Buy Stock in Attitude

By now it is practically brand religion that “you don’t control your brand.”

Consultants routinely lecture their clients that:

“Brand = the sum total of other people’s perceptions of you, NOT what you are trying to say.”

This is actually an important message. As many clients continue to think that brand DOES equal whatever it is they want to say. (Or more frighteningly they still think that it equals their logo.)

So this is not the brand (the Coca-Cola logo).

And this is not the brand (Coca-Cola press release).

And not even this is the brand (Coca-Cola-issued blog).

This is the brand – not the total brand, but part of it – because it represents an audience’s perspective not the sender’s. (An article written about Coca-Cola online.)

And so is
this (a positive image generated by somebody “out there” who is hopefully not propagandizing for CC).

If the brand is a product like Coca-Cola, then brand-ing becomes a very simple exercise.

Measure perception of the icon, come up with the baseline, create a goal, and map a strategy for getting there.

But what happens when the brand is a based around service, not a product?

And this includes times when the brand appears to be a product, but really isn’t.

Let me give you an example.

Here is a Starbucks.

Here is Seattle’s Best.

Let me tell you flat out – the coffee is better from Seattle’s Best.

But I will still go to Starbucks any day of the week.

And it has nothing to do with wireless access or a place to sit or anything like that.

Seattle’s Best is even OWNED by Starbucks.

The difference between the two is that Starbucks has better attitude. Better vibe. You want to be there. Somehow, someway, the employees have this really good spirit. And that is what I want to be around in this frequently dreary, depressing, dark and (yes, let me say it again) dreary world.

Another brand that has a great attitude: California Tortilla.

Went there and picked up their newsletter. Which is so, so tacky. Orange and black for Halloween?
Xeroxed? “Taco Talk!” Ay ay ay.

But they’ve got spirit.

The first paragraph is headlined: “Whoops.” And it’s all about how the CEO or whoever writes it made a mistake and said the company is committed to ending “childhood” instead of “childhood hunger.” And the person actually mocks themselves – “Could there be a worse typo?...Or a worse promotion?”

Trust me when I tell you that California Tortilla has got the attitude. Baja Fresh – beautiful, clean store, but no. Chipotle – owned by McDonald’s – same thing.

When you are building a brand, and you are not sure how to do it, focus on your attitude and the rest will follow.

Why Tomorrow's "Government Doesn't ****" Rally Is Bad For My Brand

Before I say anything, let me be clear that I support the mission of GovLoop and think it has accomplished a lot. I also appreciate GL's kind support of my writing, having featured my blogs, asking me to speak, and sponsoring a Federal Communicators Network event this summer. I am worried as I post this that I will offend people who have been good colleagues and peers for more than a year. But I am sufficiently concerned about tomorrow's rally that I feel I have to say something. Here goes.


1. The title is so offensive that I won't even repeat it. No matter how much people say bad things about federal employees, we do have a "brand" of professionalism, dignity, and respect that is undermined by language like this. It is not the norm to talk like this in a federal workplace, and it is not the norm to speak or write like this on behalf of federal employees in public.


2. The title of the rally violates a basic rule of communications. Which is to stick with the facts as neutrally as possible in order to keep the audience with you. And the reality is that the quality of our government agencies as well as the employees in them varies. Just like in the private sector. To go so far in the extreme saying how great we are almost begs for blog responses like this.


3. The rally is, from a brand perspective, affiliated "on the sidelines" with Jon Stewart's "Return to Sanity" rally. So whatever brand associations go with Stewart carry over into the GL rally. Even though the Stewart rally claims to be one of "moderation" - this word is still political discourse. I do not want the site where I blog to associate me with any particular political brand. Which leads me to my next point.


4. It is inappropriate for GL to speak, represent, or do anything on behalf of federal employees. This is not a site sponsored by the federal government. And even if it were, one of the core values of the federal government is to promote diversity and freedom of expression within the workforce. No federal employee would ever be forced to affiliate with any kind of worldview. But this rally in effect brands us. If the government wants to work on the brand of federal employees that would fall within the purview of the Office of Personnel Management or another federal agency.


5. Last but not least - the people who run this site don't actually work for the federal government. Although the founder (Steve Ressler) did at one time, this is not true anymore. They work for the private sector. This is a private sector website. It is already ambiguous who is actually participating here (feds, non feds, whatever) but to actually "brand" government on behalf of the government is just plain wrong.


I also get the feeling - and I could be wrong - that GL is milking the "government is great" angle a bit with all the publicity lately. It seems to me that the site was purer in the beginning, and now that private ownership and a profit issue are involved, the need to monetize is getting in the way of its organic, grassroots, good vibe.


They say that the road to hell is paved with good intentions. I don't mean to get heavy, but it is starting to get hot out here. The rally was meant as a good thing, but if I were in charge, I would call it off or risk offending a lot of people who would potentially be supportive of GL's worthy mission.


 (Note: GovLoop is owned by GovDelivery, which provides services to my agency. However, as always, this blog represents my own opinions alone.)


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