Redefine Your Dreams

Posted on March 22nd, 2017

Redefine Your Dreams

Sometime in the early 2000’s, Dr. William Werther was chatting with my father.

Redefine SuccessBill was telling my dad that his greatest goal in life was to be a philanthropist. And even though Dr. Werther knew that he had helped scores of students throughout his career, his biggest disappointment was that he hadn’t earned quite enough money to build a powerful philanthropic machine.

My father asked Dr. Werther for his definition of a philanthropist.

Bill said a philanthropist was a person who worked diligently to give money away with the intent of making the world a better place.

My father nodded in agreement. Then he asked Dr. Werther why that definition precluded him from being a philanthropist?

Bill repeated that he didn’t have enough money to give away and maintain a sustainable fund.

My dad paused for a moment before responding.

“Who told you that you have to give away your own money?”

From that day forward, Dr. Werther and my father partnered to create the Center for Non-Profit Management at The University of Miami. Over the next ten plus years the center operated the pair educated thousands of non-profit professionals. Their mission was to teach non-profits to “manage for results.”

Thanks to their commitment and hard work, the attending organizations raised millions of additional dollars and helped enormous numbers of underserved communities. And because the Center was cause-agnostic, Bill and my dad reached every part of the community and every demographic.

From advocates for immigrant farm workers to teams repairing inner-city homes damaged in Hurricane Andrew to prisoner education programs, to free clinics to foster care organizations, their good works impacted an entire community.

Simply put, lots of great people did lots of great work. But if the pair hadn’t redefined their definition of the word philanthropy in the first place, none of these good things would have happened.


Because based on the traditional meaning of the word philanthropy, Dr. Werther didn’t think it was possible that he could live his dream and become a philanthropist. Clearly what was holding him back was a definition, not his abilities.

That obviously brings up a question: What outmoded definitions are holding you back from doing the things you want to do?

What do you need to redefine?

When I was a little boy on Miami Beach, the most important thing in our lives was sports. My friends and I would suffer through our classes just to get to recess. Then we’d go outside and play ball. And the minute we got home we’d run to the empty lot at the corner to play football, softball, kill the man with the ball, or whatever was in season.

Now I come from good, strong athletic stock. My dad played basketball in New York in high school and college and pitched in the men’s night league. My younger sister was the best athlete in our elementary school. My little brother Doug is a natural athlete who can play anything. And my mother was a terrific tennis player. But despite all my genetic potential, I couldn’t even throw the softball past the girl’s line in the President’s Physical Fitness award competition. Worse, I always came in last in the 50-yard dash.

I was the worst athlete in the school. But as an adult I’ve finished three marathons and scores of half-marathons. I’m a regular at the gym and spend my weekends cycling and scuba diving.

What changed?

At some point I decided to redefine my definition of the word athlete to focus on participation and not outcome. And by doing this I redoubled my efforts to stay in shape and enjoy physical activity.

Changing your definition of the words that hold you back is simply another way to rebrand yourself. It allows you to reestablish what matters in your life and what you’re going to do to benefit from it. Just like the citizens helped by my dad redefining Bill Werther’s meaning of the word philanthropy or my blood pressure and waist line benefiting from my redefinition of the word athlete, there’s something out there just waiting for you to redefine whatever’s holding you back from accomplishing what you want to do, too.

How You Do Anything Means Everything.

Posted on March 13th, 2017

How you do anything means everything.

Most business books could be simply described as thick bumper stickers. Why? Because despite their pages and pages of examples and illustrations, many of them can be reduced to one single thought. And that thought can be the theme of a 300-page book. Or it can be a bumper sticker.

Here are some standouts from my library and their bumper stickers:

  • Good to Great, Jim Collins: Get the right people on the bus. Get the wrong people off the bus.
  • The Goal, Eliyahu Goldratt: Don’t be a bottleneck.
  • The E-Myth Revisited, Michael Gerber: Work on your business, not in your business.
  • Don’t Eat The Marshmallow Yet, Joachim de Posada: Don’t eat the marshmallow yet (the power of delayed gratification).
  • The Joy of SuccessSusan Ford Collins: There are 10 essential skills for getting the success you want.

Of course, no one would plop down $20 – $30 for a bumper sticker. So that’s why it makes good business sense for writers to guild their lilies and convert wispy concepts to weighty volumes.

