Studio 54 at Rich’s

Perhaps the best part of the night was seeing so many people having such a great time because the music rocked, the dance floor was packed, the people were crazy brilliant and the night was a HUGE FUCKING PARTY!

Studio 54 Party at Rich's Houston

I don’t always know what it takes to get people out to the club, which is a hard thing to admit since it’s my job to market and promote the damn place, so it’s really nice when it all works. I suspect that people just want ‘something’ instead of ‘just a night at the club’ which means some themes will have to be planned.

But that also means every party from here on out will be simply amazing. You gonna be there? I thought so…

You’re unique… just like everyone else!

Ok, so politics being what it is, let’s forget for a moment that every single politician has to work the same tired lines, the same tired conferences, speeches, dinners, fund-raisers, blue-haired broads and every other possible cliché of the season, and what do you have?

Good question!

You see, when elections happen, they aren’t discreet. Parties are called “Political Machines” for a reason. The smaller elected offices have the time, and more importantly, the need, to actually meet their constituents face-to-face. Those elected help those above them by throwing support uphill, and that’s Capitol Hill. (An aside: I grew up in Helena, MT and went to Capital High School and always wondered about the apparently bi-ness of ‘capital-as-money’ and ‘capital-as-center-of-political-power’ versus the extremely stodgy ‘capitol: it’s good to be the king!’ which is only, apparently for seats of political power. When asking teachers, they just wondered if it was a pun that we had “Capital Hill Mall”, but I digress.)

Anyway, so the small fish meet with people, convince them that the larger fish are doing good, support the larger fish, and those larger fish support still larger fish and those fish still larger fish all the way until you have Moby Dick Cheney, the biggest of the supporting fish, supporting the President Ahab Bush. And it works, for those bigger fish.

But what about those smaller fish? What of the smallest? Well, now it gets interesting.

You see, the smallest don’t have the same issues as their slightly larger cousins. The truly small-town, local elected official is a neighbor in the smallest of the small. People know her, or him, and opinions aren’t really based on speeches or platforms, they can be formed on bizarre things like yard care habits or overuse of Hawaiian and/or plaid prints. Regardless, they know their neighbors, and if they like them, they tend to vote for them. Things are good.

The races that have slightly larger fish have it really rough, tho. Consider them the middle-class fish, or, because I hate typing out names like that, MCF. The MCF have an unwritten mandate to support their chosen party’s machine. They are asked to be at and meet with and speak to and debate for or against and with by whom and where this why that for what ever – yeesh! And they are given just a basic set of tools to use to win their races. Affording a complete marketing team, to handle the branding and production, while those with degrees in Poli-Sci work on how to counter the enemies messages is beyond most of these campaigns. Of course, if asked, a political-hopeful chooses having a Poli-Sci over a Marketing Pro. I’d think that someone would point out that consistently being on the defensive with someone else makes you look weak but apparently that’s not the case.

So we come to it. Small race. Small budgets. Small budgets, every dime has to go to something important, it cannot be wasted.

But let’s take a step back and define waste. If you do logos that use the same imagery as everyone else, if you print letterhead using the same font and colors as everyone else, if you produce cloned materials for your race and you end up looking like everyone else, who are you? Are you, you? Or are you everyone else?

Good design isn’t a waste. Especially if you’re lucky enough to have a name that isn’t simple or homophonic to an everyday word (although in this case, that isn’t good luck, but in most others it is). You need to create something different, you need to stand out. Not in a “she’s the lady in red when everybody else is wearing tan” Fran Drescher’s The Nanny way, but in a strong, capable, bright, charming, witty, and leading way. And that’s called BRANDING!!

I am dealing, albeit once removed, with push-back from people who think that having a sign that has just words and no style and looks like every other yard sign for every other race that affects this area will be just fine, and it’s really bizarre. It’s not like they are saying the concept I presented was bad, they are just saying the money is better spent elsewhere. If that’s the case, then please tell me why every business, including the businesses run by these slightly-dimmer-than-average-bulbs who are acting this way, have at least some branding?

