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The creation of fast acting, upwardly accelerating, new world finding brands. The brand strategy that forces every ounce of growth out of the brand and then some more and right away. This is Rocket Branding.

When Bad Brands Collide.

screen-shot-2016-09-15-at-8-08-41-amblog-guyWell, here we are. The big choice. Hillary or Trump? An incredibly important choice between two huge but sadly unpopular brands. Not Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump but ‘Hillary’ and ‘Trump.’ The brands are that precisely defined now and recognizable as such the world over.

Unfortunately behind that exalted status are very low levels of popularity and respect. When the dust settles, it is hard to imagine the losing supporters accepting the other candidate. In fact one could argue that this is about ‘voting against’ more than ‘voting for.’ The popular phrase – ‘I’ll vote for anyone but …”

The stakes are ridiculously high. International and domestic issues have never been more complex or uncertain. The next ‘leader of the free world’ will have less margin for error than any other in history and unless that individual can lead a government that unifies and creates positive momentum for all, then tough times will be the new norm.

Yes, I know someone will find a speech from a hundred years ago that spouts the same gloom and yes, we all survived just fine. Far be it for me to be so learned and profound, but humor me. Let’s play this out.

You are the brand master for Hillary or Trump. Do you take the high road like Obama did and promise love and unity or do you play the anyone-but-the-other card and just hammer the bejesus out of the opposing brand?

My guess is that everyone would prefer to take the high road and tout unity and hope for all. Hal Riney wrote perhaps the sweetest Presidential ‘love’ campaign ever for Ronald Reagan called “Morning in America.” Made you cry.

But then the new media reality pops up and no matter what positive pitch your candidate makes someone will find a grainy clip or dog-eared speech from childhood that will serve to knock your contender right off the high road. And then, well, it’s time to start pointing fingers again and poking at your opponent for their similarly shoddy history.

So Mr. or Mrs. or Mx. Brand Master, how do you help your Hillary or Trump brand win and save the world to boot?

Well here’s a thought. I have not read Trump’s book the Art of the Deal, but I do like the notion of ‘win-win’ that most deal makers support. Who doesn’t? Everyone is happy. What if your candidate announced a radical new approach that made their unpopular aspects dissolve in the bold pursuit of real solutions?

If this was a business, you might entertain the idea of having, not one, but two official Vice Presidents. One dedicated to each of the two biggest problems facing the US and the world – ‘jobs’ and ‘peace’ – with real resources and goals. Yes, you could say that this is just more government, etc. but perhaps by doing this, all voters can start to believe that there is hope for solutions and action? This might soften the blow for Hillary haters or establish a higher level of credibility for Trump haters. And maybe restore some respect for politicians? (Well, maybe that is a bit too optimistic)

Or how about this? What if one of the candidates gets up and announces a new world initiative, called UNOJ, The United Nations of Jobs. It’s not hard to see that the biggest single problem today is people finding jobs. Disenfranchised young people are becoming terrorists. Mature workers are losing out to robots. People, not working grind capitalist countries to a halt and create untold anarchy for the others. What if the new world order’s mantra was ‘jobs for all’ and the UNOJ was legitimate and singularly focused on that one goal? Pollyanna-ish? Of course. Naïve? Certainly. But at least it’s an attempt at changing the narrative from the usual ‘well he/she said this shitty thing about kittens BS’, that just sinks a Presidential brand and turns off voters.

Hey, perhaps Trump can use his famous border wall as the HQ for the UNOJ and change it from a border crossing to a job fair? Or Hillary can use her rich Clinton Foundation as a sponsor?

Ok, so there are my feeble attempts. What thoughts do you have brand wizards?

Can we innovate and provide the American voter with credible hope for the ‘good’ brand America? Or are we now just destined to remain divided, mediocre and lost?

We love this stuff at Rocket Branding. Let us know what you think of a way forward for either brand? ian@rocketbranding.com

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BREXIT … A Stand for Sovereignty

Brexit BlogI was in Athens, this time last year, and witnessed ‘Grexit,’ the Greek’s agonizing vote to leave the European Union. They voted to stay in the EU.

And, last week, I was in London, in the midst of Brexit, UK’s similar battle. They voted to leave the EU.

