“Sketchbooks are not about being a good artist. They’re about being a good thinker.”

Do You Doodle?  If Not, It’s Time To Pick Up Your Pencil And  Super Charge Your Thinking.

What Does It Mean To Doodle?

By Alma Hoffman, Smashing Magazine

The dictionary defines “doodle” as a verb (“scribble absentmindedly”) and as a noun (“a rough drawing made absentmindedly”). It also offers the origins of the word “doodler” as “a noun denoting a fool, later as a verb in the sense ‘make a fool of, cheat.’”

But the author Sunni Brown offers my favorite definition of “doodle” in her TED talk, “Doodlers, unite!”:

“In the 17th century, a doodle was a simpleton or a fool, as in “Yankee Doodle.” In the 18th century, it became a verb, and it meant to swindle or ridicule or to make fun of someone. In the 19th century, it was a corrupt politician. And today, we have what is perhaps our most offensive definition, at least to me, which is the following: “To doodle officially means to dawdle, to dilly dally, to monkey around, to make meaningless marks, to do something of little value, substance or import and,” my personal favorite, “to do nothing.” No wonder people are averse to doodling at work. Doing nothing at work is akin to masturbating at work. It’s totally inappropriate.”

Why Do We Doodle?

Consider that even before a child can speak, they can draw pictures. It is part of their process of understanding what’s around them. They draw not just what they see, but how they view the world. The drawing or doodle of a child is not necessarily an attempt to reflect reality, but rather an attempt to communicate their understanding of it. This is no surprise because playing, trial and error, is a child’s primary method of learning. A child is not concerned with the impressions that others get based on their drawings or mistakes.

An Example of a doodle
An example of a doodle.

Their constant drawing, picture-making and doodling is a child’s way of expressing their ideas and showing their perceptions in visual form. It comes from a need to give physical form to one’s thoughts. Similarly, an adult doodles in order to visualize the ideas in their head so that they can interact with those ideas.

Visual Learners

According to Linda Silverman, director of both the Institute for the Study of Advanced Development and the Gifted Development Center and author of Upside-Down Brilliance: The Visual-Spatial Learner, 37% of the population are visual learners. If so many people learn better visually, we can expect, then, that some of them learn better by putting a speech, lecture or meeting into visual and tangible form through pictures or doodles, rather than by being provided with pictures or doodles (which would be the product of another person’s mind).

37% of the population are visual learners

Humans have always had a desire to visually represent what’s in their minds and memory and to communicate those ideas with others. Early cave paintings were a means of interacting with others, allowing an idea or mental image to move from one person’s mind to another’s. The purpose of visual language has always been to communicate ideas to others.

Secondly, we doodle because our brain is designed to empathize with the world around us. According to Carol Jeffers, professor at California State University, our brains are wired to respond to, interact with, imitate and mirror behavior. In an article she wrote, she explains the recent research into “mirror neurons” which help us understand and empathize with the world around us.

A cave painting
Cave paintings were our first means of communicating ideas to others.

An experiment conducted by Jackie Andrade, professor of psychology at the University of Plymouth in England, demonstrated the positive effect that doodling has on memory retention. In the experiment, 40 people were given a simple set of instructions to take RSVP information over the phone from people going to a party. The group of 40 was divided in two. One group of 20 was told to doodle (limited to shading in order not to emphasize the quality of the doodles), and the other 20 would not doodle.

The doodlers recalled 29% more information.

Doodling a lightbulb
Doodling helps us retain information.

The study showed that doodling helps the brain to focus. It keeps the mind from wandering away from whatever is happening, whether it’s a lecture, reading or conference talk.

Still, we have become bored with learning.

Professor Emeritus at Cornell University, Joseph D. Novak argues that this is because we have been taught to memorize but not to evaluate the information being given to us. In many traditional settings, the pattern is simple and dull: sit, receive and memorize. Many traditional educational systems do not encourage active engagement with the material. Doodling, drawing and even making diagrams helps us not only engage with the material, but also identify the underlying structure of the argument, while also connecting concepts in a tactile and visual way. Jesse Berg, president of The Visual Leap, pointed out to me in a conversation that doodling is a multisensory activity. While our hand is creating what might seem to be random pictures, our brain is processing the stimuli that’s running through it.

