hypocritical : talking the talk without walking the walk

October 31, 2006

Branding: One more time for those of you in the cheap seats


Oh boy, I hear you saying. Here we go again. It's another one of his rants on branding. Another semantic argument.

Yes. It is. I'm still tired of it.

"Tired of what?" asks the newly anointed reader.

Branding is an emotional (and ideally, visceral) reaction that occurs within an individual's mind.

Tired of the claim that everyone does "branding." Apparently anyone who has ever walked by the front door of any agency of any kind does branding. All of them. Every last one.

But you know who does the most branding? Well, let me tell you. I've just spent a good deal of time sifting through any number of "branding" agencies. Know what 99.9% of them were? Graphic designers. Graphic designers.


Now, don't get me wrong. I love the graphic designers. You wouldn't know it from looking at hypocritical, but I'm all about the pretty. And the well designed.

And how do I show that appreciation? First and foremost by stating the following: I am not a graphic designer. I have a distinct respect for what graphic designers are able to accomplish. I can't do what they do, so I don't try. I respect their territory. And I respect their talents.

But, as much as I adore them, they are all perpetuating this branding problem.

Graphic design is not brand. Graphic design is about identity systems. It is about brand identity. It is about the application of a visual vocabulary that evokes a memory of an organization or object. It is not, however, branding.

It is no more branding than copywriting is branding. (Copywriters will claim they do branding, as well. They'll just be a tad more eloquent when they do it.)

So what's the problem? The problem is that you can't do branding. It is beyond your control. It is beyond my control. You can hope to influence branding. But can't do branding. It's impossible.

"Why?" you ask.

Branding is an emotional (and ideally, visceral) reaction that occurs within an individual's mind.


Okay. Take this little association quiz.

  1. I love/hate Nike.

  2. I love/hate Starbucks.

  3. I love/hate Google.

  4. I love/hate Apple.

Okay. Done?

Great. Let's take them one at a time.

  1. Was your response based on the fact that Nike's brand identity system is predicated on the application of an iconic Swoosh or the fact that you had an opinion on the company, its products, and the athletes who wear them?

  2. Was your response driven more by your understanding of the history of the green siren or your last interaction you had with a Starbucks barista and the coffee s/he brewed for you?

  3. Was your response driven by a distinct appreciation for a rainbow-colored Times New Roman trademark or the fact that Google almost always helps you find what you're looking for?

  4. Was your response driven by your enigmatic fascination with a bitten apple or an appreciation for an overriding aesthetic coupled with ease of use and a cool factor?

I'm willing to bet that, for the majority of you, your response was based on the latter much more than the former. Why? Because the former is graphic design and the latter is brand.

Graphic design is part of what represents the brand. Part of what evokes that visceral reaction. But it is not the brand. And it's not branding.

Let's be honest, if it were, would Google really be one of the most powerful brands in existence today? I think not. I could have designed that mark, and as I've mentioned, I'm no designer.


Branding: One more time for those of you in the cheap seats

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October 27, 2006

Going to the bathroom (bad marketing communications happens there, too)

Being in the business I'm in, I get to travel a bit more than the common bear. And I get to see more than my fair share of airports.

Now, I'm not going to get very graphic here, but recently, I entered the facilities at my home airport, Portland International Airport (PDX).

I think we've all had the chance to see the automatic flushing mechanisms that are in use at public restrooms. (Maybe you haven't. In that case, let me explain. There's a little electronic motion sensor that flushes the toilet when something breaks the beam. Usually someone walking by it.) So, when I saw something new where the electronic eye used to be, it caught my attention.

I'm the observant type. So sue me.

You see, I noticed that, instead of the automated flushing mechanism that previously adorned the porcelain fixtures, a new flushing mechanism had been installed. And with it, a placard describing its new water-saving features. Maybe they're not new. Maybe they've been there awhile. I don't usually fly out of this concourse. So, I'm impressed.

Bravo. I thought. Oregon trying to be green.

Until, I read the placard.

Portland International Airport "Water saving" feature

Now, let me break out of character here a moment to say that, to me, marketing, communications, usability, branding, and practically any other buzzword about which you want to bandy are exactly the same thing in my head. There is no way to divorce usability from communications, because usability is the way you communicate with your user. It's all the same to me.

So you'll find me discussing usability, but it's really me discussing communications. Capiche? Excellent. And, deep breath, back into character...

So, I start to read the placard about the water saving features, and this is what I learn: push the flushing mechanism one way and it uses less water; push it the other way and it uses the same amount of water it has always used.

Usability is the way you communicate with your user.

What's wrong with this picture? (Other than the fact that it's a rather rudimentary and off-perspective sketch.) You see, here's the problem, the water-saving feature? It's completely the opposite of the way we've all learned to flush a toilet. The people at PDX think you should save water by pushing the stick up, not pushing it down.

