A Day In The Sun
The image is a simple text-based graphic for a newsletter titled "NEWSLETTER S1 V4." with a date of December 22, 2023. Below the title, it states "By Paul Earle," indicating the author. The text further reads "Musings with a dash of bluster at the intersection of brands, creativity, and entrepreneurship" which suggests the content theme of the newsletter. At the bottom, a playful comment adds "[4-minute read; 2 if you skim; 0 minutes if you blow this off entirely]," which humorously estimates the time it would take to engage with the newsletter's content depending on the reader's level of interest. The text is set against a plain white background, with the title in bold orange letters and the rest of the text in black.
The image contains a screenshot of a text conversation, overlaid with a title "A HIGH BAR" in red at the top. The conversation starts with a message asking about new brands that have caught attention, inviting a reply with the note that "New" means "five years old or younger." It then discusses a brand named GOODLES, led by Jen Zeszut, which has garnered an enthusiastic response from fans. These fans express their excitement with expletives, leading the company to keep a "swear jar" in the office. The message introduces "The Swear Jar Bar" as a new standard for gauging the appeal of new products and brands. Below this description, there's an iMessage text bubble with the sender saying, "I’m going out of my f****** mind for GOODLES" indicating the sender's high praise for the product. The message is marked as "Delivered." The background is white with the text primarily in black, except for the title and the swear word which are redacted with a blue bar.
The image features a title "A FRONT ROW SEAT AT THE REVOLUTION, REVISITED" in bold red text at the top, indicating a reflection on past business revolutions.

A Front Row Seat At The Revolution, Revisited

In late 2017 and throughout 2018, in conjunction with Forbes and Northwestern's Kellogg School of Management, I scoured the consumer world for the most interesting and exciting new ventures. Newbies were popping up in abundance and many were seemingly poised to turn huge categories upside down. Here are the 12 we selected.

Looking back, some of these brands did enjoy great outcomes, and continue to thrive. But many other "belles of the ball" five years ago are having real trouble today… both in the above set and beyond. What is becoming crystal clear—to me, my partners, investors, potential acquirers, even consumers—is that basic fundamentals really matter. Do you have a path to profitability? Are you loved or just liked… are you F-bomb worthy? How about distribution beyond your website? Of course all answers must be yes. But not that long ago, many smart people believed that new brands could achieve glory through brute force alone. What's your view?
Observations Around The Brandscape

Some logic: (1) If you're introducing something, then (2) it must be named, and (3) if it must be named, then (4) darn it all, it should be named well.

Exhibit A of the power of naming: this Halloween LTO from Pottery Barn. It's not just any ghost; it's Gus the Ghost. I believe that naming this thing, especially so artfully, is why it became a bestseller. Kudos to Pottery Barn. And a hearty "boooooooo" to the NBA for introducing what is actually a big new idea for an in-season tournament, and calling it simply… that's right, "The In-Season Tournament." Seriously, NBA? That's gross negligence. Don't you agree? Making this clunker even more egregioun is that creating a compelling handle and story for this tourney would be, well a layup. (NBA, call me… we'll solve this in 24 hours)

Do this…

… not that
Speaking of sports and naming, my scorn for the NBA is counterbalanced by my appreciation of the NFL for this small-but-mighty temporary twist on their Twitter/X home page after it became apparent that Taylor Swift was dating one of their own. PS: I love this photo for many reasons, one of them being Mrs. Kelce, whose reaction to her son's big touchdown is quite different from T-Swizzle's. While I have your attention, gratitude to all sports moms.
The image features text above and a photo below. The text above reads: "I think we are nearing (or past) the end of the movement positing that brands can win by bashing you in the face with stories about how nice they are. I love Oatly, but this cringy new side panel made me think "NOatly." Look, conscious capitalism is really important, and all ventures in which I’m involved are good citizens. But it’s never a shmaltzy marketing headline. The best approach to mission is to just do it."

The photo shows a hand holding a carton of Oatly milk with a side panel stating: "We promise to be a good company." Below this headline, there's further text on the carton that begins with "We are not a perfect company, not even close, but our intentions are true..." The rest of the text on the carton is small and not fully legible in the image.

The overall message of the image and text is a critique of marketing strategies that overly emphasize a company's ethical stance or mission, suggesting that authentic action is more important than promotional claims.

