There’s a nice article out today on brandchannel.com called Build Your Brand from the Inside Out, interviewing me and Ashley Stockwell from Virgin Media on the role of employees in building a brand. Even Dark Matter Matters gets a plug. Thanks Morgan!
Yesterday Red Hat’s brand manager, John Adams, showed me a New York Times article about Intel’s new brand campaign that they call “The Sponsors of Tomorrow” that launches on Monday.
From the Times article:
[The campaign] focuses on the amusingly weird, technology-focused culture of Intel and celebrates the company’s role in the future, rather than the present… the ads highlight achievements of Intel engineers in a humorous way.
The campaign is Intel’s first ever that focuses on the brand rather than products… and that’s where its power comes from.
…ad executives began spending time at Intel, and noticed its appealing culture. “We started thinking about Intel, like, ‘OK, what’s it like in the cafeteria when they’re in there eating lunch together?’ There’s got to be a whole hierarchy of people in there who they admire,” Mr. Bell said.
There first few bits are pretty funny and showcase the weird rock star computer nerd culture that exists in every tech company I’ve ever seen. It will be very interesting to see where Intel takes this… and how the public reacts. I’m kind of digging it myself!
Books are important to me. Growing up, almost every free wall in my parents’ house was lined with bookshelves, some of them stacked two deep. I spent most of my pre- Red Hat career in book publishing, first working during college at The University of North Carolina Press. After college, I went to work for a literary agent named Rafe Sagalyn in Washington DC. Working for Rafe was a great experience because he built his reputation on big think/idea books and business books.
His first big book was the huge bestseller Megatrends by John Naisbitt back in the early 80s. When I was there, I personally got to work with, among others, Bill Strauss and Neil Howe on their great books about generational patterns in society (check out The Fourth Turning… very prophetic these days) and Don Peppers, author of some books back in the 90s like The 1:1 Future about relationship marketing that were the grandparents of today’s books on social media marketing.
I also got to play agent and author myself too. As an agent, I represented some of Tom Bodett’s work (yes, he is the Motel 6 guy, but was also a commentator on NPR) and sold a wonderful novel called The Frequency of Souls to FSG. As author, I helped Rafe write two “cutting edge” books about getting free and open access to government information (they have not aged well, I’m afraid).
After I left book publishing, reading became fun again. I read novels and travel literature for a while, nothing that made me think too much. But when I got to Red Hat, I relapsed and started reading the big think books like the ones I used to work on with Rafe. I thought it might be worth taking a few minutes to try to remember the books that have been the biggest influences on my thinking, and get them all down in one place, so here goes:
Without these ten books, Dark Matter might not even matter to me.
A good friend told me a few weeks ago that I should write more about music here, since music is such an important part of my life. So I thought I’d give it a go.
I play bass in a band called The Swingin’ Johnsons. Yes, that’s right.
Occasionally, we call ourselves a Lyndon Johnson tribute band, when we need to water down the story, and most of our show posters have pictures of Lyndon Johnson on them. I don’t know exactly how we are paying “tribute” to Lyndon Johnson by what we do, but there it is.
A great brand can seem from the outside to be an awesome speedboat, like the kind they rode around on Miami Vice… Just grab the wheel, hit the throttle, and send it screaming through the water to wherever you want to go. He who controls the brand has all of the power to steer and go wherever he wants… right?
I’ve always envied those brand managers (kind of…) who have a marketing budget of millions and can go out and “buy” an image for their brand using advertising. They are driving the speedboats. If they want, they can associate their brand with skydivers and bungee jumping (Do the Dew, man!) or whatever they choose.
But the reality is that a brand like Red Hat is more like a Viking longship. Here’s what Wikipedia says about how longships moved:
On a recommendation from Michael Tiemann, I got the book Conversational Capital: How to Create Stuff People Love to Talk About by the folks at Sid Lee, who have done work for brands like Cirque du Soleil, Adidas, and Red Bull.
Michael had sent a note at Red Hat a few months back where he said this book helped him understand the “x-factors” that had allowed Red Hat to create a strong brand position at such a small, young company. Thought I should check it out.
