What My Nametag Taught Me About Marketing

Scott Ginsberg has worn a nametag for 4,000 consecutive days. Here's what he's learned from it.
October 07, 2011

I’ve been wearing a nametag for 4,000 consecutive days. More importantly, I’ve turned that quest into a career as a writer, publisher, speaker, consultant and artist.

In the process, I’ve learned a lot of valuable lessons. Here are a few to consider.

1. It’s not a nametag, it's an advertisement

I used to think advertising was cool. When I was a kid, my favorite hobby was perusing and analyzing the pullout ads from the Saturday paper. Then I went to business school and learned that advertising is a disrespectful, ugly form of pollution. Then I started my own company and I learned that advertising is the price companies pay for not having enough friends. 

Years later, I came to a conclusion: We don’t need more advertisements—we need acts that create emotional connections. Simple, inclusive, accessible, relevant and human encounters that change the momentary experience of engaging with your brand.

Is your marketing like that?

2. It’s not a nametag, it’s attention

When I attend classes, teachers call on me. When I take yoga, instructors adjust my posture. When I dine out, waiters seat and serve me quickly, and treat me nicely. This is not an accident.

The nametag builds novelty, overrides people’s native defenses, breaks the ice, creates a smile in the mind and tickles the eye. It reduces psychological distance, expedites familiarity, pampers people’s memories, creates a human connection and accelerates intimacy.

Do I wear a nametag for attention? Of course I do. Attention is a great commodity—it’s the scarcest resource we have. How do you practice earning it every day? 

3. It’s not a nametag, it’s engagement

I never leave the house without nametags. It’s my uniform. And everywhere I go, people ask me if they can have one. So I’m happy to pass them out—my brand is participatory.

Personally, I don’t care if people wear the nametags. (A lot of them don’t.) What matters is that they join me in authentic human interaction, because truth is, brand perception hinges on human interaction. The only thing people can make a judgment about is how engaging with you makes them feel. And every encounter you have with another person either adds to, or subtracts from, its overall joinability.

How do you induce participation?

4. It’s not a nametag, it’s execution

When people learn that I’ve made an entire career out of wearing a nametag, they often ask: “Why didn’t I think of that?” Wrong question. Because odds are, they probably did think of that. They just didn’t do anything about it. They forgot to attach action to the idea. It’s not about the idea, it’s about the “I did.”

Execution isn’t a skill—it’s a way of life. It’s a predisposition to action, an adamant refusal to stay where you are, and an outright insistence on focusing on what’s most important to you. The world doesn’t need another idea guyIdeas are free—execution is priceless.

Which are you focused on?