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The Tao of branding

Today's consumer requires more than trade names and logos to differentiate you from your competitors.  They need to connect on intellectual, emotional and spiritual (non-material) levels.

Are you a brand, or a commodity?

Tune in to your customers.  Engage with them.  Become one.

Be still and listen.  Let your customers tell you where to focus.  Learn their needs, habits and desires.

With decreased brand differentiation and ever-increasing consumer expectations, you'll need to understand what really drives your customer and how to develop strategies to transcend consumer pain points.  What are your brand objectives?  Strategies flow from developed objectives, not vice-versa.

Fair-trade.  Socially-conscious consumption.  Environmentally-friendly "green" production and design.  These are some of the trends driving consumer behavior today.

Are you keeping up with consumer expectations?  How do you connect and engage with your customers or clients?  Do you offer an easy platform for feedback?  Are they showing a sense of loyalty, or again, are you simply a commodity? 

Are you tapping into your customer's friends network through social marketing?  Peer-to-peer recommendations are become the norm.  Subject and feedback blogs are more targeted and trusted than traditional advertising platforms.

Are you experienced and reliable? Are you the low-cost, high-value option or the high-cost, high-quality option?  You can't serve two masters.  What is your company declaring to the marketplace?

You'll need a consistent visual and verbal presence.  Find your voice.  A professional writer who understands marketing and branding will assist you in doing so.  Make your brand promise clear and be true to it.  Write meaningful copy that reflects your brand and connects with your customers on a multitude of levels.

Find out who you are.  Do your self-research.  This introspection will provide the clarity necessary to communicate your essence to your customers.

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Larry Ciptak
June 19, 2012

No Guru, no method, no teacher

It is with profound sadness and great joy that I declare I am in this world, but not of this world. 

Fifty years of existence has been swept away by the undeniable truth that while I meander humanity as a sentient being, I am the Nothing that is connected to the Everything. 

Worldly knowledge has been supplanted with a quiet acceptance of the Unknowable.  Half-a-century of seeking has left me nothing more than bereft of self.  Questions of doing and being have given way to an unexpected loving union with the Unfathomable. 

I am neither teacher nor student.  The open skies and icy depths are my companions.  I drift through this world as a phantom, leaving temporary marks of my presence as a reminder of my nothingness.  It is in this silent passage that I feel intrinsically linked to all creation.  For as Blake wrote, everything that lives is holy.  I sense your holiness and secretly yearn for you to embrace it, to join me in this divine realm.

Perhaps we've encountered each other in the street, a store, through work.  I am there in body but present only in spirit.  You do not know of my love for you.  Without words I cry out to affirm our connectedness.  We are one in our Everything as well as our Nothing.  In these stilled waters significance gives way to Oneness, for spirit does not nourish itself on meaning, but on emptiness, free of all forms and concepts.

Old notions of importance, achievement, recognition and stature continue to beckon but go unanswered.  They are deceptive but nothing more than hushed wails summoning from a non-existent world.  As Hendrix said, castles made of sand fall in the sea, eventually.

No cause summons me.  I am detached from principles and intentions.  No creed has room in this sacred, motionless space.  There are no longer sides to take, beliefs to uphold.  I am liberated from worldliness yet exiled in solitude.

In silent vigil I call upon the Incomprehensible to guide me through these uncharted waters, to free me of the vestiges of attachment and significance so I can fluidly and completely be present to those I am meant to touch, then quietly drift away.

Larry Ciptak
June 14, 2012

Musical references:

Castles Made of Sand by Jimi Hendrix

In the Garden by Van Morrison

Let the Slave by Van Morrison

On doing things once

For some of us, life is a series of epochs or activities worth doing but once.  Whether drifting aimlessly around the continent, desecrating a cultural icon or adopting a radical belief system and corresponding subculture norms only to discover later everything is predicated on a lie, these are those of us who live experiential lives and whose boots never quite hit the ground. 

You know who we are because we make little effort to hide ourselves.  When we’re in our glory you either watch us with detached amusement, desire to participate or cross the street.  But we are generally loners and do what we do not out of a desire for self-aggrandizement or attention but simply because for a multitude of possible reasons we bore easily and need a steady influx of stimuli to feel alive.  Unfortunately this sometimes comes at the expense of other people who unwittingly get caught up in our machinations.  Life becomes a human laboratory with more than its fair share of experiments gone wrong.

This doesn’t mean we don’t care about others.  The opposite seems to hold true.  While we decry the status of mankind and look back at our lives with a feeling of purposelessness, we often are the only ones willing to go into the trenches to help those in the most need, and do so with regularity.  And while others laude our efforts, we largely discount this flattery due to the sheer volume of downright stupid things we’ve done that prohibit us from having any real permanent positive sense of self.

However, despite our overall haphazard conduct there appears moments when it appears that the universe aligns to best utilize our unorthodox past experiences for some greater good, and although fleeting, true meaning is revealed.  It is this transitory sentiment that provides a thin but necessary thread that weaves our existence into a fabric we somehow manage to live with.

To others we are often seen as tortured souls.  This typically serves as a magnet to those who feel it their duty to enlighten or fix, hence we often enter into relationships predicated on abject neediness.  At first we love the attention, then later resent that someone is trying to change us when we set the framework for such an effort in the first place.  The results are predictable and a cycle develops.  In this case it isn’t something you do once, but do over and over again.

We tend to invest heavily in our inner lives at the expense of what appears to be a disregard for the outside world.  We may be naturally introverted, but understand that at the end of our day we need to have some functioning internal mechanism that tells us that it’s okay, go to sleep, you did alright today.  The ability to do so is contingent on how we’ve treated others; therefore we are anything but indifferent to the lives and needs of our brethren.

Larry Ciptak
June 2, 2012