Long, long ago in a far away TV Land


When I was a kid growing up in the early 1960’s there were very few places for advertisers to compete for our attention to build their product brands. Companies typically reached their customers by TV, radio, or print. In 1962, 90% of U.S. households owned a television set, and there were only three network stations: ABC, NBC, and CBS. My mother (the first woman to host her own television show “Kitirik,” on ABC, 1954-1971 in Houston) subscribed to Life and Time magazines and “took the Houston Chronicle newspaper,” as opposed to the Houston Post.  In the car, or at home, we listened to the AM radio—and that was it…no cable, no Internet, no smart phones.

It was pretty much assured that if advertisers launched a new product, we were going to see it in print, hear it on the radio, or see it on television. At that time, it also meant advertising efforts were created predominantly for a singular target market: a middle class Caucasian audience. Ads ran with a much greater certainty that a large percentage of those folks would see it. Building a brand was much easier, if you had the money, to build it. Coke was the “real thing”, Cadillac was the most luxurious car in America, and brands like Magnavox and RCA dominated the television set market. There was a sense of “community” in which your lifestyle was very similar to your neighbors. Kids still built tree forts, threw dirt clods, watched “Saturday morning cartoons” and played Monopoly for entertainment. There was a sense, at least in my mind, that my family loved me, other adults looked out for me, we didn’t lock our front door, we went to church and believed in God, and we felt that our government was protecting us – in short, it was “We, the people” (unless you were a minority or gay).

The rise of television as postwar America’s favorite recreational pastime created the opportunity for companies to build brands in a new way. TV gave the American public an opportunity to begin to have a personal ‘relationship’ with the brand. Suddenly, you were not simply smoking a cigarette; you were riding the open range with the “Marlborough Man!” You were not some silly city slicker smoking in a crowded bar, you were a tough, manly, macho dude; as was evident by the brand of cigarette you smoked.

In advertising and marketing terms, the objective, and the audience were really clear. Rather like previous wars: known and obvious bad guy with a clear reason to fight. We knew our audience: who they were, how they lived, and what they wanted. In 1952, the highest rated television program in the United States was on CBS, “I love Lucy,” that received a staggering 67.3 % Neilson rating. Imagine the fact that of everyone that owned a television set in 1952 America (33% of all U.S. households), 67% of those households were watching Lucy and Ethel’s shenanigans. A virtual guarantee that you could deliver your message and product to the right market.  Contrast that fact that in 2012, the highest rated network show was NBC Sunday Night Football with a Neilson rating of 12.9%.

The 1960’s, and the Vietnam war, created the social conditions to shatter the postwar “Father Knows Best” mentality of the white male dominated professional workplace.  We began to see the arduous, and humiliating journey, of minorities and women trying to break the “White male only” barrier, which all contributed to new burgeoning market segments for advertisers; and a significantly changed social collective consciousness. We began to see American Industry quietly send jobs to Asia.  Our status as a once great manufacturing nation began to shift to a nation based on the “service industry.” We saw, the commercial birth of FM Radio; Specialty Magazines for consumer interests like boating, hunting, travel, in the 1970’s; Cable Television in the 1980’s; and finally the truly explosive social and commercial change—the Internet.

A powerful pivotal shift occurred in American consciousness in the early 90’s that has completely changed our countries character, and the way we approached advertising and marketing. Strangely for me, it was noticed byway of a song that seemed to capture the mood of our nation in 1991, “Smells Like Teen Spirit.”

“…Here we are now entertain us

I feel stupid and contagious

Here we are now, entertain us…”

The prophetic lyrics sung by Kurt Cobain, lead singer of Nirvana, who experienced a meteoric rise in global fame in 1991 giving life to a new American collective consciousness—Grunge—before his suicide in 1994. His band took teen anxiety about not relating to the American experience and gave it a new look and feel, a manner of communicating, a way to dress, and a way to feel, as if to say – “Fuck you, I’m not like you… I am not joining your America…I’m joining people that feel the same way I do…We will gather on the internet!”

And overnight, we went from America being a “We nation” to a “Me nation.” Of course, as the saying goes, “No man is an island” and the Internet gave millions a place to meet, fantasize, communicate, share and shop. A place you might ask a guy named Jeeves, “Why does my pee stink after eating asparagus?” and get the answer, immediately! The “little guy” could compete on a level playing field. A place where anyone could become a food critic, “I don’t get it.  Everyone raves about this place.  But it’s just not good. Not bad, just mediocre.  Maybe it’s better in the evening? Or after a few margaritas?” On places like Second Life.com, You could re-invent yourself, be a tough Afro-American girl, into S&M and have sex hook-ups on-line and then go to your art gallery and sell paintings for big Linden Dollars…even, if you are in real life a Caucasian male working at Home Depot. You can express yourself with blogs, Vlogs and social media (MySpace, Facebook, etc). Write and publish books. One’s sense of social isolation and personal lack of meaning could be immediately distracted by simply clicking the “like” button, or telling your “friends” about your cat dying, or share photos of oneself: traveling, being happy, in love, looking cool, with family, and sometimes being sexy…real sexy! Suddenly, we have a nation of commentators in a place where parents, “the system,” and advertising convention could be escaped…at least initially, and—at least in theory—one could connect globally. A place where you could say, “fuck” freely, as I enjoy, or post a video of you and your friends shooting a Roman candle firework launched from your backside…I swear I saw that on YouTube!

State of the Union: Helter Sketlter.


