Category Archives: Branding Thoughts

I visited Hellions with sQuishiepuss!

I had a great time visiting with Atlanta artist Ray Geier, better known around town as sQuishiepuss. Besides being an awesome artist, Ray has started a video channel called Hellions, which is his forum for interviewing other artists, talking about the creative life, and giving straightforward talk about the business of being an artist.

Check out the show and Ray’s art, and be sure to subscribe to his channel!

Also, you may not know, Ray and I collaborated on a painting, which is for sale in Ray’s webshop – check it out!

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Be a Beacon 2013 #doodle

Be a Beacon 2013, doodle no. 1674 by doodleslice david cohen

2013-02-25 #1674

I feel like this doodle has been long overdue.

I often talk about the beacon principles on my podcast and have written about them before, but besides being a useful set of perspectives when approaching your personal branding they are also important components of my outlook as an artist. If you were to draw a great big venn diagram encompassing brand therapy and my doodle art, this “Be a Beacon” message would be a big part of the overlap.

be a beacon venn diagram

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Giving directions #doodle

Giving directions - doodle no.1603
2012-10-24 #1603

You may have noticed a different signature on this doodle. The other day my friend Sarah called me “Doodleslice” in a reply to a post on Facebook. It just clicked with me, so being a dutiful nerd I immediately grabbed the domain name, even though I have no idea what I might do with it. I also decided to start signing the doodles with it. I’m proud of my name and my family, but in this very connected online age, there are many David Cohens in the world, some of them even artists. As far as I know there is only one Doodleslice. I’ll still give my scribbly signature on the back, but I think I’m going to give this new name a go as my official nom de plume, or maybe I should say nom de marqueur.

Do you like it? Do you have a nickname? A moniker? A secret alias? Ever wanted one? C’mon share your secret alter ego! 🙂

http://www.EquationArts.com/2012/10/giving-directions-doodle

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Be a Beacon Show: 2012-01-09 – Cubby-holes and such

When I was younger I used to get upset when people would pigeon-hole me. I would bristle at being labeled a math nerd, or later when an art critic would lump my work in with some known and established style.

It felt dismissive and lazy to me, but I look at it differently now. People are busy. They have their own problems, their own trunk full of stuff to lug around. They don’t generally mean any harm when they put you in cubby-hole. They just don’t have the time to thoroughly examine everything and every person that they encounter.

Putting you in a box that already has a label is actually a compliment: you’ve gotten enough of their attention to at least do that. It’s now up to you to do more. If you want people to “get” you then you have to build the bridge, you have to make the connection. You have to pique their interest so they want to know more, so they start to understand your context, so they can see all your marvelous differences in high relief.

Be grateful if someone puts you in one of their mental cubbies. And use that nest as a foundation for building a relationship, but also be grateful for the information you’ve been given: the label on the slot they used to categorize you is a reflection of how they understand your message, your story, your brand.

[swfobj src=”http://www.blogtalkradio.com/btrplayer.swf?file=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.blogtalkradio.com%2Fdavid-cohen%2F2012%2F01%2F09%2Fbe-a-beacon-show-with-david-cohen%2Fplaylist.xml&autostart=false&bufferlength=5&volume=80&corner=rounded&callback=http://www.blogtalkradio.com/flashplayercallback.aspx” width=”420″ height=”120″]

Listen to The Be A Beacon Show: Personal Branding with David Cohen every Monday at 10:30AM Eastern Time on Blog Talk Radio.

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Explore the Humanizing of Brands – Why Now?

Gather and Talk
Recently (Dec. 2nd) I had the opportunity to participate in a terrific event all about the humanizing of brands called BrandsConf. Jeff Pulver brought a couple of hundred people together to gather and talk about this topic that has been brewing for a long time, but has just recently come to a boil. That got me thinking: Why now? What has accelerated these ideas that have been developing around brands for several years?

I think a big part of the “why now?” is this very human idea of gathering and talking and how technology keeps making it easier for us to do just that – easier, faster, and at a larger scale. We used to gather and talk around the campfire, the dinner table, the watercooler, and now we’ve added al kinds of new places to gather and talk: chat rooms, comment threads, profile pages, Facebook walls and Twitter streams. We’ll virtually convene and debate over fanboy flamewars, activist causes, and even which thermos is really worth 24.99.

Not Gathered, but Talking
There used to be a little more clarity about when you were having a tête-à-tête, versus making a speech, or gathering a consensus. Now a conversation might be all of those things at once: one to one, one to many, and many to one all at once – and throw in many to many just for good measure. You also used to know when a conversation started and ended, but when the gathering is virtual it can also be asynchronous, or semi-synchronous, dialog and document all at once.

