Personal branding forms unbreakable bonds

Personal Branding

Personal BrandingPersonal branding is the most overused and most misunderstood of all the branding jargon I come across in my job title (Brand Strategist).

Luckily I have never been asked to work on a personal brand in my professional career.

The whole idea of personal branding caused Google to reconfigure the search engine dynamics of my branding category about four years ago.

Too many of the so called brand companies that specialized in personal branding were practicing what the industry calls black hat SEO.

This means they were using less than respectable practices to score higher in Google searches.

Like the snake-oil salesman of years ago, these personal branding charlatans took peoples hard earned cash for little or no return.

However, the idea of personal branding is not completely stupid

I try to help companies understand their brand equities by using VERY personal examples. I have been known to ask CEOs of fortune 100 companies to “pretend for just a moment that your brand was a person and not a corporation. How would you describe that person?”

Personal brandingIt is an important realization exercise because I want business executives to understand the emotional fabric of their brands.

When you bring a person to mind, it is not just a list of attributes that define that image in your mind’s eye. It is mostly a rag-tag conglomeration of feelings that color and form that memory.

Go ahead for just a moment and visualize your grandmother. When her image comes to mind do you FEEL more or THINK more? Proves my point.

Brand is an emotional connection that defies dissection in a rational manner. Personal branding, as it turns out, is the foundation of all branding. It is how we feel about everything in our lives.

The picture of personal branding is an intricate oil painting

The painting is created by a renaissance master. You.

So many corporate and product brands fail to see this that my work docket is always full. Sure, we talk to our clients about stealing market share and how their brand is the permission-switch that persuades the target audience that their brand is important (and therefore takes and grows market share).

Personal brandingBut, while we all are able to tap our imagination when thinking about personal branding we remain relatively blind when thinking about product and corporate branding.

Corporations are so sold on the rational benefits of their product or service that they can’t get out of their own way. When asked to talk about their own mother Chief Marketing Officers will freely admit that their moms are angels of love.

They describe them as beautiful (even if they were as ugly as a barn door). They attribute to her emotional ideas like caring, loving, considerate, gentle, self-sacrificing and tender. Even if they jokingly speak about her shortcomings they are emotional attributes like angry or formidable.

They NEVER list rational attributes like height, weight, eye color or dress size.

Corporate Brands

Personal brandingBut, contrast that with their business brands and most times all they can list is product attributes and measurable words.

Words like effective, better, new, revolutionary and the new term of the day— disruptive technology is about all they can think of.

So I remind them that the people, music, ideas, books, thoughts, beliefs and even loves in their life are ALL emotional connections. They are NEVER rational.

You might be willing to switch soap powders (read about packaged goods here), even if you are convinced that your first choice cleans better, for another cheaper brand.

But you would NEVER be willing to switch families no matter how dysfunctional yours might be. Emotional bonds are forever.

Emotional brand bonds last forever and can be stretched and contorted beyond belief but they seem never to break. They are self-healing and eternal because we don’t EVER need to think about them. We just KNOW them.

Personal Experiences Recalls Personal Branding

Personal experiences often give us glimpses into personal branding. When I heard that Leonard Cohen had died at age 82 on November 10th 2016 I was sad. Like all of his fans. Was I sad because I knew I would never have the pleasure of hearing his songs again for the first time?

Personal brandingNope. I was sad for me because someone and something I loved had passed away (you can read my blog on Leonard Cohen’s death here). He was not a songwriter and singer to me. He was a part of me. He was a part of my personal brand. His death was personal to me.

When we think about personal branding we envision a world not unlike our solar system (read an interesting article on Ptolemy here— and alternative theory on the universe).

We are the SUN and everything we hold as important revolves around us. It is the gravity of our nuclear furnace that provides the energy to keep the solar system alive and functioning.

But the SUN as metaphor is greater than the description provided to us through physics.

