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Since I spend a lot of time in Asheville, NC, a place characterized by spontaneous drum circles, and since I go through musical instrument phases (when we branded Central Pacific Bank I took up the ukulele), I decided to get myself a djembe for Christmas. It is a beautiful thing. Hand carved from a single piece of wood. Goat skin head. Rope tuning. I have never had the coordination to use drum sticks. But I dig that you play a djembe with your hands. I like that it makes more than one type of sound. And I get a real kick out of thumping the center of the head and hearing it roar out a big, hollow, tom-tom sound.

Djembe seems a little like the blues. Seems almost anyone can learn to play the thing. But it would take a lifetime to master it (three chords and the truth, ya know). I like that sort of thing. A very tall ladder with a bottom rung within reach for almost anyone. Seems egalitarian to me.

In advertising, there are a few basic skills. That’s why ad agencies pop up on just about every street corner. It’s a cool business to be in. And there’s not much stopping any well-dressed hipster from claiming to be in it. All you need is a business card and a client. But to master it…well, we’ve been doing it for about 30 years and we learn things every day.

Just yesterday, I was working with Mike K. on a thing called a permission ladder. It’s a key piece of the new Gibbons | Peck social network product. Totally new way of thinking about branding, consumers, products, friends, and circles of influence. I like it. And what I like most about it is that it re-introduces courtesy as a strategic element. You have to treat your friends like friends, or they will walk. What I also like about it is that it’s made up of a lot of little tasks that anyone can learn to do. Who can’t learn to say, “I like you, do you like me?” But to master the strategy will take a lifetime.

Like haiku. Or the blues. Or djembe.

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