Friday, January 2, 2015


It’s so easy to buy into a creative formula or stereotype.   To look for shortcuts in past equities or to borrow from other categories or the style du jour.  There’s safety in familiarity…. but pilgrim… that is the path to creative boredom and destruction.

This type of marketing is so easily dismissed by the audience.  And long term, it just does not work because it’s not founded in your brand’s truth.  It’s founded in envy or laziness.

We seek to disrupt.  We seek to be the original not a copycat.  Differentiation is not found in formulas or stereotypes or creative shortcuts.  It’s not borrowed.  It’s not enough to look like everybody else so we fit in ...we have to look like who we are and stand out.  To be relevant, but different.

We don’t have enough money to make boring creative; to run expected marketing campaigns.  Study the competition to AVOID their creative techniques.  Be different, be better.

This is hard work.  Actually it’s much harder work.  And while I have strayed the path from time to time... in 2015... I recommit to this vision.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014


It occurred to me that business is like a railroad.

At some point, a huge investment in money, time and innovation was made to blast the mountains, lay the rails, build the stations, and buy the locomotives.  This was hard work, daring work, risky work.  It required boldness and action and force of will.

But then the work shifted.
What was once about the creator and his vision....became about the creation

And the creation is essentially a fixed machine that runs on defined physics.
And the laws of physics become the cage.

No matter how efficient we make the locomotive… it still can’t fly.
No matter how fast it runs, it still can’t leave the rail.

Most of us toil for mature businesses in mature categories
We spend most of our hours loading coal into the locomotive
It’s a full time job keeping the wheels turning and running on time.
It’s honest work, it’s hard work.
We chase cheaper coal, look for more powerful coal, coal that burns cleaner.
But we don’t really get paid for all the effort,
because at the end of the day… it’s still train travel
It's a battle for share, a battle of inches.

And occasionally when we dare to build a new engine… 
...perhaps even an innovative engine… the rails still define us.

What’s the point here?
Innovation inside the cage has limited upside.  It’s coal.
Innovation outside the cage requires the courage of a creator.
Boldness, daring, drive, vision, delayed gratification.

What type of innovation are you pursuing?

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Brand as a Memory

There is a school of thought that defines a brand as a promise. Or an expectation. That thinking has always resonated with me.

Lately I've been thinking about that expectation and realize that it is based on all past experiences with the brand (perhaps the category). Said another way, the brand becomes your collective memory of past interactions.

That memory could be from advertising, word of mouth, actual use, observed, etc. All those interactions have functional and emotional dimensions....and consequences. It's all in the mental blender and part of what comes to mind and heart when you think of a brand.

When we inherit stewardship of a brand, we inherit all the memories...good and bad and absent. And for me...when I think about memories, I think about FEELINGS (cue Morris Albert )

How does a memory make me feel? (Remember the old adage about speeches? They won't remember what you said, they will remember how you made them feel?)

As a marketer I think a lot about the present and future of brands. But doesn't the future begin in the past? 

So I'm wondering, what do they remember about my brands? How do those memories make them feel? Whatever message they see from us will have to climb through those memories, those feelings.

If they don't have a specific memory of the brand...what will they pull from to set context? To judge.  To decide.  Category memories?  The last time they tried a new product?  What do we want to attach our memories to?

Brand reputation or equity is a phrase I have thrown around loosely, lately its taken a deeper importance when I think of it as a memory.  

It's hard to change a memory.

Thursday, January 31, 2013

What Do You Work For?

What if it wasn't just about commerce.  Or the quarterly results.  Or feeding the never ending procession of managers and shareholders that want nothing but short term return and their career advancement.  

What if it was about building a brand you wanted to work on.  Building a company where you wanted to work.  Working with people you respected and wanted to work with.  

What if it was about being challenged everyday by the opportunity of the business, the difficulty in the challenge, and the personal improvement that comes from trying really hard ....alongside other people who are trying really hard.  

What if it was about legacy and lasting significance.  

Oh I care about quarterly earnings, but I know that the right long term vision and motivation will fuel quarterly earnings.  Not vice verse.

Honestly, I work for myself now.  For my own internal purposes.  To feed a drive that does not go quietly into mediocrity.  

I'm harder on myself than anyone else can be, because only I can measure my true effort and passion.  And I can't be content until both are spent.

Artful Branding

I've spent a career in marketing and branding.  I've done some work I'm not proud of...for reasons that were nearsighted and self promoting.  Crass commercial crap.

But in this mid-season of life, I have found a compass point that inspires me.  It takes the commercial job of marketing and marries it to the arts.  I'm calling it artful branding.  It's my new standard for work:

Artful Branding: The use of skill & imagination in the creation of commercial objects or experiences that exalt the senses, mind or spirit.

And my close friend said, "Good luck with that".

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

What Will February Mean To You?

They say... innovation is something new that adds value.

I ask...value to whom?

To you?  To us?  To the collective we?
My answer is all.

Any time you home, at work, where are strengthening a skill that serves not just you, but everyone you touch.  And everything you do.

New.  Different.
An idea...envisioned anew or stolen... but tried by you for the first time.  
A new approach. 
Purposely discarding a proven method to evaluate something that might be better.

Oh, it's inefficient as hell.  
It's often unfruitful.
It's unappreciated.
It brings risk.
It's damn hard.

Yet it's ultimately what our business... and your role... demands.
Because it is ultimately the only way we grow.  
As people, as marketers, as a business.

Are you being innovative at work? at home? anywhere?
Marketing is a creative field, what are you creating? 

2013 is the year we create.
We find new ideas.
We try new ideas.
We fail at new ideas.
We learn from failure.
We succeed.

January is gone.
In 31 days February will be past.

Will it slip away, or will it be the month when a new idea changed your course.
Your new idea.

Monday, September 10, 2012

One Dimensional

I like the whole idea of one.  Do one thing; do it well.  Boil it down to a core essence, the primary fulcrum, and focus on that relentlessly.  Obsess.  Become famous for it.  Own something.  I just wish I could act on my convictions.

Many companies and people are attracted to this notion, but very few live by it.  They hedge.  They diversify.  They extend.  They unfocus.  They seek multi-dimensionality and typically arrive at non-dimensionality.  

I see so many businesses stuck in this quagmire.  Somewhere in history they traded their single-minded focus for a multi-front campaign.  They spend decades honing their core business and competency, then assume that over the course of 3-4 years they can recreate that magic in a new category or channel or country.  And they usually don’t.  They end up with average.  And rather than retreating or forging ahead they hold, then they extend again and again and again until the company is more average than great.  Starbucks.  Campbell Soup.  Burger King.  KFC.

My generation of leadership inherited this mess.  Sins of the father and the diversify movement.  We are beholden to Wall Street to grow …. so we shutter to think what shedding all this revenue would mean.  And truth be told, many of these ancillary lines can’t even be divested.  Who wants to buy PowerAde from Coke?   What CEO is willing to admit the millions poured into these average brands has been a bust?  That not just the revenue, but the asset, needs written off?

Agencies do this too.  Rather than accept that their resources should be leveraged against a core competency … say creative… they invest bodies and mindshare against disciplines where they are average at best.  The net effect is that clients see them as average.  That the weak link breaks the chain.

And we do it as people.  Our personal lives are hallmarked by over commitments in the numerous areas we strive to master.  Husband.  Dad.  Friend.  Brother.  Son.

Oh I know this is idealistic.  But isn’t that the point?  To shoot for the moon and at least hit the ceiling.  The construct is focus, simplicity, subtraction.   Uni-tasking... not multi-tasking.

I just wish I could act on my convictions.  

How about you?

Twitter / davidcrace