No diving

Fancy-pantsed branding gurus love clutching their cold brews while running their clients through “discoveries”, where they spread a folder of magazine cutouts all over the table and word vomit a bunch of adjectives that nobody would be caught dead using outside of a boardroom in a pair of jeans.

More times than not, what comes out of these branding huddles is a bunch of arbitrary language like “service-oriented”––”service-oriented” has always tickled me because it can just as easily be applied to a plumber called in to unclog last night’s lasagna as it can be to a woman of the night working the Red Light District.

If I were running one of these “discoveries”, I’d cut the shit and ask everyone to meet at a bar in Nashville called Duke’s. We’d all order a cold-cut sandwich, a beer and a shot of Four Roses and we’d get honest about what the hell we stand for. Branding gurus call the product conceived from this kind of brainstorming “core values” but I think “Pool Rules” feels a bit more appropriate.

Every brand –– whether you’re fucking Dell or an obscure CBD Portland-based soap maker –– should have a list of “swimming pool rules” they live, work and abide by.

You visit any public swimming pool in America –– which I wouldn’t recommend unless you can swim inside some human-sized condom –– and you’ll find a list of sun-faded rules clinging to the wall by a few rusted-out screws:

* No diving
* No finagling
* No shitting
* No pissing
* No gaping wounds

Your brand’s “pool rules” should be written like rules –– not “core values” –– that you and your people can easily point to and call bullshit when they are being broken.

“Clark, I know it felt good to subject your last email to that customer ‘per my last email’ but that breaks Pool Rule #13: Be nice to customers via email even when you’d prefer to mail them a hot crock of sh––”.


1. If you aren’t pissing people off, you’re doing something wrong.
2. Say it with your portfolio.
3. If you’re going to talk shit, sign your name.
4. Introduce clients to clients.
5. Charge a lot but give them more than they pay for.
6. Don’t be an asshole unless the client is an asshole.
7. If the client is an asshole, ask them *politely* not to be (prior to #6).
8. Try to hit your deadlines.
9. Break #8 *only* if it means the work will be better for it.
10. Don’t bitch about the roller coaster you got on.
11. Like every Michelin Star restaurant, send the bill after the meal.
12. Never compete with living writers; you don’t know if they’re good yet.
13. Only compete with dead writers; their work has stood the test of time.
14. Never advertise anything you wouldn’t want your son or daughter to buy.
15. Try not to do what has previously been done.
16. Don’t beat the data, be the data that others try to beat.
17a. Do work that makes you happy.
17b. Do work that allows you to buy the shit that makes you happy.
17c. Do work that allows you to take care of those that make you happy.
18. Don’t sleep with clients and don’t work with folks you sleep with.
19. Get fired once a quarter for being “unwavering” in your creative vision.
20. Try to play nice on LinkedIn (only because it’s good for business).
21. Don’t take no shit from folks you wouldn’t want to trade places with.
22. All criticisms (mine included) must be accompanied by suggestions.
23. There’s poetry in everything –– find it.
24. Lead with your balls or ovaries or whatever genitalia you claim.
25. Have a point of view.
26. Choose wisely when it matters, quickly when it doesn’t.
27. Don’t be the greatest to ever do it, be the greatest to ever do it your way.
28. When you’re blocked, run your car through the carwash.
29. Interesting people are interested.
30. Greatness is good compounded over time.
31. A mistake made once is a mistake; twice is a desire.
32. Take yourself seriously, your work less so.
33. Loving what you do means hating what you do, some of the time.

You get the gist, hopefully.

If you need help defining your “Pool Rules”, you know where to find me: ““.

Otherwise, enjoy your Saturday.



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