Clarity First Newsletter,
August 23, 2019

“Since Active Hope doesn’t require our optimism, we can apply it even in areas where we feel hopeless. The guiding impetus is intention; we choose what we aim to bring about, act for, or express. Rather than weighing our chances and proceeding only when we feel hopeful, we focus on our intention and let it be our guide.” – Joanna Macy

Clarity First

A notebook about how we work, and learn, and love and live.

I’m not sure which is more frightening this week, the burning rainforests in Brazil and Indonesia, the collapsing ice shelves in Iceland or the malignant narcissist in the White House, who anoints himself the “chosen one”. In response, I reached again for Joanna Macy’s book Active Hope. She’s right, the impetus of intention provides a source of hope that is sometimes too easy to miss.

“Active Hope is a practice. Like tai chi or gardening, it is something we do rather than have. It is a process we can apply to any situation, and it involves three key steps. First, we take a clear view of reality; second, we identify what we hope for in terms of the direction we’d like things to move in or the values we’d like to see expressed; and third, we take steps to move ourselves or our situation in that direction.” – Joanna Macy, Active Hope

Happy Friday. I hope you can use your intentions to find the hope we need.

Marketing Communications

“There will be no expenditure on communications or brand development until we are happy that the fundamentals – all of them – are strong.” 

This is what we are talking about. I love how Helen Edwards uses the classic marketing ladder to deconstruct the customer’s experience.

“It’s time for marketers in all categories to embrace the discipline of laddering down. We gather consumers together and start at the top of the ladder, inviting them point-blank to comment on our higher-order proclamations. When faced with their ridicule, bemusement or plain rejection, we’ll ask: ‘And why might that be?’”

I especially like the result she promises : “What will ensue from this will not be a report, but action: a multidisciplinary programme of improvement so far-reaching and demanding that we will call it ‘extreme basics’.

“Every practical manifestation of our brand will be audited, assessed and put right. From ingredients labelling to call holding; from delivery mechanisms to showroom interiors; from ethical sourcing to real-time servicing. The changes we marketers drive through will be the kind that send shivers down the spines of operations, finance, IT and HR.”

Sign me up.

Article: Marketing Needs to Go Back to Extreme Basics


How to use the data in our systems to improve our decisions.

“We’ve been able to show, for example in financial decision making, that you can make much better decisions if you use the social together with the logical, than if you use just the logical alone. And, of course, much better than if you use just the social by itself.

Video: How ‘Social Physics’ Can Improve Your Neighbourhood

Social Messaging

Scholars globally are feeling the heat from politicians.

“Badge – ‘Nobody wins Nuclear Wars’, Badge-a-Minit, circa 1960s-1980s” by Benjamin Healley is licensed under CC BY 4.0

“… As relations between academics and politicians in a number of democracies are worsening, researchers the world over need to change the perception that they are not to be trusted, or that scientists are somehow separate from the wider population — indeed, polls suggest that trust in scientists in the United States is on the rise.”

“For some of these academic communities, knowing what to do is a new challenge. One reason is that, over several decades, many governments have welcomed scientists as advisers — including listening to their concerns about protecting research funding during the austerity that followed the 2008 financial crisis. But now that attitude is changing, and researchers need other ways to make their voices heard.

“Scholars found theirs in the 1950s, when nuclear technology was at risk of proliferating without safeguards because of the cold war arms race between the United States and the then Soviet Union. Albert Einstein and the philosopher Bertrand Russell created a manifesto warning of the dangers of weapons of mass destruction. This led to the first Pugwash Conference on Science and World Affairs, a meeting of researchers from many countries and political ideologies to discuss the hazards of nuclear weapons.”

Article: Scientists Must Rise Above Politics — and Restate Their Value to Society

Personal Communications

What do I tell my mom, my kids, or any interested person what I feel about the climate crisis?

Recently Andrew Winston’s mother asked why he seemed so blue. It took him a while to parse out two threads. “One is the state of democracy and rise of autocrats around the world, which I believe is horrible for freedom, equality, and the economy. (The second) is the state of the planet we call home. Because the existential problem that gnaws at my well-being is the destruction of the natural world and the profound climate crisis.

“I’ve thought about (the second, climate change) as three distinct questions: What do we really know about climate change? Why am I worried and feel it’s so serious? And how do I — and all of us — cope with that knowledge and move forward?”