Personal brandingThe Sun, according to science is just a mass of gasses imploding and creating immense power and light through nuclear fusion.

It is, when described in this way, nothing more than a nuclear power plant like the one at Three Mile Island or Chernobyl. Very inspiring don’t you agree?

But, when you think about the Sun (yourself in my metaphor) How it works is not as important as what it represents. It is the source of life, warmth, and light. It is the promise of a new day and awakening. It IS life.

Rebranding as science

When branding or rebranding a company or product we distill its essence down to those emotional values that are in fact the only immutable values you can ever own.

They form for us the basis of our attachment to things, ideas and people. They defy rational understanding and never ask us to consider the basis for that affection because it is in so many ways unknowable.

We just feel it to be so. That’s plenty enough by the way.

When rebranding is needed. We will remind you that all branding, at the end of the day, is personal branding.

 

 

Galaxy Note 7 fire hazard disaster

Galaxy Note 7 fire hazardThe Samsung Galaxy Note 7 recall because of the Galaxy Note 7 fire hazard has me thinking. What if any long term effect could this Galaxy Note 7 fire hazard have on the BRAND of Samsung?

Sure an exploding or smoldering smart phone is not a product feature in even the most optimistic consumer’s mind. But could this product recall seriously and permanently damage this mega-brand consumer products company?

In a word. Maybe.

Brands have meaning to consumers and great brands have great emotional meaning to customers. They associate with that brand meaning and, because that association should be about the customer and not the product, it becomes personal.

Galaxy Note 7 fire hazardNike has a premier consumer product position, not because it makes the best athletic shoes, but because Nike means the wearer feels like a winner. It’s the Nike promise that you should just do it. Forget the distractions. Keep focused because YOU are a winner for choosing Nike (read about the NIKE brand here). That is the power of BRAND.

I am trying to think about Samsung. What does the brand MEAN? Does the Galaxy Note 7 fire hazard in any way damage that association? I think it does and here is why.

Samsung is the largest electronics company in South Korea. It makes quality products and has infiltrated almost every category of consumer electronics. But it has a very poorly defined brand promise.

Galaxy Note 7 fire hazardLacking that emotional connection, it has allowed the consumer to position it as a value brand. That means Samsung is lower priced than the competition but are generally well made and dependable.

It might not be fair to dis Samsung as lacking in innovation but I think the market does not view it as being an innovator in any way. It is a fast follower, often copying the market leader’s products with a slightly cheaper (value) positioning.

This model has allowed them to steal the thunder from many storied brands. Take Son (Read about the Sony brands here) for instance. Its Trinitron TV brand reinvented the category.

Sony even led the way in flat screen innovation. But Samsung copied those products and dared to make side by side comparisons of product features — all with a value twist. The result? Growth in market share.

Galaxy Note 7 fire hazard has reshaped the smart phone pecking order

Same is true with the smart phone. Everyone knows the category was invented by Apple. Even the courts backed up that statement. Samsung entered the category with a cheaper reproduction and an nearly all-open sourced operating system. Side-by-side comparisons with the iPhone showed similar capabilities at about 50% of the cost.

Galaxy Note 7 fire hazardBut the Galaxy Note 7 fire hazard has undone much of that value cache. The great enemy of value brands is an underlying and almost universal human belief that, at the end of the day, you ALWAYS get what you pay for.

Customers who invest their emotional soul to value brands sit around waiting for the shoe to drop and hoping it does not. Want proof? Ask Value Jet.(Read about the fire that burned up an airline here: ValueJet). A failure by a low cost provider can be fatal to the brand.

Galaxy Note 7 fire hazardI worry that all the problems and bad press over the Galaxy Note 7 fire hazard feels like the shoe has dropped. (You are reminded of it every time you fly on a US passenger airline because they warn you before boarding that, having a Samsung Galaxy Note 7 turned on or charging, is forbidden because of the recall.)

To survive, Samsung might have to double down on its value proposition and make the risk worth the reward by gutting its profit margins.