Different outcomes but largely driven by the same basic issue … protecting sovereignty i.e. not having others dictate their future and culture. The Greek’s poor economy trumped their ability to rid themselves of EU rule but the Brits are financially able to stand-alone. They can regain independence from EU leadership and more pointedly control the open in-flow of unskilled migrants. They lower the wages, soak up the social benefits, fuel the fear of terrorism, and in time, change the culture.

These are emotionally charged decisions and run deep and wide across the populations. It would be somewhat akin to a California or Texas deciding to become independent of the US. It strikes at the heart of the livelihoods and security of each individual. Over the next year we’ll watch the same story play out for many other European countries who will also be assessing their sovereignty and independence in light of a possible ‘exit’ from the EU.

So what is really happening here and, importantly as ‘master branders’ what should we take from all this?

Well actually it is fairly simple.

As generations march forward things change and some times that change is quite pivotal. In each case, Grexit and Brexit, the older generations voted overwhelming for ‘exit’. They wanted to keep their cultures and traditions and resented deeply the changes they saw around them with foreign migrants taking over their neighborhoods, jobs and social benefits, terrorism etc.

The younger generations (under 35) certainly understand the loss of tradition but they are in a completely different place. They voted to stay. They are underemployed. They want jobs and see the opportunity to freely travel throughout the larger European market as an enormous benefit. This is certainly the case with Greece with very high unemployment for under 30’s but also in the UK where again the chance to easily work in other countries is tremendously beneficial.

The younger generations are also very different in some very important ways. They are more globally oriented and connected. They are less trusting of politicians, moderately ‘sovereignty-centric’ and generally much more sensitive to the overall global condition … environment, resources, hope for everyone. Yes, they do understand and respect tradition but “it’s really tough when you are still living at home”. “And it would be really great if they could find a better way to live on earth”.

This is not just European. Younger voters, the world-over is similar. In the US they jumped on the Sander’s ‘share the wealth’ and the Trump ‘anti-establishment’ platforms in droves in the current election season. These aren’t ‘stay the traditional course’ and rigid sovereignty sentiments.

All this I believe triggers quite a sea change.

We really need to take a pause and have a serious look at the next 5-10 years or so and see what this all means to these new generations of consumers, leaders and influencers. Brands that do not do this are at great peril of falling way off the radar of this new group. A mere whiff of personal irrelevance will be whisked away with a click, swipe or touch. Brands that get it will thrive big time. Brands that don’t will die quickly. And the sad thing is that they may not know it until it is too late.

We at Rocket Branding have a grand global view and understand how this relates to each individual across the age and need spectrums. Let us help you plot the future of your brand. www.rocketbranding.com. 312 316 5290.

 

 

 

 

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The America Party Brand?

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Are the two preeminent political parties losing enough relevance that now a new party could actually emerge?

Unlikely is this cycle but what about the next?

History is full of new brands emerging out of the growing irrelevance of the incumbents … Fed Ex, Lexus/Kia/Hyundai, Home Depot, Visio, Starbucks and, of course, Apple (over IBM and Dell), to name a few.

 When leading brands, even icons, lose relevance the stage is set for a new one to rocket.

Is this possible in this political arena?

The ‘voter’ market is certainly not happy with their parties.

Voters have overwhelmingly lost confidence in either party ‘regulars’ to solve economic or national security problems. Words like ‘Washington’ and ‘Establishment Politician’ have about as much brand cache now as ‘Wall Street’ and ‘Fund Managers’. Accordingly, the newer so-called millennial voters appear less politically engaged with the parties. Getting a job, paying off loans is the daily reality and petty, mud-slinging politicians with their party cronies and self interests are just not on their radar.

It’s easy to see why the political outsiders, Trump, and Sanders have energized voters. They speak to a simplified, less corrupt and more action-orientated view of government. A view, which again is not entirely aligned with the party planks. This has attracted new interest and record voter turn out. Voters are not stupid, and if they realize that the party delegates and super delegates can easily subvert their votes, then their anger and frustration with their party will only intensify.

On the larger scale, our culture is also changing in subtle ways that will challenge the traditional party foundations and relevance going forward.

New voters are often less religious and to a degree less nationalistic. Global connectivity and the increasingly mixed races are creating much more sensitivity towards the world at large and a deep ‘dislike of the ‘isms’ … racism, classism, extremism, elitism and anything that smells of subversism.

And relevance is a problem for both parties.