Traditional communication is in a state of fast and furious flux. Radio stations are struggling to stay afloat, the New York Times is constantly struggling to keep the doors open, even TV is competing for its life with Internet based alternatives. Television commercials attempt to “entertain us” and they rarely tell the consumer the real value and benefit of the product, as we learned from the contemporary “father of advertising,” Englishman, David Ogilvy. He formulated our idea of the modern ad: Give them a headline image that is relevant and copy, how ever long as needed, to convey to the reader why he or she should buy this product and why it was unlike any other – why is it special! Today, we are rarely invited into why we should buy the product. Instead, we see a bunch of comedic clown-like Vikings tell us to use the Bank Card? Their focus group must have been on crack cocaine… It’s memorable yes, but in no way do I want to use, or consider, that product, and I certainly don’t want to build a lifelong relationship with the brand. With some understanding, the defense might be, “But you don’t have the captivity of market share like in the 60’s…you have to give them a quick left hook, make them laugh (they will talk about you) so they can remember you!” My response, “Yes, but is that how you want them to remember you?” You may only have the one chance to reach someone. Should I enter a networking business function, climb on top of a table, drop my trousers and scream, “Hey everyone, want to see my ding dong?”

We seemingly have cultivated an ocean of citizens that have the less-than-flattering idea that they are “fabulous,” important, and that their opinion carries weight. Collectively, regardless of how much you agree, or disagree, with these little pedantic prigs—in real marketing terms, they do! Don’t believe me? Chat with anyone that works their butt off in the restaurant business, real estate, or other types of small business to provide a quality product, and let them tell you about how the angry posts on Yelp impacts their business. Is it sometimes deserved? Absolutely. However, there is a hefty supply of malcontents anxiously waiting to pounce at a moments notice.

These days, one brilliant performance at home, or one stupid act could conceivably catapult you into overnight success, or failure. Consider the meteoric rise of kids like Justin Beiber, or the tragic thud of girl-next-door sensation Miley Cirus after a recent off-color performance ‘twerking’ on the American Music Awards. And more seriously, considering the extraordinary impact Facebook had as a communication hub for the so-called “Arab Spring” and its critical importance for young political protestors in Egypt to overthrow the old regime. Our actions are now viewed, literally by the world…if you can get the “world’s” attention.

Some Observations.


This year has brought a wide range of clients who wanted help with new “brands” and/or “re-branding” their businesses. It has included a celebrity chef, a personal injury law firm, a neuro-endocrine specialist, a group of heart doctors, a global manufacturer, a non-profit, a fashion photographer, and a boutique wealth management group. What do they all have in common—absolutely everything! They all want to be viable, have a certain “buzz”, express and maintain a standard of quality, and most importantly, they want to be financially successful…just like every other person, and company, on the planet!

My clients are usually very smart, polite, well intentioned, and above average in their offerings. However, there seems to be a very strong collective tendency, among many of them—and in myself—that is tough to watch as a dedicated marketing professional. I notice that for many individuals and companies engaged in advertising and marketing, it is more than not, a very fragmented and re-active exercise. They think that simply building a new website, or running a TV spot, or creating a Facebook page is all they have to do bring the right attention to their brand, product, or service. It is remarkably similar to folks that say personal fitness is important to them, yet they eat a cheeseburger, French fries, and a diet coke everyday for lunch, and then go to the gym and do 30-minutes on the elliptical and can’t figure out why they still have a gut. There is a bit more involved in building a robust brand and achieving true marketing fitness than sending out a couple of “feel good” creative pieces.

Some of this year’s observations of client behavior include:

• “We don’t need a social media strategy…”

• “We can only afford to do this…”

• Regard marketing as an unwanted, but necessary expense

• Treat it as a major “one time” event such as remodeling their master bedroom

• Entrust the role of marketing manager to an unqualified person in their group

• Don’t understand, nor value, the critical role that marketing should take

• Don’t understand, nor value, the importance of professional, and unified, design

• Don’t understand how to employ a comprehensive marketing strategy

• Only do same-old-thing actions, leaving big opportunity for growth on the table

• So overwhelmed by workload, any attempt to market effectively is lost to operational concerns and demands.

• Ownership not listening to their customers and expecting things to magically change and have more business.

• Owner | Managers not loving what they do professionally, and expecting others to perform and for customers to love their business

• Believe that slapping together something themselves is better than hiring a professional and will get the same results

• We are too busy with “other” pressing matters to look at this “now…”

How one feels and thinks, dramatically impacts a companies marketing fitness!

To succeed in the current morass that constitutes our global business climate, it will require much more than a short list of marketing goals, a snappy website and print collateral, splashy ads, slipshod entries on Facebook and vapid tweets, and allocated budgets… to truly build a brand loyalty.

Brave New World: some things stay the same.


Even in this factionalized, pluralistic, ensemble we call the U.S.A, regardless of how an advertising campaign is delivered (on what device, medium, or style) there still needs to be a definitive and distinctive quality of message (Why your product or service has meaning? Quality? Purpose?), a clarity of intent, combined with an excellent design, regardless of your product, service offering, or genre. That has not changed since antiquity, it was true for Caesar and it will be true for you and for those after us.

Quality in marketing requires experience, and consideration, on many levels. For example: You can give an untrained teen an expensive digital camera and send them to Europe to shoot pictures. You may imagine that if the camera is expensive, with a huge amount of pixels, that the teen photographer is more likely to take “good pictures.” The disparity of course, is the brain of the teen has not likely been exposed to the ideas of sub-text, irony, empathy, journalistic sensibility, drama, human suffering, archetypes, nor have they had years to cultivate a unique aesthetic sensibility to harmonize subject, light, and composition. Instead, we get a visual documentation, a “snapshot,” of an object or person. In other words, we see something, but we feel nothing. It does not contribute to our experiencing the subject in a new light. In this manner, if we don’t invest in building real meaning in our brands—using our humanity, introspection, and compassion—they are as hollow and empty as our teenager’s snapshot of cars whizzing around the Arc de Triomphe in Paris!

