s the perfect spot to catch up with the office and our clients between now and my lunch meeting down the street.

The idea that a laptop, cell phone, Internet connection, and relatively comfortable place to position myself is all I need to get some work done isn’t new but I’m pleasantly surprised each time I rediscover it. I can’t even imagine how productive I wasn’t before technology made it so easy to work from almost anywhere.

Macy's Streetscape NYC

But today’s revelation comes from something else. I’ve been wandering through New York from meeting to meeting over the last few days and I’m continually struck by how many people, businesses, brands, and ideologies want to stand out, constantly vying for our attention, our time, and ultimately, our dollars and commitment. And at least half of the people I’ve passed are busy thumb-typing away on their smartphones which means there’s a whole mobile environment that’s also fighting for their eyeballs and iWallets.

But the people, too, are all trying to stand out and get attention. There’s a woman with a pink Mohawk. A guy in a Thom Browne shrunken suit. A woman teetering on seven-inch heels. A woman in a Chanel suit and flip-flops.

There go a couple of guys in skin-tight tank tops with enough muscles between them for a whole football team. There’s a woman with a little dog in a stroller. There’s an old man in a baggy suit and collapsed pleather loafers. Even the scruffy folks hoping for handouts try to outdo each other and stand out with their hand-scrawled signs.

And it’s not just the street I’m on. Hop in the subway, bounce along for 20 minutes in any direction and you’ll surface miles away but still smack dab in the same swarm of teeming humanity – all trying to stand out – striving and searching for whatever it is they’re all looking for. Commercial success? Fame? Love? Companionship? Enough spare change to get a bite to eat? It’s a dog-eat-dog world and everyone’s trying to get their bone.

So how do you stand out? How do you make a difference? How do you build your business, sell your novel, promote your website, fund your non-profit, meet your mate, change your world?

If it were only through the function of being good at what you do then you’d have reached your goal by now. After all, you’re already great at your job – an acclaimed professional, a successful practitioner, a skilled technician. But it’s not enough, is it? Because in today’s world there are plenty of people who do what we do, all of them looking for their shot, auditioning for their spot, waiting for their moment. Few of them stand out.

A-Good-Brand copy

And it’s not just on the streets of New York or Los Angeles or London or Buenos Aires, because today’s professionals only have to log on to the ‘Net to find legions of people around the world just itching to sell their wares. Radiologists in Mumbai, engineers in Beijing, web designers in Germany, social media experts in Indonesia. If people only want to buy what you do they can find it anywhere. Lucky for you, they want more.

What they want is you. More precisely they want you and how you make them feel. Even more precisely, what they want is you and how you make them feel about themselves.

For example, all cars can get people from Point A to Point B. But a Toyota Prius can make them feel environmentally conscious. And a Tesla can make them feel environmentally conscious AND successful. You see, it’s not about the function; it’s about the brand identification. A good brand makes people feel good. A great brand makes people feel good about themselves.

A Great Brand.

It’s your ability to do what you do combined with your authentic truth, your Tribal Signature, that makes you stand out so that people will choose your offering over the competition’s. All you have to do is uncover it, develop it, and promote it for all the world to see.

Want to know how? The first step to stand out is to click HERE. Don’t worry, there’s no obligation and there’s nothing to fill out, just a link to your invitation to uncover your Tribal Signature.

Published September 9th, 2014

Finding Your Tribal Signature

Published September 2nd, 2014 with one response.

Taco Bell just introduced their new Dollar Craving Menu, ­ a list of 11 items that all cost one dollar. To help promote this new pricing, Taco Bell has created their Everlasting Dollar campaign where up to 11 winners could win the chain’s food for life (or at least $10,000 worth) if they simply find special modified dollar bills with unique serial numbers.

Although the odds are estimated at 2.4 billion to one (you probably have more chance of being struck twice by lightning while winning your state’s lottery then winning Taco Bell for life), the campaign has been heavily promoted across social media. And it’ll work well for Taco Bell because it is intrinsically aligned with their Tribal Signature.

