if you follow an exhale all the way to the end, you’ll notice a moment, a space, where you are neither breathing in nor breathing out.

this suspension of breath lasts no more than a millisecond, and then you’re either holding your breath or inhaling once again.

this millisecond of space also exists in the moment between the mapping and the implementing of change. you’ve done everything you can to plan for the best possible outcome. on the other side of this moment you begin the doing.

deep breath. go.

[x] as a pillar of change

for the last two years i’ve been writing about how everything changes, all the time.

there are also things that will seemingly never change. at least not often or easily. this unyielding or stubborn reality — i call it ‘property x’ — exists in our personal lives and our work, our organizations and our families. it seemingly stymies progress, neutralizes genius, tanks relationships or takes the sparkle off the most brilliant of plans.

it is, at best, inconvenient. at worst, horrifically impossible.

property x is different than the 800 lb gorilla — the thing in life that everybody knows but no one talks about. property x is different because it’s not that you don’t quite deal with it, it’s that you can’t.

property x is that thing that isn’t going to change. you have no control over property x, only in how you work with or around it.

what immovable behemoth (x) stands between you and your vision of success? having identified it as such, how could you work with it, or step into a current of change that flows around it?

500 winner alexander rossi

previous next

what defines a legend.

previous next

indycar. what defines a legend

this year marked the historic 100th running of the indy 500. racing’s greatest spectacle is the stuff of legends with all its speed, obsession, glory and heroes.

what defines a legend is the third in a series of campaigns designed to get the hearts of casual and avid fans racing again.

Read more…

in 2014 jw reignited the indycar swagger with their rivals campaign, calling on the appeal of indy’s many legends and the thrilling competition born of their excellence. this year’s campaign highlighted indy’s rising stars, the young guns on the heels of living legends like scott dixon and helio castroneves, all with their eye on the prize: the immortality promised by a win in this milestone year.

today #indyrivals still fuels a robust social conversation and has provided indycar and its partners a way to connect with the next generation of diehard racing fans: tech-leaning millennials.

this year was one to celebrate the rich past, present and future of indycar, to usher in the next 100 years of racing. and now we look to when, exactly, next begins.

you can see a strong, powerful brand for who it is before being told — by of how it behaves.

previous next

the grid and sonic template provided a quirky playground: adhere to some very rigid rules and break what you want inside the box. a solid acoustic personality plus visual and audio artifacts emphasize the fly and witty. they’re playing along in the pop game.

previous next

we uncovered a miracle relationship between the math of the 16x9 grid and a 16 bar musical timing. if everything is consistent to that time signature it’s consistent to the brand. the result: knowable in an instant.

previous next

“packed for travel” the square behaves according to the new rules of screen agnostics: it lives on all screens, wherever its fans are.

previous next

bbc america rebrand

cable tv is on the frontline of the rapidly changing media landscape.

Read more…

in order to thrive, cable networks need to evolve. as the distribution model of the last several decades is turned upside down, part of this evolution is learning what behavioral traditions need to be adapted and which overthrown.

as part of the revolution, identifying and leveraging what makes a network attractive is key. as an example, when hal and i lead the jaguar cars brand turnaround for euro/rscg, we pushed all creative decisions through the filter of an S.P.S factor. if a communication didn’t enhance the brand’s sex, power, or status, we didn’t do it. prioritizing the S.P.S took the brand from old, bald, and boring to Gorgeous.

our task on bbca was to make the brand present and relevant in culture, and so we went about identifying the equivalent of an S.P.S factor for the network. what was their sexy attractor?of course the sexiest attractor a tv network can have is great shows. bbc america has that. so when they found themselves facing irrelevance — a common network issue in the current age of streaming services — it wasn’t a programming problem.

the network wasn’t cutting through. it wasn’t present or competitive where their fans were showing up.

the master bbc brand has strong equity for its quality programming, and is held in high regard as a cultural touchstone. but bbc stands for ‘british’ in america, and being british is no longer enough of a differentiator, nor enough of a reason to view a channel.