There is a good reason that the corner store has a name, that the law office downtown in the hi-rise has letterhead and business cards that match, and that everyone from the Girl Scouts to G.E. have marketing people – because they are needed, not waste. Good marketing can make all the difference in the world. Especially in politics.

For politicians, every sound-bite counts. Every mention means something. Every chance to be seen as an individual instead of lesser member of a nationwide group is needed. In MCF races, getting press time is next to impossible. A seat in the House of the Legislature of Montana isn’t news for anyone outside that district unless it’s some ‘human interest‘ piece, like when a 17-year-old runs for the seat. Otherwise, it’s just another person trying to get elected. Most people who have to vote for that seat, who are being represented by that person, don’t know anything about that person. Not name, not sex, not age-range, nothing. Which is why these politicians can’t count on any vote to show and actually cast a vote, and correctly. Yet you want to look like everyone else? Huh?

Why not hire someone to create a simple yet working brand. It’s slightly different, but not whacky. It’s got a clean look that brings in some key elements, it works with your fairly popular first name as the gimmick to get people to remember you, and it’s not hokey or dated. It’s also easy to combine with a web presence that is easy for people to remember because it’s clever. It gives you a starting point that no one else has. You’re going to be heard now because your campaign is outside the herd. (HA!) If you aren’t as slick as Bill Clinton (and you aren’t, get over it) you have to find a way into your own space to show who you are, to connect with people, to have a voice, and to get elected.

Or you can be like everyone else, and then struggle, fight, stress out, over-work yourself and when you finally do get recognized by the press it will be either you had some tragedy or other, the old Human Interest story, or because you screwed up in some way. Most likely it’ll be the screw-up that gets you into the press the first time. And it won’t be a big one, but you still can’t afford it, because you’d be “the person who did this” instead of having a handle on how you are seen. Oh, that handle on how you’re seen is called BRANDING.

Good branding is simple – make yourself look smart without trying to make others look dumb – in fact, make them look smart, too. For elections, that’s easy. Everyone else is jumping off the bridge, so if you decide to just walk across, you look pretty damn smart, but, let’s face it, you were only doing what you knew was right, regardless of the lemmings of the political machine.

Politics is one place where you can be “An Ordinary Joe” and stand out for it because everyone else uses the same messages, wears the same tie, and has indistinct signs pitting their last name against someone else’s last name. They are extraordinarily dull, so ‘ordinary, yet standing out’ is a Great Thingâ„¢.

Dead to me

Ok, I’m sick. I’m laying in bed, head pulsing in time with the aftershocks of the East African Earthquake wondering why it is that I don’t get sick often, but when I do, it shuts down my world for a while in ways that are, well, painful. Hateful.

And then, because I got up to read my email to make sure that the world wasn’t falling apart and I got a glimpse of the new AT&T logo. new AT&T logo

It’s horrendous. Instead of being global it looks like a rubber ball. A cartoon of a bouncy ball. With lowercase text in a font that appears to be adapted from the writing skills of a Third Grader. It’s sad. It’s truly the worst corporate logo I’ve ever seen. Ever. Even worse than the green M&M of On Semiconductor.

At least now I know why I’m sick. Design like that could kill ya!

Pride and RED

So I spent the weekend in Phoenix doing the Pride festival and launching Red Nightlife which was a blast. I happen to think that the launch of this new magazine is going to really change the landscape of the gay nightlife mags that have, honestly, sucked ass. And not in the pleasant warm way. But why am I writing about this in my blog?

Because I have to post something in the hopes that someone will read it, right? Ha ha ha, it is to laugh.

No, I’m posting this because RED is a great study in branding as a tool for doing something that is already being done by others. Branding successfully will make all the difference in the world, and RED has done it quite well. The logo is very well done, to the point that when stacked against the competition, it’s big, bold and readable, and frankly, it’s a beautiful thing.

And of course, it’s also red, the color, with a dash of white.

Now the dingbat is the cool part. I know that many of the non-design people of the world are thinking “what is a dingbat, you, um, dingbat?” and it’s really simple. It’s the part of the logo that is used, on it’s own, to represent the company. Why? Because the logo includes the name of the company, but the dingbat is, if used well, the non-word replacement that will, hopefully, remind everyone of the company. It becomes the final piece of the brand that makes the difference in marketing.