Now, how many folks do you think are going to read the placard? Right. And, of those, how many do you think are going to remember to push the stick the right way? Right, again. Not many.

So, this is a completely useless gesture. The airport will continue to waste as much water (and money) as it always has. Because 99.9% of the users are going to flush a toilet the way they have always flushed a toilet. By pushing the stick down. And, the water will continue to flow.

Because no one thought about the problem from the viewpoint of the user.

Here's the thing. If you want to gain something from the way I use your product, then don't make me change my behavior. Work with me here. Make your product conform to my behavior.

Here they've gone and spent all this money to improve the situation and they really haven't done anything. But waste money and time.

Nice try PDX. Maybe you should spend a few more bucks inverting all of those flushing mechanisms so that you actually attain your goal of saving water.


Going to the bathroom (bad marketing communications happens there, too)

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October 19, 2006

My opinion doesn't really matter anymore

Marketing thought can actually infest every aspect of your life.

A good friend of mine reminded me that, as of my birthday, I would be leaving that most cherished of demographics the 18-34 year-olds.


Now that all of that pressure is off, I can go back to my life of relative anonymity without exacting undue influence on the rest of your poor unsuspecting slobs.

No need for thanks. Just remember to more vehemently--and confidently--discount my opinion now that I've lost part of my bully-pulpit foundation.


My opinion doesn't really matter anymore

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October 18, 2006

Haloscan currently crippling hypocritical response time

Haloscan, the service I use to manage comments and trackbacks (and I mean, seriously, who has ever used trackback for one of my entries), is currently experiencing technical difficulties. As such, hypocritical pages are taking a long, long time to load.

If you're reading the RSS feed, you shouldn't notice any interruption.

I apologize for the inconvenience. Hopefully, it will be resolved quickly. I just wanted you to know that it wasn't you.


Haloscan currently crippling hypocritical response time

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October 17, 2006

Mistakes, topic du jour in blogging today

I've noticed an increased amount of posting on mistakes lately. Admitting mistakes. Describing mistakes. Learning from mistakes.

Phew. Good thing I make so many mistakes.

Some of the more compelling entries include:

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Mistakes, topic du jour in blogging today

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October 13, 2006

Blogging tip: Have a schedule but don't let the schedule halve your publishing (or staunch it completely)

If you've spent any time at all reading hypocritical over the last four months, posts have been extremely haphazard. So first and foremost, thanks for sticking with it. If you're a recent reader, thanks for giving me a chance.

As I mentioned when I started Return, I wasn't sure what this new venture was going to do to my blogging.

Looking back, it's been an interesting experiment.

Funny thing is that it was very much planned in very different manner. Very. Did I say very? Well, very. Ahem. Very.

I started out with the best intentions, but they veered off-course. I'd like to explain why, so that maybe you don't fall into a similar trap.

Discipline is good.
Any writer will tell you that writing takes discipline. I know that. And since writing a blog is, well, writing, I was convinced that serious blogging deserved similar discipline.

So I did my research. I analyzed my traffic. Tested some timing for publishing. And looked for the times when the publishing and traffic seemed to form a nice symbiotic tango. When I found that time, I decided to set that particular time of day as the time I would blog. (It happened to be between 8 AM and 10 AM Pacific Time.)

With me so far? Great.

So, here I was. I was going to be blogging regularly in the morning. And that was going to bring me traffic. And that was going to improve my subscription base. And that was going to extend my conversations beyond what I would have the capability of pursuing without blogging.

All seems good.

Being beholden to a schedule is not so good.
There was my first mistake. When I was thinking discipline, instead of "goal" I thought "schedule."


Immediately, one problem became excruciatingly obvious, and that was that when I wanted to write, when I was inspired to write, was often 12 to 16 hours away from when my readers wanted to read.

So, being in the heat of the moment, I decided to try to force myself to write at the time when my readers would be listening. It shouldn't be too difficult, I told myself. Just save your ideas up for that time and write then.

That's when the second problem arose. You see, the time my readers wanted to read was not the time that I wanted to write, it was the time when I wanted to work on my projects. The time when I was extremely efficient at banging out the work that was paying the bills.

Now, did I want to stop (enjoying) my work to do some writing that I wasn't really in the mood to do?

Nope. So I pushed the blog entries off.

I'll get back to it, I thought.

Wrong. Because that's when it would come full circle.

In the evening, I would feel a desire to write, but I would suppress that desire, telling myself that the timing was off. So, I'd squirrel away ideas and jot down notes. But by the time I got around to the "writing time" there was no fire. No desire to write. And so the ideas--that were full of passion and thought when I was in the moment--festered in mediocrity by the time the "writing time" arrived.

For me, rather than the schedule helping me, it was hindering my performance. Rather than a means of adding discipline, it became a spiraling trap.