Many of us are the product of traditional schooling, in which we were made to numbingly memorize dates and facts, and many of us continue this pattern later in life. While some of us were avid doodlers (I used to fill the backs of my notebooks with pictures and draw on desks with a pencil during class), some of us stopped at high school, others in college and others once we settled into a job. At some point during the education process, doodling was discouraged. Teachers most likely viewed it as a sign of inattentiveness and disrespect. After hard preparation, educators want nothing more than unwavering attention to their lectures. The irony is that, according to Andrade’s study, doodlers pay more attention to the words of educators than we think.

In her TED talk, Sunny Brown goes on to explain the benefits of doodling and even offers an alternative to the definition found in the Oxford Dictionary:

“Doodling is really to make spontaneous marks to help yourself think. That is why millions of people doodle. Here’s another interesting truth about the doodle: People who doodle when they’re exposed to verbal information retain more of that information than their non-doodling counterparts. We think doodling is something you do when you lose focus, but in reality, it is a preemptive measure to stop you from losing focus. Additionally, it has a profound effect on creative problem-solving and deep information processing.”

As we have seen, doodling has many benefits, beyond what designers as visual communicators and problem solvers use it for. Doodling also helps our brain function and process data. Those of us who doodle should do so without feeling guilty or ashamed. We are in good company. Historically, doodlers have included presidents, business moguls and accomplished writers. Designer, educator and speaker Jason Santa Maria says this:

“Sketchbooks are not about being a good artist. They’re about being a good thinker.”

“All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players.” — Shakespeare

Your brand’s story is not created by you. It is created by your consumers based on the experiences you deliver — or fail to deliver — to them.

Who’s Story Is It?

BY: Tom Asaker, author of The Business of Belief 

Today’s commonly accepted view is that brands tell us their stories, primarily through various forms of communication. Unless the brand is in the business of storytelling, that’s a misguided view. In reality, we use our interaction with brands –t heir sceneries, props, set decorations, scripts, and actors–to construct our own stories. Ones that we star in and in roles we contsruct to make us feel good about ourselves.

And since we define ourselves both according to what we identify with and what we reject, and given the abundance of marketplace choice, we now choose interactions which we feel will produce the best story possible. And we reject the others.

Enhance their adventures

Instead of being obsessed with the details and consistency of your story, start looking for new ways to create highlights in their stories. Instead of focusing on your “what”–the logical and precise communication of your “position” and “unique selling proposition” — focus more on the “how” — the frequent introduction of emotional communication and interaction designed to bring their stories to life.

Shakespeare wrote, “All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players.” That appears to be true, but he also wrote, “Life is as tedious as a twice told-tale.” Prove “The Bard” wrong. Keep the tales of your brand fresh, personal and vibrant by turning your focus away from you and placing it squarely and creatively on them.

Seven simple and effective ways CEOs can help guide their companies through applying intuitive brand management skills

Putting your brand in the corner office is a sure way to bring clarity, decisiveness and value to your brand.

CEO As CBO: Chief Branding Officer – 7 Ways a CEO Can Boost a

Company’s Marketing Value

BY: Simon Graj, Forbes Contributor

We live in a subjective world. Crisp analytical skills and a razor-sharp memory for data distinguished many bosses of yesteryear. Today, inexhaustible data – cut in any way imaginable – dance at our command. It’s no surprise the leadership edge is increasingly intuitive. Who has the time to wade through all those numbers and scenarios?

Intuition is also how consumers perceive brands. I’ve often said a firm’s brand deserves the corner office. A company’s decisions should be tackled from the standpoint of what advances the interest of its brand or brands.

Does that attitude short-change dollars-and-cents realities? How could it when IP assets like brands and proprietary formulas constitute such a huge portion of the typical company’s worth?!

In many ways, being the CEO means being the chief branding officer. By this, I don’t mean CEOs should dedicate themselves to nuts-and-bolts marketing. But they have a responsibility to keep the brand alive, organic and authentic in an intuitive way as company decisions are made. Companies with intuitive clarity are best positioned to seize each competitive moment decisively.

Here are seven simple and effective ways CEOs can help guide their companies through applying intuitive brand management skills:

  • Insist all senior execs share a common, bullet-proof grasp of the company’s leading brands . . . nailed with single-diagram or elevator-pitch conciseness.
  • Immerse yourself in regular, off-the-cuff communication with consumers about the brand.
  • Dialogue with your brand evangelists in social media to learn their expectations of how the brand could be strengthened.
  • Review training materials and verify that they convey the spirit and the excitement of the brand to your associates from top to bottom.
  • Personally monitor new products and marketing programs as they evolve to guarantee they are true to brand DNA.
  • Demand vivid, constant awareness of how key competitors are developing their brands.
  • At least annually, assess your much coveted brand worth and determine how technology and other external forces are impacting it.

