Why such a tagline hater? Because to me, most taglines still speak the language of advertising. And, as my business partner David Burney is fond of saying, we no longer trust the language of advertising because our experience tells us it is usually disingenuous.
Is DeBeers right when it says a Diamond is Forever? Could we afford to live in a world where Every Kiss Begins with Kay? Are the champions really still eating Wheaties for breakfast? While these have all been successful taglines over the years that have probably sold a lot of jewelry and cereal, they lack something increasingly important to brands in the 21st century: honesty.
When confronted with a bad tagline, I’m sure you immediately think or say something like “Wow, I wonder how much someone got paid to come up with that?”
Which was exactly my reaction when I was flying on Delta last week and saw a sign with their “Keep Climbing” tagline on it. I couldn’t help but think about the big bucks they probably paid the legendary Wieden+Kennedy advertising agency to develop it. According to Weiden+Kennedy’s case study about the campaign on their website, the tagline “is a declaration of the company’s commitment to making flying better and a celebration of where the brand is and where it is heading.”
So at the same time Delta was telling us how amazing their people were in advertisements like this one:
Delta’s customers were telling us about experiences they were having like this one:
The most successful brands of the 21st century will be the most authentic brands. I’ve talked previously on this blog about my home state of North Carolina’s motto, Esse Quam Videri, which means “To be rather than to seem to be.”
When you watch the two videos above about Delta, do you wonder, as I do, if Delta might have been able to avoid the bad publicity of the soldiers’ story if they had taken the money they spent telling us how great Delta’s people are through advertising and used it instead to empower those employees with training, revised policies, or technology tools that would have actually helped ensure a better experience for customers?
In other words, don’t tell us you are climbing. Climb.
Do I ever like taglines? Absolutely—when they reinforce something I already know and appreciate about a brand. When I see the tagline and immediately recognize what I love about the brand in it, it’s a winner. For example, when Apple started using the tagline Think Different in the late 90s, I believed that the people at Apple actually did think different, and their products helped (and continue to help) me think different as well. The words felt true to the brand I already knew.
But when I see a tagline that is trying to sell me a vision of a brand that I don’t currently see, that is the language of advertising. Telling and selling versus being an authentic representation of the brand.
My own personal experience has been that the best, most authentic taglines are often not developed in marketing departments or by advertising agencies, but instead emerge from the organization’s stories and experiences over time. Sometimes we don’t even see them as taglines until later.
For example, the only thing even close to a tagline we ever used at Red Hat was “Truth Happens.” But it was not developed as a tagline, it was the title of a short film that we were only going to show once—to introduce a keynote by Red Hat CEO Matthew Szulik (you can read the story of the Truth Happens film and watch it here). In fact, if the marketing guy had his way, it would have been called “Innovation Happens” (yes, the marketing guy was me).
In retrospect, as a film title or as a tagline, “Innovation Happens” sucks.
We made the right choice to go with Truth Happens as the name, which didn’t just tell the story of a company, it told the story of a movement (the open source movement) that many had predicted didn’t have a chance of succeeding. Lots of folks who saw the film at that original keynote asked about it, and, over the next few years, it became a rallying cry inside and outside the company.
It wasn’t until a few years later that we put it on a t-shirt.
So if your first question when building your brand is “What should our tagline be?” maybe consider taking a different approach. Perhaps instead start by attempting to uncover the deepest truths about your brand.
Begin a conversation with your members of your brand community and let them help you. Maybe eventually that conversation will lead you to a great tagline, maybe it won’t.
But you’ll likely discover things much more important and true to your brand than a tagline along the way, and you may find the conversation itself is its own reward.
If so, you can find more tips about how to position your brand effectively in my book, The Ad-Free Brand (not an advertisement, mind you, just a friendly suggestion:).
One of my business partners at New Kind, David Burney, is an exceptional facilitator of design thinking sessions. David introduced me to design thinking and the work of IDEO (where many of the concepts behind design thinking were developed and applied to the business world). David taught me everything I know about facilitating projects and sessions using a design thinking approach.
