Hanlon Defends Nationwide On CNBC “Closing Bell”

Nationwide cites that the number one cause of accidental deaths for children is in the home. As an insurance company, they have a right (and probably a duty) to tell everyone during the Super Bowl–the media event that has the most eyeballs all year.


We have to remind ourselves these accidents not only kill children, they also kill families. Many families do not survive the death of a child. We have to remind our selves that toddlers aren’t the only ones on training wheels, parents are on training wheels too. Nationwide has started the conversation: the question we will have to ask ourselves is whether or not Nationwide is being sincere, or whether they were simply trying to put their brand name out there by shocking people.

Hanlon CNBC

Woz Debunks Apple Garage Origin Story

Creation stories have become common ground for building interest, engagement and attracting people to your brand community. The origin stories behind of HP, Estée Lauder, Chanel, Amazon, eBay, Coca-Cola, Wrigley and other firms are success stories that speak to our core.

The American garage is that center of many of these tales (even Henry Ford started in a garage–although in his day it was called a shed). Recently, the co-founder of Apple Computers Steve Wozniak suggested the company did not actually start in Steve Jobs’ family garage. Rather, the garage was a sort of staging point.

“The garage is a bit of a myth, it’s overblown,” says Wozniak in a terrific Bloomberg TV interview. He is referring to Steve Job’s parent’s house in Los Altos, California. “The garage represents us better than anything else, but we did no designs there. We would drive the finished products to the garage and make them work and drive them down to the store that paid us cash.”

Bottom line, nobody cares. (Sorry, Woz.) The garage is a much better tale for creating the mythos behind Apple, the world’s most successful brand and most successful computer company on nearly any level.

End of story.

Thinktopia ceo Hanlon “Rocks The Hut” on CNBC

Patrick Hanlon CNBC2 Thinktopia CEO Patrick Hanlon lands a guest spot on CNBC about Pizza Hut’s innovative new branding efforts. Pizza Hut’s innovative new taste profiles and other efforts should be directionally correct to help the brand catch up to Yum! sister brands KFC and Taco Bell. Adds counter example of burger stands selling tacos–that’s not innovation, it’s desperation. It’s time to rock the Hut!!

7 Ways Bob Dylan Doesn’t Think Twice About Brand Strategy

bob-dylanThe Basement Tapes, Volume 11 from Bob Dylan and The Band will be released this week (for a free sampler click here).

These rough recordings Dylan made in Woodstock, New York during the spring and summer of 1967 (two years before the famous Woodstock Music Festival) were created, as we all know, after Dylan his flipped his Triumph motorcycle on a country road and suddenly went dark. After pushing out two albums in 1965–“Bringing It All Back Home,” and “Highway 61 Revisited” and “Blonde On Blonde” in 1966, the so-called basement tapes created between “Blonde On Blonde” and “John Wesley Harding” (also in 1967) hardly seem like down-time.

Dylan, who had already gone from folky protest singer to electrified warlock, was just resetting the table.

“Nashville Skyline,” which came out in 1969, was a kick on the side of the head for fans still getting stoned on Rainy Day Woman #12 & 35. And the album birthed an entirely new era of country rock.

The Basement Tapes have all the production value of just letting the tape roll, but include the not-yet-gelled versions of Quinn The Eskimo, and gangly but listenable takes on classics like I Shall Be Released, You Ain’t Going Nowhere, and This Wheel’s On Fire.

There is no question that Bob Dylan is a major brand in every sense. From the manufactured name “Bob Dylan” (his birth name is Robert Allen Zimmerman) to a lifetime of continual innovation and rebranding, Dylan-as-brand seizes the attention of a global fan community in the millions.

It is worth deconstructing the “Brand called Bob” to see the strategic touchpoints that lay  behind what all the fuss is about.

Like any powerful brand, the brand called “Bob Dylan” contains each of the seven pieces of “primal code” that design a narrative that attracts a community of believers, zealots, and the other advocates that create full-spectral fandom.

“Primal code” includes creation story, creed, icons, rituals, sacred words, nonbelievers, and leader that, when combined together, form a holistic belief system that attracts others who share your beliefs. These touch the emotional connections that we have with all brands, and create a template to help us understand why Bob Dylan has been attracting fans by the millions since the 1960s.

1. Creation story: As mysterious as it is famous, the spine of Dylan’s origin myth is that he made his way from Hibbing, Minnesota to New York City to visit legendary folksinger Woody Guthrie who was hospitalized in New Jersey. Along the way, Dylan shed his name Robert Zimmerman, for a hybrid based on the Welsh poet Dylan Thomas. Dylan joined the folk music scene in Greenwich Village and recorded an unspectacular eponymous album of cover tunes in 1962. But the release of “The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan” album the following year (1963) included Blowin’ In The Wind, A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall, Girl From The North Country, Don’t Think Twice It’s All Right, and rightly changed the world.

