In politics, as a very young man I was greatly attracted to President Kennedy. His youthfulness, his intelligence, his style. But while it was President Kennedy who first impressed politics on me, it was his brother, Robert Kennedy, who turned attraction into commitment.
I’ve spent nearly 40 years working in political election campaigns. Designing campaigns, managing campaigns, developing messages, fashioning communications, and producing winning television and radio advertising.
Along the way I developed my own approach to what works and I polished a personal signature style and methodology. But not in a vacuum, because there have been a multitude of influences…
I’ve been able to marry deep political experience with an aesthetic sense that’s resulted in winning communication strategies and a closet full of awards for our television and radio. My most powerful aesthetic influence, bar none, has been Frank Sinatra. His bel canto style, his effortless, fluid, legato lines . . . his attention to the lyric . . . And he swings.
Sinatra is excitement.
The power of an image is central to successful branding.
I’m always searching for images that dramatize and communicate a message. A trio of foreign filmmakers -- Fellini, Bergman and Truffaut – had a great impact on my notion of visual possibilities.
Modern visuals must touch emotion and have a cultural relevance, but some visuals are timeless. I remain entranced by the Impressionists and learned a lot about portrait lighting from studying a Vermeer painting.
Having in hand good analysis is crucial to building a successful campaign.
There is a plethora of bad polling today. Polling is an art. Over the years I’ve worked with, and been tutored by, legendary pollsters like Pat Caddell, Peter Hart, Bill Hamilton. I’ve learned from each. Today there’s none better than Keith Frederick.
I have a reputation for insisting on a focused message – and repeating it over and over. Repetition is essential. Two Montana political teachers, Pat Williams and Evan Barrett, drilled me on message early on. I’ve never forgotten those lessons.
Having a dedicated, skilled, experienced team that meshes well together lends itself to a successful outcome. And, on the subject of team, great UCLA coach John Wooden has provided a meaningful roadmap to me for achievement and success. This potent message from Coach Wooden is a favorite touchstone.
“Don’t mistake activity for achievement.” – John Wooden
Many other influences have added to my outlook.
Ernest Hemingway and Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler.
Humphrey Bogart the essential American anti-hero.
The Great American songbook. Gershwin and Porter.
I like jazz. It’s an American art. Bix Beiderbecke and Paul Desmond. Ella Fitzgerald and June Christy.
Cities I’ve lived in and loved. Los Angeles and New York. There’s a special place like no other… Jerusalem.
I’ve been touched by Evelyn Gandy, a grand Mississippi lady, and the great poetess of the South, Eudora Welty.
I love Marilyn Monroe. She acts Laurence Olivier off the screen in The Prince and the Showgirl.
Larry Sheingold. The most brilliant and effective campaign operative you’ve never heard of. And a great friend. I’ve learned politics from Larry and also friendship.
I was also enriched by my friendship with the late Lew Rudin. Mr. Rudin was the force behind a legendary branding strategy . . . four words “I love New York.”
Achieving branding success begins with a strategic overview and the development of tactics to accomplish both short term and long term goals.
Reading about World War II leaves me with great appreciation for two men in particular. James Gavin and Dwight Eisenhower. They represent the two sides of courage too.
On the relationship between strategy and tactics I am a student of the master himself. Franklin Roosevelt. Like FDR I’m not big on ideology. Do whatever works.
My Latino pals have educated have educated me on Mexican history, culture, and cuisine for which I have developed an abiding appreciation. And I can never get enough of the great Mexican pop singer Luis Miguel.
Lastly, I find inspiration and an ethical roadmap in the Talmud and especially in the Mishnah. It is a moral code that provides the sticky glue that binds all the parts together into a coherent whole.
All these and more formed my view of how to achieve success in branding a business or developing an issues campaign.
The subject is inspiration and I would be remiss in not mentioning my wife and partner of twenty-five years, Daphne Weisbart. Not only does she have a wonderful creative eye for balance and composition, but she also has judgment and a pretty good read on today’s trends in popular culture. Plus, she is my everlasting love affair.
So, in the end, how does all this relate to the success or failure of branding; brand value, brand identity, brand loyalty, achieving a successful outcome?
Here’s my formula:
- Good analysis
- A strategic overview and a tactical plan for achieving your goal
- A strong visual footprint
- Production values matter
- Message is crucial. How you say it is as important as what you say
- A strong team
- Our client’s story delivered with authenticity and authority
- Making a cultural connection