(Now I know some of you are out there saying "write whenever you want and publish when the folks are reading." Yeah, I get that. But there's something about publishing just after I've written it that appeals to me. It's the closure. If I waited, most of these posts would still be drafts. I have to strike while the iron is hot, or it's not going to happen. And I might miss my window.)

It just didn't work for me.

One other cautionary note. And, mom, you can skip this part. This is one of those times that your son admits one of his shortcomings. Yes, I do. Mom, I do. Everybody does. Sigh. Okay, mom. Just skip it. Okay? Okay.

I'm sorry where was I? Oh yes, my failure. What I failed to realize was that this "discipline" was driven, not by the desire to become a better blogger or the desire to please my reader base, but by something far different. This edifice of discipline was driven by an addiction to increasing subscriber base number. An artifically inflated number of "fans" that appeared when I published at the the right time.

I was driven by the quick fix.

When I published at the time my so-called readers (not you schnookums, those other charlatans) were reading, my subscriber base grew more quickly. And that was invigorating.

But I couldn't sustain it. Because the timing was off.

So what happened? The traffic that was there quickly went away just as quickly. Fickle. Fleeting. Not in for the long haul.

But here's the silliest thing. You know that traffic number I was chasing? When I wrote when I wanted and published when I wanted? That traffic came in droves. Over a long period of time. And, eventually, that traffic far surpassed the quick hit.

Why? Search engines, gentle reader. They're the real key to the traffic. Pinging the blog searches will get you the quick hit, but unless you're a breaking new blog, they won't stay. It's the search engines that are going to bring the solid subscriber base.

And they're the ones you should be looking to please.

So, if you're anything like me, here are some tips that might help you:

  1. Figure out when you like write.

  2. Write when you like to write.

  3. Avoid the temptation to schedule your writing. Instead, set a goal for number of posts per day/week/month and stick to it.

  4. If and only if it works for you, publish just before your traffic tends to peak.

Me? I'm getting back to writing when I want to write. When I feel it. Because when it comes write... err right down to it, that's what the majority fo this self-serving blather is all about. That, and pleasing you.

Hope that helps.

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Blogging tip: Have a schedule but don't let the schedule halve your publishing (or staunch it completely)

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Zag by Marty Neumeier or The second half of The Brand Gap workshop committed to paper

So, Zag: The Number One Strategy of High-Performance Brands by Marty Neumeier. Had you been waiting for it too? You weren't waiting on my opinion before purchasing, were you?

If so, I'm sorry I have taken so long to post my review.

Go buy it. I recommend it. Seal of approval. Blessed.

But, here's the deal.

If you, like I, have ever been an attendee at one of The Brand Gap seminars, if you thought you covered some new ground beyond The Brand Gap, if you're looking for riveting new thought, you may be a little disappointed. But it's a brilliant refresher.

I still recommend Zag. Completely. It's an important read.

It's just that, much like The Brand Gap, I already had Zag read aloud to me. You see, if you remember, I got into this big whining fest after I attended The Brand Gap seminar, (shocking, I realize) because I felt that they just presented the book for the first half.
Long story short, Zag by Marty Neumeier, encourages you to take risks.

But I thought that the second half of the seminar was incredibly valuable.

Zag is, by and large, the second half of The Brand Gap seminar. But the thing is: it provokes thought. It makes you consider what your should be doing in trying to influence the market's perception of your organization (or person). It provides strong examples of organizations who have embraced the concept.

Long story short, Zag by Marty Neumeier, encourages you to take risks. It shows you that success lies not in following the crowd but deviating from the crowd. It provides guidance for beginning to think about "zagging." And, like The Brand Gap, it delivers its message in a very succinct tome. (More succinct than the majority of my blog entries. That's for sure.)

It also reminded of a few concepts I had forgotten. And, either I was more receptive to them the second time or my current gig running my own company made me more receptive, but the "Rock, Paper, Scissors" buckets for companies really hit home, this time around.

What am I talking about? Buy the book. I don't want to take money out of Marty's pocket.

I respect him too much.

Have you read Zag? What stuck with you? Are you a complete Marty Neumeier fanboy/girl like me or the opposite?

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Zag by Marty Neumeier or The second half of The Brand Gap workshop committed to paper

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October 05, 2006

Zag by Marty Neumeier just arrived

It has been quite some time since I've actually looked forward to the release of a book. But Zag by Marty Neumeier is one such tome.

Many of you know Neumeier as the author of The Brand Gap. And no doubt the one or two faithful readers of hypocritical (if they even read it anymore) were rapt consuming my post detailing my affection for The Brand Gap.

Well, my Amazon pre-order has become a real order and Zag arrived on my doorstep, today.

I promise a review once I finish it. (And I still owe y'all a review on The Long Tail by Chris Anderson.) Book reports galore.

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Zag by Marty Neumeier just arrived

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