How You Do AnythingOne of my favorite books is HOW by Dov Seidman. The simple bumper sticker for HOW is this: “How you do anything means everything.” In How, Seidman explains that the why and the how of what we do is often more important than what we actually do.

Two months ago I spoke at a conference in Las Vegas. The subject was my new book, All About Them. When I finished, a young woman (we’ll call her Lisa) came up and complimented me on my talk. She also told me that she and her fiancé had just moved from New York and she’d taken a job she wasn’t very happy about.

“What would you like to be doing?” I asked.

“I worked in finance in New York. I’d really like to get back into that.” She answered.

I signed my new book, handed her my business card, and asked her how else I could be helpful.

A few weeks later Lisa sent an email asking me if I knew anyone at the XYZ Bank & Trust. If so, would l introduce her? I answered yes and followed up with an introductory email to her and my good friend Bill. Bill just happens to be the CFO of XYZ.

Bill responded almost immediately. He told Lisa he’d be delighted to meet her and even suggested times he was available. Bill asked her to send her resume. And he asked for a quick explanation of the position she wanted.

Yesterday I ran into Bill at another speech I was giving.

The first thing out of his mouth was that he still hadn’t received Lisa’s resume. After that Bill told me about a second young woman interested in a job. The difference was that that prospect sent her CV and included research she had done on XYZ. Plus she sent a competitive overview and links to some articles Bill would find interesting.

Bill shrugged and said, “You know,
how you do anything means everything.”

How.” I said. “Dov Seidman.”

“Right.” Bill added. “My favorite book since Catcher in the Rye. Maybe since A Wrinkle in Time.”

I find Dov’s bumper sticker is a great gut check for me when I deal with others. Keeping Seidman’s mantra in mind helps me be punctual, refrain from gossip, and always try to under-promise and over-deliver. “How you do anything means everything” reminds me to stay present and attentive. It also reminds me to be helpful and supportive — even when I don’t see any immediate benefit in doing so.

Needless to say, Lisa’s not going to get the job at XYZ Bank & Trust. And the next time she asks me to make a connection I am going to politely decline.


Because how you do anything means everything.

Job Opportunities for Millennials and More

Posted on March 7th, 2017

Job Opportunities for Millennials and More

Are you looking for job opportunities? You probably don’t need me to tell you that for certain groups these are unprecedented economic times. Our children are the first generation in living memory predicted not to do better than their parents. And this despite the history of our great country being that of the children of immigrants enjoying economic prosperity of which previous generations could but dream.

Job OpportunitiesBut our 20-somethings tell a different story. Many are faced with student loan debt, poor job prospects, and the daunting economic reality that comes with an uncertain future.

But I can also tell you that for kids who “get it” the news for job opportunities is unexpectedly good. The principles I wrote about in All About Them have helped these job seekers have a future as bright as those of previous generations.

Here are the six guiding precepts that will allow your children to find job opportunities. Handled properly, they can achieve the dreams that you have for them and they may have for themselves:

  1. No job is too small. There is no shame in earning eight dollars an hour to start. No, you can no longer afford to buy a house in Coral Gables or Beverly Hills. But your parents did not own that home just out of college either.
  2. You are always being interviewed. Because today’s job opportunities are everywhere, you must pay attention morning, noon, and night. After all, not only could the woman sitting next to you on the subway be your future employer, but the guy scrolling through your feed on Facebook or Instagram could be as well.
  3. Everyone has something to offer you. Interview your parents’ friends, the officer at your bank, your physician, your boss at your current job. Most of them worked for minimum-wage before they got their first break and they have a lot to share. They might even know of available job opportunities. It’s up to you to be open, alert, and aware.
  4. Stop complaining. Besides the simple truth that nothing you’re going through is as bad as you think it is, nobody wants to hear about it anyway. As Gordon Gekko said in the 1987 movie Wall Street: “If you need a friend, get a dog.”
  5. Find out how other people did it. The ‘net is loaded with clickbait examples of accomplished people who had jobs in unrelated fields before hitting their stride. Harrison Ford was a carpenter before getting his break as an actor. Madonna worked at Dunkin’ Donuts. Jon Bon Jovi and Jim Carrey were both janitors. Closer to home, I was a bag boy at Publix and fetched shrimp and beer at a tackle shop on Miami Beach.
  6. Perfect your elevator speech. If it’s true that you don’t get a second chance to make a first impression, you’d better be ready. As my dad (the second smartest person I know) used to say, “When opportunity knocks you can’t say ‘come back later.’”