to cut through, the network had to align its offer to u.s. appetites and be where its fans are in a relevant way. to do that, first, the brand had to be there. the website is now a viewing platform, the mobile app is live and thriving, and the living room is open for guests. and the business chose to seize “the smart edge of pop culture,” embracing its innate intelligence along with a pop mentality in a way that’s savvy, switched on, and contagious, or, that has the S.S.C. factor. 

a key motivator to this decision: today’s content travels around (if it’s successful, that is). it doesn’t stay on network air. It gets sampled on the internet, it gets shared. and when it does, you want fans to know it’s yours.

so the branding and its sexy attractors had to be embedded. inherent in everything about it to create buzz around the channel itself, not just the individual shows.

defining the “a” in bbca as “the smart edge of pop culture” articulated the shift the network needed to make, and shaped the new behaviors required to flourish in the changing marketplace.

it also highlighted the S.S.C. and the brand’s sexy attractor: music and the way they move to it.

the smart edge of pop culture is not a fixed state. it’s dynamic. responsive. kinetic and buzzy. active. bbc america is all of that too — its natural behavior is to make, play, socialize, connect, and move on.

the brand had to play more by the rules of music than the rules of narrative. it samples, remixes, loops. that’s pop culture.

playing it with knowing irony, that’s the smart edge of pop culture.

play as... a pillar of change

this post falls between.
somewhere between the personal and the professional.

a year ago i went to an author event, Brene Brown was in New York for her book Rising Strong. I am a fan of her work, and that night I became a fan of her. She stood up there sharing her own story as part of her work. Her own weaknesses and vulnerabilities were used to demonstrate universal themes. I liked her. I understood her work more fundamentally because she shared herself.

She talked about how she had strived to keep her personal life separate from her professional life, how she had divided it all up and how the divisions started to fall in on themselves. I hated that part of the presentation. I thought it was crap, and that she just didn’t get the whole managing personas thing. It has bothered me all year. So has the idea of managing personas.

I am brand strategist. A writer. A creative director, a sometimes CMO, I am a business leader and I am a jealous friend that does not like staying in touch via social — where’s the intimacy if everyone on god’s green earth knows everything? — and every time i sit down to write this blog, i think “what difference does it make?” no one reads it. but here i am. trying.

you might have landed here by accident, or maybe you’re considering hiring johnson + wolverton and want to get a sense of what we’re all about, or maybe you’re one of the editors i’ve been hounding with story ideas that relate to POSITANO, or a writer that is as freaked out about building your platform as i am, or maybe you’re my sister (hi, patty).

this post falls between the personal and the professional. a personal 10-year plan that crosses over, just like Brene Brown, into the work I do. i’ve written about my personal plan this year, relinquere et giocare (relinquish and play), and i had a bit of inspiration on next year’s theme, and worked with hal to flesh it out. we agreed, kind of fast. like record breaking fast. 2017 is “play as…”

i started with “play and …” i loved the idea that relinquish and play would roll on. that play would be our pivot point. hal tweaked it, he liked the idea but didn’t like that play was separate, a this or that equation.

hello?! yes. right.

play as…

play as a conversation. play as research. play as listening. play as exercise. play as an expression of confidence. play as a giant fucking clue that you’re onto something good.

when i look back over projects, the ones that resonate most for me or that had the most impact for our clients, there’s a thread of play that runs through them.

play, i believe, is super close friends with curiosity and curiosity is a pure gateway to the imagination drug — and when those three get together my ability (and the ability of most of the creatives i’ve ever worked with) to adapt and invent is so effortless and intuitive that all kinds of awesome breaks loose.

there’s lot of science to back this up, my bet is the ones who cracked it started with some bullshitting with colleagues, a little goofing around with algorithms, some private toying with opposing perspectives… and boom the explosion of insight around cognition and play was born.

