For half a century, Shareholder Capitalism has been the mindset of corporate America.

At its cultural core, America is pragmatic. The first settlers came for opportunity. Those that followed pushed west, grabbing as much as possible. So you might say we are pragmatic about opportunity. A cultural mindset that drives every business culture as well.

How can we grow? How much market share can we steal? What strategic alliance should we create? Where can we carve out more margin? Will we meet our numbers?

Corporate America is a slave to more.

But more is a race without a finish line. …

Cy Twombly “Untitled” 1970

As a professional who’s always had the word “creative” as part of my title, it would be in my interest to keep the subject of creativity veiled in mystery, claiming as many do, that it can’t be defined or learned. You either have it or you don’t.

But that would be self-serving. It would also be untrue.

Creativity does have a definition. A clinical one:

Creativity is finding new associations between known things.

In other words, creativity is about connecting existing things in new ways.

It’s the optimistic correlation to Solomon’s rueful conclusion in the book of Ecclesiastes: “There’s nothing…

A brief reflection on the need for Visual Thinking.

Photo by David Becerra on Unsplash

While in the car today, I listened to the governor of Oregon explain the need to impose pandemic restrictions on restaurants and other businesses that classify as “indoor gatherings.” She rattled off the familiar litany of social distancing, asymptomatic spreaders, hospitals nearing capacity and protecting the elderly and people with pre-existing conditions.

Blah blah blah.

Not that those aren’t legitimate issues, but people are tired. Not only of the isolation and social restrictions, but there’s mental fatigue from the pandemic lexicon and endless political vitriol.

As I listened to her well-intentioned but toothless droning, it struck me that most of…

I wrote this. And if you don’t agree with me, you’re wrong.

Planet of the Apes 1968

As the son of a lifelong politician, I never wanted to enter the field. Politics had a seat at our dinner table every night; monopolizing the conversation with an endless litany of urgent issues being obstructed by partisan gamesmanship, attacks and counter attacks.

So for me, politics has always elicited a weird mix of interest and disdain.

Which explains why I’ve consciously avoided creating or reacting to political posts during this presidential campaign.

Until now.

Because America is such a shit show.

And this article has deep roots, going back eight years.

Covid19 isn’t the only pandemic.

In the America…

Lorenzo d’Medici: also known as “Il Magnifico.”

For every famous advertising campaign ever created, there was a visionary client who made it happen — a modern day patron in the pedigree of Lorenzo d’Medici.

The Renaissance was one of mankind’s most productive periods. That productivity — which includes some of our greatest achievements in art and science — would not have been possible without patrons like Lorenzo d’Medici who provided the vision and the finance to make it happen.

Admittedly, much of what patrons commissioned was motivated in large part by vanity. But a modern parallel can be made if you consider that brand marketing is simply a means to build one’s reputation.

To become famous by doing famous work.

By famous, I mean head-turning… trending… viral… category defining… category creating. I mean earned…

Our words bless. Or our words curse. Life or death. Something to keep in mind as you start scrolling and commenting.

Moses said we could speak life or death, blessings or curses. This power, he explained, is not difficult or elusive, but “very near to you… in your heart and in your mouth.”

This is about more than speaking positive words. It’s about what we are actually creating with those words.

We’ve all experienced that sunken feeling after watching or scrolling the evening news. That feeling is a mild despondency in response to words of death. We have been cursed by a news feed that’s obsessed with violence, crime and division.

Strong words. But I believe it’s required to cut through…

Andrew Holbrooke/LIFE Images Collection, via Getty images

There is really only one answer to the unsettling history of racial violence by police.

In 1999, 23-year-old Amadou Diallo was shot and killed by four New York City Police Department plain-clothed officers. The incident stood out in a city somewhat desensitized to violence because 41 bullets were fired at a man who had nothing on him but a wallet.

He was also black. An immigrant from Guinea.

I was working at McCann-Erickson. We were asked to urgently help create a campaign to address the fallout, focusing on how the NYPD could recruit officers who better reflected the neighborhoods they…

To avoid going off on a philosophical rant about how brands become meaningful, let’s start our conversation with a simple exercise…

Can you state the goal of your company, without using numbers or dollar signs?

A simple yet challenging question, because it removes what most companies resort to as a measure of their success. Profit. But being profitable just means you’re a business. Profit should be the by-product of a successful business, not its purpose.

Yet being meaningful is more than adding Purpose to Profit. You could say it’s “What’s your why?” rephrased in a practical way. …

“To surrender dreams — this may be madness.” Don Quixote

Humans love predictability. It soothes our desperate need for control. In fact, the need is so acute, we construct ideas about what is temporary and what is normal as a way to minimize the stress of circumstances that are not pleasing to us.

Like the Coronavirus pandemic.

The isolation, uncertainty and fear make us anxious, so we find solace in the idea that it’s temporary and soon we’ll “get back to normal.”

Unfortunately, this is a lie.

“Normal” is an illusion constructed by a mind desperately seeking it. There is no such thing. It’s a confection of revisionist thought, reframing…

Brian Kelly

Helping brands find meaning in a world that’s looking for it.

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