Big Changes Kemosabe: the digital horse is pushing further west.


 In 2012, there are 36 U.S. companies that spent over $1 billion dollars on ads. Nike, who spent $2.4 billion, has recently dropped media spending by 40%. According to a Forbes article, Nike’s new marketing mojo, by Scott Cendrowski:

“The reason for the shift is simple: Nike is going where its customer is. And its core customer, a 17-year-old who spends 20% more on shoes than his adult counterparts, has given up television to skip across myriad online communities. Not only does Nike think it can do without the mega-TV campaigns of old, it says the digital world allows the brand to interact even more closely with its consumers — maybe as closely as it did in its early days, when founder Phil Knight sold track shoes out of his car in the 1960s. That’s a major change, Nike CEO Mark Parker explained to Fortune during a recent interview in his tchotchke-filled office in Beaverton. “Connecting used to be, ‘Here’s some product, and here’s some advertising. We hope you like it,’ ” he says. “Connecting today is a dialogue.”

Of course, it’s impossible these days to find a Fortune 500 company without an app or a social media strategy. But Nike has been lapping other blue-chip marketers in this domain: It spent nearly $800 million on ‘nontraditional’ advertising in 2010, according to Advertising Age estimates, a greater percentage of its U.S. advertising budget than any other top 100 U.S. advertiser.”


So now that you realize that advertising and marketing is always going to be in a constant state of change, with different delivery and devices, the importance of hiring someone that has a bit of savoir-faire, cuts and scrapes, and real skill, honor the simple truth that quality of content is KING… we need to explore how you can participate in building a relationship with your customers that will set you apart.

It is just like seeing a FABULOUS looking woman, decked to the nines, pulling up in a sexy car…walks across the parking lot in her $500 pumps and her French scarf tossed playfully around her shoulders…I am immediately charmed by her style and grace…she stands beside me to order her Café latte and she starts talking loudly on her cell phone about some vapid chit chat about her evening…arrives to the counter and chirps out her order to the hard working person at the register, as if she is slapping the “coke” selection on a vending machine, and then begins to laugh so loudly, I can’t hear the other person on the register trying to kindly take my order…I not only have loud fantasies in my head about screaming at her, “Do you really think anyone gives a FUCK about your evening? And how dare you treat these people like your coffee slaves!” Instead, I am extra-ordinarily nice to the person helping me…leave a large tip, but I am now 100% certain that I am longer buying “her brand.”

Yes. I said it. Ouch. Human brand. Jesus, it’s like genetically engineered corn. While I am not a big proponent of “manufacturing human behavior”…to some extent, it is required in the contemporary experience. It doesn’t have to be duplicitous, clandestine, or deceptive. On the contrary, we choose where we place our consciousness daily…minute by minute. When I lived in Japan for three years, I learned about Buddhist philosophy. One of the really great concepts I took away from my experience was the power of where I placed my consciousness. It is a very simple idea, but has a very potent cause and effect. American corporations have been very big components of “productivity” and use “monetary goals” as their measurement of success. With the rise of the multi-national corporation and the huge impact they have over our lives. Consider the comments from a 2011 Forbes article, The 147 Companies that Control Everything, by Bruce Upbin,

“Three systems theorists at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich have taken a database listing 37 million companies and investors worldwide and analyzed all 43,060 transnational corporations and share ownerships linking them. They built a model of who owns what and what their revenues are and mapped the whole edifice of economic power.

They discovered that global corporate control has a distinct bow-tie shape, with a dominant core of 147 firms radiating out from the middle. Each of these 147 own interlocking stakes of one another and together they control 40% of the wealth in the network. A total of 737 control 80% of it all. The top 20 are at the bottom of the post. This is, say the paper’s authors, the first map of the structure of global corporate control.”

What should I give a flip about that? For the same reasons you should care that Monsanto uses patent law to control most of U.S. corn, soy seed market, according to the Associated Press, or the fact that we have already spent more than $2.7 trillion dollars fighting terrorists in the Middle East according to an article in the Huff Post entitled, “U.S. War Costs Reach At Least $3.7 Trillion And Counting.” There is something terribly alarming about large scale threats to our humanity that are so easily, in-a-split-second, converted to arguments—compelling arguments—that support the position that these actions are for the “good of humanity.” Well, as you can see…I have overstepped my small bounds…placed my proverbial Italian loafer in it, but this much I do know, we have the power to choose how we act in the world. I personally do not want to foster, support, or create a society of corporate employees that have exchanged their humanity for the illusionary success of salary, to continue to propagate the hollow ambitions of “productivity” and “goals” without the addition of humanity first, win-win in all dealings, and a strong ethical concern about honesty and integrity. There are an awful lot of “ambitious” little pugs, in the Shakespearean sense, running through the hallways of corporate American, all trying to out fetch the other, by any means necessary! P.S. I know how to lie, cheat, deceive, embellish, cajole, exaggerate, mislead, and outright step on the other guys face…I choose not to, because I believe that business, brand, and product should be powerfully human and filled with the best that we have to offer. Ideal? Yes. Possible? Yes.


Just because things have to be named to give them form…I invite you to consider a new conceptual form of branding, a non-messaging, immeasurable side of marketing (at least by traditional measures), that I call, Zen Brand Management. Don’t panic, this will not require chanting for hours, nor shaving your head!