Once you get lucky and find your job opportunities, what do you do?

When I was writing All About Them I asked Mark Levit this question. Mark was a successful advertising agency owner in New York until he traded the subway for sunshine and moved to South Florida. Today Mark teaches advertising and marketing and works with hundreds of students.

Mark believes the only statements worth making promise prospective employers that you will save them time, effort, or money or that you will make them money.

Job OpportunitiesEverything else, he says, is superfluous. “The person reading the résumé doesn’t look at a student’s job search the way the student does. They’re scanning the document for key words signaling the applicant understands why they’re being hired and what’s expected of them. If they find that, then they’ll go on to look at the applicant’s specific qualifications. If they don’t find it in the application, the résumé goes directly to the circular file.”

What job seekers don’t realize is that a résumé is the wrong place to be yourself. Instead, it’s the opportunity to be what the employer wants you to be. I’m not suggesting that students should lie or even exaggerate—remember in today’s world, confirmation of a job prospect’s former employment and education is only a mouse click away. What students need to do is look at their job search materials less as an opportunity to tell the world who they are and more as the chance to tell a potential employer what they can do for them.  Because that’s what gets kids hired.

An Open Letter to Uber and Travis Kalanick

Posted on February 27th, 2017

Uber, San Francisco, California
Attn: Mr. Travis Kalanick, CEO

Dear Travis,


You had the great idea to create a ride sharing app. And you put in the effort to make Uber incredibly successful. Thanks to your hard work, your company has reached a very rarified status.

Uber has become the company people love to hate.

Delete UberFirst Uber made the mistake of looking like it aligned with the president’s unpopular ban on immigration. This appeared to be against the best interests of both your customers and your employees. Then Susan Fowler demonstrated the depth of Uber’s sexist work environment. The recount of her experience working for the company has become an Internet sensation.

#delete Uber indeed.

Of course, you could always blame your bad luck on others including liberal activists and fake news writers. Except that the way Uber has handled these PR disasters could become the syllabus for a Harvard business school case study on how not to manage a crisis.

Believe me, I know what I’m talking about.

It wasn’t that long ago that my hometown, Miami, was the place people loved to hate. I know because my firm was responsible for helping shepherd the city through its biggest crisis. Those were the dark days when visitors were afraid to vacation here because of crimes against tourists and the way crime was glamorized on popular shows such as Miami Vice.

But not so many years later, having followed a very careful and well thought out crisis management plan, Miami is the hottest and hippest tourist destination in the world. More importantly to you, our shareholder value numbers are through the roof.

So I’m hoping that at least one of my readers knows you or works for you and will forward this post to your personal email address. Because as I’m about to show you, fixing your problem is not that hard. Proper crisis management requires a careful, steady, and well-experienced hand on the tiller that will guide your ship to future profits. It ain’t rocket science. But it is serious business.

Tylenol did it. Uber can too.

And please don’t believe anyone who tells you that it’s already too late and that there’s nothing you can do. Look at what happened to Tylenol in 1982. Their poisoned product killed seven people. Yet by handling their crisis properly they not only overcame the nightmare scenario’s effect on their bottom line. They returned stronger, more profitable, and claimed their position as the leading pain reliever in the market.

Let me guide you through the five simple steps you must follow to pull yourself out of this hole.

The Five Steps to Saving the Uber Brand.

  1. Confess. Get all the information in front of the public as quickly as possible. Just like obsessively toying with a painful cavity with your tongue, nothing is worse than bad information that oozes out bit by bit. It’s crucial to step up to the plate, admit all your wrong doings, and move on. If the public needs to hear bad news, they need to hear it from you. Once.
  2. Define. As my good friend, Ray Ruga constantly reminds me, you must define your issue before someone else does. Nature abhors a vacuum and the competition is just waiting for the opportunity to fill empty airspace with negative comments (Lyft anyone?). Decide on your best strategy and stick to it.
  3. Act. Fix your problem permanently and unequivocally. For Tylenol, that meant they not only removed and destroyed every single bottle of Tylenol on the shelves (not just the ones from problem areas) but they installed tamper proof caps and redundant fail safe foil wrappers on every bottle to assure consumers the product was safe. Besides demonstrating that you care, your customers can’t effectively complain about problems that no longer exist.
  4. Apologize. Apologize honestly, sincerely, and completely. “I’m sorry if you were upset” is not an apology. If your words of remorse contain “if” or “but,” chances are you’re not being as contrite as you need to be.
  5. Relate. Finally, make sure that your entire crises mitigation program appeals to your audience’s emotional side. Remember that people make decisions based on their emotions and justify those decisions with facts. Brands that forget this simple truism do so at their own peril.