The first responsibility of a brand custodian is to treat brands as dynamic and organic. A former publisher of Forbes, Malcolm Forbes, had a rule of thumb that applies superbly to branding: “Too many people overvalue what they are not and undervalue what they are.” Brands are also exactly what they are . . . not the dream that they aspire to be.

The ultimate goal of your communication is belief. Not awareness. Not understanding. Not fear. Not laughs. Belief. Belief leads to experience and experience leads to adoption.

We are all too jaded and too busy to act on faith. We’ve lost faith in governments, businesses and institutions. Brands must earn trust and convince us — authentically — to believe what they are promising.

Belief is the Path to Action

BY: Tom Asacker (author of the book: The Business of Belief)

People are persuaded primarily by behavior. You know, actions speak louder than words. Unfortunately, as Mark Twain once pointed out, actions speak louder than words but not nearly as often.

It’s time for everyone to wake up and smell the new millennium. The good old days of influencing by proxy are gone. We no longer dance to the lyrics of rules or rhetoric. We’re not enticed by promises nor threatened by precept. We’re not impressed by sensory hyperbole.

We’ve lost faith in business, government, and other institutions. Communication sans behavioral evidence, no matter how engaging or factual, is no longer enough to move us to belief and action.

Unless you’re an entertainer, the ultimate goal of your communication is belief. Not awareness. Not understanding. Not fear. Not laughs. Belief. Belief leads to experience and experience leads to adoption.

If we believe you can help us, make us look good, improve our relationships, make us feel good about ourselves, etc., then we’ll take your call, stop by your place of business, click on your link, join your organization, or grab your product off of the shelf. If we don’t, we won’t. We’re simply too busy today to act on faith.

So the next time you’re compelled to communicate; to send us a message. The next time you feel the urge to preach from the pulpit, make fantastic promises, tickle our funny bones, or entice our eyeballs . . . stop!

Stop and ask yourself: How can I bring people together–associates with each other, associates with our audience, and our audience members with each other–to create something real and valuable? How can I elicit belief through behavior?

Don’t say, “Just Do It,” do it with us! Don’t tell us that you want to be our friend, be our friend! Because if we do it with you, and with each other, we’ll come to believe.

And belief is the path to action.

Every brand foundation has at its core a visceral substance that gives it strength. It is the brand’s white hot center of competitive advantage. You have to understand it, before you can grow it in new directions.

 A great reminder that all the advertising and marketing muscle a company can flex can’t replace the power of an authentic, powerful core brand idea.


Let Your Brand’s Foundation Be Your Guide Through Change

From: The Brand Strategy Insider Blog

As brands grow and evolve, they will face defining moments of change and find themselves at a strategic crossroads.

Sometimes the strategic direction is clear, other times it’s far from apparent even to those at the top of the organization. In the mad rush to manage change, to create powerful brands and brand images, companies spend tons of money reinventing themselves with ambitious marketing and advertising plans long before taking the most important first step — knowing exactly what it is they are seeking to build upon — their brand’s foundation.

This substructure of a brand’s foundation is not built on physical materials, product features and the like, but fashioned from the intangible, dynamic forces that are nearly impossible to define and quantify, yet hold the keys to greater brand meaning and understanding. The intuitive process of brand re-alignment and re-definition is often under-valued by metrics obsessed financial managers.

Every brand foundation has at its core a visceral substance that gives it strength. It is the brand’s white hot center of competitive advantage. You have to understand it, before you can grow it in new directions.Some call it “brand essence”, others prefer “core brand values”. Whatever you call it, it’s the thing that creates pull and influence to its most relevant and differentiated trait. The brand’s foundation is a genetic code wherein all its future potential is found, and where its limits are defined. It is vital to have an established point of view about the brand’s foundation to define it in the present moment of change as well as determine the direction for the future.
Brands at the crossroads.

An example of an iconic brand at a strategic inflection point is the number three Wendy’s Hamburgers. Seemingly, Wendy’s has struggled to leverage the aforementioned “power laws” to its competitive advantage. As it struggles to define and express a value proposition customers really care about, it has seemingly become a ship without a rudder, victimized by the currents and forces of its own numerous creative advertising campaigns. Wendy’s is an also-ran brand that no longer represents a compelling selling idea that would enable it to lead a market segment.