In addition to the usual exercise of clearly defining whom you are and why you are distinctive, developing a strong creative matrix (logo, website, print, TV spot, web, other, etc.) devising a marketing strategy, and social media plan—You will need to “throw the dice!” …Metaphysically speaking. That is to say: Deliberate-introspection- (with)-compassion- (and enjoy)-evolution, or simply DICE.


When we are DELIBERATE we are focused, we understand our clarity of purpose, we know why we are here, and we are 100% present. We are clear about how and why we do what we do, and how to help our customers, clients, patients, and fellow man.

With INTROSPECITON, we intrinsically recognize that we are not the greatest force in the universe and humbly realize that when we go within and seek higher information, solutions arrive that are win-win, we find passion, excitement, new vision, ideas, and solutions to old problems. We consciously enrich our relationship with ourselves, realizing that is will enrich all relationships. Using this discipline, we are able to create a framework, a context in which to accomplish goals, thrive, and advance. We find strength, which fortifies our spirit and nourishes our work. We have a healthier sense of our own value and strength.

As we choose COMPASSION our relationships are enriched. When we cease to always making everything about “Me,” it opens a very special opportunity to create a meaningful “We,” and therefore create the optimum opportunity for a win-win relationship and that is when capitalism is truly magnificent.

Then we have a new measure of success, personally and professionally, as we begin to enjoy our EVOLUTION. Through this right action, we begin to harvest and enjoy a self-esteem, pride, and financial reward (a natural outcropping of things done well, with the right intent).

I think the brands that will last into the future, will be the ones that don’t let the “brand” or company profitability blind their humanity! The brand winners will build human connection: “we see you”…through humor, value, or care. Company brands that invest in their people: where Human Resource Departments are not just playing match A+B=C. The companies that tirelessly seek to help their customer, and continue to develop and maintain quality, as their inexhaustible priority will be the winners.

I went to lunch yesterday at a casual eatery that I helped concept over 10 years ago, called Moonshine in Austin, Texas. I was seated in a small room and noticed three waiters helping all the customers in the room. My waiter was on his game, helpful and informative…but what really impressed me was that the other two waiters in the room, individually, came over and filled our water glasses offering up ample good cheer. I have never seen that happen in Austin…not even when I am paying $100 for my lunch. That restaurant just built a deeper relationship with me by being human. That is good management, good Business, and good Branding: Deliver more than they expect, with consistency, imagination, and with all of your humanity in tact.

So my friends, there is no way to lose, go on—throw the DICE!


Essential Marketing Concepts

February 13, 2012

Clarity of being
It is essential if you want to have effective and creative marketing to begin by defining how your product or service is distinctive (unique selling points), to determine who would want to buy it or use it (your market segment or end-user), and the best way to deliver the invitation to buy, consider, or use your product or services (advertising, design, & social media).

Many unfortunate companies try to sell products and services to the consumer market, without first understanding what their customers want or need…they quickly learn that the market doesn’t care that you think your offering the greatest thing since chocolate. Don’t forget, the consumer market drives 2/3 of the U.S. economy. Do you think it might be wise to consider a consumer’s feelings, interests, needs, and state of consciousness? You would be surprised by how many very well educated clients make the unfortunate mistake of disregarding the very people they wish to serve.

true stories

The Baker   One of my retail clients returned from Vienna, Austria, in 1975 and was determined to offer the citizens of Austin the most delectable Bienenstich, Sacher
cake, and the always-irresistible cremshnitte. When their bakery doors opened the confused and bedazzled patrons asked disappointedly, “Where are the Tollhouse cookies and brownies?” Today, after successfully beating the French at baking the baguette and serving the community for over 30 years, you will find Tollhouse cookies and brownies on the menu!

The Guru   One of my fitness and health clients spent his entire life studying martial arts, meditation, self-realization, and nutrition. He wanted to create an on-line business to bring all of his knowledge to the world. He wanted to help people holistically, and in his mind his plan was so clear. He showed me a power point presentation with a chart of what he wanted to offer. It had 6 major groups consisting of 24 programs. Basically he would offer: meditation (his own technique), workshops and retreats, personal coaching, wellness and healing, nutrition, and retail. Every week he came up with even more to offer. The problem was he failed to realize (from a business marketing standpoint) that he was entering into the treacherous and over communicated markets of fitness, yoga, spirituality, and retail. Any one of the four would be difficult to position as truly unique, and it would require tremendous effort to create a legitimate on-line presence with any hope of actually making money. He was doing what so many small business people (90% of the American market) do, over articulating their offerings in hope that the consumer would find value. He had not successfully done the research required to show how he was distinct in the market and discover who would want to buy his products.

The Dellionaire  I have three friends socially that worked for Dell computers in the early days and therefore made many millions of dollars through stock options. After retiring from Dell, one decided to open a private men’s club (bar, massage, and hair cuts), one opened a women’s boutique with high-end vintage fashion and accessories (giving 100% of the profit to charity), and the other a book store that would buy-back University books. All three failed. One asks why: they were all rich, smart, and “successful”…but they didn’t know their market and they didn’t know how to market to those that might actually use their products and services.

The full monty
Effective and creative marketing looks at the entire cause and effect of the business model, realizing that every person (top-to-bottom) in your organization and their actions have a direct impact on the success of your marketing.

• What does the client or customer first experience when they approach you to do business? Is it a tired frustrated, grumpy person on their cell phone?• How is the phone answered? After you have the client, how do you maintain your level of professionalism and service?

• Are you reaching out to the right people to sell your product? Are you offering a true win-win relationship?