At the beginning of any design thinking project, David shares a set of rules that help get every participant on the same page. The rules apply to everyone (including executives) and help create an optimal environment for creativity. If you are planning to run a project using a design thinking approach, you might want to consider sharing these rules with your group before you get started. I’ve used this list many times, and I promise, it really helps keep things on track.
1. Avoid the devil’s advocate: The devil’s advocate is someone who (purposely or accidentally) shoots down the ideas of others without taking any personal responsibility for his actions. The devil’s advocate often begins his objection with the phrase “Let me be the devil’s advocate for a second…”. The devil’s advocate often intends to be helpful by pointing out flaws in an idea, but ultimately this focuses people’s attention on what won’t work rather than exploring unexpected ways that it might work.
2. Make agendas transparent: Every participant should make their personal agendas as clear as possible.
3. Leave titles at the door: No one person’s ideas are worth more than anyone else’s.
4. Generate as many ideas as possible: During ideation, you are not trying to generate the best ideas; you are trying to generate the most ideas.
5. Build on the ideas of others rather than judging them: If someone else has an idea you like, build on it. If you don’t like an idea, share another one rather than critiquing.
6. Stay on time: Don’t let your ideation session spiral out of control. Each ideation session should be timed and should have a clear ending point.
7. State the obvious: Sometimes things that can seem obvious reveal great insight from their simplicity.
8. Don’t sell or debate ideas: Selling and debating ideas takes time away from generating new ideas.
9. Stupid and wild ideas are good: Sometimes the craziest ideas lead to the best ideas.
10. DTA stands for death to acronyms: Avoid acronyms—they are exclusionary because people who don’t know what they stand for will quickly be lost. If you must use an acronym, write what it stands for somewhere everyone can see it. Keep a running list of all acronyms used during the project or session.
11. Always understand in which stage of the process you are: When you are ideating, you are not critiquing ideas. But when ideation is over and you begin the process of selecting the best ideas, you’ll need to discuss the merits of each idea in a more traditional, analytical way.
12. Play is good, have fun: The more fun you are having as a group, the more creative ideas you’ll generate.
If you’d like to learn more about design thinking and how you can use it in your projects, I recommend any of the following books.
From the amazing team at IDEO:
– The Art of Innovation by Tom Kelley
– Ten Faces of Innovation by Tom Kelley
– Change by Design: How Design Thinking Transforms Organizations and Inspires Innovation by Tim Brown
Other great books to consider:
– The Design of Business: Why Design Thinking is the Next Competitive Advantage by Roger Martin
– Design Thinking: Integrating Innovation, Customer Experience, and Brand Value by Thomas Lockwood
If so, you can find more tips about how to employ a collaborative approach to building brands in my book, The Ad-Free Brand (not an advertisement, mind you, just a friendly suggestion:).
The first copies of The Ad-Free Brand showed up at the house on Friday afternoon. So I guess that means, after nine months of work, it is finally out. Awesome.
This book is the work of many people. It is filled with the helpful edits and brilliant suggestions of Jonathan Opp, Rebecca Fernandez, and Rick Kughen, plus the insightful contributions of Kevin Keller, Greg DeKoenigsberg, Paul Frields, and many others. It is a product of the patience and support of my wonderful girlfriend Maggie and my New Kind friends David Burney, Matt Muñoz, Tom Rabon, and Elizabeth Hipps.
There are so many people who’ve helped me out over the past year, and I owe all of them a debt of gratitude.
I thought I’d share the acknowledgments from the back of the book here in the hopes of introducing you to the work of a few of the people who helped me make this book a reality. Please take a few minutes to click through the links and get to know some of these great folks and the very cool projects they are working on. I can only hope you learn as much from them as I have.
One day last September, I received an interesting email out of the blue from someone named Lisa who had stumbled across a blog post of mine. She asked me whether I had ever lived in Indiana as a child. I was born in West Lafayette, Indiana.