You see, while you might think Taco Bell’s business is about Mexican food, or at least fast food Mexican food, that’s no longer true. Fast food Mexican food is what they trade for money. But Taco Bell is all about filling your belly for little bits of money – one dollar at a time. That’s their Tribal Signature.

Domino’s Pizza trades food for money too, but that’s not the business they’re in either. Instead their Tribal Signature – the reason their tribe identifies with them – is that they can deliver an acceptable solution within 30 minutes. The problem they solve? The kids are hungry, my friends came over to watch the game, it’s late and I don’t feel like cooking, we need more food for the birthday party. Solving those kinds of problems is the business that Domino’s is in.

So what business are you in? What’s your Tribal Signature? What is your authentic truth that attracts business to you as it separates you from your competition?

As we’ve discussed so many times on this blog, people don’t buy what you do, they buy who you are. What you do is the functional solution that they might come looking for and it is what you trade for money but it’s not why they do business with you and your company.

When you were in the market for a mortgage, how did you choose the people you did business with? If you provided the right amount of collateral and were willing to pay the going rate, you could get money from lots of banks, credit unions, finance companies, and more. So why do you decide to do business with one organization or another?

Let’s say you’re a public speaker and simply market yourself as such. You tell your potential customers that if they’ve got 55 minutes to fill on their agenda you’re the best person for the job. Sounds like a good strategy, right? Trouble is there are thousands of other speakers who can do the same thing you’re offering. Some are more expensive than you. Some are cheaper. Some are better. Some aren’t. But if all your customer needs is to fill an hour or so, they’ve got a lot of choices and the odds that they’ll pick you aren’t very good.

But if they want Guy Kawasaki, or Bill Clinton, or the pilot who landed that plane in the Hudson River, or the leading expert in reconstructive surgery, or my friend Melissa Francis from FOX Business, then just any old speaker won’t do. So the real question is how do you raise your brand equity to occupy THAT kind of space in your clients’ mind?

One of the most important ways is to understand exactly what it is your customers are buying – and to understand that it’s not your function. Instead, it’s your tribal equity. The authentic, intrinsic, and irreproducible benefit you provide that they just cannot find anywhere else.

On October ninth and tenth, Toby LaVigne and I are going to present our first Tribal Signature Boot Camp where we’ll walk you along the simple, albeit simply non-intuitive path to uncovering and promoting your authentic truth. We’re going to explore this concept and workshop the specific tools and techniques you’ll use to build your brand and attract your best customers.

Last year our Elite Branding Seminar filled to capacity in just a few weeks, and this program already looks like it’s going to do the same thing so please click HERE if you’re interested in knowing more.

And while you’re thinking about it, please spend a little time thinking about exactly what business you are in. If your answer sounds not like what your customers want, but more like what it is you offer, then you have a lot more thinking to do.

Published September 2nd, 2014

Ice Bucket Challenge Lesson for You.

Published August 25th, 2014 with 11 responses.

The Ice Bucket Challenge? By now everyone who’s not living under a rock knows about the Ice Bucket Challenge. It’s a brilliant viral stunt that combines coerced altruism, mild sadism, mischief, social media, and a good dose of revenge to get people to donate to the ALS Association.

The Ice Bucket Challenge is working spectacularly well. The explanation on the ALS website says, “As of Sunday, August 24, The ALS Association has received $70.2 million in donations compared to $2.5 million during the same time period last year (July 29 to August 24). These donations have come from existing donors and 1.3 million new donors…” And the ice bucket dumping craze shows no sign of abating. How much money the organization will ultimately raise remains to be seen.


Needless to say, the success of The Ice Bucket Challenge has marketing and development people at every charity in the country scrambling to figure out how they can create their own social media sensation and I’m sure we’re going to see the fruits of their labors — successful or otherwise — cross our Facebook pages very soon. But there’s at least one company that could jump on the Ice Bucket Challenge bandwagon immediatley and not only raise a lot more money for ALS but also build their tribal equity at the same time.

I’m talking to you, Coleman. There’s a big empty space in The Ice Bucket Challenge that’s screaming out your name.