• Are your employees happy…do they feel valued?
• Do you have the right person doing the right job?
• Do your customers, patients, clients feel important?

true stories

The Cardiologist   One of my medical clients (that hired us to create his “start-up” collateral) graduated summa cum laude from Harvard University and was responsible for bringing state-of-the-art cardiology procedures to the community. After a very successful career with two hospitals, he decided to go into private practice. He had previously enjoyed a life of success, both academically and professionally, but he failed to see the importance of being compassionate and warm with his patients and staff, including slapping me with a medical file folder…I think that caused him to fail in private practice, in spite of very nice marketing collateral!

The Film Production Company   One of our clients wanted to re-invigorate their company image. We created a new logo, website, writing system, and analyzed the way they communicated with existing and potential clients. It was quickly apparent that a key person representing the company was very frustrated and unhappy in their position as salesperson (The only paid employee representing the company in the community). This frustrated employee had worked for a larger company in Dallas and really saw themselves in the role of producer and thus, felt the job was beneath them…albeit, they were not doing a good job representing or selling the very worthwhile skill sets of my client. I encouraged the owner to take me off a monthly retainer and to use that money to invest in a positive and terrific salesperson. The company immediately reaped a financial benefit by having the right person representing their company.

Live in a beautiful space
Effective and creative marketing employs design to drive distinction, build brands, represent the quality of the product, and infer the meaning of the client’s offerings. (This is both overtly and sub-textually).

• You are regarded as the best in your field…your potential client enters your office…it is old, outdated, and dark? Does that reflect your level of passion and commitment to your state-of-the-art work?
• Your website is poorly presented, hard to navigate, and doesn’t really give the end-user a sense of what you have to offer.
• You run an ad in the paper and it so over-communicates what you have to offer that the reader does not read the ad, or you are so “creative” that you forget to let the viewer know what you are selling.
• Your brochure is so “professional” that it is boring and does not create any connection with your reader: no therefore offers no distinction, excitement, or interest in your product.
• Design drives most products and services: automobile, fashion, homes, electronics, and products. Why shouldn’t it be important to your industry?

true story

Big Medicine   One of our medical clients is the third largest group of their kind in the United States. They are truly great people and do great work. Sadly, they had never recognized the value of a cogent marketing effort. Their entire marketing efforts rested on the shoulders of a very over worked administrative assistant. They had a poorly conceived website, no interesting programs to attract new referring physicians, tired looking clinical environments (multi-locations in numerous cities), and no internal enthusiasm. The business was not growing and was not energized. A new C.O.O. hired me to go in and give them an overhaul. We began with a new company identity (logo), created a website that really showcased their offerings, worked on the interior design, and designed building signage. We had exciting new parties for their referring physician communities, open houses for new clinics, and new educational seminars with a fresh and inviting look and feel. Now they are exploring a new community charitable cause to rally the staff and illustrate their commitment to the community. Today, the business has unprecedented financial success by employing cohesive and smart marketing efforts…largely influenced by design…A new C.O.O. came in and erased all those efforts, re-designed the site poorly and fractured all the previous cohesive programs. They hired an “in-house” marketing person that has no background and little knowledge. Evidence that advertising, design, and marketing, should be done by professionals, just as medical practices and procedures should be done by a professional!

Move your booty
Effective and creative marketing is executed with consistency and with pro-active effort.

• Marketing is manmade and is not a one-time event.

• While some products and services find an audience or market position organically, marketing for most businesses requires a tremendous amount of energy, thought and work to fully realize the potential effect and find success. Remember the big companies that spend hundreds of million of dollars annually have dedicated departments, teams of individuals pushing and pulling, trying to take advantage of every opportunity to advance sales, brand recognition, and brand loyalty. How much time does your company spend?
• Regardless of your goals, to create a formidable splash or even and sustainable growth for your business, it all takes action and hard work…but, if you take the time to do the work, you can expect improved profitability, consumer recognition, and overall success.

true story

Hotel California   One of my hospitality clients, an international hotel company, was embarking on a $17,000,000 facelift on a local property and hired me to manage the publicity. The usual path for most would be to simply send out press releases, work hard to be finished on time, and then announce the opening and throw a “come and see the new look” party. Being aggressive and pro-marketing we not only sent out press releases, but we created a short film that was sent to all of their corporate clients to show them the exciting changes and to include them in the process to keep their loyalty. I came up with slogan “renovation is our innovation” to convey to their clients the level of commitment they have to provide outstanding quality. At each level of completion, they invited clients to a party to share in the amazing transformations. A great deal of energy and effort was put into turning what could have been a disaster into a very positive advertising and marketing opportunity. The hotel remains a leader in room occupancy in the city!

Visualize whirling peas
Effective and creative marketing requires company managers and owners to visualize what actions they can take to create a more prosperous future and to believe in the power of good advertising, design, and marketing. If it were a useless exercise, would companies spend over one thousand billion dollars in the U.S. for advertising?

There is no mystery about cause in effect in physics, why should there be any doubt in business. “Argue for your limitations, and they are yours”, said Richard Bach in his terrific book Illusions. I am afraid marketing often sadly falls into a common social problem in our country: if no one has modeled “healthy relationships”, how can an individual participate in one. If you knew how to have a robust and healthy marketing success for your company, you would already be doing it! It becomes critical for all people in business to look at the state of affairs honestly and realistically and then create a strategy to methodically reach your goals. Don’t conveniently skip the honesty part before you visualize grand plans for the future.