The image shows a piece of text and a photograph of a bird. The text reads:

"Below is a red-winged blackbird, a stunningly beautiful creature. I love the vibrant red/orange/yellow epaulets, the onyx feathers with a sheen, and the perfect proportions in form. As a design nut, chef’s kiss to the red-winged blackbird. This little bird also, however, happens to be a big-time a*shole, a contemptible nasty bastard to the extreme. If you unwittingly roam anywhere near what they believe is “their territory,” they will angrily screech at you... and even physically attack you, dive bombing your head with claws out, and the beak transformed into a weapon. I was a victim of one such attack this fall. This craven act of aggression was not only startling, it really hurt. So I’m plotting my revenge. A longtime fan of biomimicry as a creative approach, I will co opt the red-winged blackbird’s gorgeous design scheme, and use it on a consumer product one day. No royalties. They won’t like that either and will evolve to be even more ornery. Too bad."

The accompanying photograph shows a red-winged blackbird perched on a piece of wood, with its distinctive red and yellow shoulder patches visible against its glossy black body. The bird's mouth is open as if it is calling or singing. At the bottom, there is a caption that says "The Red-Winged Blackbird [Totalum Jerkus Maximus]".
The image is a digital capture of a section from what appears to be a publication, with a combination of text and illustration. The text at the top states, "This one is easy peasy. The answer to the question below is “HELL NO.” Good lord. Wut??? I think in general, the tide in popular culture is turning hard against fake... anything. Fake meat, diamonds, yogurt, photos, electors, whatever: if it’s not real, fuggedaboudit. There is a difference between what you can make and what you should make."

Below this paragraph is a header from 'The New York Times Magazine' for a subscriber-only newsletter titled 'The Ethicist'. Underneath this header is a bold title that reads, "My Girlfriend Wants a Real Diamond Ring. Can It Be Lab-Grown Instead?" Following this title, a subtext reads, "The magazine’s Ethicist columnist on the perils of inaugurating an engagement with deception."

The bottom portion of the image contains an illustration by Tomi Um, depicting a man in a blue shirt and a woman in a pink blouse with a neutral expression, both looking at a large illustrated diamond ring, representing a lab-grown diamond.
The image displays a screen capture with text and graphical elements. At the top, there's a statement emphasizing that "everything is a design opportunity," suggesting that all aspects should be considered intentionally. It criticizes poorly designed instructions, labeling them a missed opportunity and humorously suggests that unless Phil Collins is involved, the product needs a new name.

Below this commentary is a section of a help center from a brand called 'sudio.' It lists several user guide topics such as battery levels and management, care and cleaning, and features like broadcasting and water resistance ratings. Additional entries include an FAQ section and product models like F2, B1, and N2 Pro.

A portion titled "Before getting started" advises that the speaker may have some existing battery charge but recommends fully charging it before the first use. Instructions for "Turning S2/S3 on or off" and "Pairing with a device" are provided with accompanying simple graphic icons indicating the steps for these actions. The icons display a power symbol, a plus and minus for volume controls, and a Bluetooth pairing illustration.

The layout appears to be a webpage with options to "Back to," a language selection drop-down for English (US), and a sign-in option. The overall context implies that the image is meant to critique the clarity and effectiveness of product instructions and the importance of design in user experience.
The image is a compilation of three vintage vinyl record labels, each accompanied by text that expresses the uploader's enjoyment of big band and swing music from the past, particularly because of the catchy and well-crafted song titles that "roll off the tongue." The uploader emphasizes the importance of considering how copy sounds when spoken.

The first record label is from RCA Victor featuring the song "I've Got a Gal In) KALAMAZOO" from the film "Orchestra Wives," performed by Glenn Miller and His Orchestra, vocal refrain by Tex Beneke, Marion Hutton, and The Modernaires.

The second label is from His Master's Voice for the song "CHATTANOOGA CHOO CHOO" from the film "Sun Valley Serenade," also by Glenn Miller and His Orchestra with Vocal Refrain.

The third record label is from Decca, showcasing the song "The Dipsy Doodle" by Bill Haley and His Comets.

