My Dad. Renaissance Man. An Invitation.

6 responses.

My dad was a lot of things. High school basketball center. Air Force navigator. Civil rights leader. Developer. Entrepreneur. Musician. Community advocate. Superhero. And of course, husband, brother, son, and father. A true Renaissance man.

As Jeremy Mikolajczak, executive director and chief curator of the MDC Museum & Galleries of Art + Design wrote so beautifully:

“Leonard Turkel was coined the ‘Father of Florida Condominiums’ by The Miami Herald and is noted as the pioneer of the Florida condominium development boom. But behind the exterior of the successful entrepreneur, Leonard Turkel had a social conscience that proved much greater than that of the typical businessman.”

My dad, the Renaissance man, was also an artist. From Jeremy again:

“In addition to leaving behind a legacy for equal rights, proper inner-city housing, mobile health clinics, and midnight basketball for at-risk teenagers, Leonard Turkel was an artist who created hundreds of collages and assemblages that mirror his morals of social justice.”

My dad would visit libraries and photo archives to search for old black and white or sepia prints of mostly groups of people involved in his various interests – usually civil rights, community service, or music. Then he’d have the photos enlarged and mounted onto sheets of foam board. Next he’d hand tint the images, cut them out, and reassemble them in 3D assemblages that brought new attention and meaning to both the pictures and the subjects they presented.

Renaissance ManLast January we hosted Following Your Own Sense of Justice – a retrospective of my father’s artworks at the MDC Museum & Galleries. We were absolutely stunned by the outpouring of enthusiasm, appreciation, and love that we all enjoyed that night and across the weeks that the work hung on the gallery walls. What’s more, once we saw the work displayed in the museum we realized just how meaningful and important Dad’s work really is.

The other thing we discovered was just how many people were interested in owning a piece of Dad’s work to enjoy in their own home or collection. The heartfelt requests were so overwhelming that we decided right then and there to figure out how to make that a possibility so that even more people could enjoy his vision and talents.

Thanks to Jeremy’s help again, we’ve opened an online auction that will culminate in a gallery auction at the MDC Museum & Galleries of Art + Design on January 16, 2015. Of course, because this auction was created to honor Dad’s life and work, the proceeds of the sale will go to establishing a scholarship in Leonard Turkel’s name for deserving students who want to make our community – and their lives – better.

Renaissance Man

You can visit the online auction HERE and visit the work in person at the gallery at the Freedom Tower, 600 N.E. 2nd Avenue, Miami. Of course we hope you’ll join us Friday night for the gallery show and auction of a true Renaissance man.

Click HERE for the auction. Click HERE for the save the date announcement. Click HERE for the evite.

As thanks to Jeremy Mikolajczak for all his assistance, let’s hear from him again:

Following Your Own Sense of Justice is a retrospective of Leonard Turkel’s rarely seen artwork and a true testament to the legacy of a man that proved to be one of Miami’s greatest mavericks of civic equality and community building. Auction proceeds will be used to provide scholarships for at-risk youth.”

Please join us.

Top Ten Lists: My Best Branding & Life Hacks of 2014

One response.

At the end of every year television and the Internet are inundated with top ten lists – the best top ten lists of this, the worst top ten lists of that – and 2014 is no different.

Taking a page out of this time-honored tradition of top ten lists, I thought I’d review the top ideas marketing tips we talked about this year with the hope that you will find them as useful, valuable, and enjoyable as I did. Here they are in chronological order. Happy New Year.