The Republican Party has been lost for a decade. The Tea Party set the table for Mitt Romney to win the 2012 Election but he didn’t. Now he and his establishment conservatives are spearheading an anti-Trump movement and splitting the party. Whether Trump represents a compelling new Republican voice or voters are just regaling against the seemingly ineffectual ‘establishment’ Republicans, is an interesting debate. Either way, it’s a hard to see how the Republican Party can stop their relevance from continuing to erode across the broad spectrum of voters.

The Democrats aren’t in much better shape. President Obama offered a positive, unifying leadership, which many believe has, after two terms, achieved little beyond his attempts at legacy building. Of their two candidates for President, one is a proud socialist and probably unelectable and the other with FBI investigations and single digit honesty ratings is in many ways the poster child for what angers many about today’s politicians.

Further, it’s, at least, clear to me that as both parties have become such adversaries any opportunities for compromise and moderate outcomes are zero. The extremes seem to be the norm. But how many voters are not hard-liners? Many Republicans I speak to are fiscally conservative and defense-concerned but socially moderate even quite liberal on some topics. Likewise, many Democrats are strong on equality and progressive issues but are also becoming increasingly worried about the fiscal, national security fears and yes big government debt concerns.

Is it possible for a new party, say The America Party, to emerge from the ashes of the incumbents and represent the best of both … not the worst of both?

 Yes, I know parties like the Libertarians have made some impact but they have not succeeded to the main stage to date. Mostly I believe because they stand as a contrast to the others with fairly narrow platforms. And there is always a well of independents who just maybe waiting for The America Party.

If The America Party brand can represent a new and positive voice that appeals to the best of both parties, then why not? No one wants to fight against something. Always better to fight for something. Let us fight for America and without all the infighting, pettiness and old machine corruption and, of course, the ‘isms’.

 Yes, I know more parties create more problems. Look at Europe. And yes a one party system won’t work but we are just talking here, and maybe The America Party could be a remake or evolution of either party. ‘New and Improved’ so to speak.

Overly simplistic you say? Well maybe but in history the biggest ideas have typically come from the simplest of notions.

Whatever the solution, this writer believes that if these parties do not look up and out a bit, their brand will remain as irrelevant and uninspiring as they certainly have become today.

What say you brand wizards?


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Brand America. Bruised or Beaten?

Amercan Flag Map

 

America’s status at home and abroad is not at all clear. Is the America of the last century gone? The ‘global powerhouse’ done? The ‘American Dream’ over? Or just in a state of flux?

Dreary questions for sure. And yes we go through this every election cycle, but a lot of the mud flung on the walls by the PROTUS hopefuls is sticking. There are real concerns about America’s future across every demographic.

It’s absolutely astounding to me, that after a decade’s movement to moderate our culture (you know ‘everyone gets a prize’, ‘we need to sit with our enemies’, ‘share the wealth’, etc., etc.), the two earliest surging candidates, Sanders and Trump, are anything but moderate. Arguably they represent extremes on either side, and voters are turning out in record numbers to support them.

No question, anger at the seemingly dysfunctional government is driving this, and this isn’t new. Obama and the Democrats took over eight years ago with a kinder, happier mandate. Just two years later the Republican’s stormed back and won the senate as the ‘tea partiers’ pushed for dramatic change. Alas, not much happened to favor either agenda. The frustration grew.

Furthermore, today we have a world in deep doo doo. Global economies struggling, dire political and religious unrest, environmental decline, traditional cultures and ethnicities losing ground. And, closer to home, of course, adult children still at home. The list goes on. No matter your concern about the world and your life, it is a rather grim picture going forward.

So here’s the question or, at least, a question. What is the American ‘brand’ in all of this?

I see two factors – America’s role in the world and, the strongly philosophically, divided populace at home.

It’s possible that the first rules the second.

The world play is critical. The world has become a single marketplace where physical borders are less apparent. American Corporations aren’t necessarily American anymore but global entities with offices, plants and people working across time, space and currencies every second of the day. We may be upset with US companies moving facilities and jobs overseas but that’s how they have learned to compete in this highly leveraged and regulated world. And no one likes to talk about China’s influence on the global economy and our ridiculously high national debt.

No matter what your concerns, be they financial and personal security or cultural values, we need to look at the world to understand our future.

And on the personal level, the digital generations are now global. We communicate and share anywhere, anytime worldwide with a simple click or a touch. Our younger cultures are increasingly globally centric, connected and in many cases nationally ambivalent.

What the ‘baby boomers’ see as lost values the millennial sees as just the new norm.

