Use Your Words

Like most mothers, my wife tirelessly taught our kids to “use their words” when angry or frustrated. Makes sense, right? Better to talk it out than fight it out.

OK, but what does this have to do with branding? Well, a whole lot today.

Societal behavior has changed. I’m not sure if it’s an evolution or transition or what, but in today’s highly judgmental and litigiously sensitive world, words are loaded and often weaponized.

On the world stage, one person’s ‘terrorist’ is another’s ‘freedom fighter.’ Any questioning or equivocation here can immediately drop you in the middle of an active ‘pro’ or ‘anti’ group.

It’s heady stuff, for sure. Come talk to us if we can help you better understand where and how your brand can thrive in even as confusing a market as we have now.

Closer to home, most people are decidedly either a Democrat or a Republican. The gap between us has never been wider. One errant comment about guns, open borders, and inflation makes you an ‘extreme MAGA Republican.’

Any comments of inhumane treatment of people, animals, or the environment will label you an ‘extreme liberal Democrat’ with ‘woke’ blood surging through your veins. And now, we all need to be trained to understand gender and sexual labels – ‘they,’ ‘them,’ ‘trans,’ ‘cis,’ ‘binary,’ ‘LGBQT+,’ and so on. Indeed, everyone must be respected for who they are and their individuality. No judgment here, but any use of the wrong word can be deemed deeply offensive to someone and met with swift and angry reactions.

What happened to mutual respect and ‘using our words’ to freely express views without being cut off and summarily dumped into an extreme bucket?

Is common sense under fire? Has ‘hype’ media taken over? Extreme views and warring factions make for great headlines and ratings. Where is objectivity and impartiality? Are we moving to a culture where inclusion outranks achievement, ‘optics’ rule, and mislabeling cannot possibly be accepted as an innocent mistake? Perhaps it is better not to say anything!

So much for ‘using your words’.

OK, what about branding?

Well, ask Bud Light. We all know the story. A promotion that partnered with a trans influencer lost the brand’s substantial share and a leadership position that they may never regain. Adidas, Target, and others who innocently tried to cater to similar new audiences were immediately labeled as ‘woke’ and publicly attacked accordingly.

So, what is the solution for a brand message in today’s market? 

Should a brand stay mainstream, entirely out of social discord, and devoid of social labels? After all, who cares what a banana grower or widget maker thinks? Possibly, but what happens to those new or current employees who demand to work for companies and brands that are ‘purpose-driven’ in terms of the betterment of humanity? Does staying quiet and agnostic create a relevance issue?

Like in most sectors of our life today, it’s complicated. 

But then again, does it have to be?

I have a simple solution.

When the world is in turmoil and the immediate future is uncertain, two factors will always win. Authenticity and Leadership. When times are wild, your brand’s consumers and customers are hungry for the truth and someone to give them hope for the future. This is the absolute opposite of ‘virtue signaling.’

You must understand your company and your brand’s SOBs (your Source of Business targets). If you know what your crucial growth users think and what they desire from your brand, focus all your efforts on providing the best product or service you can. And importantly, pay special attention to this … offer an authentic, relevant brand ‘home.’ 

The greats… Apple, Nike, Harley Davidson, Starbucks, Amazon, and even Taylor Swift provide an emotional venue where their SOBs want to be. Yes, a particular tagline or ad campaign might have drawn you to a brand. Still, mostly, it’s about being real and allowing your users the room to experience, adopt, and advocate your brand as a reflection of themselves without false assertions.

Advocate for your consumers and customers, your SOBs, and your people. Have the courage to lead them and do what’s right for them. No one can blame AB for wanting to expand Bud Light to a growing user group. Do not do it if it makes your core customer (your primary SOB) uncomfortable or alienated. If the beer they hold betrays their image of themselves, they will vacate your ‘brand room’ in droves. Greed is no excuse.

And here is an obvious tip. If you advocate for something socially beyond how wonderful your brand is, pick something everyone can agree on … not profoundly polarizing. I just noticed that Purina is advocating against domestic pet abuse… something that everyone, including their SOB, can agree on and would add to their brand room, I would think. 

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.





A recent odd travel experience highlighted for me how difficult it can be to launch fast growing brands today.

I was retained by airport TSA agents who informed me that the x-ray had detected a “groin anomaly’ and I needed to go to a secure room.

Suffice to say that after a thorough investigation and, a herculean effort on my part not to make a slew of jokes, they let me on my way.

Now I was more than happy to immediately “drop trou” and show them that their fears were quite unfounded but no, I had to go through an extended pat down and questioning. They had their roles and I had to have mine.

So what does this have to do with branding today?

Well two things.

1. Caution

We now live in very cautious world.  What we say or do in public is open to massive amounts of scrutiny and judgment and, in many situations we have to be very careful about how we behave, act or react. The same goes for a brand that competes in any arena where caution is now common. E.g. food, ingredients, health, financial, travel, children and so on.

2. Watching

With the Internet, cameras, drones you are being watched, recorded and classified. So is your brand.

No, this isn’t about ‘big brother’ or sinister plots and it is in no way suggesting that brands should not be spontaneous, flippant or even irreverent, if that is what the brand strategy calls for.

This is just a reminder to carefully assess the mindset of your core customer or consumer and the way life is causing them to make decisions relative to your brand.

And especially be very careful with competitive positioning focuses on Trust or Freedom.

‘Trust’ can easily be broken if there is a ‘gotcha’ moment or inconsistency from one brand connection to another.

