About love, condoms and brands

A few days ago the lunch time conversation with the group I work with took a romantic turn and the conversation became a great metaphor (my favorite kind of animal) for better understanding brand romance dynamics.

When Mary asked Adam “so like – when did you know you were in love?”, the first thing that shot through my head was: “Which time?”.  But I bit my tongue and silently listened to the group – fascinated by their emotional triggers.

A quick flash-back produced an interesting profile of emotional triggers for those attracted to a brand named Frank:

  • Ann-Marie had a peculiar weakness for my brown Levi corduroy pants.
  • For Pam it was my loyalty under adverse conditions.
  • Susan loved my smarts and out-door orientation.
  • Anna told me she’d marry the 1st man who could answer this question: If God can do anything, can he make a boulder that’s too heavy for God to move? I answered the question for her – then declined the proposal.
  • Paula liked me for my earning potential.
  • Inge appreciated my heritage.
  • Michelle likes single dads. While she likes kids, she doesn’t like babies enough to go into production.

Brand Lesson #1:

People fall in love with people and brands for the most arcane reasons. Help them fall for your brand by watching and listening to them rather than telling them how great you are. Look for ways of making them feel that you are accommodating their individual needs while you court and accommodate millions of others. I call it “MASS INTIMACY”.

When I was dating (read doing Brand research) I (as well as other young brand researchers) that I did research with were VERY frustrated by the apparent mismatch between who we wanted to attract and who we actually attracted.

Brand Lesson #2:

People love (or hate) well defined people and brands.

Brands ‘in transition’ don’t do as well. I’m being polite here.

To make the most of my research expeditions, I played out the most mundane to the most outlandish scenarios and prepared for every eventuality. Here are a few of my date night tangents:

  • Breath freshener – in case I smoked, she didn’t and I got to 1st base.
  • A car, a full tank of gas, a map, cash and credit cards. I always plan multiple exit strategies.
  • Condoms: in case I hit a home run! For the record, my Son Ian is ‘illegitimate’ and a wonderful part of my life.
  • My mother’s 1st rule of adventure: wear clean underwear in case you have an accident & are hospitalized.
  • And when I turned 18: lots of fake ID. Hmmm. Now that I’m heading for 60, I plan to revisit the fake ID thing.

Brand Lesson #3:

What you plan for and what happens are two very different things. Keep an open, opportunistic mind.

While I’ve had some very strange relationships in my time, they have all contributed to the rich tapestry that is my ongoing journey of self discovery.  One of my masters (Gurudev) once taught me to become aware that every decision I have made in in my life has led me to where I am today.

Think about that last sentence before you read on.

Lesson #4:

We are the sum total of all that we breath into our brands and allow them to become by understanding how they are loved – and why. A brand is a partner on your journey – just like my wife, my son and Charlie Doodle our most excellent poodle.



My father and father-in-law both served in WW2. My father was in the German army and my father-in-law was in the Canadian Navy. They didn’t see each other much because my family lives in Toronto and my wife’s family lives in Winnipeg.

I remember the 1st time they met. They talked about a lot of different things for a long time and about the war for a short time. I remember them agreeing on the stupidity and the futility of that war, the one that preceded it – and all of those that have followed.

My father came to Canada with his wife and five children (and me on the way) to escape conflict and conscription – and to give Petra, Henry, August, Martin, Barbara and me a better life.

My wife, Michelle, and I went to the Winnipeg Legislature Buildings this morning to remember Heinrich Wilhelm Wehrmann and Robert Bernard Convey as well as all the others who have stood on guard for us for all these years.

If we’re really as smart as we think we are – why can’t we figure this out?


Paradise Lost


This gorgeous $400,000 sport fisherman ran aground on a reef off the coast of New Zealand en route to Fiji a few weeks ago. The picture on the left is before and right after.

By the next morning ‘Paradise’ was a complete write-off. Here’s why the loss of the Paradise is a powerful and visual metaphor for poor business management. The Captain and crew of the Paradise laid in the course for Fiji on her auto-pilot and turned in for the night although they were traveling through turbulent seas, flowing tides and crossing some of New Zealand’s busiest shipping lanes. While all passengers got to shore safely, the owners will have a long court battle given they were literally ‘asleep at the wheel’ in International waters.

No matter how well you think you’re doing and how safe the ‘passage’, your business needs your guidance, vigilance and diligence to keep it afloat and make it to the next safe harbor.

It’s why a good captain (of a ship or industry) has always been invaluable.

And always will be.

Travel and Re-invention


Later today I’ll be boarding a plane that takes me to Wanganui, New Zealand to spend a few weeks with Enid - my very best friend in the world - who I haven't seen in years!

I’m pretty excited about it because of all the unknowns. For lots of reasons I have not had the time to make any plans of any kind. What a rush!

When we come to understand that change is not an enemy but a new friend that increases our knowledge, perspective and abilites, change gets easier.

Even if change means leaving stuff you think you can’t live with-out behind.

Change is good.



I used to hate the fall because it signaled the end of the long hot days of summer. But as I got older I spent more time doing stuff and less time laying on the beach – so I stopped missing the really hot weather. Now and in part due to Charlie, I prefer the fall and see it as my ancestors did. as a time of harvest – for both thought and deed. The last quarter of the year before winter brings growth and change to a freezing halt and kills off the old, making way for the spring’s new growth.

Change takes time and the fall is a great time to open the doors of your mind to changes you can begin now and act upon in the spring. You’ll have all winter to sit back and sweat the details.

As we and the brands we care for get older we become more resistant to change.

Get over it.

Go grow!