Election 2016 | Brands, authenticity, connection…Why Hillary lost.


And just like that, the 2016 U.S. Presidential Election ends with a thud on the glass ceiling in Javits Center.  So many discussions on what went wrong.

What’s guaranteed every election cycle is that one side will walk away sad, distraught, even devastated… but there is one more guarantee.

The winning side does two things better than the losing side almost always…

They’re authentic , they create a connection on issues that are important to key segments of the population that lead to the outcome of the vote. These two ingredients together usually lead to a movement.

Movements are so much more powerful than a campaign (just look at Obama 2008). Lightning in a bottle. This year, Donald Trump caught it. He leveraged his no-nonsense reality star persona, a growing populist sentiment and the public’s massive distrust of establishment players in the government.

Say what you will about Donald Trump… despite the negative news coverage, he was relentlessly focussed on what he stood for…

  1. An alternative to today’s ‘corrupt’ politicians who’ve had decades behind the wheel,
  2. Appealing to people who felt the economy and government had left them behind and
  3. Getting those people riled up to vote and making it hard to ‘rig’ the election.

Point is, he was authentic and unapologetically himself (some say crazy, but we think masterful in the way he manipulated the press to get a ton of airtime for free).  90% of communication and persuasion in the way you carry yourself.  He carries himself consistently as a wildcard.

Hillary on the other hand is probably one of the most qualified candidates ever to run for the role of President of the United States.  But she came across as untrustworthy (trying to be trustworthy and fumbling over and over again…and really coming across as un-authentic).  Quite literally her message was akin to the shady used-car salesman that tells you to trust him.  People can point to Comey, Assange, WikiLeaks, Putin, Anthony Weiner (people should point at him what a dick),  but at the end of the day being seen as unauthentic and untrustworthy in a time when people’s trust of government is at an all-time low is what really sunk her. Unfortunately, the way team Hillary handled the emails, Clinton Foundation allegations etc. further fueled the perception of untrustworthiness.  They played right into the Donald’s hands.

From those who work closely with her, she is known to be a passionate and dedicated public servant, yet that did not shine through this election cycle. Most people would agree that she’s a badass with brass testes and an unmatched record of service to her country. Tough woman.

Donald Trump took her greatest strength (her vast experience advantage) and turned it into her greatest weakness… that’s some next level Sun Tzu The Art of War stuff.  He also knew exactly who he was and what he needed to do to get media attention, and he did not waiver.  He probably drove his campaign team crazy, but he intuitively, masterfully understood his audience.

Bernie Sanders for a while was truly authentic.  People may not agree with his policy views and actual substance, but obviously as seen with Trump in this election cycle that didn’t really matter as much.

The election is a harsh reminder that even in this age of ground game, targeted paid advertising, huge media spends etc.,  brand, authenticity and connection trumps all.


Not just Millennials…

Good article by Bryan Bartlett on what Millennials (and most humans) hate to see from brands.

Less sizzle, more steak and substance and above all…be authentic in your brand executions. Solve their problems, meet their needs…don’t try to be their friend.

Nothing bothers me more than brands that want to make you like them, but have poor service and follow through in what they do.

Maybe I’m old fashioned.

Please Treat Your Brand Better Than This!


Tishman Speyer | this brand is in the shitter

So some genius over at Tishman Speyer really felt that the ‘out of order’ sign on this urinal needed to be accompanied by the logo of the company (Tishman Speyer). Here are 3 things I took away from this…

1) When you’re putting a plastic bag over the urinal- It already implies that the urinal is out of order.

2) I don’t think any positive associations or outcomes can be expected with the Tishman logo & brand being present on the “out of commission for  weeks” urinal. A simple text only signature at the bottom of the note saying “Management” would have sufficed. Take a cue from social media announcements that are all text.

3) I now associate Tishman Speyer with feces.

4) Ok, I lied I have 4 things to say…Lastly…not to nitpick, but who put up the urinal stall walls? They’re grossly off center.

Keep your brand out of the restroom… Unless that’s your business!

#EpicFail  ? | The New Uber Logo 

Not to hate on something new, but there were so many things that were right about the old Uber logo.

I keep remembering all the times I was waiting for my Uber and seeing the old “U” emblem on the dash of the car approaching the curb and feeling really happy that my ride had arrived.

With so many people being exposed to this piece of sophisticated, artful, dare I say Iconic branding, what would prompt Uber to change it?

Could it be an erroneous need to be able to ‘Google’ their logo for different times of the year, or customize by geography?

The video Uber sent me via email right after I downloaded the app update with the new icon said the changes they made revolved around the atom and the bit, and how Uber is about creating services the way humans look at things.

Here’s the thing, that’s not what humans appreciate.  Most humans value brands that have a decent corporate culture…how they treat employees & customers, how they treat women, and most importantly how they offer a fantastic service or product (which Uber does).  Maybe even how the company gives back to society. They don’t give a crap about bits and atoms.