Quite simply, there’s no proper Ice Bucket Challenge vessel. People are dumping cold water on their heads with everything from buckets to aquariums to coolers to shot glasses. The Ice Bucket Challenge doesn’t know it but they’re searching for their holy grail. So what if Coleman announced that for every Ice Bucket Challenge video that was made with a Coleman cooler the company would donate an additional $10 to the cause??!! All of a sudden people everywhere would pull their old Colemans out of the garage, borrow a friend’s Coleman or even go out and buy one. But more importantly, Coleman would not only be tying themselves to something altruistic and good, they’d be building their own brand equity because when you think ice and containers and fun, you’d think Coleman.Ice Bucket Challenge Coleman CoolerThis alignment of purpose and meaning and authentic truth and marketing is what developing a true tribal signature is all about. And while it may seem obvious and easy, why hasn’t Coleman latched on to The Ice Bucket Challenge already? Is it because they don’t have a professional marketing staff or a contract with a creative advertising agency? Of course not. It’s simply because most marketers are so busy thinking of traditional marketing and advertising ideas that they miss the concepts that are hidden in plain site.

But on Thursday, October ninth, we’re going to change that. Because that day marks the debut of the first Tribal Signature Bootcamp in Miami, Florida. Toby LaVigne – a black belt founder of the concept – and I are going to take a select group through the exercises and experiences that will help you uncover your own authentic truth and build the brand value and tribal equity that will market your potential to the world. Understand that this is not a rehashing of the old and tired (or even tried and true) marketing concepts that you studied in ADV 101. Instead it will be two days of power packed learning on how to develop a brand that will force people to sit up and take notice.

If you’ve been reading my blog for sometime now, you’ve probably seen that I’ve been working on these concepts for a long time. That’s because my hands-on experience with my advertising agency and clients has convinced me that the old ways simply don’t work in the new world. For example, I’m sure that someone at the ALS Association was still clamoring for the 5Ks and other traditional fund raisers that brought in last year’s $2.5 million while some forward-thinking genius was crafting the Ice Bucket Challenge that has already raised $70.2 million!

And if someone at Coleman is reading this, I hope they use our idea and sign up for our seminar.

I hope you do, too. We opened sign-ups a few days ago and will only keep the site open until our limited slots have been filled.

Click HERE  to learn more.

Published August 25th, 2014

Be the Best at Everything You do From Now on.

Published August 18th, 2014 with 25 responses.

There’s always one in every group and our harmonica master class was no different. Each time the instructor would ask if there were any questions, “That Guy” would raise his hand.

Little Walter was the best. And I read somewhere he used a 1940’s Astatic taxi dispatcher’s microphone. So I tracked one of those mics down and spent a fortune tweaking it but I still can’t get his tone.”

“Yeah,” instructor David Barrett answered. “Little Walter was famous for playing whatever mics he stumbled upon. But even if you could find one of the actual mics he played through it won’t help you sound like Walter did.”

Barrett went back to his instruction but eventually “That Guy” raised his hand again.

“I Goggled vintage tube amps and found that Junior Wells used Word War Two Czechoslovakian vacuum tubes that he plugged in out of sequence. I bought some really expensive dead stock tubes on EBay but my amp doesn’t sound any better.”

The Best Harmonica Players

“I don’t know what specific tubes Wells used,” Barrett answered, a little more annoyed this time. “But there are online sites with schematics of all the different permutations you can try but I don’t think any of them will help you sound like Jr. Wells.”

Barrett returned to the subject at hand. Before too long, “That Guy” stuck his hand up again.

“Someone told me that the best players like Walter Horton used to soak their harmonicas in vodka and that would change their tone. Could I…”

“Look,” Barrett finally interrupted, “Stop researching the Internet and stop fiddling with your equipment. You want to be the best? Stop buying crap and stop fiddling with your electronics. Instead, stick the harmonica in your mouth and blow!”

A few years after that my friend Soren came into a little windfall. With the money burning a hole in his pocket he went to his favorite golf store. He told the old man behind the counter that he had this gift money and wanted to spend it on golf. He couldn’t decide between new drivers, a titanium putter, or a new bag and shoes. The old man eyed him suspiciously for a minute and then asked what he wanted to accomplish.

“I want to be a better golfer.” Soren said proudly.

