Ironman: Lessons to shatter the status quo.


Excellent post on Business Pundit earlier this month:

Grossing over $150,000,000 in its first two weekends at the box office, “Iron Man” has come out of the gates as one of the top blockbusters of the year. If you haven’t seen it – believe the hype. Bar none it is the best ‘hero’ movie I’ve seen.

Aside from being wildly entertaining, Iron Man serves up a number of lessons that can be carried over to business.

Lesson 1 – Diversify Or Die

Robert Downey Jr., or “Iron Man” in the movie, saw the writing on the wall. While his seemingly flawless company was an industry leader and the best weapons company in the world, it was built on a business model that was fundamentally unsustainable.

Long-lasting businesses function in good and bad economic environments. They morph over time to maintain profitability, growth and viability. Most importantly, they align strategically with the vision of those running it.

If your business is faltering, ask yourself: “What can I do differently”? Know what your core competencies are, find hidden avenues to leverage these competencies, and don’t be afraid of an evolving vision.

Lesson 2 – Build Your Company With People You Can Trust

The biggest lesson I’ve learned about business, and a good lesson from the movie, is that you have to trust the people you are working with. Businesses are built by people – so if you can’t whole-heartedly trust and understand the motivations of those around you, there’s a problem. Look at the key employees in your business. Are they the best individuals to build your company?

Lesson 3 – Build Something That The World Has Never Seen

Cooker-cutter products serve a place in business. However, it is the game changing ideas that lead to industry dominance and sustainable competitive advantage. You obviously don’t need to build a flying iron man machine to achieve unwavering success, but you should be solving an aching problem in your industry. Are your products/services game changing?

Lesson 4 – Know Your Motivations

A lot of people in business, entrepreneurs especially, have disjointed priorities. They are in it for the power, the money, the glamor. Unfortunately, these motivations don’t deliver happiness or strong companies.

Do some soul searching and find out what your life’s work should be. Does it match up with what you’re doing? If not, it’s probably time to change your focus.

If you are looking for some good business lessons or just wanting to kill a couple of hours watching an entertaining movie – check out ‘Iron Man’. It might just change how you think about your business.


In a nutshell.

Hat tip to Francois Gossieaux, who grabbed the baton from Digital Demystified.

Update: Spike over at Brains on Fire just pointed out that the original source is Marty Neumeier's ZAG.

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On being the best.


From Tim Coote's always brilliant and enjoyable blog:

“When people ask me how do you make it in show business or whatever, what I always tell them — And nobody ever takes note of it ‘cuz it’s not the answer they wanted to hear. What they want to hear is here’s how you get an agent, here’s how you write a script, here’s how you do this — But I always say, “Be so good they can’t ignore you.” If somebody’s thinking, “How can I be really good?”, people are going to come to you. It’s much easier doing it that way than going to cocktail parties.”

-Steve Martin.

All of the strategies and marketing angles will be trumped by this one piece of advice everytime - “Be so good they can’t ignore you”. If you’re catching balls in the end zone week after week or motivating people to do their best and it works week after week you will be noticed. People want to notice you because it’s why the world spins. It’s why people are able to get out of bed and go to work. Aspiring to greatness is the honey in the lion.

Damn, Tim. Well put.

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Twitter: Something is technically wrong.


You can always count on Hugh to put it all in a nutshell.

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Calling bullshit on "viral". Finally.


A post dear to my heart from Go Big:

Reminds me of this one.

Every time I hear someone use the term “viral marketing,” I cringe. I know it seems like just a word, but I think it’s a concept that misses the mark and perpetuates some half-baked thinking.

I hated the word “viral” the very first time I heard it in the mid 1990s, probably because it made Marketing sound like we were spreading a disease other people had no choice but to spread, too. At the time, the whole “viral marketing” thing got people excited because it used the Internet to cheaply spread crap like Burger King videos or Hotmail invitations. Dance monkeys, dance.

Now that we’ve all been bombarded on the internet, the notion of something being viral is no more special than any other idea or phrase that catches on. That’s just part of Marketing’s job. For over a decade now, Advertising Agencies all over the country have some sort of “Viral Marketing” as part of their plan to try to get us to ask their version of the Subservient Chicken to do something obscene and then laugh about it. We all get a bajillion invitations to try products and there’s an asston of bite-sized digital entertainment gimmicks you can sneeze all over your friends. No question, you can get the word out quickly but spreading your message is a small part of the picture.

I remember sitting in a Jive meeting when someone mentioned viral marketing and then in the very next meeting engineers were talking about the importance of product adoption. The word “adoption” struck me. Why is spreading Marketing a disease but spreading product usage like bringing in a stray dog? Shouldn’t we be pushing for Adoptive Marketing? Marketing that people want, that leads to products people want? Viral Marketing is merely the quick transaction of ideas. But if no connection is made to the product, the Marketing can (at best) only make an ephemeral nick in brand perception. Adoptive Marketing can be just as “viral” but is so closely connected to the product that if the idea catches on, so does the product. In fact, the product is built to be remarkable and to be the primary Marketing engine. For people to spread Adoptive Marketing it means that within the product and the Marketing they:

- Discover recurring personal significance
- Control their own participation
- Believe it improves their situation

People adopt things they have an emotional connection to. They like it and/or it helps them. Adoptive Marketing is dependent on the product. Ask any Marketer who has the best Marketing and the first company they think of is Apple. But Apple’s ads only work because their product and retail experience backs up the Marketing. Apple practices Adoptive Marketing. The Marketing is the product. The product is the Marketing. You want to talk about the iPhone. You want to use the iPhone. You want to watch the Ads. It’s a social object. You care. You choose. It improves your situation. It’s feels unique, even if it’s not. When you’re successful with Adoptive Marketing you’ve earned the right to be an Organic Meme. Screw being viral.

The problem is most products suck. If your baby’s ugly, go market something you believe in. Or it’s time to sit down with the product and service group and have a heart-to-heart. Yes, I’m sure it’s not that easy but we can’t fix it for you. Perhaps you can think around your product to create a social-cause initiative that makes people love your ice cream, batteries or dryer sheets. No amount of dancing babies or viral videos will cover up the fact your product is boring.

Read the rest of the post here.

