Rob Frankel - Branding Expert

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There will always be a Christmas.

When you're in the kind of business I am, you spend a lot of time working the phones, maintaining both business and personal relationships. Most of the time is spent on good-natured complaining. After all, misery loves company, especially if you can parlay the call into a good deli lunch.

I particularly enjoy my calls with my elder associates. Guys who have seen it all and done it all -- and made a fair amount of money doing both. I like talking to these guys. They have names like Phil and Jack and Murray. Names you know have been around a long time because very few people my age have names like Phil and Jack and Murray. Most of these guys either served in Korea or World War Two, and all of them have good stories.

Usually, the phone call begins with one or the other asking how business is, followed by the usual whining and complaining, which in turn, is usually followed by some sort of prediction based on a story from their early years. It's almost always upbeat. This year, though, it's taken on a new flavor.

I was talking to Phil last week. Both of us agreed that in this economy, anyone who tells you they're doing great is lying. But then Phil chimed in with his usual positive note:

"There will always be Christmas."

Now, Phil is an old-time retailer. And I know what he meant. He meant that no matter how bad things get, people always have to buy Christmas gifts and pump the economy. But I think Phil missed the profundity of his remark, given the crisis circumstances we're all enduring.

Slogging our way through the constant media reports of terror, anthrax, bombs and "America's New War", it's hard to keep an even keel. I don't remember ever being this affected by public affairs. I don't like being on edge. I don't like the crisis situation. And to be perfectly honest, I don't like the 24/7 barrage of overanalysis and reporting that the media keeps pouring into our heads.

So I've turned off the TV. I've opted for what I call "limited denial." Not that I'm a big fan of burying my head in the sand, but I can't stand the alternative: total immobilization through constant renewed fear.

The fact is that you have a better chance of being struck by lightning four times in a row than you do of ever getting targeted by any kind of terrorist activity -- real or imagined. The truth is that if you're not symbolic in the media, you're not a worthy target for the terrorists -- they thrive on media attention. The reality is that no matter how bad things seem to be, politically or economically, the good times return more quickly when bringing good times is your goal, rather than wringing your hands about the bad.

Sure, if you spend your day tuned to CNN, you can drown yourself in even more bad news. Personally, I've put my faith in guys like Phil and Jack and Murray, who have been around this block before. They know to work in the short term to bring the long term success:

They keep their heads down. Keep their minds on business. And never, ever lose faith in that one, simple truth:

There will always be a Christmas.

Rob Frankel

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