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Always Forward, Never Back

This weekend I watched two seemingly unrelated movies, "The Help" and "The Debt."

One is a story about the Civil Rights Movement, and the other is about the Holocaust.

But in the end I realized they had a lot in common:

1. The experience of being victimized for race or nationality or gender, or a combination of these.

2. The need to regain self-empowerment after being victimized.

3. Being torn between morality (seeking justice) and hate (seeking revenge).

4. The strange fact that victims and their victimizers often share close emotional bonds.

5. The inner struggle between moving forward and going back.

It is the last one that is most important for branding.

The key point to remember - the difference between movies and marketing - is:

1. Art done well takes you anywhere in time, moves time around, shifts you back and forth from past to future and back. You are fully immersed in the experience so tenses don't matter.

2. With branding you always should go forward. Even when you are looking back nostalgically, as with heritage brands like Ralph Lauren and Coca-Cola, it should always be from the perspective of how the past can inform the future.

In times of rapid change, a future orientation becomes ever more important to survival.

Imagine you are standing on a road in your hometown when a volcano eruption hits and the lava spills out, up to your feet.

You can't go home anymore. You can't stand still. You can only run forward, away, out.

In both movies I saw this weekend, the characters are torn between the past and the future. Times are changing and the volcano has hit.

In both movies, the ones who survive - well they came to the road with their sneakers on to start with.

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