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John Spence on achieving Business Excellence


From Change This:

John Spence: "There is no single strategy that will carry your company forever—just ask my buddy Tom Peters, who wrote the fantastic book In Search of Excellence back in 1982, only to watch more than half of the companies he highlighted go out of business! Markets shift, consumer preferences change, new competitors appear, technology advances—and so must you. Even though I can recommend which of today’s popular strategies I believe deserve your attention, there is no guarantee that these same strategies will still be as relevant in 20 years. I think they will, but no one can see that far ahead.

With all of that said, [these] are the six strategies on which all the great companies I studied were relentlessly focused."

Go here and learn something.

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Je me souviens.


From Wikipedia:

Memorial Day is a United States Federal holiday observed on the last Monday of May (in 2008 on May 26). Formerly known as Decoration Day, it commemorates U.S. men and women who perished while in military service to their country. First enacted to honor Union soldiers of the American Civil War, it was expanded after World War I to include casualties of any war or military action.

This photo is of an American cemetery in northern France. Without the courage of young American men, I would have been born in a German-speaking France. Or not at all.

For me at least, Memorial Day is about much more than cookouts.

Thank you to all who serve.



Happy Birthday Gustav!


Celebrity Birthdays Today: Ralph Waldo Emerson, Sir Ian Mc Kellen, Jessi Colter, Anne Heche, Lauryn Hill, Mike Meyers, and... Evan Tishuk (a.k.a. Gustav)!!!

Happy Birthday, orange coat's creative & technical honcho!



George Lucas needs to stop making movies immediately.


The LucasFilm logo appearing on the big screen at the start of a movie used to mean I was about to spend the next 90-120 minutes in awe.

And I have to admit that for about ten seconds today, when those familiar green letters showed up, big as a house, I felt the same excitement swell in my chest that I used to feel back when I was ten.

Sadly, my emotional response to the LucasFilm logo spans far enough across the ages to allow me to forget for an instant that George Lucas (who once rocked with Star Wars, Empire Strikes Back and Raiders of The Lost Ark) hasn't written or directed a decent movie in two decades.

Just so we're all on the same page, let's go through the list:

The good:
Star Wars
Game Changer. 100% awesome in every way.
Empire Strikes Back
Actually improved on the original. The quintessential sci-fi adventure movie.
Raiders of the Lost Ark
Pure genius.

The bad:
Indiana Jones & The Temple of Doom
Inflatable raft out of a crashing airplane. The annoying kid from Goonies. Kate Capshaw. Magical rocks? Indian cannibals. Please make it stop.
Return of the Jedi
E-W-O-K-S. (Okay, ROTJ also gave us Yoda, but the ewoks were in it more.)
Indiana Jones and The Last Crusade
Emphasis on "LAST." Cheesy father-son pathos. Derivative action scenes. Again, emphasis on "LAST."
Star Wars: Episode 1
Jar-Jar Binks. The race announcers during the pod race. The horrendous CGI. QuiGon was a patronizing moron with zero skills. We all gave him a pass here, expecting Episode 2 to redeem George a bit.
Star Wars: Episode 2
Awful dialogue, terrible CGI, the Jedi are dumb as hell, and the whiny kid that will one day become Darth Vader does not act like a boy/man in love at all, and no one can act.
Star Wars: Episode 3
Star Wars: Episode Crap. Total waste of three movies and everyone's time.

And now this: Indiana Jones and The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. How about this: Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of How Badly George Lucas Needs To Retire? George Lucas' worst movie to date BY FAR. The saddest part about it (aside from the fact that I wasted 4 tickets and 2 hours of my life watching that gigantic turd) is that Lucas somehow managed to drag Spielberg, Ford, Blanchett, Winstone, Hurt, Broadbent and LeBeouf into this complete disaster of a Hollywood production. I feel bad for them. I really do.

Let me put it as plainly as I can for you: This movie sucks. Absolutely sucks. It is horrible.

Let me break it down:

Concept: FAIL
Script: FAIL
Dialogue: FAIL
Action scenes: FAIL
Characters: FAIL
Excitement: FAIL
Special effects: TOTAL FAIL

I cannot believe such a gigantic pile of crap isn't getting crucified by the critics. Proof at last that they're either a collective of morons or that most of them are getting paid by the studios. Don't believe me? Check out this review from the Pittsburg Post: (It actually made me laugh and puke at the same time.)

"The resurrected franchise has come a long way from its modest B-picture origins, and Spielberg, Lucas and screenwriter David Koepp fall victim to that dreaded disease of CGI-itis near the end. "Indiana Jones" has never been about the special effects, and when they commandeer the screen the actors shrink in every way."
What? Are you on crack? "Modest B-picture origins?" "CGI-tis near the end?" "Indiana Jones has never been about the special effects?"

'"The Crystal Skull" ups the action ante considerably, with Ford and LaBeouf in a motorcycle chase that's like a moving three-card monte with car, bike and occasional bus zipping through the streets and onto campus. Everything is bigger and louder, from an extended jungle pursuit to a plunge over the waterfalls that makes Niagara Falls in a barrel look like child's play."
Puke. The action scenes were so boring and derivative, even my kids were yawning. And so beyond unbelievable and poorly executed that even for a summer popcorn flick, they're downright insulting. In comparison, Michael Bay's Transformers is a friggin' masterpiece.

I hope the check from the studios was worth throwing your integrity down the drain, Barbara. But hey, you aren't alone. Let me expose some of your fellow wastes of space:

Jackie Cooper: "The gold standard for summer movie fare."
Betty Jo Tucker: "From its exciting opening sequence to its clever closing scene, 'Crystal Skull' made me grateful to Steven Spielberg for deciding to film another Indy adventure."
John Beifuss: "The long, go-for-broke opening sequence in the Nevada desert is a triumph that announces that Spielberg and Indiana Jones are not just an explosive combination, they're positively atomic."
Richard Knight: "After 19 years, Spielberg and company have unearthed the best treasure of all - another great Indiana Jones movie."
Chris Farnsworth: "Fortunately, a smart script and great set pieces make this tale of Soviet spies, weird artifacts and a lost city a worthy capstone to the series."
David Cornelius: "Breathless, popcorn-munching adventure flick perfection."

I have to stop I can't handle this anymore.

I can't believe Spielberg actually directed this horror.

I know that there's already a petition to get Uwe Boll to stop making movies... Can we PLEASE get one started for George Lucas as well?

I will let Wade Major, from Box Office Magazine close us out today with this honest and accurate comment: "Utterly unnecessary, unbelievably uninspired and preposterous beyond all imagination."