one of my favorite business quotes ever is from trevor edwards, currently a huge big wig at nike. at the time he lead marketing for nike europe (and he was probably quoting someone else, but that’s how it goes), he said “invent the game, write the rules” that’s hardcore business, and that’s kids inventing new ways to move ones and zeroes around, and that’s me, using play as a way of getting down to one me.

a personal 10-year plan: schedules (make me twitchy)

milestones and schedules in my life make me twitchy. personal deadlines kind of irritate me. the voice in my head has enough ammo to undo me without giving it the additional firepower of a deadline. it’s entirely unreasonable, and some would say (i’m not naming any names) i’m being childish. ok. but still, i don’t like them.

so, instead, i give myself general shapes, moods of things i’d like to tackle, i spend time imagining the parts i really like. i’ve found that sprinkling the forward path with delicious bits that i’m looking forward to doing keeps me going way more than does strewing it with deadlines.

if the beauty of a ten year container is that it’s so absurd, the irony of it is its malleability.

many writers talk about finishing a manuscript and putting it away for a while.
they come back to it to see what sounds true and what needs to be re-worked.

same with your plan. write it down. set it aside. note the things you want to check in on, in a few months, in a few years.

i put those things in my calendar. with a reminder. honestly, i put them in with some juicy bits. a dazzling little detail that i figure i can block some time for. it’s kind of a thrill when one comes up, or sometimes a total pain in the ass. either way, it’s a note to my future self, a reminder that i have a dream and there are awesome things about it.

it’s a reminder of a little step that will make a big difference, a vote of confidence that i’ll pay attention to my dreams.

a personal 10-year plan: 800 lb gorillas

if what pleases you is at the heart of the plan for your life, it is flanked on one side by soft, inviting gratitude and on the other by an 800 lb gorilla. this 800 lb gorilla is something that everyone knows, but no one talks about. it’s too much debt. a job you hate or that bores the pants off you. it’s not getting to the gym, or drinking too much. it’s the things in life that you know are keeping you down, but you just don’t quite deal with.

we all have an 800 lb gorilla, or four. and for each gorilla, there is a critical risk, an action that needs to be taken. it’s an emotional risk, an “i’m going to make myself extremely vulnerable to deal with this” kind of a risk. the 800 lb gorilla is the affair, the risk is talking about it. the 800 lb gorilla is you drink too much, the risk is stopping. the 800 lb gorilla is “i hate this job,” the risk is moving on.

these risks, though emotional and values-based, require physical engagement — the big tactics of achieving your dreams. identifying them is the first part of moving through them. then ask the question: what steps am i going to take to clean this up so i can move toward what i actually want?

the 800 lb gorilla and its related risk, the heavy lifting, together with the light and optimism of pleasure and gratitude, provide four questions that, when applied to the different facets of life, guide us in the direction of our biggest, most audacious dreams.

what pleases me? what am i grateful for? what are my 800 lb gorillas? how do i use all of that to move towards my dreams?

important: this is not scientific. this is not the same style of work that i do for business. managing change for a business is research and analytics, budgets and feasibility studies. it’s methodical. there is a lot of creativity that is woven in, but at its core it is business. what i’m writing about here is deeply personal.

i can’t go to the finance department in my life, or see if the research group can do a feasibility study on my dreams. i have no hr guidelines to refer to in the conflict management of my personal life.

turns out our dreams are up to us.

and so, the ten year plan, and its messiness. i create a 10 year plan because i simply cannot keep track of all the parts and the things that are genuinely important to me. i get swept up with things, or bored with them. even what matters most deeply to me can be gone the instant a deadline goes south or a soul i love is sick.

having a plan means that i don’t have to hold on so tightly. i can let go. so i hope that you’ll let your plan breathe. it’s not rigid. you don’t have to be ‘on it.’ let it be there. for you. more like a $3 drawer-organizer from ikea than a corporate brand strategy. let it help you separate the spoons from the knives. have it collaborate with the calendar on the refrigerator, and the suitcase ziplock that keeps shampoo from getting all over your underwear.

it’s not fancy. it’s buckets and bins to hold the bits and pieces that matter. duct tape for your dreams.