The dictionary definition of Uber is “Outstanding” or “Super.”  If the company wants to be more than about ride sharing and wants to take a Google / Alphabet approach, the name Uber has that built into it already.  No need to go into atoms & bits.

As it relates to looking good in the media, let’s face it- Uber has stuck their foot in their mouth a couple of times. The Uber brand has always been an unapologetically ‘good at what they do’ brand that brought utility, affordability, convenience and a bit of style to getting around town.  But the ‘unapologetically’ part doesn’t always do them any favors. Another company (Airbnb) just got burned taking a dig at libraries.   Hey I get these companies are worth a lot of money, but here’s where it becomes an issue.

The problem at Uber like at many companies starts when a senior executive (usually a tech) fails to recognize their own limitations and the expertise and talents of the creative team around him or her.  Not everyone is a Steve Jobs (and don’t forget he had Jony Ive).

You don’t see great brands like Apple, Coca-Cola or Facebook doing this.  Why? Because by consistently being about something over a long period of time has its benefits.  When other companies catch up in terms of technology and price, it’s your brand (and how it resonates across all customer touch-points, along with the quality of your product) that distinguishes you in the market.  This is why it’s so important to know early what your brand is about and stick with it.

There are some tech CEO’s who recognize their own limitations and trust the instincts of the genius design & creative teams they went to painstaking lengths to hire. Then there others who think they know better themselves.

Which one do you think Uber’s is?

Personal Branding | Interesting Article Elle Magazine

This article in Elle Magazine by Charlotte Cho captures the fundamentals of having a great personal brand. One thing I would add to it is that Your Brand is the intersection of all the things you do to support what you want people to think of you as, and what they actually think of you.

Recap of key points:

  1. Do work that excites you
  2. Be yourself
  3. Give give give
  4. Gather Praise
  5. Make sure your brand is consistent

Pick visual elements & language that fits 1-5.

Startup Marketing Mistakes | Ignoring Brand

So I’ve worked at my fair share of startups.

I’ve worked at a lot of people’s fair share of startups.

That’s why we created a web series called The Startup.

One of the more recent ones that I worked at was an app startup that was really ahead of its game about 5 years ago, but not so much anymore.

To be fair, this Startup was run by a young engineer fresh out of school.  I should have known there would be stormy waters ahead when he spewed off nuggets like ” Marketing is not Brand” or “Marketing should not control the website”.

No real thought had been put into the brand as evidenced by the name of the company or its products.  All creative had to come from the design team whose time was tightly managed by the CEO, who was the SME on marketing.  Sometimes getting a piece of creative would take weeks, maybe even months.

Fun times.

So when I recently saw this interesting Infographic on ‘Types of Marketing’ by a company named SideQik it reminded me of that startup experience.  Most startups and businesses think of marketing in these terms…but at the same time they miss the one key ingredient that glues it all together…

This ingredient is what Media 11:11 is all about… Crystalizing a company’s brand promise & value proposition.

A well thought out brand, cascaded down to comm strategy, product development, pricing & customer care becomes relevant and creates emotion in the desired target audience.  Companies need to make sure that all 4 P’s are tightly aligned with the brand promise & positioning.  Otherwise, what the heck are you going to say in the vehicles listed in the infographic below?

Infographic | SideQik | 1 of 4Infographic | SideQik 2 of 4Infographic | SideQik 3 of 4Infographic | Sideqik 4 of 4

This is a problem with many of The Startups we’ve come across recently.  By solely focusing on ROI, CPI and CPA and not giving proper thought and resource on what you want to say, how you say it, what customer problem your brand solves or even how use of your product or service will improve the customer’s life, you’re never going to hit optimum numbers for those KPI’s.

A very wise man once told me that the role of marketing is to sell hope.

If you don’t have your brand message nailed down before you go to market, you are going to fail when the going gets tough.  People need to understand what you’re about, what end-benefits your brand delivers from the very beginning.

Good examples in market today…

  • T-Mobile positions itself as the “Un-Carrier”… every product, service, communication they launch supports this notion.
  • Verizon is the network.
  • Facebook connects you to what matters.
  • Apple is at the intersection of Technology  & Arts to unlock their customers’ creativity.

Focusing on brand at the beginning will keep you in the game when the novelty of what you do wears out and the competition catches up.



The Purpose of A brand. A great article on Forbes.com

This article very nicely articulates what it means to be brand in the 21st century.  Kudos to the Author Blake Morgan for distilling it down to this visual.  You can read the full article here.


Episode 4 of The Startup on FunnyOrDie.com is here!

The 4th episode of The Startup is now on FunnyOrDie.com.  In this episode, the employees of Pump’d Entertainment find out that there’s nothing like a little Weed to liven up a Startup.  

The series is headlined by  Parvesh Cheena from Outsourced & A to Z as well as Peter Shinkoda from Marvel’s Daredevil & Falling Skies and also stars Aureli Scheppers, Zabeth Russell, Linc Hand, James Kyson, Sonal Shah, Bryan Coffee & K. Harrison Sweeney. Check it out!

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Birthday Bash