Brand Tags: One word to describe a brand.


Go here and marvel at the simplicity, addictiveness, and value of this little brand-recognition experiment.

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The Elephant's great Kansas City shuffle


Without endorsing either of the three Presidential candidates in the US, and without suggesting any underhanded shenanigans, let me propose a thought about USA '08.

It occurred to me last week while having drinks with a dozen or so industry peers - almost all democrats, mind you. The subject of the conversation somehow shifted to politics and the candidates... and I fully expected the group to be happy about Sen. Obama's advantage over Sen. Clinton. That, however, wasn't the case: No one at the table endorsed Obama.

Let me put it in another way, which is perhaps more telling: Not one single democrat at the table trusted Obama. Not enough experience, rhetoric not matching his record, the whole crazy church thing. The underlying sentiment basically came down to this: "What do we really know about this guy? Nothing. He came out of nowhere way too fast. We aren't sure what to expect."

Call it buyer's remorse. Call it gut feeling. Call it whatever you will, but everyone's favorite campaign trail rock star, the guy the press is so quick to attach to Kennedy and MLK... well... maybe he isn't the superstar we've been so eagerly sold as the game-changer/unifier/political superhero America has been craving since Kennedy (or Ronald Reagan, depending what side of the fence you're on).

But we haven't gotten to the meat of it yet. The truly eye-opening opinion I hadn't expected to hear. I'm getting to it. Here it is: Everyone there agreed that if Sen. Obama won the nomination instead of Sen. Clinton, they would not vote for him.

I was kind of shocked since I thought Obama - based on what I gather from mass media - would be a clear favorite.

More surprising yet, most admitted that they would actually switch camps and vote for McCain. These are democrats, mind you. People who are fed up with the Bush administration and ready for a change. People who have ALWAYS voted democrat. (Even Dukakis? Really?) And yet here they are, ready to vote for McCain if Obama beats Clinton in the '08 donkey race.

I just wonder how many democrats around the US feel the same way. Probably a lot. Or rather, just enough.

I am sure every campaign manager knows exactly how many swing voters they can expect to win or lose, all broken down by demos, geos and verticals. The precise impact of these numbers must also be crystal clear to them.

Boiled down to the basics, the equation is simple:

Obama + McCain = McCain wins.
Clinton + McCain = x

What's the Republicans' play? Simple: Make sure Obama gets the nomination. Hillary is the real X-Factor, not Obama. McCain can't shred her. But Obama can with the whole "new dream"/Kennedy/"let's join hands" thing. Let him do it before we even get to the big game.


Elections are a lot easier to win when you control the entire board, not just your half of it. The Dems are still stuck in primary mode. The Republicans, on the other hand, are already five steps ahead in presidential election mode.

Which makes the whole "Hillary should just quit" movement more than just vaguely suspicious. The pressure isn't just coming from the Obama camp, and now I think I know why.

For better or for worse, I'm calling November '08 now: McCain will defeat Obama. No Chad manipulation needed. No voting machine hacks necessary. He will win because his people didn't leave anything to chance. Because they knew how to control the board from the very start.

The dems (yes, the voters) are getting played something fierce.

"Divide and conquer" and all.

As eloquently explained by Bruce Willis in Lucky Number Slevin, a Kansas City Shuffle is where everyone looks left, when they should really be looking right.


They'll be talking about this one for decades to come.

Photo: Bob Elsdale

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Awesome post from Chris Brogan today:

I believe we’re going to shift back to thinking customer service and community management are the core and not the fringe. I believe we’re going to move our communications practices back in-house for lots of what is currently pushed out to agencies and organizations. I believe that integrity, reputation, skills, and personality are going to trump some of our previous measures of professional ability. I believe the web and our devices will continue to move into tighter friendships, and that we will continue to train our devices to interpret more of the world around us on our behalf.

Read the rest here.

Yes, yes, yes, and yes. Chris also talks about bringing value-add and core competencies together - which is actually the bandwagon I have been driving hard for the last couple of months with my management team.

Chris mentions that working remotely will become the norm... I'm not so sure we're quite there yet. Maybe in our lifetimes, but probably not. Too many organizations rely on "sales floors" and "departments." The old "asses in seats" mentality. Not that there's anything wrong with it, mind you - each company has its own specific needs - but most companies still don't have the tools at their disposal to allow their staff to work from home or remote offices. (We're getting there though, and if any of you have ever taken the information worker of the future demo/tour at Microsoft, you'll know what I'm talking about.) The tools are here now - will be fluid and 100% user-friendly in less than a decade, and widespread adoption won't be too far behind.

The issue will never be the technology, it will be the people: Velocity and a sense of expediency/urgency don't usually go hand in hand with working from home. There is something to be said for having a boss breathing down your neck - literally.

But I digress. Chris' post rocks, and for the most part, he's right.

Oh, and I almost forgot: Here's the best piece of advice I've heard/read all month, (perhaps even all year) also from Chris:

Here’s a quick way to really turn around your clients: be helpful.

Duh, sure, but... when was the last time you actually said those two words outloud during a strategy meeting or quarterly business review?

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SYNNEX launches Earthquake Relief Fund


I try to keep Microsoft Sherpa and The BrandBuilder separate, but this is for a good cause:

So many of you have inquired about our Chengdu office as a result of the earthquake and, as you know, we are very fortunate that all of our employees are safe and uninjured. But we also know and see in news, so many are not.

As a result, we have created the SYNNEX Earthquake Relief Fund (SERF) along with Give2Asia in San Francisco, CA. SYNNEX has launched a webpage on the Give2Asia website so that you, your family and your friends may access at for online donations. SYNNEX will be reviewing a list of projects and organizations that are recognized for their extending recovery help to the survivors of the earthquake in Chengdu and its surrounding areas. There will be much to do to help the families that will have been displaced in the next several months and we want to be certain that the much needed monies are provided directly to those organizations that are there and are recognized as first line providers. Also attached (below) is a brief document called “How to Give” that provides information on all the contribution methods that you and others may use to donate to SERF:


Thanks. :)

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Don't sell people short.


I'm sitting here watching Rocky Balboa on Showtime, and... I'll be damned: It's actually pretty good. What's really surprising is that Stallone wrote and directed it - and both the writing and the direction are pretty tight. Who knew.