  1. Leave Early.
    Wanna stay calm when you’re traveling in 2015? It’s easy… leave early. Nothing reduces your stress and makes travel a pleasure more than not having to rush. HERE’S how to do it and what to do when you do.
  2. The best way to learn about Social Media is to do it.
    If anything has changed the way products and services are marketed it’s social media. But that doesn’t mean everyone has jumped in with both feet yet. If you’re still sitting on the sidelines, read THIS and get started.
  3. Move your customers from Needs to Wants and from Whys to Hows.
    Raising your prices and still selling more is not hard if you make this simple but profound paradigm shift – Simply move your customers from Needs to Wants and from Whys to Hows. HERE’S how.NEEDS-arrow-WANTS-final
  4. Travel Light.
    The other thing that makes travel a snap is traveling light. Fortune Magazine wrote an article on my obsession. Click HERE to  find a bunch of great tips that you can use on your next journey.
  5. Dealing with criticism.
    Sometimes it takes more than a simple first glance to know if a brand strategy is going to work. Eiffel, a Beethoven, and Cézanne all suffered from THIS. But that doesn’t mean you should.
  6. Work life balance is bullshit.
    It is. HERE’S why, and what you can do about it.
  7. Being The Best at Everything You Do.
    My dad told me to do whatever I wanted but to be the best at it. I’ll bet yours did too. HERE’S how.
  8. Why Robin William’s death mattered to my family.
    Most of my blog posts are about how to build your brand. But occasionally I try to tackle more important issues because they matter. Robin William’s death gave me a painful and profound insight into my family and the world. I think THIS might help you too.
  9. Creating a disruptive app.
    Heidi Dobbs is teaching little kids to read with an iPhone app called Babyfonics Genius,. HERE’S what you need to know about creating your own disruptive technology. Bill O’Reilly
  10. Bill O’Reilly’s brand is the most congruent in the world.
    When I was on his show, Bill O’Reilly beat me up pretty good. He also taught me the KEY REQUIREMENT to building a truly congruent brand.

    Plus two extras just for you!

  11. Be Nice.
    It’s simple. It’s true. It’s all HERE. Be nice.
  12. Overcoming competency.
    You have to be good at what you do to be successful. But, contrary to what I said earlier, you don’t have to be the best. In fact, it might get in the way. HERE’S why.

Bah Humbug. Or, Always Willing To Do Less.

5 responses.

Bah Humbug. Pardon me for being a skeptamist, but does anything say, “I did as little as possible” more than a generic e-mail holiday greeting? I just received this one (amongst many) and am reprinting its touching message here in all its insipid entirety to make my point:

“As the Holiday Season is upon us, we find ourselves reflecting on the past year and on those who have helped to shape our business in a most significant way. We truly value our relationship with you and look forward to working with you in the year to come. We wish you a very happy Holiday Season and a New Year filled with peace, love and prosperity.”

I haven’t actually done business with the company that sent me this sentimental bit of falderal but if I had I don’t imagine I’d feel truly valued regardless of their promise that I am.

Don’t get me wrong. It’s not like a card picked out of a catalog and imprinted with a company name and a mailing label offers much more heartfelt sentiment, especially when the postage comes from a machine and not a stamp. But still.

While I’m busy bashing the holiday spirit with my bah-humbugging, let’s not forget gift cards. Believe it or not, gift cards were the most requested holiday gifts again this year, specifically, cards from Visa, Netflix, Amazon, iTunes, Wal-Mart, Target, and Starbucks. Besides echoing the “I did as little as possible” sentiment of generic e-mail holiday greetings, gift cards both telegraph a complete lack of interest in the recipient’s interests, taste, etc. as well as confirming the giver’s complete lack of imagination, enterprise, and thoughtfulness.

Bah Humbug

Sure the cards allow the receiver to buy whatever they want and certainly eliminate the concern about what to do with the ugly sweater, foolish gadget or inappropriate gag gift, but they also negate the carefully chosen book, the delicious hand baked cookies, and the breathless “how did you know I wanted that?” or “I LOVE it!!” response that a little thought and enterprise generates.

Of course asking for gift cards is even more bah humbug loathsome than giving them. For some odd reason, people who would never think twice about begging for money on a street corner have no shame about asking for spare change as long as it’s digitally transferred on a little plastic sheet. Why not just have friends and family members send money towards your car loan or mortgage payment? Or better yet, just give them your bank’s routing number and have them make a direct deposit directly into your account. That would be easier for everyone.

From a branding point of view, gift giving is not only a great way to show your clients, customers, coworkers, and cohorts how much they mean to you but also the perfect way to express a little bit of your authentic self in your gifts and greetings. Regardless of the amount of money you spend, the effort you make and the thought you contribute is what tells your recipients exactly what you think — or don’t think — of them.