But First Things First.

Of course, before you can do any of this, you must accept that you have a problem. Because as the adage goes, “when you’re in a hole and you want to get out, the first thing to do is stop digging.”

You’ve got a problem, my friend. Step one to fixing it is accepting it.

And if you need more assistance, I’m happy to help.

Foreplay Starts in the Morning.

Posted on February 21st, 2017

Foreplay starts in the morning.

Foreplay starts in the MorningI have a buddy who told me about a disagreement he had with his girlfriend.

The two of them weren’t getting along and hadn’t been nice to each other throughout the day. But after dinner was done and the dishes were put away, he started to feel amorous. Hoping the day would end better than it started, he went out of his way to apologize and be solicitous.

It didn’t sound like his change of heart was very sincere and his girlfriend didn’t fall for it. And even though he turned on the charm and tried being affectionate, his girlfriend called his bluff. She stopped his advances cold.

When he questioned her lack of interest she answered tersely:

“Sorry pal,” his girlfriend said, “but foreplay doesn’t start when we get into bed together. Foreplay starts in the morning.”

I know what you’re thinking.

If you’re male, you’re probably thinking: “Ouch. Cold, dude.”

And if you’re a woman you’re probably thinking something along the lines of, “You go girl.”

But regardless of your gender, you’re probably also wondering why this anecdote is in a blog that purports to be about building brand value.

Salacious click bait? Au contraire my little cynic. It’s a valuable marketing lesson for you.

You see, my buddy’s verbal red light is not only an insight into his relationship, but a great way to think about your customer relationships. Because many companies believe it’s important to interact with their customers only when those customers show up to buy something.

Wal-Mart greeters don’t say hello until you walk into the store. The Whole Foods app uses geo-locating to offer you discounts and specials once you stroll their aisles. And the Nordstrom sales associate walks out from behind the cash register after you’ve made your purchase.

But great brands also know that the best way to build and maintain their customer relationships is to delight their clients when they’re not in the process of buying something. Metaphorically speaking, they know that foreplay – even the sale process type – starts in the morning.

This blog post you’re reading is a perfect example of what I’m talking about. I have been writing these marketing messages since 2007 and I send them out every single week at no charge to my readers. My simple goal is to be useful, valuable, and enjoyable. That way, I hope to build a relationship with you and the rest of my 86,000 readers. Of course I don’t expect that any direct business will come out of these essays on any given day. But over the decade that I’ve been sending these posts and building my list, the relationships this blog have facilitated have created all sorts of great opportunities for me.

Thanks to the foreplay this blog has created, I was offered my first opportunity to talk about branding on national TV. Since that time, I’ve been on TV more than 250 times.

Thanks to the people I’ve met through this blog, I have been invited to speak at conferences around the world, I’ve been offered opportunities to present my advertising agency to lots of great clients, and I was offered a book deal for All About Them.

Perhaps most telling, almost all the inbound email inquiries I get from people interested in hiring me or learning more about what I can do from them show up as replies to the week’s blog post. That means that people know they can find me through the blog. It also means this blog keeps me top of mind with my tribe until they are ready to respond to my virtual foreplay.

And unlike my buddy’s unfortunate evening, many of the interactions my foreplay facilitates conclude with very happy endings. Thinking about how to delight your customers when they’re not buying something can do the same thing for you, too.

Can you Transcend Politics?

Posted on February 13th, 2017

Transcend politics.

Companies including Uber, Lyft, Under Armor, Starbucks, Coca-Cola, Nike, and Anheuser Busch have all found themselves on one side or the other of the current chasm of political polarization.

Celebrities including Beyoncé, Steph Curry, The Rock, Tom Brady, Mike Tyson, and Dennis Rodman have too.