“You want to be the best? Put the money back in your pocket, go to the golf course and take some lessons.”

Last week I went to FootWorks and treated myself to the awesome new Garmin 620 running watch I’ve been lusting over. Besides telling time, distance, caloric consumption, and pace, it will also monitor my V02 intake, running cadence, ground contact time, and even my vertical oscillation (whatever the hell that means). It’s the best running watch out there. There’s only one problem. It doesn’t make me run any faster.

The Best Running Watch

Neither do the new SmartWool PhD light micro running socks I got. They’re the best — super comfortable, incredibly moisture-wicking, and have cool red and blue speed lines that make them look fast even when I’m standing still. Only trouble is that after I put them on I finished my run at the same speed as I did with my old cotton socks.

Even my brand new Adidas running shoes didn’t help. Yeah, they’ve got lightweight cushioning, firm heel cup support, and are the same shoes Meb Keflezighi wore when he won the New York Marathon. Hell, he won Boston in 2014 with a best time of 2:08:37, less than half my marathon pace. But even with Meb’s shoes on my feet I just don’t go any faster.

When I told the guy in the cycling store who was fitting my road bike that I was embarrassed it didn’t compare to the best 16 pound, $12,000 carbon fiber masterpieces he was used to working on, he looked up slowly and said, “It’s not the length of the spear, it’s the strength of the hunter.”

It’s not the rock star’s vintage Stratocaster, it’s not the ace’s tennis racket, it’s not the celebrity chef’s ceramic knife, it’s not the hotshot lawyer’s $8,000 Brioni suit, it’s not the starchitect’s CAD/Cam program, it’s not the super agent’s Jimmy Choos. It’s not the Pulitzer Prize winner’s SLR, it’s not the Emmy winner’s laptop, it’s not the successful marriage’s diamond ring, it’s not the happy child’s Christmas gift, and it sure as hell ain’t my running shoes. And it’s not yours, either.

But when you finally do figure out what it’s not you will also know exactly what it is.

Until then, click HERE.

Published August 18th, 2014

Robin Williams, the Internet, and My Son Danny Changed the World.

Published August 14th, 2014 with 28 responses.

Where were you when you heard Robin Williams was dead? Much like JFK’s assassination, Williams’ death has become one of those seminal moments that thumped people hard in the chest and made the earth stop spinning for a long tearful moment.

If that wasn’t enough, when the word got out that Robin Williams committed suicide the shock was even greater. Sure, we knew he had fought with drug and alcohol addiction, and it wasn’t news to anyone who’d watched him that Williams was wrestling with his own demons but still, how could a man who had everything — money, fame, worldwide adoration, healthy children, and even an Oscar for Pete’s sake — take his own life? All of a sudden, Williams became the Richard Corey of our age.

Whenever Richard Cory went down town,

We people on the pavement looked at him:

He was a gentleman from sole to crown,

Clean favored, and imperially slim.

And he was always quietly arrayed,

And he was always human when he talked;

But still he fluttered pulses when he said,

“Good-morning,” and he glittered when he walked.

And he was rich—yes, richer than a king—

And admirably schooled in every grace:

In fine, we thought that he was everything

To make us wish that we were in his place.


So on we worked, and waited for the light,

And went without the meat, and cursed the bread;

And Richard Cory, one calm summer night,

Went home and put a bullet through his head.

I read Edwin Arlington Robinson’s poem about Richard Corey in junior high school but never really understood it and I’ll bet you didn’t either. It wasn’t until I read Danny’s blog post about Robin Williams’ suicide that I understood a little bit more about Corey and Williams and my son.

Danny's blog about Robin WilliamsDanny wrote in part: “The death of Robin Williams affected me twice over. Not only had a childhood hero of mine passed away, but he had taken his own life. As someone who has been engaged in a lifelong struggle with depression, learning of his suicide crushed me more than I could’ve predicted.

Depression is a monster. It’s ugly, and relentless, and manipulative. It turns you against yourself, and transforms you into a weapon with which it attacks you. It feels like a mountain on your shoulders that only gets heavier. It doesn’t give up, and it doesn’t disappear. Sure, it may leave you alone for a while and with treatment may not ever come back as strong, but it never truly goes away. Depression isolates you from everything around you, makes you feel alone and hopeless. The worst part is the self-induced Stockholm syndrome that makes you feel as though everything you’re going through is completely justified, like you’ve done something to deserve it.  It’s an infinite loop of pain.