As it turns out, Lisa was my neighbor and childhood best friend. I moved to Kansas City, Missouri at age 5 and had lost touch with her until I received this email, almost 35 years later.
As Lisa and I caught up, we learned we each had book publishing in the blood. Lisa is a Senior Publicist at Pearson in Indianapolis. I spent the first five years of my career as a literary agent and editor. In one email to her, I mentioned that I had been thinking of going back to my publishing roots and actually writing a book of my own. Lisa introduced me to Rick Kuhgen, an Executive Editor at Pearson. One thing led to another, and before I knew it, I was writing.
So I’d like to thank my childhood friend and current publicist, Lisa Jacobsen-Brown, without whom this book would probably still be something I was thinking about doing… eventually. I’d also to thank Rick Kuhgen, a true writer’s editor—responsive, thoughtful, and with a hint of poetry to his own words.
I’ve benefitted from the wisdom and friendship of many wonderful people along the journey.
Thanks first to Maggie, my source of energy. This book would have never been possible without you.
Thanks to my mother and father, who I hope see parts of themselves in me and in this book.
Thanks to my sister, Erika, who has been a great friend and confidant ever since she quit telling on me.
To Matthew Szulik, my mentor and friend, for letting the best ideas win. To Jonathan Opp for helping me find a voice. To David Burney, for opening my eyes and making me a designer. To Matt Muñoz, for always bringing optimism and passion.
To Jeff Mackanic, for your friendship and for quietly, consistently making everything happen. To Rebecca Fernandez, for bringing value before words. To DeLisa Alexander, for your faith and friendship.
To all of my friends from the Red Hat nation, past and present, around the world. Special thanks to the Red Hat Brand Communications + Design team, a group of the most talented folks I’ve had the opportunity to work alongside.
To Kevin Keller, for your wise advice, guidance, and contributions.
To the rest of the Pearson team, especially Seth Kerney, Megan Wade, and Bill Camarda, for all of your hard work bringing this book to life.
And finally, thanks to my other friends who don’t give a crap about brands, ad-free or not. You know who you are, and I appreciate everything you do.
Since I’ve recently been on one of my Tom Sawyer rants again about the lack of humility I see in many community efforts, I thought I’d share a story that might help you visualize the role your organization could play in the communities it belongs to.
A few months ago, two of my business partners, David Burney and Matt Muñoz, were sitting in a meeting with a client of ours (The Redwoods Group, a very cool B Corporation), discussing the unique relationship that organization has with its customers, employees, and other communities. The conversation turned to the ideas of service and humility, which are so often ignored by big organizations attempting to engage with communities.
All of the sudden, Kevin Trapani, CEO of The Redwoods Group, encapsulated the entire conversation in a few short words:
“We should be of it, not above it,” he said.
So many organizations, intentionally or not, approach things as if they are above a community. Sometimes this means taking the Tom Sawyer approach of using community strategies to get others to paint your fence for free. Sometimes this means creating a new community with your organization at the center rather than joining an existing community effort. Sometimes it simply means a lack of humility or selflessness shines through in the organization’s community interactions.
The other day I was chatting with friend and digital strategy/social media expert Ken Burbary on the phone. He was advising a colleague on some good community-building techniques to consider when all of the sudden the following words came out:
What? I did a double-take (or at least the conference call equivalent) and asked him to repeat himself.
I had heard him correctly.
Ken lives in Michigan. Michigan is not far from Wisconsin. Wisconsin is where a lot of cheese is made. Wisconsin also has an (American) football team called the Green Bay Packers.
The biggest fans of the Green Bay Packers wear wedges of cheese made out of foam on their heads to show their support for the team. When someone will wear a big wedge of cheese on their head to show support for their team, that means they are a pretty big fan.
So Ken was saying that good community catalysts seek out and empower the biggest community supporters and advocates—the cheeseheads.