However, it’s within the DNA of this iconic fast food brand that the very essence of opportunity to reinvent itself through a bigger vision about serving customers with experiences they really love and care about will be found.

Right now there is a gigantic group of consumers who no longer see fast food as a good value considering the health risks associated with those foods. Wendy’s could make a strategic decision to lead these consumers who are seeking healthy alternatives (beyond 1000 calories salads) in the fast food category. In my opinion, Wendy’s has the power to be really remarkable by changing the rules of the fast food game.

Another is Starbucks, after struggling to regain its unique footing in a category it invented, the founder sees the writing on the wall and takes bold action to delve deeper into the goo of its brand essence as the source of inspiration and connection to what made the brand so special in the first place. The result has seen a dramatic pull back from the brink.

Both Wendy’s and Starbucks are powerful leading brands faced with the challenges of new growth and increasing pressure to pay back greater investment returns to their shareholders… thus the strategic inflection point mentioned at the top of the post.

One made the successful shift to reinvent, while the other lingers in the no man’s land of its number three position.

It’s important to remember, during times of a self-defining challenge, the brand’s core values must be strong enough to protect it from the urge to allow ubiquitous marketing and advertising to be the default button to gaining market leadership. To pull through these inflection points, enlightened brand management must recognize the intrinsic limitations of their brand’s reach, as well as the wealth of opportunities that lie within their grasp.

As humans we like structure and boundaries. Yet what makes brands stand out from the crowd is true creativity.

Boundries bring structure. But, when they restrict creativity, it’s time to redraw them.

What is True Creativity?

The words of Rosa Lladro in a recent article in Monocle magazine

True creativity is:

  • Not looking at what you are capable of….but what you want to make and making it possible.
  • Not having a huge budget and using business consultants..instead of spending big money, spend big time investment…giving people the freedom to think differently.
  • Not line extensions but market extensions.
  • Not looking at the core market but looking at the fringes of the marketplace, seeing what is happening through consumer demand and making it commercial.
  • Not adding extras to make more revenue from the customer but creating add ons that take more value to the customer.
  • Not by creating a creative department but by creating a creative culture.


A Commencement Speech For Brands

Artist, writer, freelancer, Neil Gaiman, shares his wisdom with the graduating class of the University of Arts.


Three Principles For Building Your Authentic Brand

BY: David Brier, Fast Company Contributor

In his speech to the University of Arts, Neil Gaiman relays many wise insights from the viewpoint of an artist, a writer, and a freelancer. Embracing the ceremony’s theme, “Courage,” Gaiman weaved together words and concepts in his trademark style, merging imagery, high concept, and whimsy that left these young minds inspired, grinning and applauding.

As I listened to Gaiman’s anecdotes, confessions, and insights, I realized many of these same principles would equally apply to brands to produce profound effects.

The brands that win in the world actually do adhere to and apply a number of these basic principles. Here are 3 you can put to work for your brand or company:

Copying Versus Finding Your Voice

“Make the stuff that only you can do,” Gaiman told the students. “You may start out just a copy–and that’s not a bad thing. Most of us only find their own voices after we’ve sounded like a lot of other people.”

Companies struggle with finding their voice continuously and endlessly. Sometimes, they luck into something that sticks. Other times, something much worse happens: a comittee is assigned to it (the ultimate nail in any coffin of a brand’s demise).

The primary problem here is forgetting that companies and brands are nothing without the recipient. Yes, the initial passion is vital, but if a brand is to go beyond being a personal work of art, a company must embrace and build itself upon the views, values, and passions of the desired consumer.

So copy for a little while if you need to, but make it a goal to find your brand’s own voice, a voice so remarkable that others will want to copy you.

Don’t become complacent in this pursuit. The liberation that comes with finding your own voice will be worth the effort. If you lack the passion to find and embrace your own voice for your brand, nobody else will make the time to embrace it either.

Brand application:
 Nobody will put more life into your brand than you personally will. 

Two Out of Three Is Fine

“People keep working in a freelance world. And more and more of today’s world is freelance because the work is good and because they’re easy to get along with and because they deliver work on time,” Gaiman says. “And you don’t even need all three; two out of three is fine.”

Let’s see how this converts to brands:

  1. You produce a great product or service (you do great work)
  2. You give a great service (in other words, you’re easy to get along with, are super helpful, anticipate the needs of customers or are simply fun to be around with great wit)
  3. You’re timely in your delivery (on-time or ahead of schedule)

Leading brands have a minimum of two of the above, but the truly stellar ones have all three.