You can’t even begin to comprehend depression without experiencing it. It just doesn’t make sense. I can’t count the number of times someone has told me, “Just cheer up,” or “Get over it,” or “What do you really have to be so sad about?” While possibly well-intentioned, this kind of stuff only makes it worse, because you ask yourself, “Well if it’s that easy to just cheer up, what’s wrong with me that I’m not able do it?”

Danny’s post knocked the parental wind out of me, both literally and figuratively. Of course I knew my little boy was suffering, but I never understood the depth of his pain. I’m embarrassed to admit I probably still don’t despite my own personal struggles with episodic depression.

As of this posting, Danny’s blog has been read by thousands of people, shared 300+ times, and earned more than 1,000 ‘likes,’ and that’s only the metrics I can find. All comments have been empathetic, most have been insightful, and some have been revelatory. But the most consistent emotion is thanks from people who now understand a little of what they, or their loved ones, have been going through.

The value of the shock of Robin William’s suicide, Danny’s courage in revealing his own demons, and the viral distribution power of the Internet is that thousands of people have found a bit of the strength, compassion, understanding, or voice to make a positive step in the fight against depression.

Thank you Danny. I love you.

Please contact the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-8255 if you or someone you know is considering committing suicide.

Published August 14th, 2014

We Failed Robin Williams.

Published August 13th, 2014 with 2 responses.

My brave and beautiful son Danny wrote this incredibly touching post-mortem for Robin Williams. To see the original post, click HERE.

Please contact the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-8255 if you or someone you know is considering committing suicide.

What-Dreams-May-Come-robin-williams-26619597-1499-973Growing up, I idolized Robin Williams. The opening scene of Mrs. Doubtfire is still one of the best introductions in film, and I basically spent the entire age of three impersonating Genie. His comedy wasn’t just funny; it was empathetic. He made you feel as if he was right there with you, laughing along. This is why his death hurts more than most celebrity deaths, because he connected to his audience in a very intimate manner. The death of Robin Williams affected me twice over. Not only had a childhood hero of mine passed away, but he had taken his own life. As someone who has been engaged in a lifelong struggle with depression, learning of his suicide crushed me more than I could’ve predicted.

Depression is a monster. It’s ugly, and relentless, and manipulative. It turns you against yourself, and transforms you into a weapon with which it attacks you. It feels like a mountain on your shoulders that only gets heavier. It doesn’t give up, and it doesn’t disappear. Sure, it may leave you alone for a while and with treatment may not ever come back as strong, but it never truly goes away. Depression isolates you from everything around you, makes you feel alone and hopeless. The worst part is the self-induced Stockholm syndrome that makes you feel as though everything you’re going through is completely justified, like you’ve done something to deserve it.  It’s an infinite loop of pain.

In 2010, depression became the primary cause of disability in the world, according to the World Health Organization and there is roughly one successful suicide every 40 seconds. Even with such an obvious crisis at hand, we live in a society that stigmatizes depression, and mental illness in general. We shun those who are already shunning themselves. It made one of the most beloved and celebrated entertainers in the world feel like he was completely alone. There is a very real feeling of needing to hide your depression, from everyone else if possible. Most of the time, I actively avoid talking about it, even with people I know only have my best interest at heart. I almost didn’t write this, for fear of exposing myself.

I have no doubt that because of Robin Williams’ death, we’re on the verge of another national debate on mental illness. Every time there is a mass shooting, the conversation inevitably turns to mental health and what we can be doing to improve treatment of mental illnesses. Nothing is ever done, though. It’s too abstract and too easily hidden for most people to recognize and understand it. You can’t even begin to comprehend depression without experiencing it. It just doesn’t make sense. I can’t count the number of times someone has told me, “Just cheer up,” or “Get over it,”  or “What do you really have to be so sad about?” While possibly well-intentioned, this kind of stuff only makes it worse, because you ask yourself, “Well if it’s that easy to just cheer up, what’s wrong with me that I’m not able do it?” If someone decides to share their depression with you, take it seriously. Do not shrug it off. Do not tell them it’s just a passing phase. They are already isolated as it is, and have probably struggled with saying those words out loud for a long time. 80% of people that seek treatment for depression are treated successfully, and yet we discourage so many people from ever speaking up. It’s an absolute shame and a crime that we stigmatize people already at their lowest point.

