The Power of the GBM

The Power of the GBM

When I went to elementary school on Miami Beach there were just four or five African-American kids in our group. I remember this only because I found out later that there were very few black families living on South Beach and the kids in our class were the children of teachers on Miami Beach that were able to bring their kids with them.

When I got to seventh grade the school board integrated the Miami-Dade school system and black kids were bussed across Biscayne Bay to Miami Beach. This redistricting immediately changed our student census from about 50/50 Hispanic and Jewish kids (with the occasional white Christian students and some Jewbans sprinkled in for good measure) to roughly 1/3 Cuban, 1/3 Jewish, 1/3 African-American.

Of course the groups mixed together warily. If being 13 to 15 isn’t an awkward enough time already, imagine what it was like to suddenly find yourself in a brand-new environment with brand-new kids and brand-new expectations. As I remember it, the transition was a bit rocky for almost everyone involved.

But there was one oasis of calm in the swirling sea of turmoil – the music department. Kids in band and orchestra were there not just because their friends participated or because it was required but because they played an instrument and were interested in music. More importantly, there was a merit system based solely on talent and ability where race, religion, and upbringing didn’t matter. Finally, our two instructors represented our student body – bandleader Mr. Martin was white and orchestra director Mr. McCall was black. Because of this, I remember the band room as a relatively calm place where everyone got along and became friends.

Having grown up on Miami Beach, my elementary school friends and I spent almost every after school afternoon in the water – either swimming in the ocean, diving in the bay, or horsing around at the community pool at Flamingo Park down the street. And of course once we got to junior high, our new friends came with us. But here’s where our differences were clear.

While I know it’s not politically correct to say that blacks can’t swim, our black friends in the band really couldn’t. Shockingly (to us adolescent Miami Beach residents, anyway), most of these kids had never been to the beach or the bay even though they lived blocks away in the Overtown neighborhood of Miami.

The GBMNow why do I risk incurring your wrath by telling you this? No, I don’t want to emulate Jimmy the Greek and his racist comments. Instead I want to point out how great branding and marketing works.

The other day I was honored with the opportunity to present my thoughts on branding to the Board of Directors of Big Brothers Big Sisters (BBBS). To get ready for my presentation, I read through all the materials they sent me, including their fundraising brochure.

The cover presented a beautiful little girl with the headline, “Imagine… 8 years old and she’d never seen an elevator.” Then I turned the page and experienced this: a picture of a man and a boy standing on the beach and staring out to sea under the headline, “Imagine a child growing up in Miami who has never been to the beach.”

BAM!! Junior high school memories that I hadn’t thought of in years – the story I told you a moment ago – came flooding back to me in a flash. It was what I call a GBM – a “goose bump moment.” In that heady instant I was bewitched and suddenly relating to BBBS with my heart and not my brain. It was such a powerful experience that the brochure’s body copy felt like it had been written just for me:

“From the perspective of our comfortable lives, it’s hard to realize that these kids can’t even imagine much of what we take for granted. (But) you have the power to change that…”

As I said, BAM!! Suddenly I was looking at BBBS in a whole new way.

What can this insight do for you? By taking a page from the BBBS brochure, you too have the power to supercharge your marketing messages. Look to create GBM shared experiences where your brand exists NOT to satisfy you or your boss but where your audience feels that your message makes THEIR lives better. Because while a good brand makes you feel good, a great brand makes you feel good about yourself. And when you can move your customers’ response from their minds to their hearts and generate a GBM emotional response your brand will benefit. Just like all of us who went to school together all those years ago on Miami Beach.

By | 2015-02-02T17:59:49+00:00 February 2nd, 2015|18 Comments


  1. Doug Williams February 3, 2015 at 9:46 am - Reply

    Thanks for another great post.

  2. Sam Cheung February 4, 2015 at 10:34 am - Reply

    Hummmm, what a cliff side road you took as a lead-in to the “making their lives better” concept. “Those people” can play the race card on you no matter how careful you try to tell your story you know…LOL.
    I have had similar experience at my HS where they bused into a basically all white school in a Polish, Italian, and Irish neighborhood. I lived through the weekly fights in the hallways and all out brawls with flying chairs in the lunchroom. The real story was that the black parents and the blacks kids really don’t want to go to a white school, and the white parents and the white kids should not have to be subjected to a “war zone” in an educational environment at this nurturing age. Who ever came up with this desegregation initiative for the school system should be “Isis.”

  3. mike rodgers February 4, 2015 at 10:47 am - Reply

    Bruce, I hadn’t really thought about our tag line on the landing page of our website, and front of our mailed marketing materials, as a GBM, but now looking at the customer feedback through this lens, I think we’ve unintentionally and honestly created a GBM. What do you think? visit our website please.

  4. mike rodgers February 4, 2015 at 10:48 am - Reply
  5. Dave February 4, 2015 at 10:53 am - Reply

    Thanks for sharing, this is an eye-opener and being from South florida I can relate

  6. Seth B February 4, 2015 at 11:05 am - Reply

    That is a very inspiring ad. You read it and then wrote your best blog post ever.

    • Bruce Turkel February 4, 2015 at 2:18 pm - Reply

      Thanks, Seth. Considering how well and for how long you’ve been reading and commenting on my posts, I really appreciate your kinds words.

  7. Connie B February 4, 2015 at 12:17 pm - Reply

    Introducing children from Liberty City and Overtown to the water was the thought process behind MAST Academy.

  8. Guerda February 4, 2015 at 12:49 pm - Reply

    Thanks for this post. What I found amazing is that your experience as young child mirrors what is happening in the same area today! As we celebrate the achievements of Blacks for Black History Month, I am sadden as our post is an indication that not much progress is being made to eradicate these disparities!!

  9. stuart sheldon February 4, 2015 at 1:28 pm - Reply

    BAM! Nailed this one, my brother!

  10. linda February 4, 2015 at 1:58 pm - Reply


    This really hits home! A bona fide GBM!!


  11. Gregoire Narcisse February 4, 2015 at 3:15 pm - Reply

    Absolutely love this post. GBM: I never had a name to attribute to that concept, now I do. Can’t say enough how easy and good a read this was. Definitely something to apply to my life.

  12. Kalyn James February 4, 2015 at 5:20 pm - Reply

    Bruce, well done and great way to get your point across. Sam Cheung, how the heck do YOU know what black people want or wanted? Focus on the message and kindly curtail your guesses. They are nearly as offensive as Isis.

  13. Monique Rosenthal February 5, 2015 at 10:48 am - Reply

    Wow!! Very powerful. Timing of this really hit home for me too, being that it is our 40th

  14. George February 7, 2015 at 10:54 am - Reply

    GBM is Glioblastoma Multiforme, the most aggressive brain tumor. Most patients die in less than a year, in spite of aggressive treatment. Ted Kennedy had this. Anyone reading this who has a family member who had one of these tumors will only think of TUMOR instead of goose bump moment.

    Thought you ought to know.

    • Bruce Turkel February 9, 2015 at 9:43 am - Reply

      Thanks for the insight, George. I should have known for a number of reasons. Appreciate the heads up.

  15. Ann Fried February 7, 2015 at 3:26 pm - Reply

    Thanks Bruce for another great example of your posts that make people think constructively.

  16. Shari Notowitz February 9, 2015 at 7:53 am - Reply

    Great article as always but this one of course was near and dear to my heart bringing back so many incredible memories from childhood!

Leave A Comment