No bah humbug here — I hope you enjoy a warm and loving holiday surrounded by family and friends and a thoughtful, optimistic, safe, and very prosperous New Year full of excitement, opportunity, and love. I look forward to continuing this ongoing conversation with you and I thank you for reading and commenting. It means more to me than you’ll ever know. Happy everything you celebrate!

What Is Your Blue Box?

14 responses.

In hindsight it wasn’t such a good idea.

I had already tossed my blue box of fishing hooks and lures down into the boat next to my rods. Instead of climbing down the ladder after them, I had the bright idea to jump the three feet from the pier to the floating dock below. I put my hand on the piling to steady myself and stepped off. But the second I headed down I felt a searing pain in my left hand. Crashing onto the dock, I looked down at my palm and wondered where my wedding ring was and why my finger was turning red and hurt so much. It suddenly dawned on me that my ring was jammed up against my first knuckle, sort of under the shredded skin, so I gritted my teeth and pulled the ring back down and then slid it off my finger just before my ring finger swelled up like a chicken drumstick.

What IS your blue box?After my wife pulled a bandage from the first aid kit in the blue box and cleaned the wound, I figured out what had happened. When I grabbed the piling, my wedding ring got caught on an errant nail sticking out of the wood. When I jumped off the dock, my ring stayed behind. Lucky for me the piling was old and weathered and the nail had been hammered in with the grain, so my weight pulled the nail up and out of the wood instead of causing the awful alternative.

To this day, my ring is an oval instead of a circle and has a little nick in it and my finger has a scar where the ring dug in. Remember to ask me the next time we see each other and I’ll show you.

Already a repository for emotion, this near-miss gave my wedding ring a whole new meaningful story. But it didn’t change the functional value of the ring itself – despite what it represents, including almost yanking my finger off, my wedding band is still only worth its paltry weight times the current cost of gold.

If I was selling wedding rings, it would behoove me to not sell their functional value (weight x cost of materials) but instead to sell their emotional value. The big question is how do you do this in the store or online to make the ring more valuable BEFORE it has been invested with personal experience?

What IS your blue box?One company has figured this out. By taking their wedding bands (and other products) and presenting them in blue cardboard boxes with white ribbons, Tiffany & Co. instantly instills their goods with additional perceived value at very little cost.

Are Tiffany’s wedding bands and engagement rings better than the competition’s? It does depend on how you define the word better, but from a functional point of view it would be hard to argue that any well-made ring is much different than any other. However, when a spouse-to-be is on their knees proposing to the love of their life, most of us would agree that the experience would be even more dramatic if the proffered ring is presented in that iconic blue box with the white ribbon.

What I find most interesting is that you can purchase jewelry, watches, sterling silver accessories, cut crystal, and other gifts in a Tiffany store but you can’t buy the blue box itself. You only get one if you buy their products.

Car companies don’t require that. You can buy Ferrari racing shoes, BMW fitted luggage, and Mercedes-Benz key rings regardless of whether you drive their cars or not.

Universities don’t do it either. You can buy a Harvard sweatshirt, a Michigan State baseball cap or a University of Florida license plate frame even if you’ve never set foot on their campuses.

What IS your blue box?What’s the takeaway here that you can benefit from? Quite simply, it is in understanding that the things you do are no different from the things inside Tiffany’s blue box. At their most functional level, your services are worth what the market says they’re worth – metaphorically defined as weight x cost. But at an emotional level what you do is worth as much as you say its worth, IF you can define it in a way that imbues your services with value.

To separate yourself from your competition and demonstrate your expanded value to your consumer, the answer you need to put your finger on is not what’s IN your blue box but what IS your blue box.

Pick a Lane.

27 responses.

I finally finished writing my next book. As much as I enjoy writing the books, the thing I don’t like to do is write the proposals for the agent and publisher. Even though I know how important proposals are to the process, it seems silly to me to spend time writing an overview instead of working on the book itself. And the worst part of writing the proposal is answering the question, “What books does yours compete with?”

What books does mine compete with? Are they freaking kidding? No one’s ever written a book like mine before!! It’s unique, singular, exclusive. Not one author in the history of the world has ever written a book like mine. Not one. Not never.