P.S. Social media is simply technology that allows people to share their thoughts and ideas immediately (both good and bad)…it is rather like cooking: if you have fabulous ingredients, knowledge, and skill, it will be reflective in your dish. Conversely, if you have weak ingredients, no knowledge and skill (coupled with a bad attitude), it will be reflective in your “marketing dish.”

true story

The President   One of my former clients, a C.O.O for a large medical group, asked me to meet with their in-house marketing manager and the President of the group (a physician) to discuss how they might develop a stronger identity and recognition in the region. I met with the marketing manager first and learned that she had no marketing budget and the physician board was very resistant to any of her ideas. Then I met with the C.O.O. and learned that there was tremendous political in fighting and that the physicians wanted to maintain lower fixed costs to make more personal income. They did not seem to value or understand that patients were now self-referring and expected considerate and compassionate service, especially in the healthcare arena. I met with the President of the group to discuss how we could help them and the direction that I felt was paramount to realize their goals. After 45 minutes, the President looked at me, slightly amused with himself, and admitted, “I don’t really believe in marketing!” I politely excused myself rather dismayed by the attitude.

I learned later that the very competent marketing manager resigned, the President was asked to step down , the C.O.O  left because of the limited vision of his group, and soon after, the largest group of its kind split-up. The “president” had no idea how stifling and financially damaging his leadership was to the best interest of his group.

A simple change of attitude in leadership could turn the entire company around. How many times have you seen a bad attitude and limited vision from management bring lackluster results to a company?

Marketing is energy, and good creative marketing is filled with energy that is clear and mindful of the intent behind the actions and messaging. Remove resistance to the process… and create from a specific context that will resonate with the person likely to use your product or service.

I’ve had many clients in which it was very obvious that it pained them to deal with their company’s creative marketing needs and every year they are faced with the challenge of rising to the occasion: an occasion that they neither enjoy, or like. In a sense, I am glad: I am hired to bring creative marketing solutions to companies. On the other hand, creative energy is attracted to and thrives in environments—and with people—that are willing to participate and empower others in the creative process.




My wife is the poster girl of creative marketing anxiety. She is super smart, capable, and interested in her company’s success, yet is prone to virtually short circuiting if asked to provide content for creative marketing ideas, unique selling propositions, and aggressive solutions to the on slot of competition challenging her real estate company in the quickly changing. She is not alone. It is commonplace for small business owners and corporate executives to be overwhelmed with their day-to-day responsibilities, and the idea of engaging in a “creative project,” something they feel certain will be a negative challenge…is nothing short of painful. It is like asking a chubby guy to take a Pilates class. Ironically, the guy with the big stomach would most be benefitted by working on his “core strength”, yet as it is the most under-exercised part of his body, he least wants to use it. Get the point, most needed, least used.


So how should the analytical overworked businessperson invite the uneasy waters of creative flow to wash over them? The first thing to do is remove the idea that you are not creative. Who told you that? Was it your mother when you excitedly brought her your crayon masterpiece as a two year old, or your teacher in 6th grade art class? The creative process often is linked to two-dimensional art…what about the other dimensions? So, is Albert Einstein or Stephen Hawking creative enough for you? How about Steve Jobs, who by the way was not a software designer? How about our great religious philosophers throughout the ages: Shakyamuni (Buddha), Jesus of Nazareth, and Muhammad. The lists of brilliant creative people who could not draw or paint are enormous. So go deep within yourself for a moment and ask this simple question: Am I creative? And if the answer comes back “no”, ask yourself sincerely, “Why do you say that?”


If you are still stuck and feel an intense tidal wave of thoughts like this is stupid and a total waste of my time, there is a great probability that you are resistant to the idea of being creative and that you have decided, “I am simply not creative and that is that…” No, that is your insistence brought on by resistance, combined with the great likely hood that you like to be “in control” and when someone or something begins to challenge that, you react. How many GREAT marketing ideas have been cut-off at the proverbial knees because the person “in charge” didn’t like the idea…or, perhaps didn’t understand it…or didn’t take the time to really consider it…or, was simply too resistant?


What causes that anxiety?


I call it “resistant gardener syndrome.” For example, have you ever decided to do yard work, but absolutely didn’t want to. You drag your body through the flower beds resisting, and resenting, every weed, dead leaf, and struggling plant. The entire time you are saying to yourself, “I should do this more, I have really let this go…I don’t feel like dealing with this %&*@!


Of course, your higher self knows that the wise gardener makes a choice to cultivate beauty and is willing to do what it takes to achieve it. Ah, a very tall order is beauty!

There is work to be done, plant and soil knowledge to acquire, change and growth, life, and ultimately—death. Perhaps underlying our resistance to be creative is the sub-conscious fear of death. The certainty that now matter what we do to affect certain outcomes…there will be death. Yes, so true with business and markets. Consider the booming business of the whaling industry, buffalo hides, and riverboats.  You may have no control, your ideas may not work, and you might lose money…Big deal! Currently, in media we see our country’s oldest newspapers lives being threatened, magazines, and radio stations seriously struggling to survive. But life goes on and just as you plant, groom, water, prepare the soil of your garden, delight in new plants and mourn those that die, so will our gardens go on…if, we accept the process and embrace the creative process. If you don’t plant the seeds or plants, they most certainly will never grow. Over time, you learn what works and what does not in your garden. It is within a context. All things creative are within a context.




Creative marketing should be done in a certain context. That is to say, who is this for? What is important to them? What do they feel? How do they think? If we superimpose our way of thinking or preferences onto a market place, we may be eliminating a tremendous opportunity to grow our business or sphere of influence. With that said, I always try to find the “universal truth or appeal” and then refine the messaging to specific market segments. As much as our business society likes to fragment humanity into market segments to sell products and services, we should not lose sight of the fact that we are all human beings. One of your goals this year could be to take the time to create programs and marketing communication that is relevant in a specific context. For example, I am adding content to my blog that I feel will actually help my clients and those interested in creating meaningful marketing collateral. That is my intent.