Transcend PoliticsOnce upon a time it was business suicide to take sides. But today, more and more companies and celebrities are lining up on one side or the other. Some, like Lyft and Under Armor, have done so because of their leaders’ political leanings. Some, like Nordstrom and Macy’s, say they’ve wound up taking sides simply because of non-partisan business decisions. And some, such as Uber and Budweiser probably found themselves the victims of unintended consequences. They had a political position thrust on them thanks to the interpretation of their behavior by others who view the company’s actions through their own tinted lenses.

What is unarguable is regardless of the reason a company or celebrity finds themselves on one or the other side of a political issue, it can have a drastic effect on their business. As we discussed last week in The Trump Effect, Uber saw their app deleted from 200,000 customers’ smartphones at the same time Starbucks and Lyft saw their businesses increase.

Clearly Uber did not transcend politics.

Of course, taking sides and using partisan positioning to build a brand and a business is nothing new. Sonny Bono, Ted Nugent, Kid Rock, and Clint Eastwood were all darlings of the right long before it became fashionable. Using the same strategy, the backwoods stars of Duck Dynasty rode their conservative positions to incredible, if improbable, success.

On the other side, stars including Barbara Streisand, Jane Fonda, Warren Beatty, and Harry Belafonte all built their audiences and brands by firmly attaching themselves to America’s progressive movement. And today we see a repeat of this strategy by entertainers including Jennifer Lopez, the members of A Tribe Called Quest, 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, Seth Meyers, and so many more.

But it’s not always strategic. Many companies and celebrities who find themselves on one side or the other probably had no intention of making their opinions so public. Instead, their ideological outings could have been forced by supporters or haters on social media sites. Or maybe it was something else. Because as film producer Seth Berkowitz asked on my blog last week, “did they each (take a stand) based on their strongly held personal beliefs or out of a desire not to have their personal brands devalued by association” with an unpopular sponsor or boss?

Offense? Defense? Circumstance? Whatever it was, none of the following brands were able to transcend politics.

LGBTQ supporters will no longer eat at Chick-Fil-A or shop at Hobby Lobby.

Trump supporters are staying away from Starbucks, Lyft, Pepsi, Oreos, Netflix, Ben & Jerry’s, and – shockingly – the NFL.

Trump detractors are boycotting Yuengling, L.L. Bean, Uber, Under Armor and up to 200 more companies.

Dakota Access Pipeline naysayers are boycotting Bank of America, HSBC, Goldman Sachs, and almost 40 other banks.


Transcend politics.
Because there’s no mission without margin and
there’s no margin in the middle.


Interestingly though, some brands can transcend politics and appeal to both ends of the spectrum. Bruce Springsteen wrote both Born in the USA and The Ghost of Tom Joad and is beloved by both right- and left-leaning music fans. This even though he’s made it very clear where his loyalties lie. For those who weren’t sure, the Boss clearly walked his talk when he repeatedly refused to meet with New Jersey Governor and uber-Springsteen fan Chris Christie.

Steve Jobs is also a hero of both left and right. Rightwing mouthpiece Rush Limbaugh fell all over himself to praise the entrepreneur, saying, “Steve Jobs epitomized American exceptionalism.” Somehow Limbaugh ignored the fact that the Apple CEO was the son of a Syrian immigrant and an outspoken liberal who also outsourced his company’s manufacturing to China at the same time he sent his company’s financial assets to Ireland.

Tea Party darling Ayn Rand created objectivism and stood for individual liberty. Because of this, Rand was also an ardent atheist and supporter of reproductive rights. Still, that didn’t stop Speaker of the House Paul Ryan from listing Rand’s classic, Atlas Shrugged, as one of the three books he most frequently rereads. As he told The Weekly Standard, “I give out ‘Atlas Shrugged’ as Christmas presents, and I make all my interns read it.”

The saying “Politics makes strange bedfellows,” was adapted from William Shakespeare’s “Misery acquaints a man with strange bedfellows.” And nowhere is either saying truer than in today’s intersection of business and politics. Because today there’s no mission without margin and no margin in the middle.

So stay neutral if you can, take a stand if you must. But for real brand power, take a page from Bruce, Steve, and Ayn.

Transcend politics.

The Trump Effect.

Posted on February 7th, 2017

The Trump Effect.