Instead of answering this belittling question, I thought I’d be smart as a fox and actually write and design and lay out the book instead of writing a proposal. Then I’d order a few custom published printed samples and cart them around to agents and publishers, drop them on their desks and say, “Here. It’s all done. You want a piece of this?”

I figured if I produced a real sample then agents and publishers could actually see what they were buying. I wouldn’t have to explain my idea, I wouldn’t have to demonstrate that I could write the manuscript, I wouldn’t have to promise that I would actually complete the book, and I wouldn’t have to define the competition. I could plop the sample down and the book would speak for itself. Publishing success, here I come!

But pride doth indeed cometh before the fall.

After all this planning and scheming, the first question from the first agent I spoke to was “what books does yours compete with?” Clearly Steinbeck (and Burns before him) was right when he wrote: “The best-laid schemes of mice and men often go awry.”

Luckily, I didn’t stomp off but instead blurted out the one book that I thought was most similar to what I had produced. Even more lucky, the agent told me that he keeps that same book on his desk to show people who ask him what kind of book they should write. Wow. It really is better to be lucky than good isn’t it?

Here’s what I learned: If you actually tell your agent that your book is like nothing else in the market they’ll hang up on you. First, it’s doubtful that out of all the millions of books that have been printed, and the billions that have been suggested, yours is totally different. Second, with all the potential authors scrambling for advantage, if no one’s bothered to write a book even remotely similar to yours it’s because there’s no market for it. Third, if you don’t know what else is out there, you haven’t done your homework. And fourth, no agent believes you’re actually smart enough to come up with something totally new.

Instead you have to pick a lane.

How many talented musicians languish in obscurity because they can’t (or won’t) pick a lane? “My new album? It’s kind of a ground breaking countryish, punkie, hard rock take on classical Broadway show tunes expressed through an urban techno-voicing over authentic Celtic rhythms.”

“Sorry,” says the A&R guy, “iTunes doesn’t have a category for that. Next.”

How many valuable non-profits can’t secure funding because they don’t (or won’t)pick a lane in the clearly defined sections on the grants applications they fill out?

How often do you see famous actors who can also dance, sing, play musical instruments, and do other things you didn’t expect from them? Actor Robert Downey Jr. singing with Sting; musicians Mandy Moore and Queen Latifah acting; actor Richard Gere playing the piano in Pretty Woman, the trumpet in The Cotton Club, and performing song and dance in Chicago; boy-bander Justin Timberlake and comedian Jimmy Fallon doing anything.


Despite all their prodigious talents, each one of them became famous for one thing because they knew, or someone told them, to focus.

As Steve Jobs said, “Do not try to do everything. Do one thing well.” Why? Because “deciding what not to do is as important as deciding what to do.” In other words, pick a lane.

Cyber Monday is the Buggy Whip of E-Tailing.

10 responses.

Cyber Monday’s business press was all atwitter looking at that day as well as Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, and Technology Tuesday. Makes me wonder when they’re going to celebrate WTF Wednesday, too.

But this year something new happened. All of a sudden Cyber Monday sales figures are coming in wonky. And experts are falling all over each other to explain what’s going on.

“The holiday season and the weekend are a marathon, not a sprint.” National Retail Federation CEO Matthew Shay told Bloomberg when Cyber Monday sales tumbled an estimated 11 percent over the weekend from a year earlier and 6 million anticipated shoppers didn’t show up.


Shay pointed out many consumers don’t feel like the economy has recovered from the recession yet. That makes it difficult to gauge how much they plan to spend on Cyber Monday or any other day.

New York-based analyst Simeon Siegel put it this way: “You can’t outsmart the consumer anymore. You need to pander to where the consumer wants to shop and when.”

Still other retail experts pointed out that lower Cyber Monday sales were actually a good sign. They theorized this meant consumers were confident and didn’t need retail gimmicks to get them to buy.

Of course no one has bothered to point out that what we’re really seeing is the beginning of the end for traditional retailing. The reason experts all have different opinions is because they’re prognosticating on something they’ve never seen before. And all the facts and figures they trot out to confirm their points of view are old measurements of an old world we’ll never see again.

