Smile. You’re Branded.

by Geoff Smith

Fork in his eyeThe quote-master, Mark Twain, once said: “Sometimes I wonder whether the world is being run by smart people who are putting us on, or by imbeciles who really mean it.” I’m often amazed at how thin the line really is between the two.

I just read an article by Maria Saporta in the Atlanta Business Chronicle about how the Georgia Chamber of Commerce is going to ask our congressmen to take a pledge. It will ask them to promise to “do no harm” to our state’s image. If you did not know, Georgia is now one of the most admired states in the union for the economy we have created here. If you don’t believe me, go to Lansing, Michigan, hang out at the bar Tavern and Tap across from the state capital and wait for session to get out. It will fill up with congressmen that will gush over how great our state is.

It has taken decades for Georgia to position itself as an economic powerhouse that has been named the best state to do business in. With a few state races, some candidates are finding success in telling rural voters that they may sign a religious freedom bill. According to the article, the Georgia Chamber seems to fear that a backlash from such a signing would be similar to what happened to North Carolina. And that’s a big deal – especially with Amazon now looking between us and 20 other cities as the location for their HQ2.

Apart from state politics, the article got me to thinking about branding. While our state has spent decades building an admired economy, one mistake could tarnish our reputation overnight. You don’t believe me? Just ask Harvey Weinstein, Matt Lauer, or – and it truly kills me to say this, Charlie Rose.

I knew a guy who coaches in the same basketball league I coach in. Everyone used to know him as the nicest, most put-together guy – kind of quiet, but always to the point. Then we saw him on the court coaching a 5th-grade basketball game. He was way more Bobby Knight at Indiana than Mark Richt at Georgia. All of you Hoosiers fans might point out that Knight won three NCAA championships. While that’s true, I’m talking about a 5th-grade coach with no championships.

In the span of a week, the guy went from being put-together to always being a step away from coming un-glued. Now, for the rest of us, it was probably a good thing that him coaching basketball flushed out that side of his personality. But for him, it wasn’t good at all. It would have been better had he prescribed to a phrase my engineer brother always said to me growing up: “It is better to remain silent at the risk of being thought a fool, than to talk and remove all doubt.”

I know a bunch of people that would sour to the thought that what they do in their personal lives should have an effect in their professional lives. They are crying “phony!” I can hear them. But that doesn’t change the fact that everyone around them has a perception of who they are. You can think the greatest thoughts in the world, but if you present them poorly – who will know? It’s like the tree falling in the woods analogy.

I actually like branding. It requires effort and loyalty to an idea. I’m always looking for the people who are shining lights on things for me to follow, rather than those who are constantly pointing out the darkness. I don’t want to know how bad everything is. I want to see how great it all can become.

Rates Push Further Up

While the movement has not been huge, nothing has been able to knock mortgage interest off their stride in a steady move upwards.

Since passage of the new tax bill, there has been really no bad news to cramp our improving economy’s style. For the past several years, while we’ve seen good numbers from most of the things economists measure to determine a strong, growing economy(GDP, consumer confidence, unemployment, etc..), inflation has remained stubbornly low. Inflation is the measure of wages and the prices of goods and services. Economists, including governors at the Federal Reserve, have been flummoxed that prices and wages have not gone up with the growing economy.

They reasoned that it was because of us now competing more with a global market than we were prior to the economic collapse of 2008. If we raise prices of our goods and services, we won’t be competitive with our foreign companies. And we can’t raise wages if we can’t charge more for our products and services. Otherwise inflation usually goes up when everything else looks good(low unemployment, rising GDP, high consumer confidence and retail sails, etc…). Inflation seems to be the last hold-out on the Fed declaring full success for our economy. It kind of felt like the guy charged with opening the doors at Wal-Mart on Black Friday.

Well folks, inflation finally started to move and those doors could now be open.

We’ll see where it goes from here. But as far as mortgage interest rates are concerned, we all expected them to be well into the 5%-range by now. But they have hovered above and below 4% for the last 3 years. Rates typically rise in a growing economy and that’s what they have been doing for several weeks now.

What this Means to You:
According to Mortgage News Daily’s Rate Survey, best execution rates for a conventional 30-year fixed are at 4.22%.