Gone Rogue

I’m taking my boys to see Rogue One this afternoon and pretty much can’t focus on anything else. First off, the word “rogue” is awesome. However, the true meaning of the word, not so much:

1. a dishonest or unprincipled man

“You are a rogue and an embezzler”

2. an elephant or other large wild animal driven away or living apart from the herd and having savage or destructive tendencies

“A rogue elephant”

Jeez, an elephant driven from the herd? That’s cold. So why are we drawn to this word? A healthy desire to mix the gene pool draws us to rogues and rebels and is the basis of branding. “Brand” is synonymous with “different.” Differentiation is the concept that links brand and strategy. So, all of us, every day, are trying to figure out how to go a bit rogue and be the bad boy elephant the girl elephants flap their ears at but isn’t so off the reservation he is asked to leave it.

Reince Preibus: not rogue enough (I’m certain I would not enjoy sex with Reince)
Lindsay Lohan: too rogue
Muhammad Ali: just right amount of rogue

In a world where every niche seems occupied, how do you achieve this type of differentiation without going off the reservation? I’m a fan of Lindt chocolate and how they approach differentiation. In sum, bring two unexpected dimensions/flavors together: dark chocolate and grapefruit, white chocolate and jalapeño.

We pursue this strategy at L2:

Research that collides rigor and beauty

Videos that collide insight and profanity

As you think through strategy, identify two attributes that differentiate your offering and are rarely found together (dark chocolate and chili) but taste awesome.

Where Genius Lives

We ranked 2,000 brands in 2016 across 28 Digital IQ Index studies. Seventy one of these brands earned a “Genius” distinction. In L2’s In the Company of Genius report, we break down best practices and what the smarty-pants firms have in common. Genius brands are, for the most part, HQed in the US.

Echo… Echo… Echo

Echo is the hot gift this holiday. Echo purchases inspire a 10 percent increase in spend on Amazon. Amazon sold 5.2M Echo products in 2016, compared to 2.4M in 2015. We believe Amazon will become the first trillion-dollar company within 24 months.

Back to Star Wars

“There is another” —Yoda

There is always another. Someone better. Better looking, more successful, funnier, more charming, wealthier, invited to cooler parties… than you. I own Nike stock (other two are Apple and Amazon), as Nike taps into our instinct to compete/win/crush better than any other firm. I struggle (get angry/depressed) with my lack of better. Not in a bullshit, motivates-me-to-new-highs kind of struggle, but a destructive, ugly, lack-of-appreciation-for-just-how-ridiculously-fucking-fortunate-I-am kind of struggle.

I’ve had tastes of better/best… but they are always fleeting

— When I was eight, I was the smartest boy in 3rd grade (Debbie Brubaker was smartest girl

— that’s how they thought about it in ’74). I was sent to 5th grade. They’ve since figured out that the youngest in a class may be more prone to depression (that explains it).

— When I was 17, I was voted most comical in high school. This was mostly a defense mechanism, as I was 6 feet 2 inches, 130lbs with jarring acne. Around 25, the anger began to find purchase in my persona, and I am no longer the funniest guy in the room.

— At 33 I was, on paper, wealthier than any of my friends, which changed fast (.bomb). Most of my friends are hedge fund managers and have blown past me (motherfuckers, I hope Jimmy Carter gets re-elected and raises their marginal tax rates to 94 percent — really).

— At 40 I was in better shape than my peers. Now we’re all just in various stages of decay. My quarterly visit to the dermatologist is an exercise in how much shit she can cut off of me: “Yep, we should definitely take that off… and test it.” In spring of last year, I (no joke) became so constipated I had to go to the emergency room. Supposedly Inuit Eskimos go days without a bowel movement. But here’s the thing, I’m not a fucking Inuit Eskimo and was freaked out when I realized I had not sat on the porcelain throne in four days. We should all grow young.

There’s really only one “better than anybody in the world” box that is checked in indelible ink. My boys are the best thing I’ve had a hand in (I was there), and this will last. They were overrated as babies but have become increasingly tolerable, even likeable. Whichever one, on any given day, looks/smells/sounds like me I begin calling “favorite.” Today it’s the nine-year-old; however, the six-year-old is demonstrating increasing levels of boorish behavior and anger, so it will likely be him soon. Parents who claim they don’t have a favorite are similar to people who claim to be agnostic (they’re lying — closeted atheists).

I hate the holidays less and less, as there are moments when I envision the last days of my life (think about this a lot, and that’s ok) and the comfort of having achieved one, maybe two things that are the best/most/perfect. I hope the holidays bring you the same. Off to Rogue One.

Life is so rich,

No Mercy / No Malice in Your Inbox.

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