Kim Kardashian and Cyber MondayTake Cyber Monday itself for example. According to The New York Times, “The name Cyber Monday grew out of the observation that millions of otherwise productive working Americans, fresh off a Thanksgiving weekend of window shopping, were returning to high-speed Internet connections at work Monday…” Of course, this was written in 2005 when most consumers didn’t have high-speed Internet access anywhere but their offices. Today WiFi hotspots are as numerous as Kim Kardashian’s husbands. There is simply no reason for shoppers to wait until they get to work to go online and shop. And since shoppers know the prices they see on Monday will still be available on Tuesday and Wednesday, they’re in no hurry to grab bargains on Cyber Monday.

Unfortunately, the retail industry has trained consumers to expect, demand, and wait for low prices and shoppers now exercise their Pavlovian right to the best deal available regardless of what stores and websites are yelling about.

The only place where this unfortunate reality is not sucking the profits out of retail is the luxury goods market where brands such as Apple, BMW, Hermes, and Louis Vuitton sell more than just the sum of their components. Instead of using price and function to fight it out, these savvy brands understand that whether or not consumers rush to the mall or the Internet, they will pay top dollar for exclusive experiences that define their lifestyles and themselves.

In other words, good brands make you feel good but great brands make you feel good about yourself. The great brands that understand this and build the perceived value of the good feelings they create will prevail regardless of whether it’s Cyber Monday, Black Friday or The Hell With it Thursday.

Good Brands on Cyber Monday

A Great Brand on Cyber Monday

Good PR is Good PR. But Only If You’re Ready.

7 responses.

Lots of people quote the old bromide, “All PR is good PR” but few people actually live it. Recently I had a friend tell me that not only did he believe this saying but he wanted to promote his brand on radio and TV as I’ve done. So after arranging some media training and making some phone calls to various network honcho friends, I was finally able to get my buddy on a few radio interviews.

At first he was terrified, then merely anxious, and now he’s done enough interviews that he’s getting a little lackadaisical about the whole thing. His visits to local studios have become so routine that he’s taken to calling the stations he’s been on by the call letters WNEL (W No one Ever Listens).

Yesterday he sent me this email about all the good PR he’s getting: “I will be on-air again tomorrow but no one cares. Think about the result of throwing a pebble in a raging river. Think about WNEL with even fewer listeners. Think about the proverbial tree falling in the empty forest and the effect it has on the planet Earth. I could go on but I would only depress myself further. Why do I bother to do this anymore?”

Isn’t it funny how quickly my friend’s viewpoint changed? When he first got on air he was almost shaking with excitement and nervousness and now his once-coveted appearances have become a dreaded drudgery and odious obligation.

Of course I have a little of experience here and can empathize a bit. Sometimes supposedly good PR appearances can feel like you’re just screaming into a chasm. Sometimes the echo of your own voice is the only thing you hear through your little headphones at the exact moment when you’re hungry to hear the cheering accolades of millions of adoring fans.

But if my friend’s goal is to promote his books and his business on air then maybe it makes a little sense for him to pay some dues when no one else is watching or listening. After all, you wouldn’t want the first time you get on television to be that coveted interview with Oprah Winfrey or Jimmy Fallon would you?

Sometimes being in the wrong place at the wrong time allows you to get all the kinks worked out so you’ll be ready for the good PR when you get to be in the right place at the right time. Sometimes that little extra bit of practice, screaming into the chasm as it were, shows you what to do — and more importantly NOT do — when your big break finally comes along.

When Your Good PR Opportunity ComesAlthough those big breaks do seem to happen to others with alarming ease and frequency – think Justin Bieber being discovered on YouTube or Ava Gardner being discovered when her photo was spotted at a portrait studio – they are certainly anomalies. Most people who make it big become overnight successes only after 20 years of hard work and nose to the grindstone stick-to-it-ness.

Which is exactly what my friend is doing with his day in and day out appearances on WNEL, honing his skills while he gets the experience he needs to be ready for his big shot at good PR whenever it happens to appear. His on-air goal should not to reach a lot of people yet but to be prepared to paraphrase Norma in Sunset Boulevard and vamp, “All right, Mr. DeMille, I’m ready for my close-up” when his big opportunity finally shows its beautiful face.