As an example, think about this – what’s the logo for Infiniti? It’s the name of the company, Infiniti, under the dingbat, which is the oval with the road lines going to, well, infinity. Very well done, and frankly, most people would think that is the logo, and the name isn’t part of it. Wrongo, but thanks for playing. The rare case that a company doesn’t have a dingbat but does have a logo that dual functions as a dingbat would be like UPS which built their new logo around their old logo’s shape. The shield functions as a dingbat, but only because the company never calls themselves “United Parcel Service” anymore.

So RED had a logo, and in the logo was a star in the middle of the ‘d’ and that star became, though a happy accident, a dingbat. Perhaps the most well received and liked dingbat ever. And it’s not a circle of red, it’s an oblong globe and skewed white star that just rocks. So much so that even the lesbians put the sticker on their cars – so if you see a Subaru around Phoenix with a RED dingbat, you’ll know why.

So now it’s all up and going, and frankly, it’s brilliant. And marketing proves itself again, which is the point. Marketing is not Sales, and while they are related by business, they are different fields and different skills entirely. And companies that get them confused tend to fail more often than they succeed.

The Aviator

It’s late as most people reckon things, but I have to post this. I just saw The Aviator. Amazing. Absolutely amazing. I’m a pretty big fan of aviation anyway, and I know a lot of it’s history, but Howard Hughes was so critical to how we see aviation today, it cannot be overstated. Yes, the airlines have problems. Hell, the two airlines that started it all, Pan Am and TWA are both history. TWA was Hughes’ airline, and frankly, he probably revolved in his grave when it died. If you want to know more about the history of aviation, it, like all things good, can be found online. Full disclosure: My father is a pilot, as is my grandfather and my grandmother, and if I’m not mistaken, a few cousins are as well. I am not, as I prefer to be served free booze from micro-bottles while relaxing in the air. I did, however, work at Garrett Aviation for about two years, which was interesting, as it spanned the events of September 11, 2001.

But I digress. History is one thing, the movie is another – usually. I know that there are parts that are made up or insinuated from half- or less-than-half-known facts. Regardless, this movie was fantastic. Amazing set work, visual design, everything, gave us, the audience, a chance to be there. It was amazing!

Alan Alda was breath-taking as the senator from Maine that was owned by Pan Am. His role should earn him many awards, the highest, of course, being right of first refusal of every male character aged 50 and over.

Leonardo DiCaprio was stunning in his portrayal of Hughes. We all know from our history that Hughes was eccentric, and if you’ve done any study of him, you’ve heard about OCD and some others. I would guess, purely non-clinical of course, that it was a combination of OCD and Aspergere’s Syndrome that afflicted Hughes. Again, regardless of what exactly it was, Leo was phenomenal. He deserves many more roles, and I’m not a huge fan of his. At least, I wasn’t. Although, thinking on it, I did enjoy The Basketball Diaries, but I’m almost positive that was because of the masturbation-on-the-roof-with-the-New York-skyline scene.

Cate Blanchette. There is only one word: BrilliantFantasticAmazingStunningWOW. Trust me, it’s a word. It’s the only one you can use to describe her as Kathryn Hepburn. Cate as Kate was brilliant casting, and Cate captured the stiff-spined and unflinching spirit of Kate and brought her full bloom to the screen. Every moment Cate was there, Kate was there, and we were taken back to the Hollywood she so loved and loathed. If ever a biopic of Kate is made and Cate isn’t cast in the role, I will personally stage a boycott. There is no way to describe this in words, you must see it. I thought Elizabeth was the role of her career, even though Cate has done some great work since. I now know that I was mistaken, and she’s just getting started.

There were a myriad of other fine actors and actresses in this movie. I will be buying this on DVD, but I suggest you don’t wait till then to see it. I’ve heard the movie dismissed by someone saying “I don’t care to see a movie about how a rich man learned to fly” and frankly, if you feel that way, you’re wrong. You can’t judge a book by it’s cover, nor a movie by it’s subject.

Which is why I’m going to go see Hotel Rwanda as soon as it shows up here.