Not all human beings are equally informed, but most—I find— have an innate ability to sense when they are in the presence of something false, or insincere. Have you ever met a kid, a dog, or an adult, and you couldn’t quite put your finger on it, but you loved them immediately. There was something going on behind what you saw, a depth, a feeling, a state of consciousness that resonated with you…not the jewelry they wore, or the other outward decorations—that is the “intent” in advertising and marketing. People can feel it!


Sometimes we call that the “sub-text”. What you have included to convey your message or brand distinction that is not the most overt or obvious, but still participates in your message. Not what you say, but maybe a photograph that is filled with the feeling of what you want to convey, in context. For example, I did was a marketing manager for an oncology group in Austin for nine years. The physicians I represented, excellent men with tremendous skills and equally big hearts, wanted me to know that they were equally concerned with their patients emotional and spiritual wellbeing and saw them as essential in treating the “whole patient.” As an advertising guy, I couldn’t very well say, “These guys allow room for God in your care,” but I could and did use photography and an artists painting to convey a sub-text that conveyed that very thing…it wasn’t expressed in words, but it was in the sun-rise that I commissioned from an impressionist painter who’s brother died of cancer, conveying a sub-textual message of hope! It was expressed with portraits in an improvisational journalistic style of shooting with a top-notch photographer, Kirk R. Tuck, who was able to capture “compassionate care” in action. By the way, you can’t capture “compassionate care” in a photograph if it isn’t happening! In other words, sub-text is a critical component of creative marketing…if it is real, and that is easy to talk about and hard to capture in a manner that has artistic distinction and relevance to your client’s product or service. That is where passion for unique and original expression, with quality and meaning comes in…don’t’ panic, you don’t have to figure that part out…that is why we have creative agencies!


Creative Approach.


No need to get anxious…just some questions to ask yourself. If you want to begin the year with more creative energy and have that expressed in your company or personal projects, it might be nice to get honest with yourself about what you want.


Ask yourself the following:


1. Do I love what I am doing? If the answer is no, you might want to begin directing your energy toward what you really want…then, all the creative energy that flows naturally when people love what they do begins to flow and magic happens. Maybe you don’t have to make radical changes: maybe clean your office and get some new art, find new associates and work partners to bring more exciting results or collaborative efforts. Maybe you don’t have to be the one in “control”…maybe giving someone else creative control frees you up to do what gives you energy!


2. Am I doing business the same way that I have done it for many years, and expecting new results…have I actually tried a new approach, new attitude, or new methods?


We have all heard about the tenacity of successful people in history: Thomas Edison, The Wright Brothers, Helen Keller, Steve Jobs, (and countless others of all races and nationalities). This is not the stuff of fiction. It always takes tremendous effort and dedication to do something in a new, or truly meaningful way. Sometimes it takes years of failure to find success. If it is in your heart and you really want to find it, you will…but if it isn’t working—change something! If you empty a pitcher full of sour water, you allow the room for it to be replaced with something refreshing!


3. Find your internal joy and excitement about what you do…express who you or your company is from that place, and the creative will flow…connect with people who have positive energy and who you feel can see you, really see you, and help you to reach your goal.


You didn’t begin doing what you do because you hate it. At some point you probably found it exciting…find it again! If it isn’t giving you energy and excitement, change it. The universe has been doing that for billions of years…the galaxies are being recycled and the energy is being used in new ways, death and re-birth. Remember the Renaissance in Italy? Renaissance means a “re-birth.” They took the wisdom of the ancient Greeks and they re-invigorated the ideas with new scientific thinking and commercial trade. Now is the time for you to have your own personal renaissance, or re-birth!


In conclusion, I think for you to enter the New Year with the right spirit of re-birth, we must first all agree that resistance is not our friend. In place of being stuck in the old habits and attitudes of the past, fully dusting our self-doubting, fearful, and overworked brains…making way for a new personal mantra, “I can, and I will!”

Find excitement and new creative contexts and give energy, be open to all the powerful creative results that you’re capable of generating in a new spirit of re-birth…carpe diem, onward and upward!






  • Your Attitude. With absolutely no cost to you, your attitude can be changed immediately! There is something very powerful about clearing your “fear brain” and breathing. Once calm, gently affirm what you want to be happening in your world. You may want to let go of some of the old ways of doing business. You may want to do it in a new way that is more efficient, more productive, or more fun. The important thing is that you move through your day with a feeling of emotional, intellectual, and spiritual wellness. It begins in silence and in breath. Then bring it into your thoughts – affirm what you want.


  • Remove Office Clutter. I marvel at how some people do business with junk on their desk and around their office. You spend more time in your office, often than you do enjoying your home. Remove anything that is not bringing you pleasure and making you money. Maybe that dying plant can be replaced by a vibrant healthy one, or maybe it is time to change the artwork; to give you work space some excitement. You should feel good in your work environment. This goes for your business too. Is the front door clean? That is where your relationship begins with your customers!


  • How do others experience you? When most busy professionals are in full throttle, there is little time to consider finesse points about themselves or the way they do their jobs. It usually feels like it takes everything just to get through the day. If you are slower, or even without work, it is an opportunity to think about how you work. Are you dropping important details like being a good communicator? Are your emails well written and clear? Do you answer the phone in a positive voice with a tone that says, “I’m glad you are calling me, I appreciate your business? Are you taking care of yourself and dressing well? Are you positive and upbeat? (I don’t mean vapid and mindless). Are you being a good listener? Are you thinking about truly helping your clients?


  • Human Resources. Have you considered your team? Are they happy in their position? Are they the best person for the job? I believe that people that are empowered and encouraged give 110%. People that are micro-managed, controlled, and monitored are resentful, not at ease, and therefore not productive. Have you told your key staff how much you appreciate them? Have you taken them to lunch? All people LOVE to be acknowledged and appreciated. All people.