The record labels reflect the distinctive aesthetic and typography of their era, highlighting the cultural and historical significance of the music and the era it represents.
The image contains two golden retriever puppies on a field with orange flowers. The text reads: "A social media expert recently told me that photos of puppies really drive engagement, so here ya go. Am I shameless? Smart? Just having some fun? Making a statement? You decide. (And if you do decide, you’re engaging.)"
The image shows two green cylindrical products from the brand 'Seed', one a bottle and the other a jar. The text reads: "I have railed against branding minimalism in the past, arguing instead for maximalism. Mies Van Der Rohe, you’re wrong: more is more. People crave detail, action, easter eggs galore, breadth and depth, a wall of sound, ideas expressed as a multidimensional technicolor dreamcoat! Sgt. Pepper’s cover design over the White Album. That said, my first rule of branding is that there are practically no rules. And in that spirit, I hereby declare my love for this simple beautiful soulful evocative unexpected design approach from Seed. Feeling green never felt so good. And apparently, I’m not alone: the brand is crushin’ it. What do you think?"
The image includes a graphic of a seven-headed cobra in black against a red background, which is associated with the Symbionese Liberation Army. The accompanying text states, "I stumbled across the history of the Symbionese Liberation Army while researching something (don’t worry, I’m not up to anything bad). I don’t endorse the SLA’s body of work, but good golly that’s an incredible visual identity... on its own and especially for any menacing guerilla movement."
The image is a text-based graphic with a heading that reads "INSIDE THE ROPES: DESIGN THINKING DOING LATELY." Below the heading, the text says: "We recently designed and delivered a few days of creativity-themed learning & development workshops for a group of duly and truly awesome professionals across the organization at a major global airline. A big part of my mission is helping others get to their days in the sun and I love this kind of work…" The text is set on a plain white background with the heading in bold pink and the rest of the text in black.
The image features a text overlay and a photo of a colorful mac and cheese product called GOODLES. The text reads: "Speaking of flying, GOODLES® continues to soar, like E.T. and Elliott. We're movin' a whole lot of noodles, and delighting our fans in the process. More big news (noows?) is coming in 1H 2024: new products, new retailers, new content, oh my! In the meantime, check out our latest combo box, which has proven to be extremely popular. Whatever your Jones, there’s a mac for that. PS: in that box are two custom sporks. Details!"

Below the text, the GOODLES mac and cheese box is opened to reveal several different flavor packets. Two customized sporks with purple and blue handles are also shown in front of the box. The background is a soft mint green.

The image is of a text document with a photo of two hair care products. The text reads:

"I’m officially excited about Small Wonder® hair care. It’s a powder concentrate that magically transforms into a highly efficacious luscious lather when exposed to water right in the shower. I received “clearance from the tower” (thanks Stephanie!) to show this visual of our soon-to-be-released “Wonder Bottle,” which looks simple—that’s the objective—but actually is a patent-pending bona fide wonder of design and technology. Like the powder itself, it’s a real breakthrough and was incredibly difficult to do. This is also the first time I have been named on a patent, and I’m as proud as a peacock to have contributed. The new vessel will be released in a v1 iteration early next year. Go to to keep an eye on things. The concentrates revolution is very much on."

In the photo are two tube-shaped bottles, one red and one blue, labeled "Small Wonder" with "shampoo" and "conditioner" indicated underneath. The products are presented against a neutral-toned counter.

The image is a screenshot of a social media post featuring two people wearing turkey hats. The text in the image reads:

"Big Nose Kate® is going to Californiar! (that right there is a John Lennon reference, and I will ship a complimentary bottle of BNK to the first person who can email me with the backstory on that very Lennony wordplay). Kate herself will always be the hero of the story, but Melissa McCarthy and Ben Falcone continue to shine as very prominent costars, their latest turn involving awesomely ridiculous turkey hats.

Click to play"

The people in the image are toasting with drinks in their hands, smiling at the camera, and seem to be in a festive or celebratory mood.
The image contains a humorous modification of the iconic "Better Call Saul" billboard from the television show "Breaking Bad" and its spin-off "Better Call Saul." The text above the image reads:

"We recently got a call on the Bat Phone from the CMO of a giant CPG whose team needed to land a great name for a new product... fast. Which is really difficult to do, even on a normal timeline. And we may have done it. I’m glad they reached out, and it made me think of a new billboard campaign: 'Branding problem? BETTER CALL PAUL.' (calls not toll-free)"

The billboard in the image has been altered to read "Better Call Paul" with the name "SAUL GOODMAN" humorously edited to "PAUL GÜODMAN, ATTORNEY AT LAW" and a man pointing directly at the viewer. Below the billboard, the phone number "(505) 503-4455" is visible. The image conveys a playful take on branding and marketing consultation services.
The image features text that discusses an entrepreneurial advising role. The text is as follows:

"My latest adventure at Northwestern’s Kellogg School is advising three student entrepreneur teams as part of the Zell Fellows program, named after the late great extraordinary entrepreneur and philanthropist Sam Zell. It’s an honor. And, not surprisingly, they have some ideas worth making."

