Sunday, October 18, 2009

Pro sports brands

Thriving brands reflect their cultural environs. America’s pro sports – so brilliantly played and packaged – face corruptions from the very culture that supports them. The NFL, like our lives, has become rule-bound and legalistic. The NBA has slowed to the tempo of corporate bureaucracy. What are the strengths and weaknesses of the major league brands? Herewith our rankings:


Brand delights

Balletic violence

Military strategy and rifle-armed QBs

Potential trouble

Public’s aversion to concussions and obesity among employees

Rules as complex as ant-nest tunnels

Strategic advice

Bigger, padded helmets and limits on body fat

50% fewer rules and reviews – i.e. Let ‘em play!

2 Major League Baseball

Brand delights

Vast green field and absence of play clock

Pitcher-batter duels / Close plays at home

Potential trouble

Over-specialization – DH, middle-relief, "set-up man"

Strategic advice

End the DH and ban all mention of pitch-counts.


Brand delights

Astounding golfing skills

Short skirts

Potential trouble

Foolishly frilly logo meant to play-up femininity

Strategic advice

Re-draw logo to emphasize athletic skill.


Brand delights

Tiger and Phil rivalry

High-lofted balls landing on the green and spinning to the cup

Potential trouble

Non-stop commercials about men going to pee or not being able to get it up

Strategic advice

Forbid advertisers from portraying men as victims.


Brand delights

Best athletes on the planet

Potential trouble

Grindingly slow pace of play

Pro-wrestling exerience of screaming announcers and canned “music”

Strategic advice

Given today's huge, wide players, play four-on-four to put a premium on speed.


Brand delights

Fist fights and Neanderthal fans

Unnatural agility of humans on ice

Post-game interviews with toothless players

Potential trouble

You can’t see what the heck is going on

Strategic advice

Make puck and nets bigger for easier viewing and higher scores

Ban fights or score them (1 point per tooth, 2 for knock-out).


Siegel+Gale's 40th anniversary

Last night hundreds of current and former colleagues gathered at the New York Public Library to celebrate Siegel+Gale’s 40th anniversary. Alan Siegel’s wife, Gloria, the firm’s co-directors, Howard Belk and David Srere, and the veteran head of the naming practice, Jeff Lapatine, took to the podium to thank those who had made Siegel+Gale an enclave of creative brilliance.

All eyes were on Alan – who circulated, spoke and presided – prompting, as always, questions from the rest of us, his lifelong retainers and personal hoplites. How is it possible to achieve such success? For a man to be so admired and envied? To be such a jock and also to have such an artist’s eye? How can this deeply conservative man take dramatic risks in life – and wind up adored by this throng?

Who can assemble talent from all disciplines – poets, ad guys, search firm executives, programmers – and weld them into a company that grows over four decades into a citadel of simplicity, clarity and expressiveness?

And that personality! How can a man be so cavalier with trivial facts (he once told a prospect that we had worked for 500 insurance companies and then, after the coffee break, that we had worked for 1000) and be so true to his friends? – and unfailingly true to the principles on which he runs his firm?

How can a man roar with frustration and anger over a missed train (Okay, Alan, I was the one who mis-took the Southbound departure time for the Northbound time) and in a flash drop the issue and wait on the platform in the sunshine discussing the Nicks and Nickelodeon?

Who is so impatient that he tosses your paper aside after reading one sentence – half a sentence – and then on a four-hour flight peppers you with detailed questions about your life and views?

I dimly remember that the Ancient Greeks pondered the definition of happiness… Did it entail wealth... fame... peace of mind?

Let’s ask again: How can a man achieve a happy life? You look across the room – the marble halls of the Public Library – and you see Alan in a dark jacket accompanied by a noble and loving wife, surrounded by hundreds of talented people he has brought together through will and charm – and the key to happiness becomes plain: Caring.

Whatever the activity, whoever the actor, however it turns out, Alan Siegel is curious about it, critical of it, and by some magical instinct, truly caring of all its participants.


Friday, October 16, 2009

HSBC values values

You may know HSBC's brand-building efforts from walking through airports. The bank's quirky graphics and cryptic captions catch your eye while you tromp to and from planes. In recent months the bank has invested in a dramatic endorsement of local values – and the bank's ability to embrace and respond to them – and benefit from their variety.

