Mona Lisa Doesn’t Need to Shout


Mona Lisa doesn’t need to shout.  With confident, restrained grace, her smile draws us in with more power than a shout. It is as if her smile knows its place within the masterpiece.

Designing a masterpiece and designing a marketing strategy share this in common: both require an artful balance of relative context through selective, focused and deliberate strokes.

In design, crowding your medium with noisy elements is not a promising way to achieve a memorable, lasting masterpiece. From Mona Lisa’s smile, we learn that brands can be more effective by finding their unique but coherent place within a canvas of competitors.

Your competitive position should reflect not just an internal awareness of your brand, but an acute external awareness of your competitive context: how are you perceived and what makes you stand out amongst competitors?

And that’s exactly how memorable art comes to be: the artist places the appropriate weight, focus and distinctive value upon the central figures in a piece by building upon the background and supporting elements in a coordinated and delicate matter.

Which smile most resembles your brand?

Marketing Strategy Visual

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The Psychology of White Space


You can tell a lot about a person by how they fill the empty space in their home… or anywhere.  Even in conversation.

People talk too much when they’re nervous, if they talk at all. Often, the nature of this talk is haphazard, a little too loud and somewhat self-centered.

I think it often ends up that way with insecure brands as well.

But insecurity isn’t always the cause.  Some people talk excessively because they think it will help them control their surroundings and manipulate people around them. Some have a gift, and can usurp unsuspecting victims, wowed by charisma.  But many are completely put off by such shameless displays of narcissism. 

Why Space Matters

It is a tragedy that we respond to empty space on a page, in a conversation or in our daily routine with angst. Something in us tells us to hastily fill every trace of quiet with noise, because that space challenges us to become aware of our environments, our spaces, both internal and external. 

Empty space also challenges us to give up control and to assume a receptive attitude. Space frees us to become focused and mentally present, a precondition to any relationship. 

Your Brand has a Persona

If you want any semblance of a relationship between your brand and your customer, however abstract that relationship may be, you had better dignify your audience with space – in video, radio, graphic design, messaging, typography and any other possible means of communicating.

Attracting qualified customers and retaining them requires an art for communication.  You can’t spam or shout yourself into capturing marketshare.  You have to woo and, however far-fetched it may seem, find ways to use creative mediums and methods to converse and listen to your customers.

For better or worse, your brand has a perception, one associated with a persona – real or imaginary.  How you engage your target audience will determine whether they like this individual or not.

Listening is how good friendships are formed. And what marketer really enjoys shouting constantly?  I don’t.

OK. But who are you?


Have you ever met someone with no sense of identity? You ask the person about their interests, beliefs, hobbies, etc. and get no closer to knowing them…  Maybe you even tried to put words in their mouth.

Try as they may,  desperate and painfully self-aware, their efforts to frantically distract from the question only make things more awkward.  Maybe you have been on the other side, feeling you just weren’t being yourself.  It’s a terrible feeling.  You almost feel dishonest. 

And that makes a lot of sense.

Similarly, we have all stumbled upon brands who had no idea who they were or how to articulate their identity. If you stuck around long enough to see if the company could tell you who they were, the response you probably got was less of an answer and more of a distraction – pushing a sale of a product or service. 

I know it is important to be able to sell your product by talking about it’s inherent qualities.  But branding goes farther than this.

A brand involves a story that involves the passion of individuals for something  greater than profit.  A good brand implants a coherent and compelling concept in the mind.  If a brand is great, that concept takes shape into something almost robust as an actual person.

But few companies have the confidence in their vision to discover, articulate and execute their brand across all communication scenarios.  This doesn’t just bore the customer, it will also affect employees.  A company that fails to consistently articulate it’s brand story, vision, core values and demonstrate them in their norms and structures will fail to develop and retain talent. 

People and brands lose friends and customers and many opportunities for loyal friends and loyal customers just because they were unwilling to face their fears and ask the question, “Who am I?  Why do I exists?  Why do I matter?  Why do others want to be a part of my story?”