Preconceived notions and all...

Here I was, thinking Sly was all washed out, and then he comes up with this little gem.

I should have known better.

Taking inventory of ALL preconceived notions about everything and everyone, and throwing them out the window in bulk.


Advergirl dishes out some A-list wisdom


Some sweet, sweet words of wisdom from Advergirl:

What's the number 1 reason agencies lose accounts? I would argue that it’s complacency. The agency is coasting. They probably don’t even realize they’re doing it. But after years with a product, it’s easy to get too close to it, to lean on old insights, to produce rather than create.

Taking a strategic approach to every project is fighting the coast.

But, more importantly, it's getting to do the best at your job - who wants to be a pair of hands when you can be a leader?

* * *

Once you've tried out the same Idea three or four times, only to find a big ugly mess at the end, it's just human nature to kill that Idea out on hand of the fifth go round. But a scrappy little rookie might look at it another way. Sure it didn't work the other times; so, what can we do differently to make it successful this time?

* * *

We all get into a groove. The creative brief works like this. Client Z will always want this. For retail, we always do this.

The new kid in the room carries none of that history. And asks - preferably in a brief way - why? Or how? Or what about this? Or do we have research on that?

Keep asking those questions. Looking for holes. There's always more to learn.

'No' is the easiest word to say. Finding a way to say 'yes' can be the first step to great work.

Clearly one of my new favorite reads.

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Thanks for the nod, Advergirl Blog!



Something to mull over:


The commoditization of everything is turning the US into a 2nd world country.

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Business Travel Tip #471: Get to know your cabbies.


Cab drivers are some of the most interesting people you'll ever meet. And some of the most knowledgeable about the places you visit for business or leisure. be super nice to them, chat them up, and get them to tell you a good story. it'll make your ride to and from the airport a great one, and they probably won't try to stiff you.

They'll also treat you extra nice, which always sets the stage for a great check-in at your hotel or at your airline terminal. Trust me, the doorman at whatever hotel you're going to will take his cues from how well your cabbie treats you as he drops you off. They have radar for stuff like this.

It's fascinating to me how much people open up to you when you engage them with curiosity and enthusiasm. And the upgrades... Wow. The upgrades. Turning on a little charm goes a long way to helping human touchpoints everywhere create a remarkable brand experience for you everywhere you go.

And wearing big Hollywood sunglasses at all times seems to help, for some strange reason.

Go figure.

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Heading out to Microsoft CPS


Fort Lauderdale, here I come!

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I was subjected to this horror earlier tonight while signing out out of my yahoo email and couldn't resist posting about it. Here'smy 90-second rant:

Hey, FRS: This only works if the superstar athlete is a) still competing, b) 100% not tainted by doping allegations, and c) still a role model to anyone with half a soul.

Poor choice on all counts.

Looking forward to the Barry Bonds version of the ad.

Oh, and Lance... stick to selling Nike,Oakley and Trek. Everything else is off limits to you from now on.

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Critics who kill Speed Racer are morons.


Come to think of it, let's just call movie critics as a whole "morons." How about this: Go see movies for yourselves, and make up your own minds as to whether or not they pushed the right buttons for you.

But back to the Wachowski Brothers' Speed Racer: You may hear or read a lot of bad reviews about the film. Things being said will fall along the lines of..."Too cartoonish" or "too C.G.I.-looking," or the most annoying yet "looks more like a video game than a movie." Bleh.

Not to mention the fact that by catering its marketing to a VERY young audience, Speed Racer may not reach its audience and fail at the box office... which would be an awful shame, because it is actually a VERY good movie. You just have to a) completely embrace its style, b) leave your adult brain at home, c) embrace the insanely bold use of the medium, and d) understand the level to which this movie elevate the source material.

Yes, the movie looks like a video game in the sense that it looks nothing like our world. This may be one of the most colorful and purposely artificial movie you'll ever see. The look of the film, with its unapologetic overdose of bright colors, its unbelievably blue skies and the very unique artificial look is part of its genius.

If you don't like the look of movies like "Sin City," "Moulin Rouge" or "300," the visual style of Speed Racer may not be your cup of tea either. If, however, you can appreciate a unique visual style that successfully bridges the gap between the original source material and the movie adaptation, you can easily look at Speed Racer as an art film - which it so clearly is.

The movie is completely over the top in every possible way. As a matter of fact, I would go as far as to say that the film is completely ridiculous. From the laugh-outloud chimp kung fu fantasies to Racer X punching another driver in the face while both cars are performing insane side-flip maneuvers at 500 kph, the movie completely embraces its cartoonish high octane nature - which is precisely why it scores. The Wachowski brothers obviously didn't hold back here - and actually went above and beyond what lesser writers & directors would have created. This movie is as far out there as it could possibly be, and it is refreshing as hell to see a movie so uncompromisingly edgy and full of child-like enthusiasm.

Surprisingly, Speed Racer is absolutely not a brainless visualfest. The script is surprisingly solid, and the actors absolutely kick ass. Just as Robert Downey Jr. elevates Ironman through his inspired portrayal of Tony Stark, Susan Sarandon and John Goodman infuse the movie with perfectly metered and stunning performances during key scenes late in the movie. These moments are absolutely priceless bits of movie-making and bring unexpected depth to an otherwise escapist underdog movie. Matthew Fox shines as Racer X, Emile Hirsch is completely believable and endearing as Speed Racer, and I must say that Christina Ricci is actually pretty hot as Trixie. The kid brother and the chimp are at occasionally annoying (probably not to an eight-year-old though), but overall, they made me laugh alot more than I care to admit.

The Brandbuilder blog isn't a movie review site, so I'll stop here... but I didn't want the bonehead reviews I've read today to negatively influence any of you - my readers - when it comes to this movie. Speed Racer is actually a work of genius. Most people probably won't get why or how, but then again, edgy doesn't appeal to most people. The masses will most likely look at Speed Racer purely as an over-the-top cartoonish movie version of a bad 1980's anime series, aimed at pleasing little kids... but it is on every level an entertaining art film that blends stunningly rendered visual effects, lots of action, superb casting, solid character development, impressive acting, some pretty funny stuff, a classic underdog story, kung fu and chimp humor to create a very unique package.

Mark my words: This flick is nothing short of a classic.

Even if you end up hating Speed Racer, you should go see it - chances are, you'll be pleasantly surprised. Bonus: Check out this article about the film's technical aspects in Wired.

