the era that prides itself on disruption

when people start talking about disruption, my mind can’t help but look at what, if anything, is actually changing. 

every brand will come up against the hard edge of the new at some point, because our world is changing, in almost every way. and rapidly.

which is why, three years ago i wrote “in order to survive, let alone succeed, brands must be able to adapt, to accelerate through the turns.”

i have long been a proponent of adaptability as a means of not just surviving, but thriving.

but adaptable does not mean chameleon-like. it means responsive. agile. able to pivot when the success of the play requires it. the interesting thing about a pivot is that, while it can represent a total about-face, it’s often just a tactical shift, with no real objective or vision shift.

the big pivots that are capturing my curiosity are happening within the auto industry. car makers are still car makers, but they’re pivoting on the kinds of engines they manufacture as they look towards an all electric future.

and things like rideshare and car memberships will require a big pivot in their distribution models. exciting.

and then there’s AI. if the proliferation of transportation startups is a sign that we’re entering a new era, then hold onto your hats.


the web will kill you

It’s just so easy to break. recently hal and i went on a trip to meet our friend marie watt, a sculptor who was artist-in-residence for a corning museum installation. there we observed glass artists in process. it struck hal how, in working with a medium that is so difficult to control, their work becomes coaxing it just beyond the most majestic thing that, in its true nature, it’s apt to do: end up in a puddle.

“you always end up at the question of ‘what is this thing’s intrinsic nature’…,” he muttered a bit and then finished, “part of anything’s intrinsic nature is its limitations.”

we talked about how the limitations of web-based media often hit these two hurdles: the deeply entrenched internet business model that leaves little opportunity for digital artists to make money with their art, and the not-quite-simple matter of access and fluidity with the tools themselves.

“there’s plenty of tactile involvement in digital media that’s just not allowed in the interfaces given to the audiences. what we’re doing is exploring the nature of reading versus watching — are those two necessarily mutually exclusive?”

positano creates an argument for long-form digital — an art form that’s very involving in the sense that you’re entering a world and sort of hanging out the way you do in film, but with some way of moving through it, a tactile side like turning the page of the book.

it’s on our minds. I’m sure there will be more.

it’s electric

what will the world sound like when combustion engines are gone?

what happens in the absence of traffic’s steady thrum*?

does the sound of nothing sound like something?

a recent reuters article claimed electric cars may cause “the biggest disruption since the iphone.”

if it’s true, imagine how cool it could be… a disruption, a leap, an opportunity.

for instance, imagine car manufacturers collaborating to create street soundscapes from a palette of brand tones. instead of the rumble of idling engines at a traffic light, there could be symphonies and grooves… the roar of a freeway becomes a deeply layered, high-speed dance track.

the sound of an electric future could be as intentional and life-enhancing as the technology itself. a thrilling disruption.

*gm announces their plan and #hal wonders about composing with the wind

moral leadership

sometimes change happens so slowly, you can barely tell it’s happening. other times it happens so quickly you can hardly keep up. earlier this year we saw ethics begin to reshape luxury and television. this week we watched as ceos not only spoke truth to power, they gave a resolute ‘no’ to power.

“in this maelstrom, the most clarifying voice has been the voice of business,” [darren walker, president of the ford foundation] said to the ny times.

in our time it has been revealed that business has a more direct and immediate relationship with the populace than does our government. the people are speaking consistently, loudly, and clearly. business is listening, and taking action.

will the next big change we witness be that our elected officials begin to listen, and take action upon, what we the people are saying?

watching, agog.

in praise of the transparent conversation

recently facebook changed its corporate mission to emphasize the role of private groups. in response a new york times reporter spent a month exploring these private groups, to see what they could tell him about the company’s future.

“after all, if facebook is our global town square, then groups are its gated subdivisions, the private spaces where people gather to share information they might not be willing to broadcast publicly, or behave in ways they might not want their friends to know about.”

i’m curious about this seeking of privacy in an always-on world. my first reaction is that facebook is nurturing caves where people can go out of shame or fear, to seek the information they really want, to say the things they really want to say, with a fair degree of certainty they won’t be challenged. But…

And here’s what triggers my curiosity: Are we losing the civility that is required to have a good, meaningful discussion? are we losing our ability to have an open conversation with people who disagree with us? Are we losing our ability to learn, and change our minds?

this back channel style isn’t just happening on facebook. it’s happening on wall street, in hollywood, and in national government here and abroad as well.

In a different ny times article the implication of what seems to me to be the business equivalent of snapchat is explored. Encrypted and self destructing texts. Cool. but what happens when regulations that have been put into place for the protection of the people are gone around?  “whether they are trying to evade the law, arrange fragile deals or just talk candidly without fear of being snooped on, business executives and other leaders have many reasons for wanting a private back channel.”

at a time when consumers are putting their money where their values are, transparency is a powerful business tool.

when collaboration and common cause are our greatest hope for a world we want to occupy, perhaps civil, transparent conversation is our greatest tool.


i write often about brands, rebrands, launches… and i’m not shy with my opinion. but i am shy about this particular launch. the trailer and gallery that i just moved over to the live portion of the site are the first step in launching a multi media novel that hal and i have been working on for years, it’s called positano

hal and i have worked together for many, many years most of them as some sort of corporate-type entity. i remember quite vividly when we started our business, sitting across the desk from an authoritative-type lawyer that explained the benefits of the corporate veil, and the risks that one ran if that veil was pieced. i’ve imagined it often, and it always seems to be a gossamer affair. there is a veil, too, between the corporate and personal work that many of us do. one of the most interesting aspects of this project has been exploring the value and the cost of that particular veil.

tribe + impact + independence = the ethics of the new luxury

pulse check: earlier this year i wrote about a shift in culture and luxury marketing, about how i thought attainment would shift to independence. about how “i’ve achieved this level” is becoming “i have the freedom to make this sort of decision, to have this impact.”

what we end up with is a formula change: tribe + impact + independence = the new luxury

two ends to this spectrum have expressed themselves… the establishment generation who has money, and then the next two generations out (gen z and millennials) who might not have the money, but have a conscience and expect to know what the agenda of any given company is, and what the implications of that agenda are.

the new luxury is creating a place where the two ends — the money and the ethics — meet.

earlier this week the ny times reported that art collector and moma president emerita agnes gund sold a 1962 roy lichtenstein for $150 million, for the specific purpose of establishing the art for justice fund. “the effort is noteworthy, not only for the amount of money involved — rarely do charitable undertakings start at $100 million — but because ms. gund is essentially challenging fellow collectors to use their artworks to champion social causes at a time when the market has made their holdings more valuable than ever.”

of gund’s game changing decision, ford foundation president darren walker said “art has meaning on a wall, but it also has meaning when it is monetized.” gund is at the forefront of a populace embracing the idea of money in service of meaning.

while the young generation may not have the money (yet), their influence on media and use of it as a tool to hold those with the money to task, may be worth more than gold. as jane buckingham of trendera has pointed out, “there are so many crises in their world, they [gen z] believe they’re responsible for helping. they feel they can help, and expect you to have a purpose in what you’re communicating.”