Why even third world terrorist organizations recruit and terrorize anywhere they want via the World Wide Web.

The world is morphing into cultures beyond countries, and if America does not understand and succeed at the world level, it will not win on the home front…regardless of political doctrine.

So what happens to the Brand America? Can it remain the powerful symbol of a land and it’s people or does it have to change? Are we fierce, gun-toting, freedom fighters guarding our borders with our lives or are we open -minded individuals with a ‘cork -floating-on-the-ocean’ mentality? Or both?

As a traditionalist, I would rather not change but as a realist I believe we should deeply examine this question and find the right answer … and rather quickly.

One answer is to look into the emotional needs of the people. Americans of both parties are showing an angry reaction to their government and leaders.

Anger is not a good emotion to base a brand on. It usually does not last long. But what is behind anger can be useful. I believe in this case it is fear. People are worried about every aspect of their future and with arguably good cause. There is no good news or simple answers anywhere and leadership has been lacking.

So what do we do with this?

I would suggest that in a changing world with a deep fear of continuing to survive, the American Brand has to stand for two things to regain its power status in the world and continue to be the iconic, symbolic inspiration for its people.

The ‘brand’ has to be both TOUGH and FAIR.

 ‘Tough’ to compete and win on the world stage and ‘fair’ to optimize opportunity for all. It is extremely important that the world knows where we stand on key commercial or personal endeavors. We desperately need to take a hard line where we need to, but we’ll only gain respect and support, both domestically as well as abroad, if we are fair.

It’s quite simple. America has little trouble in the ‘tough’ department, but it does need to have precise positions and build its defenses to back them up.

The real breakthrough is in the ‘fair’ department. On the one level ‘lies, cronyism, lobbies, special interests’ all need to go. On another so do overreaching regulations and ‘PC’, controlling dictates like ‘the rich are bad’ and ‘everyone gets a prize’ and only certain ‘lives matter’. We all matter equally and can thrive equally if the game is fair.

If a new leader emerges who can execute on toughness and fairness and the American populace can see this happening, then I believe that Brand America for the next 50 years will shine through.

 What say you?

We love talking brands. Let us work with yours. www.rocketbranding.com.

 

 

 

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What Can Business Learn from Microbiomes?

Screen Shot 2016-01-04 at 1.38.20 PM

Actually quite a lot.

If you haven’t heard, microbiomes are the ‘communes’ of life, so to speak, and quite possibly the source of the next big breakthroughs in health and agriculture.

Microbiomes are all the organisms that co-habit a living organism.

Our human cells are only a small fraction of us. There are also some 100 trillion microbial cells … good bacteria, and the like, that live within us and keep us healthy. Same with plants and animals. Without these symbiotic, interdependent relationships we would not exist.

As scientists are now delving into collective genomes, they are understanding that the old way of just focusing only on the ‘host’ cells misses the enormous importance of the whole microbiome entity.

Business is arguably the same. We traditionally think of our company as a separate, independent organism that lives within itself and only interacts with the world through sales and marketing.

What if we learnt from science and created our company’s microbiome? What if we sat down and truly defined each of the entities in our entire business eco system and then built interdependencies with each so that we all thrive and survive together?

What the heck am I talking about?

A simple example. Let’s play with ‘advocacy’.

We all know in today’s digitally connected world that the more people advocating your company and brands the better. Right? Personal referrals are king.

Yes, we already have tactics to motivate and even incentivize advocacy and, yes, from time to time this works, but what if we actually make it our master strategy?

What if we deliberately set out to make it a priority in our relationships with every organism or entity that lives within our company’s microbiome? This would include employees, neighbors, customers, consumers, partners, affiliates and communities.

In each case, we can develop an ‘interdependency’, whereby it is in the best interests of all to vigorously advocate for each other. In fact, we could get to the stage where we only hire or, work with entities, that actually have our advocacy linked to their ongoing success.

Tons of ways to do this but if every entity in our microbiome is offered a different deal for advocacy (employee bonus, cost or price incentives for others?), then even in small ways we are working as one.

Heady stuff granted but one heck of a philosophical approach to building a company’s future. Right?

We love this stuff and are always looking for creative, innovative and sustainable ways to grow companies and their brands. Come play with us. And we’ll help you work out the best way to grow your company.

We are Rocket Branding and honored to serve. www.rocketbranding.com, 312 951 5178

Thank you.

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