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1. I need an aggressive and consistent training regimen in the pool.
2. I need an aggressive and consistent training regimen on the bike.
3. I need an aggressive and consistent run training regimen.
4. Racing without being well prepared is a dumbass thing to do because it kind of hurts, and to top it all off, you don't win anything.
5. For me, the difference between being race-ready and or not in a sprint distance tri is about 10-12 minutes on the clock.
6. Some of the finest people I will ever know are triathletes. True class acts. Eric, Dave, Mendy, Julie, Janice, Holly, Roby, Beth, Jay, Hal... the list is long and I apologize if I didn't include you here. (You're on my long list.) I am VERY lucky to count these people as my friends.
7. There's no bullshit in triathlon. There is nowhere to hide. The clock doesn't lie.
8. Racing reveals every single flaw. There's no escaping it. What you do with those flaws is your choice - which is pretty eye-opening in and of itself.
9. Triathletes are a bunch of VERY fit and VERY twisted people.

Yeah, I had a blast.

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This day in 1971, I was forcibly removed from my mother's womb by an unscrupulous "clope au bec" French OBGYN with a fetish for smelling dog's feet and slapped on the ass by a jaded and prickly old nurse with a nasty ether habit. Or so the story goes.

Let's take an inventory of the last 37 years, shall we?

Places where I've lived:
Paris, France
Abidjan, Ivory Coast
Brussels, Belgium
Madrid, Spain
Landrum, SC (USA)
Lorient, France
Bram, France
Cannes, France
Greenville, SC (USA)

Countries I've visited (in addition to the above, obviously):
UK, Luxemburg, Holland, Denmark, Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Italy, Bosnia, Monaco, Senegal, Egypt, Djibouti, UAE, Saudi Arabia, Canada, Bahamas, Mexico.

Jobs I've had (in no particular order):
Naval Officer, Photographer, Copywriter, Product Manager, Sandwich Artist, Professional student, Ranch Hand, Retail Monkey, Carpenter, door-to-door Salesman, Sales Manager, Brand Manager, Marketing Director, Marketing Consultant, Magazine Editor, blogger.

Time spent sleeping: 12 years, 4 months
Time spent working: 5 years
Time sitting in front of the TV: 5 years
Pounds of food consumed: 15,000
Liters (of various beverages) consumed: 28,000
Words written or typed: Somewhere north of 9,000,000.
Cars owned: 5
Bicycles owned: 14

Here's to another year biting the dust.

photo: yours truly with the paternal grandparent unit. Paris, circa 1980.

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Post #3 from Seth Godin's blog this week.

No, I am not on Seth's payroll. Stop asking me.

Here it goes:

The first rule of b2b selling:

If it gets to the RFP stage, you lost.

Great business to business marketers (and profitable ones) make the sale long before that happens.

The RFP is an organizational punt, it's a way of saying, "it's all a commodity, we can't decide, cheap guy wins."

The cheap guy, of course, never wins.

Yes, yes, and yes. If you don't already know this, learn it now and remember it always.

And by the way, the best agencies/contractors/consultants/whatever will ALWAYS turn down RFPs. Here's why: If we have to audition for you, a) you don't know what you want, b) you don't care enough about it to know who the best man/woman for the job is, and c) a and b together = you wasting our time. End of story.

Seth scores again.

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I should have stuck to the training plan.

Going into one of the most competitive races in South Carolina with maybe 5 miles of accidental running in the last two months, maybe two miles of swimming in as much time, and no real bike training other than a few long rides is probably not the best idea in the world.

Am I fit? Yes. Am I lean? Getting there, yes. Am I race ready? Absolutely not. Not even close. This is going to be a VERY rough race for yours truly. I'm just hoping to survive.

This is NOT how I wanted to start off the season. Even for me, this is a pretty slack way to pop the cherry on this year's triathlon schedule.

This is what happens when you take a management job with a Fortune 500 company, sure, but that isn't the whole story. All groaning and moaning and butterflies aside, here are some cold hard truths about my utterly demented psyche:

Come Saturday morning, standing on the edge of the water at Lake Hartwell, surrounded by hundreds of men and women far better prepared than I am this time around, worried and nervous and drowzy from not having slept all that well, I will be sporting a possum-eating grin from ear to ear, and I will relish every damn second of the experience.

There was a time when I did come prepared for these things, when I walked away with age group awards and bragging rights, and single-digit rankings. But I was bored. Every race bled into the next. Each season became indistinguishable from the previous one. I eventually lost interest and checked out of the sport for almost two years, opting instead to photograph the races instead of participating in them.

In my own sick, twisted way, not training ensures that I will show up unprepared and nervous and full of self doubt, because at the core of my love for triathlon is the need to challenge myself. To test my will and my body. To overcome the unknown.

Hell, to overcome. Period.

Which is why the last two weeks at work, as challenging and stressful as they have been, as unpleasant and frustrating and time-consuming, have been my best yet.

The truth of the thing is that as much as I love to bitch about being stressed out, as much as I long to hang out on a Mediterranean beach drinking Orangina all day, I am at my best under pressure. I know this. I don't like to admit it and certainly don't want to give my boss an excuse to keep me under impossible deadlines indefinitely, but yeah, I'm one of those freaks who lives for thos impossible deadlines. The painful, uncertain races. The most ambitious projects.

I like the gauntlet. No... I love the gauntlet.

So this Saturday, let it be understood that I won't be walking away with any trophies. My finish time at the Clemson Triathlon will be decent at best, but probably pretty average. I will grit my teeth when the results get posted, and I will kick myself in the ass for weeks for not having trained for it. Months, even. But deep down in my heart, I will know that there was a reason why I opted to skip the runs and the swims to instead work on powerpoint presentations and project proposals and business plans.

It won't be because I want to kick ass at my job. (I could do both the job thing and the triathlon thing if I really wanted to.) No, the real reason is that I like to dig myself in a hole just to see if I can climb out. And how. And how well. I'm sure there's a name for this kind of pathos in psychotherapist circles. And I'm sure I could deconstruct it if I really wanted to take the time. A lurking father complex, a hint of narcissism, a dash of masochism, a spoonful of quirky curiosity, a pinch of social anxiety... Whatever. Who cares. It is what it is.

