For the past 35 years I’ve been fortunate to work with some of the best designers in the country to bring some of the best brands in the world to life.  I had the privilege to work with Saul Bass when he designed the identity for The Getty Museum, Wolf Owens when they re-designed Aol, Debra Sussman when she designed the new identity for The Gas Company and Siegel & Gale when they designed the identity for the Port of Long Beach.

I’ve also been proud to have been selected by some of America’s leading brands to manage the printing part of their identity programs.  Brands such as Toyota, Edison, Activision Blizzard, Occidental Petroleum, Fluor and Paul Hastings along with thousands of others.  One thing I’ve learned over the years is that brands are more than just logos, they represent the personality of the company.

Marcus Bartlett, creative director for UTA Brand Studio, recently illustrated for me the difference between marketing, advertising, public relations and branding.  He explained it this way:

A man walks into a bar and goes up to a beautiful girl and tells her “I’m a great lover”. –that’s marketing.

marketingA man walks into a bar and tells everyone in the room “I’m a great lover, I’m a great lover, I’m a great lover” – that’s advertising.

advertisingA man walks into a bar and he goes up to an attractive girl and offers her $100 to go around telling her friends “Trust me. He’s a great lover” – that’s public relations.

public relationsBut when a man walks into a bar and a girl walks up to him and says “I understand you’re a great lover” – that’s branding.


What’s the difference between a brand and your reputation?  Your brand is someone saying “I understand you’re a great lover” and your reputation confirms it.  Your brand is what you want others to say about you and your reputation validates that.

Branding; it all started with

When ranchers needed a way to know whose cow was whose they branded them.  Then, during the industrial revolution product manufacturers needed a way to let the public know whose soup was whose and whose caramel colored soda was whose so they branded them.  The results were Coca-Cola and Campbell Soup among hundreds of others.  Then in advertising’s golden age of the 1060’s J. Walter Thompson attached personalities to brands with slogans like “it’s the real thing” and “mmm mmm good”.


In the early 1970’s brands began to attach feeling and emotion to them.  What Mad Men fan could forget the final episode when Don Draper dreams up the emotional ad for Coca-Cola “I want to teach the world to sing in perfect harmony”.

By the 1980’s brands had become a valuable asset of a company.  What else could explain the fact that in 1988 Phillip Morris bought Kraft Foods for 6 times what Kraft was worth on paper.kraft


As one example of how valuable brands can be, consider the story of Grey Goose Vodka.


In 1996 Sidney Frank, a 60-year-old German Spirits distributor, started with a story about a vodka he called Grey Goose.  The story was how French artisans crafted fine vodka in their fields over generations to come up with the perfect purist vodka on earth.  What Frank did next was brilliant, he priced his new vodka twice as much as the other brands that were then on the market.  Instead of selling Grey Goose for around $17.00 a bottle like everyone else, Frank priced his vodka at $30.00 a bottle.

grey goose best

But in order for the public to buy his more expensive vodka he had to have someone else, an expert, tell the world that Grey Goose was the best.  So he started entering his vodka into contest after contest until he finally won.  He then took out full page ads in the Wall Street Journal in 1998 stating that The Beverage Institute of Chicago voted Grey Goose Vodka the “World’s Best Tasting Vodka”.  The public believed it and sales took off.

Eight years later, in 2006, Sidney Frank sold Grey Goose to Bacardi for $2 billion dollars.  But sadly, Frank never got to enjoy his riches for long, he died one week after the deal closed while flying on his private jet to New York City.



Every year the New York branding company Interbrand publishes their “Top 100 Brands of the World”.  In 2015 those brands were:

  1. Apple
  2. Google
  3. Coca-Cola
  4. Microsoft
  5. IBM

Today, according to Interbrand, brands need to move with the speed of life.  Since we are exposed to thousands of brands every day, brands need to live in micro-moments that weave into our lives as we live them. The top brands today are customer centric in the “age of you”.


By now you may be asking yourself, what is my brand? 

What is the promise I’m making to my customers? 

Is it “I’m the best tax attorney in California”? 

Is it “We make our customers rich”?

Be honest with yourself, does your reputation support your claim? 

Have you always saved your clients money on their taxes? 

Have you never lost a dime for any of your clients?

Remember, your brand is about relevancy and differentiation and your reputation is about legitimacy.

What does yours say about you?


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