  • New Customers. Most businesses find a core customer base and become myopic about serving that base. They forget that the core customers will pay your fixed costs and may even bring you good profits, but it is the expansion of markets that brings bigger profits. Sometimes it is as simple as asking a new group of people for the business. Try allocating a 25% percent of your advertising dollars to reaching out to a new demographic.


  • When is the last time you reviewed your marketing efforts? Again, small business owners (90% of all business) are often over wrought with responsibilities and if they don’t have a very motivated in-house marketing manager, often marketing is put on the back burner. Marketing is one of the cornerstones of any successful business. It is like wanting to be in Olympic shape and eating fried foods and only jogging on Saturdays. Effective marketing requires weekly meetings. You need to get feed back from all employees, and you need to aggressively seek out opportunities. Schedule a marketing meeting today!


  • You’re not that important. More than likely, there are plenty of people around that can provide the services that you provide. When times are tough, people will want to spend their money where they feel it is appreciated. Do you like going to a restaurant with a staff that is rude and inattentive? Consider moving through time and space with a big dose of humility and gratitude. You may find that it improves your relationships and feels really good!


  • Manners 101.  I am gob smacked by the lack of basic manners I encounter daily. When I lived in Japan it struck me as odd that the incoming corporate employees or “freshman”, as they are called, were instructed in “business Japanese”. Because in their language, there is a distinct manner of speaking associated with doing business – a very specific formality based on respect. I am tired of being addressed as “dude”, “hey man”, and “sir” with the most insincere tone by people half my age and for whom I am supporting their businesses. Polite and clear is the new cool as far as I am concerned. Do your employees need a Manners 101 class?  You can remind them that “you’re welcome” follows “thank you”!


  • Volunteerism. There are many opportunities for you and your business to get involved on a volunteer basis. If you can’t support your favorite charity by donating money, try donating manpower. This is good for your soul and good for reaching out to new people. Don’t under estimate the power of a good deed!


  •  Update your website. If you manage the content in-house and the information is   out dated, your potential customers are experiencing you as “out dated”. Give people a reason to return, give them news and meaningful information.


  • Create a Blog. Go to www.wordpress.com and create a blog. It is fun and within a couple of hours you are communicating your “thought leadership” to the world. You can go to www.google.com/submit_content.htm and submit your blog for the search engine spiders to find you. It is probably a very good idea not to write garbage. For business, try to write about things that will help or inform your end-users. Who knows maybe you will find your inner Hemmingway! This can also be used later, when budgets allow, as a SEO (search engine optimization) tool.


  •  Share what you do with people clearly. I can’t tell you how many times people have told me, “Oh, I didn’t know you did websites”. Or to my wife, “Oh, I didn’t know you could sell a home anywhere in Austin” (She is a broker and has sold homes all over Austin for over 15 years!). When people ask you, as they always do, “What do you do”? Don’t give them some cryptic vague message. I don’t tell people “Oh, I’m in marketing”.  I say, “ I am a creative marketing consultant and I provide advertising, design, and marketing to businesses. Share what you do in a manner that people can remember your skill or offering. For example, if you are my artist friend Jan Heaton, the painter. Don’t just say, “I’m an artist”. How about, “I am a painter. I am currently working in watercolor. My work is abstract, contemporary, and I employ very distinctive layering technique that gives the work a translucent quality with veiled layers of color. You can see my work in Austin at Wally Workman Gallery or in San Miguel de Allende.” Wow, now I am interested in you and your work! Now I feel like I can ask you specific questions. We can build a relationship!


  • Create a Facebook page showcasing your business. Facebook is no longer a college kid social networking community (more than 175,000,000 active users). Further, they have a global reach and will soon be finding even more inventive applications for members.  This is free and gives you a nice SEO benefit and allows you to reach out to your “fans”. Go to www.facebook.com to sign up.


  •  Customer Service. Do you move your butt to help your clients? Do you anticipate their needs? Do you communicate every step of the way to ensure that they are informed and participating in the process? If there is a problem – call them immediately and explain the problem and how you are fixing it and then do exactly what you said you would do.


  • Consistency. Without question, one of the defining characteristics of what constitutes a “Professional” is consistency. Easy to talk about and very difficult to deliver. Are you consistent in what you provide. Is the quality consistent?


  •  Read a book or an article related to your industry. I have never read an industry book that I did not get something useful and often useable. It is nice to get other professional’s take on what you love.


  •  How can you make it better? I once sat across the table from a friend that suggested that he had “mastered the art of visual communication”. Wow, what an ego! I think there is always room to make any business, product, or service better.


  • Think and daydream. That may sound funny, but I do mean simply that you should think about things. I find it helpful to create a context that will allow me to be able to expand and create. Maybe you could jot down a question like, “How can I make my business better? ” Let your mind explore, soar, and you will find little invitations to expand. I am amazed during these creative sessions what cool stuff can come to me. Invite this to be fun and it will be


  •  Make some goals. When is the last time you made some goals? It is very productive to have goals. Not the demanding tirades of a boss kind. No, the very gentle, “where do I want to go? ” kind of goals. You will find that once you have made peace and gained your own clarity about what you want, it is easier to walk toward and has a much greater chance of being realized.


  • Remove Fear. Fear is one of the most debilitating human emotions. Are you at your best when you are afraid? Companies that manage based on reaction and fear are doing themselves injury. It is much more effective to make choices based on pro-activity, than reactivity. Fear simply is an acronym for false events appearing real! Get out there and have fun!