2. Creed: Probably expressed best in Dylan’s track You Go Your Way And I’ll Go Mine. Dylan has always zig-zagged across musical styles and affiliations, leap-frogging genres, and creating bridges to new times and places.

3. Icons: The fact that Bob Dylan is an icon in popular music is no question. He is in the Rock And Roll Music Hall of Fame and Songwriter Hall of Fame. His personas as Greenwich Village folksinger, masked member of the Rolling Thunder Revue and never-ending leader of the Never Ending Tour (as well as his role in the aborted film Reynaldo and Clara), are images forever imprinted on Dylan fans and music public alike. But icons are not just images. Sound is also iconic: Dylan’s voice is iconic, and so are the iconic melodies in some of his most popular songs. This “sound” instantly identifies it’s Dylan, which is what being “iconic” is all about.

4. Rituals: Concerts are rituals. And so are interviews, appearances, signings, going into the recording studio and all the other seemingly random events that are woven together to create the map that designates the Dylan landscape. Waiting to see what Dylan comes up with next is also a ritual.

5. Sacred words: “Dylan.” One word, two syllables that represent a mountain of meaning for fans. The lexicon of Dylan album titles, the incredible song lyrics (the books, articles, student papers and blogs written about the meaning of Dylan lyrics number in the hundreds of thousands), and quotes from interviews and elsewhere become part of the sacred liturgy that surrounds the Brand Called Bob. These stimulate, provoke and titillate his global fan community.

6. Nonbelievers: For every “pro” there is a “con.” While Dylan has a global fan-base of millions, like all artists there are millions of others for whom his voice is a nail scraping a tin roof. His lyrics are too incomprehensible. After decades of deification, most of these critics have been beaten down or died off. And still. I used to have a dog who howled every time he played harmonica.

7. Leader: Bob Dylan is certainly the character who set out to recreate the world according to his own point of view. And now even at age 73, he continues to push the reset button.

Or maybe all this fuss about the release of yet another round Basement Tapes is just another set-up. Following press on the Basement Tapes, producers have announced a new Dylan release in 2015. Watch for “Shadows In The Night.”

To anyone born before, well, whenever, Dylan’s role in contemporary music may seem suspect. The words to Dylan’s first hit “Blowin’ In The Wind” might seem light and insipid. Until you realize that issues of race, freedom, war, ignorance, and myopic politicos are as contemporary as it gets. The wind is timeless and the questions raised are unanswerable.

It is testimony to Bob Dylan’s stature as a songwriter and generational muse for the last 50 years that even these scrappy 138 songs in a six-CD box set deserve consideration. (Bob Dylan is the only rock musician to ever win a Pulitzer Prize: “for his profound impact on popular music and American culture, marked by lyrical compositions of extraordinary poetic power”.)

Last word. Bob Dylan doesn’t have to think twice about brand strategy because he has created a community so enthralled by his music and so committed to his success, they are willing to do it themselves. And that’s all right.

‘The Social Code’ Follow-Up To ‘Primal Branding’ Now Available On Amazon

The Social Code_cover_HanlonThinktopia announces the release of The Social Code, the much-anticipated sequel to Patrick Hanlon’s widely acclaimed book Primal Branding: Create Zealots for Your Brand, Your Company And Your Future, published by Simon & Schuster Free Press in 2006.

The Social Code illustrates how to design and attract social communities in the digital age, using the underlying principles that help create viral brand communities. What Hanlon proposes is the agreeable notion that 21st century social communities are created not just from digital code, but from the emotional connections that bring us together: the social code.

YouTube, the largest social engagement platform on the planet, already promotes the construct outlined in The Social Code as their recommended method for designing and attracting online social communities. The new mission? To create a fan community that becomes so passionate about your success, they are willing to create it themselves.

A build on Hanlon’s 2006 book, Primal Branding—celebrated by marketing and branding experts as the best explanation written so far on what Brands are and how to create them, The Social Code redefines the seven elements that define belief (creation story, creed, icons, rituals, sacred words, nonbelievers and leader) in today’s digitally-centered environment. Facebook “likes,” social media clicks and hashtag counts become meaningless short-term responses unless they simultaneously build the social mechanisms that create long-term community.

Those who build social code attract others who share their values and beliefs—creating community and an unfair advantage over their competition. Those who don’t, don’t.

For the last decade, Thinktopia has been working with Fortune 100 companies honing the strategic and executional principles set forth in the The Social Code. While the cult classic, Primal Branding, anticipated social communities and looked at brands as belief systems in 2006,  The Social Code is a great leap forward and the essential guide for kickstarting entrepreneurs—as well established products and services—seeking to define their community narrative in the new social economy.