This isn’t just semantics (although I really like semantics), a lot of the reflexes we have formed based on the way we gather and talk in the physical world are being stress-tested by these new modes. Capacity, memory, history, context used to be things we could reliably judge in a more visceral way. There is a kinship in the gut between our skills as pattern recognizers and our effectiveness as B.S. detectors.

Gathered, but Not Talking
But I don’t think our reflexes are quite a sharp as they used to be, not as a whole. You see we spent a lot of years gathering, but not talking, first due to the radio, and later the TV. Add cable and cheaper electronics and we even began to lose the gathering – we were separating and not talking. IMHO our dialog skills got a little bit atrophied, especially when it comes to brands. We got comfortable with brands being spoon fed to us like cereal and Saturday morning cartoons. Our brand conversations were at best about brands, not with brands.

Search Me
Sorry about hopping around, but that’s just how my mind works sometimes. I’m not as random as Clifford Stoll yet, but give me time… So what was I saying? Search me…

Well that’s how we used to use that phrase: “Search me” was a handy expression to say I don’t know, or I don’t have the answer. Now “search me” is a directive, a request, a precipitate of this idea that we have a personal brand. Search me means that I have an answer and I want you to check me out so you know what you’re getting. This is where I think we as individuals can learn much from what the big brands have refined over the years, ideas like focus, consistency, aspiration and segmentation. And why is this important? Many of us come to a world with muscle-memory that was built when conversations were things that happened with a tiny scope, that faded away quickly, if not instantaneously, and we’re bringing those reflexes to a world where nothing is erased, everything is searchable, and the only way to hide a blemish is to crowd it out – make it harder to find by drowning it in a sea of positives.

I think this is why authenticity is so important to building a personal brand – every day we are offered the opportunity and consequence of operating like one-person media empires. Yet without the resources of a major brand or a billionaire media-magnate behind us it is essential that we steer our ships carefully, thoughtfully and with purpose. Our authenticity is our compass. It’s how we find our way, how we get back on track when we get buffeted around by life’s hard knocks and gleaming opportunities. It’s also the one resource that we know we won’t tap out while we’re hustling to keep up with the big shots and the big brands with their deep benches and deep pockets.

The good news is, it’s a lot easier to get big virtually than physically. The micro-brand can go global. The personal brand that embraces clarity and focus, that can bring an authentic remarkableness to market, can indeed go global. Your flavor of weird, if it’s real, might just be your win.

Talk to Me
So certainly there are heaps of brand wisdom that the little upstart can learn from big dogs like Nike, Apple, McDonald’s, Coke, Harley Davidson, etc. But can the scrappy, squishy, touchy-feely, human being at the center of a personal brand offer anything for the big brands to learn. Can you teach a big dog new tricks?

Well I think just as we as individuals have some communication reflexes that aren’t quite caught up with the new modes of semi-synchronous, always searchable, un-erasable, gathering and talking, so too are the big brands faced with outdated approaches and behavioral biases built on assumptions from other modes of communication. The command and control, TV, print, radio, megaplex paradigm depends on cascading layers of one-way filters that allowed information to flow down and out, but prevented the vast majority of the upstream communication from getting back to the top. All of that today can be subverted with a single tweet. It’s not a wolf at the door, but a human, just a few keystrokes away, and she wants to talk – not be lectured, or given the latest spin.

The social innovations of today’s Internet have brought back the talk to the gather and talk and large companies will be wise to recognize that we are not just demographics, not just a count of households in a statistical strata, but humans at every turn and in every nook and cranny – we’re squishy and we want to talk.

Hear Me
With all this talking and gathering another very human need is revealed – the need to be heard. The personal brand bold enough to build a narrative on a foundation of authenticity wants desperately to be accepted and acknowledge for that very thing. The person who tweets a complaint about a bad bit of customer service, or a disappointing product experience also wants to be acknowledged, engaged and will react to the brand that does so in much the same way as they would react to a human acknowledgement.

So, Now…
The social technology has positioned us as individuals to realize the potential and responsibility of being a great brand, while also reminding big brands that they are surrounded by and suffused with humans. Their potential and responsibility will be revealed in how they choose to engage in a world of trackable, semi-synchronous, and squishy human-to-human communication.

That’s why now.

If you want to get a little more of the flavor of BrandsConf search for the hashtag #brandsconf on Twitter and check out my doodle-notes made during the event.

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    Caitlín Mowbray"I adore your doodles... I swear looking at those bunnies lowers my blood pressure, calms my mind and makes me smarter. Who needs meditation when there are bunnies?"
    ~Caitlín Mowbray - Meditation Teacher, Astrologer and Soul Provocateur

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