Just Burn Your Money Instead

The year was 1987 and they paid me a lot of money to work as a temp.
Nobody uses the word "temp" anymore, but when I was sixteen that was a real thing. In Manhattan. I typed fast because my high school taught me how to do it and I'd studied piano, so there it was, something like 110 WPM (words per minute).
The typewriters were electric by then, and I got called in to substitute when the regular secretary was out.
I understand that administrative work is real. Please don't think I'm putting it down. But let's put our thinking caps on for a second. If you call me at 7:00 a.m. because someone is out sick that day and I park it at your desk and read the paper all day for $160 (that's $20 x 8, the rate I commanded in those days, which was good) - I guess I'd have to ask you why?
Imagine me and a hundred thousand other temps, on any given day, just sitting there. What for?
Sure I understand, it's an image thing, you want the office to look populated and real. But I never sat in the front of the office, that I can recall. It was always somewhere in the middle. Nobody would have noticed if I was there or not.
Companies find so many things to waste money on.
At some point it became cool to hire change consultants. Again I'm not knocking change consultants, you need them, but at the same time everybody knows that most things they say are common sense. The real reason for bringing them in is perceived objectivity - you can point your finger at a third party and say "they told me to do it."
Or maybe you just want a report that sits on a shelf - proof you cared.
I hate to say it but brand consultants have benefited from this tendency too. It's actually frustrating for most consultants I know because they want to do amazing work for the client, but the client hires them for some hidden psychological need that only Freud could unearth with daily sessions.
Today it's coaches that are all the rage. Again, I think they're awesome, I've benefited from a ton of coaching and my attitude is, "Bring it on!" Anything to make the workplace run healthier.
But if you really sit down and do the math - what are you paying a coach to be, if not a professional friend?
At the end of the day the most valuable things in life are those you cannot pay for or sell. Insight. Love. Connection. Fulfillment. Meaning. A connection to the Infinite, to the Tao, to the Divine.
And the most important needs of the people on this planet can be delivered with robust technology.
I wonder to myself when we will start to see that. Like how many people will actually have to be poor before we take action? How many people will we see sleeping on a street bench or in a subway with garbage bags to keep out the rain?
How many kids will just have to live with their parents till they're old?
What will we do when there is only one Google to dream of working for, and everybody else is dreaming of Starbucks because they'll pay tuition for a college degree for a job market that may not exist anymore?
Well I guess we can always waste money. As consumers, too. 
We can pretend that there is some connection between how much we earn and what we deserve in life...we can forget that none of it makes any sense.
A million dollars for a basic home.
Fifth thousand a year for college tuition - not including the dorm.
A thousand and a half for a pair of shoes.
Yes, we sure do deserve a lot of nice things, don't we.
The act of spending sure prevents a lot of unpleasant thoughts.
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Copyright 2015 by Dannielle Blumenthal, Ph.D. Dr. Blumenthal is founder and president of the consultancy BrandSuccess and co-founder of the brand thought leadership portal All Things Brand. The opinions expressed are her own and not those of any government agency or entity or the federal government as a whole. You can contact Dr. Blumenthal on LinkedIn or here. Photo via Wikipedia Commons

