Tag Archives: BESLA

Random Thoughts on Branding

I recently returned from a conference in St. Thomas, USVI, where I moderated a panel on advertising.  The session, titled Advertising: The Convergence of Television, Film and Technology, included an attorney from Microsoft corporation, and a senior executive from Global Grind, a start-up of Russell Simmons, backed by the same investment group that funds Facebook.

The session, which started with a brief Power Point presentation (many thanks to my good friend Ben Tannenbaum for his visuals), segued into a heated discussion of the Microsoft ‘I Am A PC’ spots.  Actually, the discussion centered around the efficacy of the first series of commercials launched by Microsoft, which featured Jerry Seinfeld and Bill Gates, and whether Microsoft had intended to lead with those commercials, before unveiling the ‘I Am A PC’ spots.

Several members of the audience thought that Microsoft’s initial spots, were simply crap, and that the ‘I Am A PC’ was a belated effort to offer a more meaningful commercial.  Microsoft’s representative (and a few Microsoft ‘ringers’ in the audience) advised that the Seinfeld commercials (I think there were at least 2 that I viewed) were an intentional patsy, or sacrificial lamb, offered to get people talking about how bad they were.  According to him, the point of those commercials, were that they were…how to put this?…pointless.

For anyone who followed Seinfeld, the pointless nature of each episode, was, in fact, the point of the entire show.  They were shows about nothing.  Similarly, Microsoft explained, the spots were intended to do nothing more than spark discussion about how pointless they were, and to have audiences asking ‘what’s the meaning of all this?’

They specifically didn’t want there to be a single mention of Mircosoft, Vista or anything remotely related to either.  More importantly, they didn’t want people talking about Apple.  Hence, the spots were not intended as a response commercial to Apple’s many diss ads, which continually punked Microsoft as a clunky out-of-touch company.  Rather, they were intended to take the dialogue in a completely different direction.

And when people were just as confused as they could be, the ‘I Am A PC’ spots began airing.  The resulting tide of adulation and praise for these commercials, which were full of life and meaning, and the antithesis of the original Seinfeld spots, were Microsoft’s resurrection.

The reason I used the Microsoft commercials in my example, was because whatever you thought of Microsoft, or its operating system, or its commercials, for that moment in time, Microsoft had captured everyone’s attention.  It had become the quintessential brand of the moment.  When the first commercial aired, the blogsphere was a twitter (no pun intended) with people debating its meaning.  Angry posts declared that Microsoft had missed the mark in responding to Apple’s clever ads, and that no one ‘got it’ (whatever ‘it’ was).

Similarly, when the ‘I Am A PC’ dropped several weeks later (after the subsequent Seinfeld spot), the blogsphere was, once again, flooded with bloggers (and regular folks) discussing the Microsoft spot.  Over the period of time between the first and last spots, Microsoft claimed that there were literally millions of independent threads online about its ads.

While Apple may be THE brand of the hip cool, current, plugged-in minority, Microsoft (if only for a fleeting moment in time) demonstrated that it had the capacity to be that hip brand (of the dorky majority).

By the end of my session, people were literally up-in-arms, and I thought contentedly (to myself) “well done, my good man.  Well done.”  After the session that day, and into the next day, people approached myself, and my two panelists, to give us hearty handshakes and thank us for so spirited a session.  Law students wanted to know how I got into the business and asked for my card.  And a few of the conference planners invited me to moderate sessions in the future.  I may be on next year’s planning committee.  Shoot, I may have even landed a client.

While Microsoft and Apple will continually be in this war of attrition, I’ll happily pimp them for the benefit of MY brand.  ‘Nuff said.

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Self Promotion

In three days, I’ll be moderating a panel entitled “Advertising: The Convergence of TV, Film and Technology.” I’ll be speaking to the members of the Black Entertainment and Sports Lawyers Association (BESLA), in St. Thomas USVI, about how to properly leverage their brands in an increasingly interactive world, with these highly interchangeable (and intertwined) mediums.

I was asked to speak at this conference several months ago.  One of the organization’s conference chairs, Elke Suber, invited me based on a discussion we had had over a year ago, when I advised her that if she ever needed a dynamic person to speak at her annual conference, that I was her man.  When she called me, she referenced that call, and said that she had been waiting for the opportunity to bring me in.

The funny thing about this, is the fact that I have known Elke since 1994, when we were both student members of BESLA, attending our first conference in Aruba.  We were both in the audience, listening to panelists speaking about the impact of the internet on the music industry. At one point, I had asked (what I thought was) a simple question about artists (vs labels) registering domain names, which sparked a lot of controversy among other audience members, and became a flash point for the balance of the session.

Afterwards, I was approached by several of the attendees of the session (as well as a few of the panelists), who wanted my opinion about the subject, and exchanged contact information for further discussion stateside.  I found the whole thing rather amusing, since I was still in law school, and didn’t really consider myself an expert on anything, much less the topic of discussion in that session.  But apparently, the way I couched my opinions and posed my questions, left the distinct impression that I knew what I was talking about.

Anyway, that’s how Elke and I met, and why she offered me this speaking opportunity.

When I reflect on that first BESLA conference, I realize that what made my opinions so impactful, was the fact that I held myself out as an authority.  Even though I was still in law school at the time, I spoke with such confidence and intelligently, that I came off as ‘an expert’ on the topic being discussed.  Considering the relative new-ness of the topic being discussed, and the fact that there were relatively few people assessing the overall impact of the internet on revenue streams at the time, the niche issue I raised had (apparently) never crossed the mind of the panelists (and made me look pretty cool).

I’m going to BESLA with a real sense of purpose.  I’ve prepared a sweet Power Point presentation, assembled a nice crew of panelists, and outlined all the points I want to cover.  I realize that there may be a bunch of audience members who may be looking at this topic from an angle that neither myself, or any of my distinguished panelists, may have considered (and who may come off like the ‘expert’ in the audience).  But that’s cool (and to be expected), because, as much as I’m there to impart information on the attendees, I’m also there to promote me.

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