The Trump EffectWhen Uber eliminated their surge pricing during the JFK taxi strike, #deleteUber trended across social media. In a lightning-fast response, competitor Lyft announced that they were donating $1 million to the ACLU. Two days later, CEO Travis Kalanick stepped down from President Trump’s economic advisory council to try and salvage Uber’s reputation. But it was too late. Over 200,000 Uber customers had already deleted their accounts. Uber had so many deletions that they created a new process to handle all the people fleeing their company. At the same time, Lyft’s app shot to the very top of both Apple and Android’s download stats.

In response to Trump’s executive order to bar entry of refugees from seven Muslim countries, Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz pledged they would hire 10,000 refugees in their stores around the world. The next day, #BoycottStarbucks trended highest on Twitter with some posters pledging to stop patronizing the coffee shops. But simultaneously, Schultz’s supporters posted their intention to increase their purchases.

No one noticed Schultz’s pledge was a continuation of the company’s 2013 promise to hire veterans and active duty spouses. As the company said, “…we will start this effort here in the U.S. by making the initial focus of our hiring efforts on those individuals who have served with U.S. troops as interpreters and support personnel… where our military has asked for such support.” Bottom line? Starbucks’ business continues to increase regardless of the outrage.

Citing “poor performance,” Nordstrom dropped Ivanka Trump’s shoe line. With this, Nordstrom joined Macy’s, Univision, and NBC Universal which have all cut their ties with the President’s businesses.

What’s clear is the danger of the Trump Effect. A brand-chilling wind that affects those who attach themselves to the Trump brand.

The tourism industry is next in line to feel the Trump Effect.

I know most associations (the groups that hotels covet most because they bring large-scale conventions to their properties) would most certainly choose not to book an event at a Trump property. To confirm this, I spoke to a board member of a major national association who answered on the promise of anonymity. He said his board would insist the group not book a Trump hotel so for many reasons. First, they oppose Trump’s policies, actions, and everything he symbolizes.  But more important, as someone with a fiduciary responsibility to the organization, he says that such a booking would cause a backlash of social media vitriol from members on both sides of the issue.

“But how about if a Trump property offered a great deal on the accommodations?” I asked. “Would the board of directors consider it then?”

“Not on your life. Because the drama of considering the property overshadows any savings benefit.”  And when word leaks out that the association is considering a Trump hotel, the group would be in a no-win situation.

“We would be accused of having painfully terrible judgement: ‘How could you possibly DO this?’ And we would be attacked for having no cojones: ‘You’re just backing away because of the liberals in our association!’”

Regardless of your point of view, no good would come of the controversy. And so what happens? Nothing.

The Trump Effect indeed.

Thanks to a democratized media where everyone with a smartphone and a social media account can speak their mind, marketers and advertisers are going to find it harder and harder to stay neutral. Because no matter how firmly they straddle the fence, someone is still offended.


Coca-Cola’s heartwarming replay of their 2014 Super Bowl ad incited controversy because America the Beautiful was sung in multiple languages. Budweiser’s stunning Super Bowl entry was considered anti-American because it presented the Adolphus Busch’s travails immigrating to the U.S. But regardless of the outrage in the blogosphere, a Tuesday morning count showed the beer ad had been viewed almost 22 million times.

Here’s a clue:

When Coca-Cola and Budweiser are accused of un-American behavior (yet revel in the success of their advertising) you KNOW the Trump Effect is at work. And it’s something to which you’d better pay very close attention.

The Brand Battlefield – Trump vs. Business vs. Trump

Posted on January 31st, 2017

The Brand Battlefield

The Trump administration banned immigration from seven predominately Muslim countries.

Two days later Starbucks’ chairman and chief executive officer, Howard Schultz, marched onto the brand battlefield and promised the company will hire 10,000 refugees over five years across 75 countries.

Uber CEO Travis Kalanick rolled onto the brand battlefield stating Trump’s order would, “affect thousands of drivers who use Uber and come from the listed countries, many of whom take long breaks to go back home to see their extended family… That means they will not be able to earn a living and support their families—and of course they will be separated from their loved ones during that time.”

The Brand Battlefield

Immigration rights activists thought this implied Uber would breakup planned driver strikes. In response they launched their #DeleteUber movement onto the brand battlefield. #DeleteUber is a much stronger call to action than #BoycottUber (or Starbucks) by the way. Because once you delete the Uber app it’s harder to take the action to restore it and use the service again.

Quickly seizing on the issue, Lyft hit the brand battlefield too. The second most popular ride-sharing pledged to donate $1 million to the American Civil Liberties Union to fight Trump’s executive order.