Article: Yes, I’m Feeling Bad About Climate Change. Let’s Discuss.

Advertising, Social Messaging

“Sweet things happen, when we unite.”

On August 15th, the day India celebrated its 73rd Independence Day, Cadbury, with the help of Ogilvy India, rolled out a brand new chocolate bar. “Celebrating the spirit of India’s ‘unity in diversity’, Cadbury has launched a ‘Unity Bar’. The chocolate celebrates various flavours that everyone relishes, combined into one big bar. Dark, blended, milk, and white chocolate flavours have been united in one bar, just like our country, which is a melting pot of various castes, religions, languages, cultures and food habits.”

Full page ads produced in four different languages got social media clicking like maracas.

One week after it was launched a 30-second spot for multi-toned chocolate “Made to celebrate India and her people” had earned 4.2 million views.

Article: Cadbury’s Print Ad for ‘Unity Bar’ Generates Digital Buzz

Just sayin’

“Addressing housing directly is cheaper than relying on cops and emergency rooms.”

Clarity news

A reminder that the Fall ’19 DIY Brand Camp learning cohort is building. This week two leaders of an art gallery joined us, as did one who wants to help leaders weave vision and mission with daily operations and a life coach who is making her own transition. All proceeds go to the Conway School. We’re gathering at the Smith Conference Center on Tuesday, Sept. 10. Learn more.


Fifty years ago this month Miles Davis assembled 13 musicians to create, in his words, “the best rock band in the world”. In three contiguous days they created a record that changed the world, one that has been on my personal desert island list ever since I first heard it as a teenager, Bitch’s Brew.

On this auspicious anniversary the album and its amazing band is getting the star critic treatment. This week on All Things Considered, Audie Cornish and Noah Caldwell got bassist Christian McBride talking about what makes the album so fresh then and now.

“‘It’s not really rock, it’s not really funk, it’s not really jazz,’ McBride says. ‘Most people would say jazz doesn’t really involve loud guitars or electric piano. All of that stuff was recent in 1969.’

“McBride points out that Bitches Brew also showcases Davis experimental nature with the studio itself. “If you hear Miles’ trumpet, it’s on a tape delay,’ he says. ‘You never hear’ that on a jazz album before.’”

Radio article: Looking Back On ‘Bitches Brew’: The Year Miles Davis Plugged Jazz In

Last week NPR’s weekly Jazz Night in America devoted the whole show to “the furious mystique of that album, illuminating the musical and cultural forces Miles was metabolizing at the time. We’ll hear from an array of authorities on the subject — notably his second wife, funk heroine and fashion icon Betty Davis.”

Radio program: Electric Miles: Behind The ‘Brew’


Image of the Week

The image of the week is “Lee Krasner at the beach, ca. 1945” *

I chose it as a breezy hello at the head of this letter in favor of this one, Prophecy, painted by the artist in 1956:

By then, her life with her husband Jackson Pollock had been shattered by his alcoholism, violence, and infidelities. But, they still leaned on each other for artistic perspective and support. “When Krasner, at work on Prophecy, confessed to Pollock that its emerging imagery ‘disturbed me enormously,’ he assured her the painting was working and she ought to continue ‘without thinking about it.’ She finished the painting later that summer, following Pollock’s violent death.”

It’s hung now in the Barbican Centre in London. Lee Krasner: Living Colour is the first major retrospective of her work to be shown in Europe since 1965.

Lee Krasner in her studio in the barn, Springs, New York, 1962; photograph by Hans Namuth; Lee Krasner Papers, Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC

HYPERALLERGIC accepted the gallery wall plate’s invitation to view Prophecy “through the prism of the painter’s psychobiography”, and concluded that she was “too resourceful an artist for such reductive readings to overshadow her art’s complexity”.

Article: Lee Krasner’s Second Act

The NYT used the opportunity to properly name her seminal role in modern art: “Krasner might have been the most intelligent of the painters who convinced the world in the late 1940s that New York had displaced Paris as the epicenter of modern art”, and to name the fact that her work still exists in the dual shadows cast by her more famous husband, and the very macho art culture of her America.

Article: Lee Krasner, Hiding in Plain Sight

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If you’re new to Clarity First, it’s the weekly newsletter by me, Mitch Anthony. I help people use their brand – their purpose, values, and stories – as a pedagogy and toolbox for transformation. Learn more.

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