Is this true? Can a bank value values? Can it not? Is this stance sheer hypocrisy coming from the octopus that gobbled up local banks around the world and obliterated their quaint local names? The head spins.

I refrain from opining at length and refer you to the excellent financial brands website run by Jeffry Pilcher, who comments here from time to time:

I am tempted to condemn this stuff as overweening pretense. But gee, it's so beautifully done and reassuringly humanistic. I might run out and find an HSBC branch and festoon it with emblems of my own values – a photo of Alan Siegel, defaced Merrill Lynch logo, quotation from Herb Schmertz and, from my raggedy garden, the last rose of summer.


Monday, October 12, 2009

Is fall a brand?

[As requested by Gretchen Steen: This piece appears every fall since October 2008.]

We are entering the heart of fall, when the air is chilly in the shade… and the sunlight a blessing on the skin. Manhattan elevators smell of mothballs as the older folks bring forth sweaters. The park smells of earth. New England trees are splashed with orange and gold.

However you define “brand” – as perception, as experience, as promise – the fall season has characteristics of a brand. Fall is crisp, a blade with a sharp edge. It has depth, a rustling deep in the forest. Fall is a time to prepare… for evening performances… for contemplation… for winter’s onslaught… for the implications of dying leaves.

What – to you – is fall’s “brand essence”? Vigor renewed? Time to take stock? Each of us has a unique fall feeling… but all of us share awareness of the bright sun casting long shadows, of yellowy lights in the early darkness... of the urge to buckle down.

Fall is not a brand, of course. No one shapes its image. Fall is not a brand experience. It is inscrutable nature’s most serious season… and thus its most human.


Saturday, October 10, 2009

Peace Prize – Peggy Noonan

Link sent by a reader. Powerful reaction to the Nobel Committee from Peggy Noonan in the WSJ. Now this is a critical and meaningful response from the right.


Friday, October 9, 2009


We have awakened from our dogmatic slumbers. For weeks Brandsinger has been dormant – our celebrated wit turned witless. Autumn arrived to find our senses dulled by damp days and drudgery.

Where were the exciting brand subjects? GM ditching Saturn and Hummer like a snake sheds unwanted skin? Not worth putting finger to keyboard. The Beatles back from Hades thanks to video games for people pretending to play guitars? Ah, the Beatles as a brand – as interesting as Shredded Wheat.

For weeks, ennui ruled brand-dom – and Brandsinger slept.

But today, a great brand has roared to life and seized our attention! Like a Yankee clipper surging forward under a fresh breeze, the mythic Republican Party, the Party of Lincoln, Reagan and Teddy Roosevelt, has swept off the cobwebs, pounded its chest and launched a muscular attack against… against… it has sounded the clarion c-c-c-c…all. It has… rumbled like a volcano and… uh seized the opportunity to make a bold… It has… It has what!? The Republican Party has ferociously attacked the despised Barack Obama for receiving the Nobel Peace Prize!

Yes, this Republican Party, a once-blue-chip brand of depth and dignity, of power and passion, the Party of Emancipation of African slaves and lower taxes for wage-slaves, has bellowed out a sadly peevish reaction to the Nobel Committee’s favor to Obama.

Writes Michael Steele, Chairman of the Republican National Committee: It is unfortunate that the president's star power has outshined tireless advocates who have made real achievements working towards peace and human rights. Even the normally fawning media have expressed shock at the clearly political and unmerited award…” and so on.

In his letter, Steele – leader of a once-magnificent force that energized American politics in the 1980s with vision and humor – begs supporters to rise up and take the occasion of Obama’s award to toilet paper the Presidential residence, accidentally spill coffee on the President’s wife, stick out their tongues and yell liar.

“Help us remind the Democrats that trendy slogans and international esteem don't create new jobs for Americans…” – This is a brand that seeks popular support? Steele and the flounderers leading the Republican Party seem to want their brand to stand for infantile peevishness. They are wasting precious equity. They are taking a brand – Republican Party – that stood for wise principles and repositioning it as a fount of petty bickering. They are turning an esteemed name – Republican – into a synonym for spite.