Below the text are the words "ZELL FELLOWS" in a gradient of yellow to green, and "KELLOGG" in purple, signifying branding for the Zell Fellows program at Kellogg School of Management. The text expresses pride in mentoring student teams and implies the value and potential of the students' entrepreneurial ideas.

The image is a collection of six photographs with captions, titled "Pics by Paul," showcasing various quirky and interesting scenes:

A deflated Santa Claus decoration on the ground with the caption, "Too much eggnog?"

A Halloween pumpkin painted with the KISS band makeup, accompanied by smaller decorated pumpkins, captioned "This rocks."

A mannequin dressed in children's clothing with no head displayed in a store, with the caption "Terrifying. Who approved this?"

A vehicle with a back window advertisement featuring a family waving, captioned "Someone help these people."

A person wearing a sweatshirt with "URANIUS" printed on it, in a playful reference to the planet Uranus, without additional context.

An airplane window view showing the shadow of the plane over water, with the caption suggesting it could either be the plane's shadow or "the world's largest and most unusual shark."

The photographs and captions suggest a lighthearted and humorous perspective on everyday sightings.

The image is a written note with a message of goodwill and a signature. The text reads:

"Thanks for reading this far. Best to you and yours for a happy, healthy and peaceful 'Hollydaze.' These are heady times and as the great Lester Holt always says in his nightly signoff, 'take care of yourselves, and each other.' I’m excited about 2024 and let’s all do some cool stuff. Cheers.

PS: 2024 is gonna be a great year. I’m putting that out there.


Where you can find us...

A Day In The Sun
909 Davis Street, 5th Floor
Evanston, Illinois USA 60201,
and in wide open fields everywhere."

The text is accompanied by a handwritten signature "Paul". The message is positive, looking forward to the year 2024, and provides an address for "A Day In The Sun".
The image is a newsletter excerpt discussing the impact of classic radio serials on Paul McCartney, highlighting "Under Milk Wood" by Dylan Thomas, narrated by Richard Burton. It reflects on the profound influence such works can have, lamenting the short attention spans of "kids these days" and suggesting that brands should focus on differentiation, possibly by embracing older forms of media. The author advocates for taking time to appreciate language and storytelling, suggesting listeners imagine being a young Paul McCartney in the 1950s, listening to a radio play. The text ends with an encouragement to listen to "Under Milk Wood" and a cheerful "Cheers."

The bottom of the image shows a cover of "Under Milk Wood" with a picture of Richard Burton and a coastal town background, with a caption that reads "Click to play."

Rabbit Hole

I deeply enjoyed the iHeart Radio podcast series featuring Paul McCartney, where the master told the stories behind the creation of many of his hit songs. He spoke at length about the profound impact that long-form dramatic radio serials had on him as a kid growing up in England, specifically citing, as an example, Under Milk Wood by Dylan Thomas, narrated by Richard Burton no less. I checked it out and it's an incredible production. The writing! The VO! Wow. Listening to Burton-on-Thomas, it is not too much of a leap to imagine how a young McCartney was enraptured and yearned to grow up to be a showman, a storyteller, and a wordsmith himself one day. Which of course he did.

I hope one day there will be a resurgence of this kind of audio vehicle. We all need to have more adventures with language (we're already on our way at GOODLES). We should take a minute to slow down, deliver, and enjoy great writing and narration.

The word is that "kids these days" now have such short attention spans, thanks to all the obvious drivers (and some not-so-obvious drivers), that any format requiring more than five seconds of engagement is effectively DOA. But I think that this point of view is overly cynical. And isn't the name of the game differentiation? Brands can try to "out short" the other in a race to the bottom, or… try something new. And that something new might be something… very old.

Perhaps over the break, take some time, and listen to the show in full. Link here. Imagine it's the 1950s, you're a young Paul McCartney in mum's kitchen, and a crackly old radio is on…