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Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Your John Hancock Ain't Enough

Thebian brand
Logos make not the brand. Marketers know this. Decision makers know this, or should. Yet a persistent misconception is that logo and brand are synonymous. They are not and for explanation sake, let's start with origins of the expression "branding". The term is taken from "firebrand"—using a red-hot stick or metal to burn a mark in something, including livestock. Most of us associate the latter
with the American west. Nah. Egyptians were doing it way back in the day. But regardless of whether you’re talking stockyards in Tanis or Tombstone, the idea is the same and based on a unique or distinctive symbol burned into the flesh of horses, cattle, sheep or whatever. That symbol differentiates one person's livestock from another's. But that symbol, which could be interpreted as a logo, has absolutely zero value if you know nothing about it. The cow, and the resulting meat or breading stock, could be quality or questionable. The symbol is meaningless without something of perceived value or experience associated with it.

The original John Hancock
Look at it another way. John Hancock's signature may be one of history’s more famous personal logos. It is the largest, most legible on the U.S. Declaration of Independence. In fact, it has evolved into a slang term for one’s signature, “put your John Hancock there…” But if asked, most are incapable of recalling anything more than he was a signatory to the Declaration. Indeed, historians argue over whom the man really was and the substance of his contribution to the birth of our nation. While an easily recognizable logo, John Hancock is a hollow personal brand—neither resulting in a coagulated idea nor resonant with the collective consciousness.
In contrast, consider a far smaller signature such as Benjamin Franklin’s. Franklin boasts a deep personal brand in the American psyche. Even now readers are picturing either or both a bespectacled caricature and a kite in a lightning storm. Say his name and expectations come to mind, which include at least a few of his contributions to the American national culture and scientific or industrial innovations. That is a strong brand—an immediate response to the mention of his name, built on decades of his prolific participation in society, politics, and science.
A logo is simply a way to identify a brand. Without reference or understanding of its value, like Hancock, a logo is just a curious, sometimes attractive graphic.

Monday, July 14, 2014

The Blue Ghost

"The Blue Ghost" is a nickname given to the aircraft carrier Lexington (CV-16) during World War II. She earned it from her enemy, the Imperial Japanese, and it was popularized by the propagandist, Tokyo Rose. The reason was simple. The Lexington reappeared in battles following previous ones where she was reported sunk. And during her service late in the war, she was painted with the U.S. Navy's dark blue camouflage scheme, leading to the complete nickname, "The Blue Ghost." She'd even been rumored to have been scuttled. Scuttling is an act by a captain and officers to sink their own ship to prevent it from being taken a prize by an enemy. But that never happened. Actually, she is resting comfortably in Corpus Christie, Texas, where she serves as a museum.

From December 1943 to November 1944, the Lexington was involved in major engagements, including Kwajalein raid, the Battles of the Philippine Sea and of Leyte Gulf. Her first reported sinking was during the Kwajalein raid on 4 December 1943. Kwajalein is an atoll in the Marshall Islands. The battle was against a Japanese force that included several vessels and more than 30 aircraft. A torpedo struck her aft starboard side, damaging the steering system. Japanese forces left the battle area seeing the Lexington engulfed in smoke. This inspired the first occasion when Japan's Tokyo Rose broadcast that the carrier had been sunk. However, damage control crews managed to jerry-rig a hand-operated steering unit and sealed off the flooding compartments, allowing Lexington to return to Pearl Harbor for repairs a few days later.

On 5 November 1945 the "Blue Ghost" suffered another "sinking." It was on this date that the Lexington had her first taste of the kamikaze as a flaming Japanese plane impacted the flight deck near the island superstructure. Her fire crew was able to control the blaze so that air operations could resume. Four days after the battle, the Lexington found safe harbor to conduct repairs. As those repairs were made, Tokyo Rose reported the Lexington sunk.

Human DNA absolutely commands a symbiotic relationship between crews and their ships. Vessels aren't just things. They are ladies to be cared for and tended to. In return, they protects those who keep them afloat. The Lexington gave noble service during World War II, Korea and long after. Though torpedoes and the victim of kamikze, she never betrayed her crew--always bringnig them home. Her brand remains secure, even today she enjoys continuing service as a museum where visitors can explore the past in innovative ways, including opportunities to stay overnight in her crew compartments. As a result, the Lexington lives on and on, perhaps not as a ghost, but a grand dame of a victorious effort--a lady, the Lady Lex.

Sidebar: Tokyo Rose
Tokyo Rose was the World War II Allied nickname for at least one English-speaking female propagandist. There may have been others but the one most linked with the moniker is Iva Toguri, a former U.S. citizen (native to Los Angeles, California). She'd been visiting family in Japan when the war broke out, and so it was postulated that her role was one of having been forced. She was released from prison in 1956, and pardoned in 1977 for her "treason." Contrary to the intent of the broadcasts, Americans listened to Tokyo Rose to see what impact they were having on Japanese morale. Most of her reports were exaggerated or extremely slanted--revealing that the truth was likely opposite of what was broadcast. Sometimes, however, was that surprisingly accurate details were woven in, naming units and even individual servicemen.