I guess the way I justify it to myself is this: It isn't like we have to go out and hunt mammoths anymore. We don't have to outsmart man-eating sabertooths. And that's too damn bad. Our foes these days are rush hour traffic jams and telemarketing calls during dinner and obtuse aftercare nazis. Twisted guys like me, we need more to get the juices flowing. Some guys are adrenaline junkies. Me, I'm a stress junkie. That's all it boils down to.

My job, my schedule, my showing up at races unprepared, my tackling public speaking engagements without notes... It's all part of my little life game. Knowing that I am at my best under stress, I find ways to create the stress.

Sick and twisted? Me? You bet.

See you at Clemson Saturday. I'll be the guy with the grin sweating bullets and breathing really hard. ;D

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So... in a perfect world, I would occasionally bring you a bit of insight or two from Seth Godin's blog every few months or so, but the world is far from perfect. Hence, here we are: Two pieces from Seth's blog in as many days. Sue me for wanting to share. Here it is:

Just got some work back from a new copyeditor hired by my publisher. She did a flawless job. She also wrecked my work. Totally wrecked it.

By sanding off every edge, removing every idiom, making each and every fact literally correct, she made it boring and dry and mechanical.

If they have licenses for copyeditors, she should have hers revoked.

I need to be really clear. She's not at fault. She did exactly what she was supposed to do. The fault lies in the job description, not the job. If the job description of your lawyer or boss or editor or client is to make sure everything is pure and perfect and proven and beyond reproach, they are making things worse, not better. (Unless you're in the vaccine business).

Almost everything you do has some sort of copyediting filter. It might be the legal eagle or the graphic supervisor or the customer service police. They're excellent at making round things fit perfectly through round holes.

Boring and ignored is fine with them, because no one complains.

Fortunately, copy editors have a remedy. It's a word called STET. Which means, "leave it alone, it was fine." Time to teach that to your editors, wherever they may be. Maybe there should be a t-shirt.

If all you want is safe, have baby food for dinner. Just leave me out of it.

Seen it happen. I've never had to punch anyone in the eyeball for sanding off any of my work's edges, but I've spent many a sleepless night re-writing pieces or reworking images or layouts that a subordinate or contractor completely stripped of any semblance of an edge... or style... or voice. It always sucks. And you always end up feeling sorry for the poor kid who screwed the pooch, because ultimately, maybe it wasn't entirely their fault. (How the hell are they supposed to know how to write like me or edit images the way I envisioned it when I shot them?) Design is a very personal thing. Designers are usually control freaks for a reason.

And workaholics.

And compulsive perfectionists.

I feel your pain, Seth.

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Another kickass tip from Seth Godin.


Seth Godin wrote something smart and cool again the other day (he tends to do that):

Make big promises; overdeliver.

If you can define great marketing in fewer words than that, you win.

"Big promises": treating people with respect, improving self-esteem, delivering results, contacting as often as you say you will but not more, including side effects in your planning, delivering joy, meeting spec, being on time, connecting people to one another, delivering consistency, offering value and on and on. Caring. The stories involved in your promises matter. That's often what people are buying.

This is the first place that the equation breaks down. Marketers often make big promises that appear to be unrealistic or are delivered in ways that don't match the worldview of the prospect. Marketers get carried away with themselves and focused on their greatness and forget to tell a story that people enjoy believing.

And sometimes, they make promises that are too small to get our attention. Boring promises are hardly worth making.

"Overdeliver" means doing more than you said you would, which is the secret to word of mouth.

Here, of course, the pitfall is obvious. You made too big a promise and you did your best, but no, you didn't overdeliver, not really. You didn't amaze and delight and yes, stun me with the incredible results of your offering.

Just because it's only four words doesn't mean it's easy!

Bake this into your qwan.

(Don't ask me what qwan is. Please. Just don't.)

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Some jackass tried to take out a group of 50 cyclists with his car today - and pretty much succeeded.

From the Sunday Morning Herald:

Witnesses to the crash have told the group of about up to 60 professional cyclists were riding south on Southern Cross Drive, just south of Dacey Avenue, Mascot about 6.30am when a driver, agitated with being held up, accelerated in front of the pack and then slammed on his brakes.

One of the group said the motorists was "worrying" the rear of the pack, then overtook, pulled in front and slammed on his brakes, giving the riders no time to stop.

The resulting smash forced a semitrailer to lock up, jackknife and screech to a halt behind the cyclists while cars had to swerve to avoid them.

"Everyone's slammed into each other ... there were broken bikes - wheels busted and wheels snapped - and people lying on the road."

"Three female cyclists took the brunt of the accident, careering into the back of the braking vehicle, several of them being thrown into the air landing on the boot and roof of the car."

The best part:

It is understood (the authorities) know who the driver of the car is, and are attempting to contact him now.

It is expected he will be charged, including with failing to stop at the scene of an accident and negligent or dangerous driving.

There was no doubt the driver of the dark blue Ford Falcon - described by other witnesses as in his 30s with a female passenger - had done it deliberately, she said.

That's right. The dude sped off and left the scene of the accident.

Read all about it here.

I hope to god that son of a bitch gets charged with 50 counts of attempted murder, not just negligent driving. I can understand road rage, but this is just insane.

I'm sure that if some nutcase decided to mow down a crowd of pedestrians for the same reason (they were in his way and he was in a hurry), the authorities would be just a tad more outraged.

Negligent driving. Give me a break.

Hat tip to Gavin Heaton.

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Twitter Wisdom.


What passes for indulgence today was once the most basic definition of what it means to be civilized.

Time to bring some of the old ways back.

Notes on the title: Twitter's 140 character limit is already starting to rewire my brain thus: Whatever I have to say, I'd better make it quick and make it stick.

As much as I hate to admit it, not every damn thought deserves a 30,000 word blog post.



The cold hard truth about taglines.


Great post over at Brains on Fire about taglines. Go join in.

In his post, Spike shares a pretty important rule when conjuring up a tagline (for your your business or for your unfortunate client): "Never use a tagline that just anyone can use. Ever."

Excellent advice - and he offers some pretty great examples to make his point.

I would take things a step further and offer “kill your tagline and bury it deep in the woods somewhere, where no one will ever think to look for it.”

Gucci, Starbucks, RayBan, Yves St. Laurent, Cartier and Bentley may have taglines, but I’d venture to say no one knows what they are. Why? Because a strong brand doesn’t need to explain itself through a tagline.