In case you were wondering, that headline above is an example of Relevant Sensory Oddity, one of the topics they cover in the book. I thought I’d try it and see if it works:) I actually am wearing pants. Today.
The main thesis of Conversational Capital is that there is a more powerful way to get consumers engaged with your brand by “making your story part of their story,” creating stories or experiences that are meaningful to them. The authors turn their noses up at “buzz marketing,” equating it to style over substance, with no depth or continuity, all sizzle and no steak.
My good friend, former boss, and Swingin’ Johnsons bandmate, David Burney, has revealed his new venture, a company called New Kind. He’s partnering with Matt Munoz, an extremely talented designer who created the original Fedora logo (an interesting open, collaborative process to be discussed in another blog) among other things.
Both David and Matt come from graphic design backgrounds, but their firm intends to explore the role of design in business from a “new kind” of perspective. According to their website:
New Kind helps organizations solve complex problems and build competitive brands. We do so by combining the problem-solving principles of design thinking with the collaborative power of open source. We help our clients create authentic customer communities, build and nurture innovative cultures and tell meaningful, memorable stories through the most relevant media choices.
Jeff Mackanic passed on an interesting post from new Yahoo CEO Carol Bartz. The money quote:
Finally, a note about our brand. It’s one of our biggest assets. Mention Yahoo! practically anywhere in the world, and people yodel. But in the past few years, we haven’t been as clear in showing the world what the Yahoo! brand stands for. We’re going to change that. Look for this company’s brand to kick ass again.
Wow. Even I wouldn’t use the word “ass” in my blog (or would I???). But clearly she feels strongly– Yahoo’s brand has fallen a long way since its heyday. Our internal brand survey data shows that even little ol’ Red Hat has surpassed Yahoo, at least among business audiences, as a defining technology company.
So what happened? She’s right– Yahoo lost its way. But I still have a soft spot for Yahoo, one of the first big Internet brands, and wish Bartz the best of luck with the rehabilitation. The Rx? One dose of Jack Trout & Al Ries, followed by Jim Collins & Jerry Porras, taken with a 12 oz glass of water on a full stomach. Call me in the morning, let me know how you feel.
I ordered 3 copies of Marty Neumeier’s new book, The Designful Company, yesterday for the team. Will let you know what I think once I’ve had a chance to read it. His two previous books, The Brand Gap and Zag, both had a profound influence on the Red Hat overall brand strategy. I especially love The Brand Gap, which David Burney first introduced to me in 2005.
I’ve probably bought 20-30 copies of The Brand Gap over the last few years, try to keep a few at my desk to hand out to any potential brand converts I meet (why do I never get the copies back?). What’s beautiful about this book is the design and content are one–the message of the book is communicated by its design and its content together. And it is short– any busy executive can read it on a plane up to NYC.
In addition to helping us articulate the overall organizational design of the Brand Communications + Design group within Red Hat, this book has given us many other good ideas to chew on over the years. Probably the most famous quote from the book is:
A brand is not what YOU say it is, it’s what THEY say it is.
which many other people have glommed onto over the last couple of years (including me).
Even if you don’t have time to check out Marty’s books, go check out his great (and beautiful) presentation that explains many of the key concepts of his thinking here.
Last week a colleague told me IBM had reorganized it’s marketing and communications functions. In the new order, the entire marketing organization would report into communications. Typically it has always been the opposite, with brand groups like mine and public relations reporting into a Chief Marketing Officer. Until recently, that’s been the way it worked at Red Hat too– over the years I’ve worked for mostly VP of marketing or CMO-types (although now I work as part of a group called People & Brand, a subject I’ll save for another post).
So I spent some time thinking about what this change meant for IBM, why they were doing it, and did a little research online. In the process, I stumbled upon this report from the Arthur W. Page Society entitled “The Authentic Enterprise.” Turns out that one of the co-chairs of the Authentic Enterprise task force was John Iwata, the SVP of Communications for IBM. My guess is that this report, which came out in 2007, had significant impact in making the changes at IBM.
Thought I’d call out a few choice quotes from the report that I loved.