I found a fantastic blog post, written last fall by a colleague of Ken’s named Rachel Happe, entitled Cheeseheads. The post, which appears on The Community Roundtable website, explains in more detail the concept of how to engage your community’s cheeseheads. I won’t repeat Rachel’s advice here, but instead want to ask a follow-on question:
Sitting at a football game at Lambeau Field, it’s pretty easy to spot most of the biggest fans. They have foam cheese on their heads.
But what you do when a community isn’t the foam-hat-wearing kind? How do you find and empower the people who are the community’s energy source? Here are a few thoughts from me on how to find the biggest community advocates when they aren’t in plain view.
[Read the rest of this post on opensource.com]
A while back, I wrote an article about why the term crowdsourcing bugs me. Another thing that drives me nuts? When people confuse crowdsourcing and open source. My friend David Burney wrote an interesting post on this subject a while back highlighting the differences.
1. Typical projects run the open source way have many contributors and many beneficiaries.
2. Typical projects run the crowdsourcing way have many contributors and few beneficiaries.
It’s such a simple concept, it seems obvious. Let’s look at a few examples to illustrate why this simple difference means so much.
[Read the rest of this post on opensource.com]
A few weeks ago, I wrote an article about Apple and open innovation. The discussion in the comments about Apple’s success, despite their non-openness, was pretty interesting. Greg DeKoenigsberg started things off with this salvo:
“No community could build something as gorgeous as the iPhone; it requires the singular vision of a beautiful fascist, and the resources of a gigantic company, and a world full of users who would happily trade simplicity and certainty for the ability to tinker.”
I think few people would argue that one of Apple’s greatest strengths is their amazingly consistent, and consistently beautiful, design work. And when I say design, I mean both “little d design” (their stuff looks awesome) and “big D Design” (their systems, processes, and experiences are expertly rendered).
From a design perspective, Apple has figured out how to make lightning strike in the same place over and over again.
Today, I want to ask a question that I’ve been thinking about for a long time:
Can truly great design be done the open source way?
Meaning, can a group of people designing collaboratively, out in the open, ever do the kind of consistently beautiful design work that Apple does? Or is Greg right, that “no community could build something as gorgeous as the iPhone”?
Both of my partners at New Kind, David Burney and Matt Muñoz, are designers by background. Both of them have significant open source experience (David spent almost 5 years as the VP of Communications at Red Hat, Matt worked on many Red Hat projects, including designing the Fedora logo), so the three of us have talked about this subject many times before.
[Read the rest of this post on opensource.com]
Well folks, there are gonna be some changes around here in 2010. So let me cut to the chase.
After 10 1/2 years, I’m leaving my full-time position with the greatest open source company in the world later this month.
This was no easy call. Red Hat has been a fantastic ride. I’ll spare you the trip down memory lane, but Red Hat has been the defining job of my career.
I certainly wouldn’t leave Red Hat to join another big company. In fact, thanks to DeLisa Alexander, my wonderful boss, and Jeff Mackanic, my long-time partner in running the Brand Communications + Design group, I’m going to continue to work with Red Hat– just in a different capacity. More on this later.
I’ve always wanted to start my own company, see how entrepreneurship fits, and have never had a good opportunity before. In 2010 I believe we are entering one of the most exciting opportunities for entrepreneurs in decades. I aim to give it a go.
As folks who’ve been reading Dark Matter Matters know, I have a deep interest in seeing how the lessons of open source might be applied to companies outside of the technology industry. I’m excited about taking some of the principles we’ve used to build brand, culture, and community the open source way at Red Hat and finding other companies who could use them too.
To that end, the news that won’t be a surprise to folks who know me well: I’ve decided to join up with two of my best friends, David Burney and Matt Munoz, who have spent the last year building a new kind of communications firm– New Kind.
David and I have worked together for almost 10 years, first when he owned Burney Design and was Red Hat’s creative agency partner, then as my boss at Red Hat for 4+ years. And, of course, he and I still play together in our band The Swingin’ Johnsons.
Matt and I first met while he was working on the Red Hat account at CapStrat. He was an early architect of the modern Red Hat brand identity, leading projects like the Red Hat brand book and the Fedora logo design.