I hate taglines with a passion. They almost always suck, and rarely add anything to the brand they are supposed to serve.

A few exceptions to put this comment in perspective:

HBO - It isn’t TV. It’s HBO.
VW - Drivers Wanted.
Apple - Think Different.

Why do these taglines work? Because these brands are market disruptors and game changers - and therefore need a little extra definition here and there. Beyond that, creating taglines for most companies is a complete waste of time. The fact that most taglines are boring and interchangeable more than illustrates that point.

Go read the whole post.

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Yep, our friend Roby is back in the States looking all healthy and whatnot. His war isn't over yet, but he is back for a little while, which is pretty damn cool. It seems that only yesterday, we were waving goodbye and wondering if he'd make it back in one piece. (Not that we ever doubted he would. This isn't his first time doing the military thing after all.)

If you're going to be at the Clemson Triathlon this weekend, you might even score a Roby sighting. (Word on the street is he'll be the runner in a team relay. Hmmm. The plot thickens!)

Anyway, welcome back Roby! Good to have you back.

I'm sure Roby will start lining up graphic design and photography projects in a few weeks, so if you want to get to the front of the line, go to and follow the links to his very own section of the site (his contact info will be there).

PS: I hear there will be a war photography book in the works very soon. More info on that in a few weeks. If you're thinking "autographed coffee table book," we're on the same page.

Now stop wasting time reading this blog post and go kick ass on the project you SHOULD be working on right now. Go on! Shoo!


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While the whole world is sporting ubiquitous iPods (dare I call them "the uniform?"), the more intrepid among us have adopted Zune as our media player of choice. (Case in point, OC's Bear has a pretty kickass Zune of his that has been the secret envy of his colleagues for almost a year now.)

I myself have indulged in the luxury of the Generation-2 80G Zune (dubbed StealthZuneZero in case you're ever within range of my wireless). My Zune has become not only my personal music library (an increasingly respectable one at that), but also a convenient home for my photographic portfolio. Great for traveling, driving around town, and generally feeling cool and hip and all... but the lack of a convenient way to use my Zune to watch video was starting to become a nagging issue with me.

I mean... here I am, on flight after flight to Seattle or San Francisco or LA, and every time, an aisle neighbor pulls out an ipod and watches some kind of movie or TV show on it while I am stuck listening to music. (I could have been watching videos this whole time, but the process of converting DVDs to portable format was too daunting for an OCD pup like me to even consider tackling.


Well, those days are over. The Social has finally caught up with the rest of the world. From Cnet

A year and a half after debuting its first Zune, Microsoft is finally offering some content that makes use of that big color screen.

The software maker is releasing an update Tuesday to its Zune service that adds a video store with about 800 TV show episodes from NBC Universal, MTV, and a couple of other producers. For the moment, though, the store is far smaller than the TV options from iTunes or even from Microsoft's own Xbox Live Marketplace and offers no feature films.

"We feel it is more important and--customers tell us--to focus on short programming first," said Julio Estrada, general manager of Microsoft's Zune Social unit.

Read the entire article here.

Microsoft still has some ways to go before I am 100% happy with what is arguably a very convoluted and limited video uploading situation, but this announcement makes me happy. Very happy... because it means it won't be long now before this little speedbump is way, waaaaaay behind us.

The wife and kids (also Zunauts) will be excited to hear about this as well to be sure.

"Think Different" is cool and all, but go ahead and BE different: Get yourself a Zune.

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OC4 is live!


OC4 is live.

click here if you know what's good for you.

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I've never been a huge fan of Ironman. When it comes to superheroes, I've always had a bit of a soft spot for Frank Miller's work with Batman (The Dark Knight, for starters), Spidey, and the X-Men (mostly Wolverine). Ironman though... eh. He was kind of a secondary superhero in a lot of ways. Not much of a point. Billionaire genius builds metal rocket suit, fights crime for fun. Bleh.

But that changed when I saw the first trailer for the motion picture version - which finally came out this weekend. Score #1: Casting Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark. Score #2: Letting fans/geeks make the movie. Score #3: A great set of trailers. (In sharp contrast with Indiana Jones 4, which so far has a horrendous trailer.)

Anyhoo. The trailer started getting excited about the movie, and I have been anticipating it ever since. I excitedely took the family to see it over the weekend, and... well... I was a bit nervous about it. It's Ironman, after all. How good can it be? I bought my tickets with a mixture of excitement and apprehension: What if it sucked? What if even Robert Downey Jr. and director John Favreau couldn't save a second-rate superhero in his first attempt at becoming a big screen success? (Remember Daredevil? Nuff said.)

But from the very opening scene (great editing), my fears evaporated into thin air. Ironman was rock solid, and yeah, Robert Downey Junior is without a doubt one of the coolest actors in Hollywood. Always has been. He shines so brightly as Tony Stark that he singlehandedly takes what could have been (should have been) an okay Marvel superhero flick into one of the best Marvel movie franchises to date. Don't believe me? Check out these review snippets from Rotten Tomatoes:

"Robert Downey Jr. nails Iron Man. More apropros, change nails to welds. For it is Downey who most significantly raises the quality bar of 'Iron Man' to the classic level of fellow comic book heroes Superman, Batman and Spider-Man. Welcome, new franchise."

"Move over, Superman. This lush, high-octane playboy never tasted so good. Iron Man has not only etched itself the mark of one of the best-reviewed films so far in 2008 but also one of the highest-rated superhero movies of all time."

"Robert Downey Jr., full-swing back into his acting genius, is exceptional as Iron Man. Life for Tony Stark is cool, and you can almost image him doing the Charlie Chaplin waddle across his workshop."

"This might be the most relevant superhero tale we have yet seen."

"Robert Downey Jr. delivers a knockout performance that alone is worth the price of admission to watch."

"It's Robert Downey Jr., having triumphed over his substance abuse battle, who puts the pedal to the metal and scores the freshest new franchise going."

"The best superhero movie since Spider-Man 2. Robert Downey Jr is the film's best special effect."

"Downey could have taken a tragic tack. But he has fun just figuring out how to make the armor suit work. His sarcasm and almost drunken Tony Curtis body language transform the scenes of Iron Man."

"In the proficient hands of Jon Favreau, abetted by a magnificent performance by Robert Downey, Jr., not only does Iron Man pay off, but it raises the stakes for comic book movies to follow, as well as the entire summer film season."