"How to be Single" - and Unbelievable

There are many ways to diagnose a helicopter mom. But I am pretty confident I meet and exceed all relevant criteria.
Consider my performance as an audience member watching "How to be Single," a Valentine's Day treat movie for me and my husband that quickly turned into an ESPN-like bout of self-expression on my part:
"WHY IS SHE BEING SO CHOOSEY, HE LOVES HER"
"YES IT'S VERY FUNNY BUT THIS MOVIE IS ALSO SO SAD"
"IT WASN'T LIKE THIS WHEN WE WERE GROWING UP"
"TALK ABOUT A SCHMUCK"
"WE TAKE EVERYTHING WE HAVE FOR GRANTED, DON'T WE"
So sue me. I never stop worrying about the kids, no matter how old they get. I never stop thinking about how will each of them get married to a nice normal stable loyal person who will take care of them when we get old and live in Depends, which by the way cost more than fifty cents apiece.
I've read a million articles about how every other Gen X parent is just like me, they won't let the kid so much as cross the street by themselves. But even so it is a little bit jarring to go from having the raw-bear-guts-eating attitude of Leonardo Di Caprio in The Revenant to walking fearfully through the mall like a little old lady worrying about the fact that 95% of Jewish people 18-29 are single and 28% of those in their 40s are too.
But that's not what this post is about.
If you go to see this movie - which I really think you should for about a thousand reasons, but Rebel Wilson in particular, who will make you need one of those pairs of Depends by the time the show is over - you'll meet the character of "Tom the Bartender" (Anders Holm).
Tom is very much the generic bartender character who's affable, seen it all and knows it all, and can pretty much get any woman he wants because he knows how the bar scene works and how to work the bar scene. Remember He's Just Not That Into Youwhere Justin Long worked his magic on the clueless Ginnifer Goodwin? It's sort of the same except that Tom tells us his many secrets for keeping his bachelor-hood intact.
While sleeping with everyone.
The thing about Tom, though, is that he's a caricature. And even he knows it, just like in the Robert Downey, Jr. classic, The Pick-Up Artist, where a smooth-talker can't smooth-talk the sharp-eyed Molly Ringwald.
Point is, no matter how "sophisticated" your communication techniques are - whether you're trying to pick up a girl, sell a car, or trying to convince someone to vote for you - most adult people do see right through the act, and quickly.
And even though most people aren't necessarily rocket scientists, we are wired for survival and can smell a rat sniffing for bodies to bite pretty damn quick.
If we ourselves can't get the picture, someone else is watching - whether it's our parents or a reporter or some blogger out there with seemingly nothing else to do but observe - and they will point out inconsistencies and a lack of credibility, also at the speed of lightning.
As a mom I think the lesson of the movie is a thing that one of the characters said, or something like this: "You want to control everything but you can't control anything at all" - so your job is to do the best you can.
If you're making the most of your options, if you care for others and allow them to take care of you back, then you are fully living. Single or not single, you can be proud of that, and happy.
But as a communicator it reinforced for me the immortal words of President Abraham Lincoln, may he rest in peace:
"You can fool all the people some of the time, and some of the people all the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time."
We can do better than aspire to be a sleazy guy, running a sleazy bar.
Let's admit that playing games and using cheap psychology tricks is not the right way to win our customers over, nor is it especially effective. 
Begin with the truth and pretend that you are talking to me and my husband, the customer's helicopter parents.
What are you going to do, that leaves them better off than when they met you?
How will you care for them when they are old?
If you can't answer either of those questions or you just don't care, then you're not the type of person who should be branding, marketing or selling anything.
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Copyright 2015 by Dannielle Blumenthal, Ph.D. Dr. Blumenthal is founder and president of the consultancy BrandSuccess and co-founder of the brand thought leadership portal All Things Brand. The opinions expressed are her own and not those of any government agency or entity or the federal government as a whole. You can contact Dr. Blumenthal on LinkedIn or here.
Screenshot: Movie trailer, "How To Be Single," (Warner Bros., 2016)

Parshas Terumah - On Giving The Honor To G-d


This week's Torah reading is Parshas Terumah, in the book of Shmos (Exodus). The Jews are told to make a Sanctuary within which to worship G-d. Very glorious and full of gold.

Finding the instructions about Temple-building pretty dry I didn't even want to read the commentaries. I closed the Bible.

And then I realized...this Parsha is a pretty big deal.

G-d doesn't need our gold or our sacrifices.

G-d, being G-d, doesn't need ANYTHING.

The purpose of all this is our well-being.

To give us peace, in a world full of people who can get pretty nasty and dictatorial. That we serve only Him and never them.

Similarly when we get dressed in the morning it's good to wear clothes that are as nice as we can.

Not because we're egotistical, but because we're creations of the One True G-d, and as such we need to show a certain amount of self-respect and not put ourselves down.

5 Typical Factors Preventing Brand Alignment

1. Lack of understanding about what branding is - misconception that it's just a logo or seal when in fact it's about rallying employees and the public around your clear, compelling MISSION or identity.
2. Fighting about who is going to get the spotlight - the sense that if the organization overall has a brand, then my particular subgroup will not get recognized for its work. Related to this, a lack of understanding of brand architecture - that a brand can be organized to accommodate various sub-brands without compromising the overall identity. The tendency is to think in extremes - either there is one brand overlord at HQ who won't let anyone else have their own identity, or there is a completely decentralized system where any logo goes.
3. Chain of command thinking - failure to see that a brand is only as good as the people who support it. You can't tell employees what to do and how to feel. You can only educate, motivate, and inspire them to be passionate advocates for your agency and its brand. And that is accomplished by letting them have a say in things. It's not necessarily that they tell you what the strategic messages should be, but that they are free to discuss internally and provide feedback on their experiences with stakeholders and the brand - and that informs you about how the brand is shaped. This means the agency is sensitive to emotional intelligence type issues and preferably has an organizational development expert on staff who can help to nurture this environment.
4. Lack of coordination around developing and deploying the brand. It's everybody's "business" and must be a coordinated effort among all employees, even those who would seem to be the furthest from marketing.
5.  Lack of objective thinking/metrics around the brand. By this I mean the tendency to think impressionistically or anecdotally about it rather than taking a fact/research-based approach. How do people perceive the organization and how should they perceive it? Do customers know where to go to get what they need? Are there any kind of numbers to support these conclusions? These are the kinds of things that senior leadership needs to see to support a brand initiative.
______
Copyright 2015 by Dannielle Blumenthal, Ph.D. Dr. Blumenthal is founder and president of BrandSuccess, a corporate content provider, and co-founder of the brand thought leadership portal All Things Brand. The opinions expressed are her own and not those of any government agency or entity or the federal government as a whole. 

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