Or it could call us and we could help them create a REAL brand that incorporates brand repair with a new juggernaut of meaning. Samsung won’t call however. It thinks brand is a logo and name. But there is no need to change either. There is a need to change the meaning.

Politically ignorant generation of sheep

Are we the generation of the politically ignorant?

politically ignorantThe word ignorant gets its root from the word ignore. Someone who is ignorant is someone who ignores. Because we ignore, we are politically ignorant.

I worry about the future of my government because I live with generations of the ignorant. We have almost no sources of news today other than the slimy slanted broadcast news stations and broadcast news centers.

Things have changed and not all change is progress.

When I was a young person, the TV networks took news seriously. The vision of Walter Annenberg attempted to present the top news stories of the day in 30-minute segments every evening.

Some even adopted 60-minute formats and news anchors tried to present the facts. Editorial content was reserved for a few small moments every few weeks when the station’s editorial staff expressly present an opinion piece.

Politically ignorant was not Walter CronkiteThere were inherent reasons why this format worked. Americans, by and large, received or purchased a daily newspaper. These papers subscribed to international bureaus like the AP or UPI and the larger papers had reporters stationed all over the globe, collecting, dissecting and evaluating the validity of the world’s happenings.

The broadcast news bureaus were not designated as profit centers. They were part of the station’s charter to serve the public interest. No one confused or polluted the broadcasts or segments as entertainment. Few were politically ignorant.

When CBS, NBC, and ABC covered the political conventions, the news anchor (like Walter Cronkite or David Brinkley) watched the event and acted as a master of ceremony diverting the live cameras to the stories taking place on the convention floor.

Everyday beat reporters, like the soon to become famous Dan Rather and Tom Brokaw, asked hard hitting questions of Mayor Daley or Everett Dirkson.

What do we have today?

Drivel. Politically ignorant drivel.

Panels of talking heads replay scripted spin. The conventions themselves lack the drama of even the Academy Awards. The reason? All the outcomes and decisions are known before the convention itself. The result is ignorance.

Politically ignorantWho needs to make a considered decision when you can tune into any specific political broadcast and see and hear only from proselytizers and pundits that already agree with your pre-determined decisions?

How many Americans believe that Jon Stewart, Bill Maher and Bill O’Reilly are newsmen?

This lack of discourse makes ignorance comfortable and worse still acceptable. How many of you have heard of the Pulitzer Prize-winning web site called Politifact? It is a web site dedicated to political fact checking. It looks for misinformation on both sides of the aisle.

Today, if you are unhappy with the way government is working (or not working), I say that we get the government we deserve. And we deserve the government we get.

the results of being politically ignorantI am NOT outraged over Donald Trump’s political comments concerning Russians and emails. I AM outraged that his supporters are not providing any political incentives or consequences to stop this unfiltered crap.

Political benefits at what cost? Diplomacy works only through back doors not through bullying tactics. As a nation, we pretend to abhor bulling in our schools but we seem to have no problem rewarding it in the important geopolitical arena.

So what is the end result of political thought that is unchallenged and ignored? History tells us the unbelievable and the inconceivable happens when rational objection and forethought goes out the window.

When it is suggested that we could make ourselves safer and preserve our culture… the silent majority nods in agreement. Let’s put the Jews in camps.

Honey Nut Cheerios Healthy Hearts

Honey Nut Cheerios hits a home run

Honey Nut CheeriosHoney Nut Cheerios is one of General Mill’s flagship brands. The cereal market is in a death spiral (read our in-depth market study on the cereal and breakfast category here) as tastes and consumer patterns change. Breakfast cereal used to be the staple food at breakfast tables across the globe but times have changed.

Honey Nut CheeriosThe venerable brands of my youth (Kellogg’s Raisin Bran, Kellogg’s Cornflakes, Post Raisin Bran, Wheaties and even Cheerios) are hard at work trying to expand the market.