Yet here it is. The cold hard truth that Hollywood studio execs need to read and re-read and learn from:

"Dangerously dependant on Robert Downey Jr. for entertainment. He throws a one-man party during every scene. But when he's off-screen, the film wilts. (Yes, even with Jeff Bridges' anti-Dude.) Re-cast, it would only be a shade better than Daredevil."
Sure, the cgi is impressive, but without the superb casting and directing of Downey, the movie would not have been worth the $10 admission. Something Marvel must have figured out over the last year, when they decided to completely recast the "Hulk" Franchise for the upcoming Hulk sequel (The Incredible Hulk). Not that there was anything wrong with Eric Bana as Bruce Banner, but casting Edward Norton in the role for the sequel is pure genius. Too bad the cg design couldn't have been overhauled too.

Point: When first rate writers, actors and directors start lending their talents to movies based on comic book/graphic novels and take them seriously (as in "not just a mindless popcorn blockbuster cash cow) they raise the bar and wonderful things happen.

Spiderman 1 and 2.
Sin City.
And now Ironman.

Take my point and transpose it onto your brand or your agency's work: Are you really taking your latest campaign as seriously as you should? Are you really hiring and developing the very best talent you can? Are you as passionate about getting it right and making a splash as you should be? Are you really the brand development geek you could be? Should be? The design geek you should be? The wordsmithing geek you ought to be? The first rate art director you once dreamed of being?

Even if you aren't being paid like the A-list talent you hope to be, even if you don't have the fancy title and the cool business card and the cool office, are you really working it like Robert Downey Jr.? Taking an average movie script based on a silly second rate comic book superhero and elevating it to something remarkable, lasting and cool?

Or are you letting the source material, the client, the market or even your paycheck justify an half-assed effort on your part?

Half-assed efforts like Daredevil, Elektra, The Incredible Hulk (1) and X-Men 3, may make money, but they only serve to hurt the Marvel franchise. It's interesting to see how a studio, director, team of producers or a casting director can impact a brand so quickly: Botch a Marvel superhero movie, and the sum of its franchises starts slipping. Get one right, and the entire portfolio of Marvel franchises suddenly goes up in value. The same is true of Starbucks, Hyatt hotels, Volkswagen, Delta Airlines, or whatever brand or business you can think of: Every customer experience either erodes the value of your brand or elevates it.

Nobody gives a crap if you've worked for Miramax, Fox, Disney and Marvel if your projects have all been crap. Professionals rise to the top of their professions by taking even mediocre ideas, products, campaigns and projects, and elevating them to new heights. Period. Nobody is going to hand you a golden egg. They're going to hand you a heaping pile of steaming crap, and it's your job to turn it into a work of art. (And a lasting one at that.)

Some might call this alchemy. I call it my job. You call it your job. And that's what sets some of you apart from the rest. You can actually do this: Turn crap into gold. And people around you know it. (If they don't, what the hell are you waiting for? Show them!)

What you want to hear from your clients, bosses or audience EVERY SINGLE TIME you deliver a project is this: "I had no idea it would turn out this well."

And their next breath should sound a lot like a "wow."

Like many of you reading this blog, Robert Downey Jr. has always had the talent to rise to the very top of his profession. Unlike many of you, however, he didn't always have the right mental attitude, the right focus, the right amount of professional fortitude to put his tremendous talent to good use. Yet here he is, cleaned up, ready to make up for lost time, making a hell of a comeback, and handing a movie studio (and pop culture) a hell of a gift in the process. If he can pull that kind of comeback, knowing what hell he crawled out of, so can you. Stop half-assing. Stop hiding behind your "company culture," behind red tape, behind someone else's crappy work or behind an obtuse boss or client. Just kick ass. Period.




And go see Ironman. You'll have fun. Trust me.

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Gorgeous search app. if you're looking for something a little more stylish than Google or Yahoo. Nothing cooler than functional eye candy. Searchme looks and feels like a cross between Minority Report and Flickr. I like. Above: playing with a BrandBuilder search.

Also, check out Trendpedia, which helps you search and compare trends in blogs. Below: A comparison between Apple, Whole Foods and Starbucks.

Hat tip to the very sharp Andy Woolard.

Bonus link (also from Andy): Muxtape. The coolest/geekiest way to spend a Friday evening cutting good old fashioned mix tapes for the object of your desire (like you used to in High School)... except in an mp3 world. Not at all branding or or business-related (aside from the throwback page design), but check it out anyway. You'll be glad you did.

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Awesome little post by Mike Wagner over at "Own Your Brand":

“What position did you play?” seemed like an innocent enough question coming from my six-year-old grandson. Basketball is on his mind, as it is everyone’s this time of year.

The conventional answer, “I played center.” says so little. I’d rather tell him what I accomplished for the team - it means more.

My high school coach, in his “John Wooden-like” wisdom gave me an outcome to achieve. My position of “center” was just for the program.

We were a very short team competing against much taller teams. My assigned contribution was to get the opposing team’s center to foul out - Period. “How” was up to me.

Some of my opponents were temperamental and easy to frustrate into fouling me. Others were so confident they couldn’t wait to stuff the ball down my 5-foot, 11-inch frame every time I tried a shot - they were easy targets as well.

My position was “center” but my contribution was “strategic foul generation”.

In the business world, the word “title” is exchanged for “position”. People want to know what others do for a living - many reply with their title. But a title says so little!

In your career, it’s better to focus on the outcomes you bring to the team…

  • Contribution is more important than title – Titles mean a lot in the pecking order found in any organization or business community. However, in terms of ultimate brand impact, titles are about as substantial as cotton candy. Focus on your contribution regardless of title.
  • You get “playing time” by contributing to wins - Titles come and go. When tough economic times require a hard look at “head count” how do you think decisions will be made - “We can’t let Jim go. We have to have an Assistant VP of Marketing!”? Not likely. To solidify your place on “the team” link your day-to-day outcomes to the brand’s success.
  • You own the “how” of what you contribute - Own your outcomes. Don’t wait for someone to show you how - it may never happen. Find a way to deliver what the organization needs. Be creative. Be determined. People who know and own their contribution are what every team needs.
  • Titles do not create great brands. It’s great performances produced by people who contribute like “owners” regardless of what it says on their business cards.

    I have nothing to add. Perfect.

    photo by christopher wray-mccann

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