‘Freedom’ is an incredible promise as an anti dote to caution and concern but this had better be legitimate or it can become an albatross around the brand’s neck…. any one for sea cruise on a sick ship…just ask luxury cruise ship how freedom on the high seas is working for them?

What say you?

Let us help you work through this. Visit







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With over a billion users, ‘social media’ was certainly the media buzz in 2012.

2013 will be no different. Can it grow to 2 billion users?

Why not…new users of Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Instagram etc. are signing up and instantly sharing everyday. And even more interesting is the addiction to checking updates on mobile devices.

All those people you see hunched over their cell phones and tablets on the bus or train or coffee shop are more often than not checking into their social networks.

That’s all great but as everyone knows these sites are largely based on personal not commercial interactions. It’s tough to find a vibrant social community committed to discussing and sharing the latest toilet paper brand let alone accepting brand advertising on their smart phones.

So should you ‘rocket’ your brand on social media?   Absolutely!  As a brand marketer you cannot afford to disregard a behavior that in the next 2-3 years could involve 50-60% of your consumers or customers for as much as 20 -30 times a day. It is not just a question of trying to get attention here but it is also about being integrally involved in new habits and behaviors that in many cases will lead to all kinds of new products and experiences.

Trust me if you do not learn how to engage your brand in this new set of digital experiences your competitors will, and by doing so, leave you several chapters behind in the learning curve.

Ok smart guy, how?   Actually the answer is a lot simpler than you would think.  

1.    Forget the medium and think about the behavior. The only difference with social media is that it is personal and the sharing is about stuff that is interesting or relevant to a particular group.  So forget about trying to place an ad. Create interesting content. Provide relevant knowledge. A colleague used to create one-page novels and one-minute movies around a brand story. He was ahead of his time.

2.    Find the ‘what’s in it for me’

YouTube cracked the code on this by allowing you to share an outrageous video or laugh with your friends. The big daddy question is what is in it for your consumers and customers that they would want to share with their buddies and cohorts (and you).

You are not creating a brand message but a brand currency… something that your brand target would find interesting and relevant enough to get you invited into their world and shared with their connections.

‘Save the world’ causes sponsored by your brand and special deals are oft used example of getting branded traction among a certain community of consumers or customers.  We’d say go further and really dig into what about the brand category if anything has real ‘what’s in it for me’ potential and social significance to your brand target.

So for even the toilet paper brand, maybe your target is ‘soccer moms’ and they are becoming more afraid of public soccer field restrooms and want some advice and maybe even a discussion forum on making them safer. They may want an app that shows the cleanest/safest facilities or would even be open to sampling a new portable, discreet spray product that they advocate to others?   Whatever, again it’s about the behavior insight not about finding an advertising opportunity in the medium.

We at, Rocket Branding, have built an entire new discipline around gaining Social Traction for your brand in this brave new world.   Let us help you compete here. Visit or call 312 951 5178.  

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If you want to grow a brand’s business FAST, have an extra hard look at language and context.

You can accelerate a brand’s acceptance and action if you understand the language that defines the context and messaging for the brand . “Just do it” defined Nike, “Where’s the beef?” defined Wendy’s, “We bring good things to Life” defined GE and so on.

And while we are in the midst of elections, I am constantly miffed at how politicians miss so many good language opportunities to rocket their ‘brand’.

Here are two examples:

In the last Presidential Election the incumbent party had to support a war…always a tough thing to do for an incumbent regardless of how necessary the war was. To his credit candidate Obama took the opportunity to present a fresh view on ‘global peace’ and ‘collaboration’. And in this case his “Hope and Change” theme was exactly right and indeed worked for the context and his brand message.

The Republicans may have had a chance to even the playing field somewhat by reminding all of why we were at war in the first place.  Our enemy had become known as ‘terrorists’. This seemed at the time to be a good explanation for these new style combatants. It also for some implied a cause or some kind of rationale for these individual’s actions…maybe they are not so dangerous after all.

The McCain/Palin ticket could have changed the language and possibly restored some support for their party. Instead of using the term ‘terrorist’ they could have boldly begun referring to them as what they actually were and that is MURDERERS. They murdered American civilians and vowed to do so, every chance they get.

Now I am not saying that this could have been the basis for their campaign theme but in spirit I do believe that if they had begun using the term ‘murderers’ they might have built a more meaningful rationale and emotional support for their side.

The second example is timely.

The key election issue now appears to be jobs…or the lack there of. With some 23 million people out of work and a lagging economy both candidates and their parties are building their case for getting more jobs. The Democrats seem content to just muddy the water for the Republicans by continually talking about how the Republicans are only pro rich and can’t be trusted… powerful maybe but not necessarily a ‘get more jobs’ stance.

The Republicans are trying to focus on ‘small business owners’ and how the Democratic policies make it difficult for them to prosper and hire. Why doesn’t the Romney/Ryan team change the language from small business owners to talk more about EMPLOYERS and just cut to the chase?

Simplistic I know but in this way they can force the right context for the biggest issue and not let it get lost or minimized by the side issues of size and wealth. Believe me if you are either looking for a job or want a robust economy then really who cares how big or small companies are… a job is a job especially if you do not have one.

Now Rocket Branding does not pick sides but clearly at least for this area there were good opportunities for the Republicans that they missed.

So look carefully at language when you are rocketing a brand. What do you think? For more on Rocket Branding and how it can help you visit

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