As for New Kind, we have a lot of ideas.
So rather than stretching this post too long, I’ll promise to continue to share my ideas here at Dark Matter Matters if you promise to continue to read.
Thanks to my amazing Red Hat family, especially my brothers and sisters in the Brand Communications + Design team, for 10 great years. The hardest part of this decision was knowing I would no longer be sitting beside you five days a week.
Happy new year, and thanks to each of you for making the first year of Dark Matter Matters a special one.
A New Kind awaits!
From the we’ll-all-be-working-for-him-someday files:
Former Red Hat intern and project manager Tim Hyer has been working on a new startup company named Rentcycle. Last night, Techcrunch picked up their story here. Tim worked for us here in the Brand Communications + Design group at Red Hat from 2005 to 2007 and then moved out to the west coast. He is the person most responsible for the hard work of making David Burney‘s design thinking vision come true at Red Hat.
Rentcycle a pretty neat idea– sign up rental businesses around the country, and then let people rent stuff from one website. See what is in stock at many stores at once, without having to run around a dusty warehouse looking in rusty bins full of candelabras and fine silverware.
Some other folks have tried similar things, but many have tried the Craigslist style approach of one consumer renting to another. Tim’s approach is more B2C (in non-marketing-speak, that means he wants to partner with businesses selling to regular folks), which should make it easier for him to achieve scale without as much pain. My view? Someone’s going to do this right, and knowing Tim, it’s a pretty good bet it will be him.
At Red Hat, we’ve been using the design thinking methodology as a catalyst for innovation since David Burney introduced us to the concept about five years ago. Here’s an interview with Burney from 2006 on the subject that appeared in Red Hat Magazine.
The design thinking conversation has been getting more and more mainstream, especially since BusinessWeek editor Bruce Nussbaum became one of it’s greatest advocates. Here’s a starting point for all of the BusinessWeek coverage of the past few years. So it comes as no surprise that the book publishing industry is now on the case, with three design thinking books coming out this fall.
The one I’m most looking forward to is Roger Martin’s The Design of Business: Why Design Thinking is the Next Competitive Advantage, to be published on November 9. Dark Matter Matters has discussed Roger Martin‘s work extensively here, here, and here, and I think he is one of the most relevant minds in business today. Can’t wait to see where he is taking this book, here’s what the preview copy says:
To innovate and win, companies need design thinking. This form of thinking is rooted in how knowledge advances from one stage to another-from mystery (something we can’t explain) to heuristic (a rule of thumb that guides us toward solution) to algorithm (a predictable formula for producing an answer) to code (when the formula becomes so predictable it can be fully automated). As knowledge advances across the stages, productivity grows and costs drop-creating massive value for companies.
Martin shows how leading companies such as Procter & Gamble, Cirque du Soleil, RIM, and others use design thinking to push knowledge through the stages in ways that produce breakthrough innovations and competitive advantage.
Tim Brown, CEO of IDEO (the company often credited with defining design thinking) also has a design thinking book coming out this fall. His book is entitled Change by Design: How Design Thinking Transforms Organizations and Inspires Innovation and is billed this way:
This is not a book by designers for designers; this is a blueprint for creative leaders seeking to infuse design thinking—an approach for creative problem solving—into all facets of their organizations, products, or services to discover new alternatives for business and society as a whole.
Tim Brown’s book comes out on September 29.
Finally, Thomas Lockwood, President of the Design Management Institute has a book called Design Thinking: Integrating Innovation, Customer Experience, and Brand Value coming out on November 10. It sounds like he is serving as an editor for a bunch of experts writing on the subject. From the preview copy:
Featuring 30 articles, written by industry experts, that show how to build a solid brand foundation, solve problems with simplified thinking, anticipate and capitalize on trends, figure out what consumers want before they do, and align mission, vision, and strategy with a corporate brand, this is a must-have reference for anyone wanting to increase their businesses productivity.
I’ll bring the reviews as soon as the books come out!