This becomes a billion-dollar equation for many companies. And we get the feeling that no one will want to be left out.

The Social Code is available now through Amazon.


How Great Leaders Lead Themselves_loresThis article by Thinktopia ceo Patrick Hanlon originally appeared in Inc. magazine.

It’s easy to lead others. But when today’s business climate includes untimely squalls and unpredictable tsunamis, it’s difficult to know how to lead yourself.

While many leaders rely on proven past methods (often learned in B-school), others are taking new approaches that help them transcend what they already know. These fresh methods help them handle the day-to-day, while becoming responsive to other things that matter.

One of these “new” methods is a coaching approach that has been used with individuals, now making its way into the C-suite.

“The ‘coach approach’ asks leaders to define who they want to be at this moment and in the future,” says Jennifer Antolak, president of Learning Journeys, a life coaching academy. “And it’s about helping others understand that we support their choices.”

Here are things responsive leaders can do to lead themselves.

1. Have an intention. A desired outcome for yourself, others, and your organization. (No one can lead if they cannot see the forward path.) Ask yourself, Who do I want to be in this moment? Who do I want to become going forward?

2. Be open-minded and curious. If an employee says they have a better idea, listen hard. Ask them questions to better understand what will support, stretch and challenge them–rather than tell them what you think they need. Then ask yourself, Where can I shift and adjust to stay the course and honor others on their course? What difference can I make?

3. Never forget that your employees are your first line of advocates. If they love where they work, they talk. (If they don’t love where they work, they’ll talk too–you just won’t like what they’re saying.) Ask yourself, How do my actions impact myself, others, and my environment?

There are actually physiological reasons for this responsive approach. Positive support (including positive support of your own actions) grows the prefrontal cortex of the brain–increasing resilience, creativity and belief in self.

“What we experience,” says Antolak, “is that leaders who make decisions that honor their values and true potential, ultimately live lives they have previously only imagined.”

A note. In the past, organizations often have mistaken “coaching” as leaders providing advice to help guide employees. Those situations are usually misconceived and backfire, with those on the receiving end feeling judged, undervalued or incompetent.

But when we learn to lead ourselves, everyone benefits. Setting positive goals for yourself helps set positive goals for those around you. The point of leadership is to help those around you feel as important as you are.

Leadership has not always been described this way. But as R. Buckminster Fuller once said, “You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing one obsolete.”



How Does Rubbernecking Help






You rubberneck, I rubberneck, we all rubberneck. But why? Actually, this often annoying habit has great social value.


Rubbernecking is a meme. Memes are the cultural genes that create thoughts in your head. Memes have helped us survive through millennia: imitate the meme and you live. Fail and you die. Imitation as the sincerest form of survival. If you figured out how to escape the claws of the sabre-tooth tiger, and I can imitate you, my genes will survive too.


Back to rubber-necking. We slow down because our brain is hard-wired to want to understand how that accident happened. Our brain uses the accident as a learning moment, logging the information and indexing it as new information: three cars collided because they were following too close. Car skidded across wet pavement. Driver put on brakes while swerving, flipping the car across the meridian.


Our brain logs the information and uses the alert messages so that we don’t do the same thing: so that our gene pool survives. (Wildebeest do the same thing as they walk by, watching lions devour their kin.)


So, please rubberneck away. But please process quickly, so that I can get to work?


sketchfactor app

Controversial new app SketchFactor crowdsources urban safety by having its members report blocks that feel “sketchy” to them.

Such real-time reports allow members to discern best routes to walk to work, home or shopping. This peace of mind is especially important in major walking cities like New York, Chicago and San Francisco. But just as precious in Washington, D.C., Miami, New Haven, or Rome.

In fact, SketchFactor’s micro-reporting can help local leadership understand just where their “sketchy” areas are, block by block. So instead of declaring entire areas unsafe, residents get real-time observation.

Founders Allison McGuire and Daniel Herrington have been criticized for being both young and white. But in fact, their new application resists stereotyping of geographic urban areas.

“I like the diversity of cities,” says SketchFactor founder McGuire. “I like the grit.”

And the new app has real-time significance for her. Says McGuire, “I lived in Washington D.C. and I was walking home after work. A woman stopped me and asked if I lived there. I said yes. She told me a woman had been beaten and mugged right here. She wanted me to know.”

People make decisions. A wrong turn. Things happen. Citizens of all kinds need to know how they can remain safe.

SketchFactor launched two weeks ago and has since become a runaway hit.

New York City is the first municipality, the world will follow.

For McGuire and her partner, the project has been a mission of both safety and specificity. A busting of urban stereotypes. Certainly there can be good blocks in bad neighborhoods?

McGuire crunches the question into a technological thesis: “How can we be hyper local and granular, in a social way?”