See You Later Alligator

Before I headed to off to art school in Manhattan, I was just another preppy kid in the suburbs. These days, I still lean toward the basic black of my college years, but in my younger days Levis cords with the classic Lacoste tennis polo was my everyday uniform.

Yes, I abandoned my preppy past, but it all came back to me a few years back with the opening of a Lacoste store at the local mall. In fact, the 85-year-old brand is stronger than ever, and retains its vaunted place in the upscale casual clothing world. Like Nike, Polo by Ralph Lauren, or even Chanel, Lacoste wearers proudly sport the company logo on their clothing and accessories. When you see the little green alligator (okay, it’s actually a crocodile) you immediately connect with the brand and lifestyle it represents.

It’s refreshing to see more and more companies leveraging their brands to take a progressive stand on some important and controversial issues. A strong, well-established logo like Lacoste’s is a powerful thing, and the company recently made the decision to bring that power to bear for a very worthy cause. Lacoste made the enlightened decision to partner with the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) in the development of a limited edition series of their polo, replacing the familiar crocodile with ten animals on the endangered species list. For each animal, Lacoste has produced only as many shirts as there are survivors – 30 Vaquita (or Gulf of California porpoise) shirts, 67 Javan Rhino shirts, 450 Anegada Ground Iguana shirts, and so on.

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This Old House

They say there are two days that you love your house the most – the day you move in and the day you move out. As we come to the end of the laborious process of preparing our longtime family home for sale, we can testify to the truth in those words.

The day we moved in 17 years ago this house was an empty shell in need of some love. And with a mom, a dad, two kids, a dog, and a cat, we had love to spare. Along with all that love, we brought a large truckload of stuff, and over the years that truckload became a houseful, as we added more and more stuff to our lives.

Fast forward to 2018 (boy, that was fast!). After two straight months of nights-and-weekend cleaning painting, and purging, our home is finally full – of freshly clean, wide-open space. To get to this airy place, we waded through years of old or outgrown clothing, artwork, files, old appliances, toys, beanie babies, and kids’ drawings. Our philosophy was “everything must go,” and – to the kids, to Goodwill, to the recycling bin, to the dump – everything went.

The process brought a new kind of energy to the space we’ve inhabited all these years, and those interior changes weren’t limited to the house. Having shed the considerable weight of those unneeded possessions, we feel lighter, freer, and more mobile.

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I’ve never made moonshine, but I did have a taste of it once. Just a sip, and that was enough. No doubt about it, that is some powerful stuff. It starts out as a pungent stew of rye, barley malt, yeast and sourmash. You can barely imagine that this mess will morph into a crystal clear, extremely potent concoction.

In developing compelling brand messages for clients, we go through a similar process, sorting through a wide variety of images, messages, and opinions, and chipping away to gain consensus and get to the heart of the story. We then go to work removing any element that isn’t essential to that story, to arrive at clarity, a brand message that connects and resonates with the right audience. Powerful stuff.

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All Aboard

Most business owners are very familiar with the “elevator pitch,” that short, succinct description of your company that you should be able to deliver in the time it takes to travel between floors on an elevator.

Over the years, working with various business coaches and mentors, I’ve received conflicting advice about the effectiveness of this brand-building technique. Where one advisor stresses the importance of committing a short, impactful speech to memory, another counters with a “throw out your elevator speech and just be yourself” mantra. While I can relate to both sides of this debate, a recent presentation from sales training veteran Tim Shaver made a very convincing case for the power of memorization.

At the most recent installment of the Nashville Area Chamber’s “Business Studio” series, Shaver related the compelling story of a business owner whose elevator-speech obsession led to his company’s first big breakthrough. With only nine employees, the firm was marketing what was then a new and cutting edge product – large screen TVs. All nine employee were required to completely commit that short speech to memory, to the point where it flowed as naturally as breathing.

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Living Large

I consider myself lucky to have grown up in a big, rambling house full of artists. As a kid, I’d shadow my stepmother and stepsister as they headed out for an afternoon of painting. I’d sometimes work on my own sketches and paintings, but I was just as happy to sit and watch them craft their beautiful watercolor miracles, with marshes and boats as their models. I was drawn to their process and to their focus. The whole thing was fascinating to me.

Here in Nashville, with outdoor, hand-painted murals going up all over town, I’m reminded of those days. Numerous groups and projects have come together to bring some world-class artists to town. Their murals bring a creative vitality and a sense of community pride to every corner of the city. They also afford all of us the opportunity to experience the vicarious pleasure of seeing the artist bring his or her vision to life in real time.

A recent New York Times article tells the story of Brooklyn-based Colossal Media. Created for major brands like Coca-Cola, Adidas and Spotify, Colossal’s hand-painted murals are as much about the painstaking (and costly) process as they are about the product they’re pitching. The aim is to establish authentic relationships with customers that appreciate handmade work created by genuine artists and craftsmen. But Colossal takes things a step further, bringing this age-old medium boldly into the present, filming the entire process and giving their clients time-lapsed videos to promote on social media.

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