It is said that the funniest people are often the saddest. We all knew how funny Robin Williams was. He was one of the best, and somehow, we still managed to fail him.

Robin William’s requiem reposted with permission from Danny Turkel @ To see original or comment on Danny’s blog, click HERE.

Published August 13th, 2014

What’s Your Tribal Signature?

Published August 10th, 2014 with 9 responses.

Last week, Melissa Francis at FOX Business did a story on BuzzFeed’s review of fast food marketing. The site created a sliding scale format that compared the pictures of fast food presented in advertising with the actual items you’d be handed across the counter. Even though there’s a big disconnect between what you see and what you get, that didn’t stop advertisers from presenting idealized versions of their products.

Of course this is nothing new. For years advertising agencies have created compelling personas for their clients and their products to position them to be as compelling as possible to their customers. But even in the best of times this practice was only thought to be about 50% effective. As legendary retailer John Wanamaker said, “Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don’t know which half.”

John Wanamaker's Tribal Signature

Despite all the advances the industry has made in the century since Wanamaker uttered those famous words, the situation has only gotten worse. Today many retailers and other marketers are finding that simply saying what their customers want to hear just doesn’t work anymore.

While the reason is uncomplicated, the causes are very complex. But simply put, we don’t decide who we are, the market does. In the old days (read pre-Internet) it was relatively easy to craft a brand personality that matched what the market wanted without having to worry that you’d be found out if your persona wasn’t consistent with your true identity. After all, consumers — even those who had been deceived and disappointed by products that didn’t deliver what they promised — had no effective way of reaching out and letting the world know how they were treated. But today the Internet and its ever-present suite of social media sites allow almost anyone to broadcast their occurrences, observations, and opinions to millions and millions of consumers regardless of geography or budgets.

If we agree that our brands need to be congruent with what the market says about us then we have to craft tribal signatures that are true to our authentic selves AND create authentic selves that are consistent with who we are and what we believe. That way the messages we broadcast and the experiences our customers enjoy are consistent with one another. This reinforcement of the authentic brand personality by the customer experience is where true brand value is built.

In those old days, many companies used to hire advertising agencies to fashion their brand positioning simply because they didn’t have the guts to be true to their own authentic selves. But as we’ve seen, that was before consumers carried web-enabled smartphones and had the ability to instantly share their experiences with the world. Today aggressive marketing companies cannot game the system simply because ubiquitous and instantaneous online accountability won’t stand for it.

Today’s marketers must make a bold declaration consistent with what they believe and who they really are and get serious about changing their behavior, policies, procedures, and teams to reinforce this powerful declaration. Otherwise they will continue to hide behind advertising because they want to shift responsibility and not be accountable.

In simple terms, today leadership equals marketing.

All of this brings up a question that we’ve all struggled with, both personally and professionally: “Who am I?” And while the Greeks asked this question as far back as the 10th century  – even inscribing it on the Temple of Apollo at Delphi (γνῶθι σεαυτόν) – most modern companies and business people do not know their answer.

The Temple of Apollo’s Tribal Signature

Unfortunately, not knowing what a person or company truly stands for does not stop marketers from generating an inaccurate racket. But activity does not necessarily result in productivity. Or as the warrior philosopher Sun-Tzu put it, “Tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat.”

Sun-Tsu’s Tribal Signature

Thanks to this, learning to uncover your authentic self and declare your genuine offer is the next logical step in monetizing your business opportunity, and often the one that successful businesses and professionals find most difficult to master. To learn more about how to solve this problem, click HERE. Because the ability to create and exploit your own Tribal Signature is the right way to respond to the ironically increasing opportunities in a world of seemingly diminished returns.

Published August 10th, 2014

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