Losing or struggling brands sometimes have two of the above; more often they have one which is overcompensated for because they know they’re blowing it on the other two. But the point is, losing brands have too low a threshold on what it takes to make it. Their baseline is too low and people revolt in the form of unsubscribes, refunds, complaints, lousy reviews, and never coming back. Certain restaurants can only be snobby so long (justifying waiting too long for a meal to be served “because the food is so good”) before patrons find someplace else where they are treated with dignity, not attitude.

Brand application: 
Find your sweet spots. Embrace your intolerables. Ensure your brand (and you personally) do more good than you think possible. 

On Old Rules and Making Up New Rules

“The old rules are crumbling and nobody knows what the new rules are. So make up your own rules,” Gaiman says. “Someone asked me recently how to do something she thought was going to be difficult–in this case, recording an audio book. I suggested she pretend that she was someone who could do it.”

Too many clients approach the “status quo” of how everything’s been done with great caution. Frankly, when it comes to branding (as well as living in general), caution is the great vanilla-izer. It turns spontaneity into planned boring activities. Caution turns great mistakes (which open the door to innovation) into things which “must be avoided.”

In short, caution sucks and will suck the life out of almost anything.

Steven Spielberg is said to have gotten onto one of the Hollywood lots pretending to be somebody, before he was somebody. Look at him today. For some, it takes “pretending.” For others, that “pretend” begins in their own conviction that they do something that change the course of the world. Steve Jobs is a a great example of this. He was great in his mind before others caught on. You can do the same.

Brand application: Learn rules. Then test them. Question. Verify that they’re still applicable to today’s circumstances. Invent new ones to achieve your vision.

So, if you have a brand. implement these and thrive:

  • Be bold.
  • Without the passion, you only get money. With the passion, you get the reward of creating something remarkable and get to live with the joy of having been paid for it.
  • Embrace mistakes.
  • Break rules.
  • Make good art. Realize what you do and the service you provide is as much a work of art as it is a career or a profession or a source of income.
  • Follow Mahatma Gandhi’s words, ”We must be the change we want to see in the world.”

Go forth and kick some sacred cows’ butt.

Ken Burns on Storytelling and Truth.


What works for Ken Burns can work for your brand, too.

 1 + 1 =3: Telling The Uncommon Story

 Source: Mental Floss

Ken Burns, creator of innumerable documentaries including The Civil War and Baseball, is the subject of a new short film about the nature of stories and storytelling. It’s compelling, smart, and complex — largely because Burns, one of America’s most famous and revered documentarians, discusses the reality of what documentary films are: that documentary is not about telling “the truth,” it’s about telling a story. (If you will, “a truth.”)”


You can’t break through the clutter by adding to it. We can’t draw attention by shouting louder.

More choice. More clutter. More confusion. How do brands break out?


Be Different. And, Stand Out

BY: Tom Fishburne
There has never been a greater level of marketing clutter. Yankelovich Consumer Research charts that “we’ve gone from being exposed to about 500 marketing messages a day back in the 1970s to as many as 5,000 a day today.”

At the same time, marketing communication is often little more than a string of adjectives: bigger, better, faster, cheaper, etc.

So we marketers are interrupting consumers more, but with fewer meaningful things to say. I like how Professor Youngme Moon characterizes this dynamic in her business book, Different:

“Today we have more of everything. More brands. More products. More choices. But it all just feels like more of the same. A great big blur of similarity. And most companies are stuck on a competitive treadmill, competing like crazy trying to keep up with each other. But this only makes them just like everyone else.”

Against this noisy backdrop, it’s important to remember that we can’t break through the clutter by adding to it. We can’t draw attention by shouting louder. Instead, we break through the clutter by sounding different

Do you know where your favorite brand’s name came from?

Here’s a fun look at the etymologies of some the world’s most famous brands.

How Famous Brands Got Their Names, Logos

SOURCE: Bored Panda
You hear about famous brands, such as Coca-Cola, Amazon, LEGO, Nike and Adobe, all the time.

These brands are world-famous and some of the most advertised; and their logos, instantly recognizable—but do you know how their names came about and what they actually mean?

Based on the Wikipedia list, online magazine Bored Panda has made a visual list of famous company name etymologies.

How many of these ‘fun facts’ did you already know?