Time was all of the advertising dollars was directed at kids. Even Wheaties (the breakfast of champions) was targeted at getting kids to prefer the cereal over other choices. Today, more and more brands are simply trying to expand the traditional audience by including adults in the advertising too. Most to little effect.

The reason for the failure is that brand permission does not come by simply featuring the target audience in the communication. You need to have the target audience say to themselves, “I want to be that.”

Enter Honey Nut Cheerios

The Cheerios parent brand has been talking heart healthy for many years now. There seems to be no dissenting voices in science that there are REAL benefits to oats (oat bran in particular) in the health and vitality of the human heart. But the message of heart healthy has done very little to expand the category and, while one of the more successful rebrands in the cereal market, Cheerios has continued to disappoint despite outperforming many others in the category.

But the Healthy Hearts Stay Young campaign may be a real game changer.

The commercial has the mandatory adult and child but the similarity ends here. The spots are an exuberant and charming combination of energy and brand without the usual feature of focusing only on the product. The spots are mesmerizing and are so well produced that you find yourself stopping on the commercial when channel surfing. The main spot is THAT good. The supporting spots are less powerful because it is the adult in the main commercial that is most appealing.

Stop the other branded slop.

General Mills Logo Honey Nut CheeriosThis campaign truly builds brand preference. I want to be THAT and I’m sure I am not alone. The precocious child is overshadowed by the talented adult and it is her movement and agility that holds sway in the spot. I simply can’t take my eyes off her and even see the little girl as a distraction. Despite the lack of traditional brand identification, I remembered this commercial as being all about Honey Nut Cheerios. It worked.

Scrap the silly honey bee, General Mills. He (or she) may be cute but the commercials are all about YOU and the natural ingredients. You took the bold step of making your prospects feel that they want to be part of the club and we don’t need any rational reasons why your honey came from bees. To my knowledge, all honey comes from bees.

A few words on Kellogg’s

Bodyform. Bloody, real, important?

Have you seen the new Bodyform TV Commercial?

The pregnant man and the BodyForm Commercial
Saatchi used boldness to great effect

Bodyform got me thinking. I started my career in brand building and advertising many years ago with Saatchi & Saatchi in London. At the time, it was the largest and possibly the most influential ad agency in the world. I don’t think you would get much of an argument with advertising historians and adfolks in general if I stated that the best advertising in the world was coming out of the UK in those days. It was at times edgy, funny, controversial and often provocative.

Is the UK raising the bar again? I ‘ll leave that to you to decide. A friend brought the new BodyForm TV commercial to my attention and was even kind enough to ask for my opinion on it. The truth is, my opinion does not count for much as I am not the target audience for menstrual pads. But I have to say, it seems to fulfill all of my prejudices for great advertising and communication.

Bodyform PackagingIt is bold, unapologetic and controversial. The spin on the web has been mostly positive as the brand has been praised for its use of real blood in the ad and equating a woman’s regular menstral cycle as being as common place as athletics, striving and accomplishment. I think it works on that level.

Bodyform is blazing its own path

But I would really like to hear what you think (I’m talking to the females here). Is it pandering or real? Is it too clever or does it hit you as authentic? Is it too symbolic or does it make the brand (and therefore the user) feel heroic? Do you feel strongly about the brand? Does Bodyform represent something that you want to identify with?

Bodyform BloodMy friend Pam, who brought my attention to the ad, said this: “I understand where they’re coming from. Women are powerful, menstruation is part of being a woman, we bleed. But the imagery, especially the beginning, sets an uncomfortable tone. The woman under water with blood on her head looks like a victim of a horrible crime, that stays with me for the rest of the ad.”

Great communications and great advertising should shine a bright beam of light on the brand itself and the identification that the target audience develops or possesses with the brand. The worst advertising brings attention to itself. The message becomes secondary to the medium itself. What’s the truth here?

I leave that to you to tell me.