Political posturing has become so prevalent that even beauty queens have been drawn into the fray. As Melissa Francis and I discussed on After The Bell, the 2017 Miss Universe winner, Iris Mittenaere, was asked about open borders. Her answer? “The country should have the right to open or close their borders. Having open borders allows us to travel more through the world, and to find out more about what’s out there in the world.” Granted, Mittenaere took no side and made no salient points but her comments were still seen as shots fired onto the brand battlefield.

Of course such non-committal answers are only good or bad depending on what you’re trying to accomplish. Mostly they accomplish nothing, so you don’t get any bang for your buck by straddling the fence firmly. But you can still get in trouble. And to quote Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel, “You never want to let a serious crisis go to waste.”

In today’s newly polarized reality it’s safe to assume that anything you say will offend somebody. Therefore, it’s probably better to take a stand based on the specific outcome – and the specific audience – you are pursuing. For example, the Starbucks CEO’s comment upset @SimplyRedeemable enough to post a couple of anti- Starbucks’ rants on my Twitter feed. Still, her last post said, “I can’t afford Starbucks.” Clearly Schultz isn’t going to worry about losing that customer.

Hence my question: Can companies and public figures avoid the ramifications of political involvement? Or should they rush onto the brand battlefield with both barrels blazing?

Big thinker Brian Walter says there’s “simply no political safe harbor for big business anymore.” For decades, they could pursue their political interests mostly under cover. They rarely had to pick sides and risk alienating customers. But the 2016 election, combined with the transparency of online communication, has eliminated that option. Now businesses are caught in the same political divisions that are wreaking havoc among friends and family on social media and across dinner tables. Businesses will be criticized and pilloried for taking a stand or for NOT taking a stand. Inaction will be interpreted as condoning whatever decisions the companies try to ignore.

There is no middle ground, no safe space, no politic-free zone. Today companies find themselves on the brand battlefield whether they want to be there or not.

Before you think big business is the victim here, it’s important to understand that there is much more going on. Big business is also shifting in how it plays politics. In the past their move was to donate to the campaigns and candidates the companies and CEO’s supported. Of course, they donated mostly to politicians who pursued their narrow area of interest. They also supported PACs and groups that promoted the same thing.

Old school company values consisted of spineless platitudes framed and hung on the conference room wall. Today a company will act on its core values. Because the new play is participation. Big businesses are harnessing the publicity power that comes from activism and social media. Rather than avoiding the fray they will become part of the fray.

This makes some shareholders and customers uncomfortable because they can no longer say they share values. Instead, they’ll spend their money with companies who think like they do.

Don’t support Trump? Do some research and chances are you won’t buy beer from Yuengling, ketchup from Heinz, clothes from L.L. Bean, or anything from Amway.

Support Trump? If you check their political contributions or comments you probably won’t do business with Ben & Jerry’s, PepsiCo or Costco.

Yesterday it was the Culture Wars. Today it’s the Value Wars. And as businesses become combatants, we consumers will march onto the brand battlefield with our pocketbooks swinging.


Want To Know More About How To Build Your Brand Today? Want a free copy of All About Them?

I’ll be presenting my newest book, All About Them, this Friday, February 3rd.All About Them

We’ll talk about:

  1. The difference between what you sell and what you exchange for money
  2. Why the watching the Wizard of Oz can tell you everything you need to know about how to build your brand.
  3. What Audi, BMW, Mercedes, and Volkswagen know about branding that you don’t. And how to put their knowledge to work for you.

I promise our time together will be useful, enjoyable, and valuable. And I’ll be delighted to sign your complimentary copy of All About Them there too. To find out more and to register to attend, click HERE.

This is the 69th BIG LUNCH since 2009. I believe it will be the best one yet. If you’re on the brand battlefield you can’t afford to not be here.

What you can expect: A group of 30-40 business owners and professionals who are hungry and passionate about growing their business and looking forward to networking with you.

Doors open for BIG Lunch at 11:00 am at the Tower Club in downtown Fort Lauderdale. Lunch is served at 11:30 and I’ll be talking about building your brand from 12:00 to 1:00 pm. Everybody gets a complimentary copy of my newest book. We’ll end right on time so you can get back to your day.

If you’d like to sign up to attend, or just want to learn more, please  click HERE.

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