J.K. Rowling Is a Hack

J.K. Rowling is a hack.

I don’t believe that, but some people do.  Devotees of Hemingway think she uses too many adverbs, probably.  And some call her stories “derivative.”

J.K. Rowling Is a Hack
Hero to many, hack to a few. (Credit: JKRowling.com)

Many, many others love Rowling’s vividly imaginative worlds and the lessons of her stories.  More than a few people even have Harry Potter tattoos.  And, as Roy Peter Clark notes, Rowling’s gift for naming characters is virtually unparalleled. Continue reading “J.K. Rowling Is a Hack”

“This Is a Skyscraper,” and Other Lies We Tell Ourselves

There’s a terrific scene in the movie “Big,” in which Paul, the rival of Tom Hanks’ Josh, shares his silver-bullet idea for the upcoming year.

In the spirit of toys that transform, it’s a robot that turns into a… building.

Matthew Fenton Chicago Brand Strategy
“This is a skyscraper!” – the incomparable John Heard

“I don’t get it,” Josh famously says.  “There’s a million robots that turn into something.  This is a building that turns into a robot.  What’s fun about playing with a building?  That’s not any fun!”

“This is a skyscraper!” Paul insists. Continue reading ““This Is a Skyscraper,” and Other Lies We Tell Ourselves”

Be Selective (To Do More With Less)

Be selective to do more with less

Be selective.

This is not a suggestion or an empty mantra.  It’s one of the very few brand-building imperatives I’ll propose to you.

As a leader of a challenger brand, you’re starting from behind, and with fewer resources than your competitors.  And limited resources must be focused if they are to have maximum impact.

Here are five important ways you can be selective: Continue reading “Be Selective (To Do More With Less)”

Standing at the Crossroads: Will You Choose Bigger or Better?

Will you choose bigger or better?

If growing your brand is among your priorities, at some point you’ll face a choice:

Would you rather grow rapidly, even if it means sacrificing the quality of your experience?

Or would you rather grow more slowly, while maintaining or improving the quality of your experience?

In other words: If you had to choose, would you rather be bigger or better? Continue reading “Standing at the Crossroads: Will You Choose Bigger or Better?”

Heinz Just Approved Ads From “Mad Men,” and That’s a Good Thing

Heinz Mad Men Fries Ad

In this case, advertising imitates art.

AdWeek reports that Heinz has approved ads that were originally presented on the TV series Mad Men.

In season 6 of that show, set in 1968, Don Draper pitches a series of print ads to Heinz execs.  The ads are novel in that they don’t show ketchup at all – only foods that are wanting it.  As Don tells the Heinz execs, “The greatest thing you have working for you… is the imagination of the consumer.” Continue reading “Heinz Just Approved Ads From “Mad Men,” and That’s a Good Thing”

On the Practice of Active Positivity

Positivity

It’s easy to sit on the sidelines, lobbing grenades at those who have done the work and put something out there.

I’m guilty of this myself at times.  I do my best to frame the mistakes of others as lessons for the rest of us, though sometimes I can’t resist making a dig at the truly awful stuff.  It’s not like there’s a shortage of bad branding out there.

But focusing only on the negative won’t make you a better leader.  And it doesn’t work as a philosophy of life. Continue reading “On the Practice of Active Positivity”

Your Brand Is Not as Great as You Think It Is (And What to Do About That)

Brand Perceptions Cartoon

Here’s a statistic that I wouldn’t believe had I not measured it myself: 100% of my friends are excellent drivers.

I’m serious. You can ask them. Better yet, ask your friends for their assessments of their own driving skills. You’ll probably record a similar number.

I can find you a bunch of statistics like this.

In one survey of university faculty, over 90% rated themselves “above average” in terms of teaching ability. That’s right – 90% of these professors placed themselves in the top 50%. Continue reading “Your Brand Is Not as Great as You Think It Is (And What to Do About That)”