My father used to remind me “when opportunity knocks you can’t say ‘come back later.’” Instead you have to use the downtime before your big chance, the calm before the storm, to make sure you’re as ready for your opportunity as you can be. Because sometimes opportunity knocks early, sometimes it knocks later, and maybe sometimes it doesn’t knock no matter how hard you prepare for it. But to have opportunity come knocking when you’re not yet ready to answer the door would be the most frustrating of all.

How do you get to Carnegie Hall? Practice, practice, practice. How do you take advantage of your good PR? The same way. Practice, practice, practice until you can take full advantage of the opportunity. Because as congressional librarian Daniel J. Boorstin said about potential and achievement, “Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some hire public relations officers.”

Victoria’s Secret Secret

9 responses.

Victoria’s Secret UK showed a lineup of beautiful young women wearing their lingerie under the headline “The Perfect Body” and generated over 26,000 angry signatures. Protesters complained that the campaign “offensive and damaging to women.” The uproar was not enough to get Victoria’s Secret to apologize or scuttle the campaign but they did reissue the same ad with a new headline that read, A Body For Every Body.”Victoria’s Secret’s Secret

Apparently Victoria’s Secret wants its naysayers to know that they were heard and the company responded appropriately. But in their rush to do as little as possible, Victoria’s Secret used the same picture and they continue to use similar pictures in all of their advertising and marketing. It’s ironic that Victoria’s Secret imposed their new headline, “A Body for Every Body” over a picture that only shows one type of body.

Victoria’s Secret’s Secret

What I don’t understand is why the line The Perfect Body is damaging enough for people to protest but the Victoria’s Secret picture of 10 tall, thin, young, busty, beautiful women with long straight hair in their underwear is not. After all, if the problem with the headline is that it suggests that all women need to conform to a particular body type to be perfect and beautiful, then why doesn’t the photo cause the same uproar?

The bigger question is really who is the Victoria’s Secret advertising created to appeal to in the first place?

For years, advertising for men’s clothing was created to appeal to women because the reigning wisdom was that women bought 80% of men’s clothes for their husbands, sons, boyfriends, etc. While this purchase percentage has changed somewhat in the last few years, it’s still a fairly universal belief that women buy, or are responsible for motivating the purchase of, most menswear.

But women’s wear is different. Not only don’t men buy very much of it for the women in their lives (not even sexy lingerie) to begin with, but most women don’t even dress for men; instead they dress for themselves and for other women.

What this means is that Victoria’s Secret using homogenized sexy images is not created to satisfy a male view of what they want the women in their lives to look like, but is created to appeal to the very woman who are buying Victoria’s Secret’s products in the first place – few of whom probably look like the models in the ads. Instead, Victoria’s Secret is presenting an aspirational view of how the women who buy their products want to look.

Of course this practice is not solely limited to female shoppers. Regardless of whether Tommy Bahama men’s clothes are bought by men or women, it’s interesting to note that Andy Lucchesi, the model used in the ads for the past decade, can’t be much more than 40 but sports the hair color of someone almost half again as old. Tommy Bahama’s message, like the Victoria’s Secret message, is simple: You are younger, better looking, and in better shape than your age (or actual condition) would suggest and wearing our clothes will only enhance that feeling.

Victoria’s Secret’s Secret

By the way, it’s not only clothing that uses this aspirational strategy. Few sports cars ever go faster than 70 MPH — but they could.

Few four-wheel drive sport utility vehicles ever go off road or actually do anything that an old-fashioned station wagon couldn’t do just as well – but they could.

Our Olympics-quality running shoes don’t help us run any faster, our state-of-the-art laptops don’t make our prose any more profound, our ceramic chef’s knives don’t cut our frozen pizzas any straighter, our Eric Clapton limited-edition vintage Fender Stratocaster electric guitar doesn’t make our blues riffs any deeper. But they could.

As we’ve discussed time and time again, People don’t choose what you do, they choose who you are. Not only is product competence cost-of-entry, but, as we’ve seen, most consumers don’t actually use all of the functional benefits of what they’re buying in the first place.

Instead, consumers use their purchases to confirm the aspirational dreams we all have.

The products – underwear, Hawaiian shirts, SUVs, whatever – don’t make us any better. But they could.

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