Posts Tagged ‘Malcolm Gladwell’

When Does A Person Become A Brand?

Shortly before Thanksgiving, and well before Tiger’s bogeys, I started this post because I was kinda miffed at what I think is the overuse of the word “brand” when applied to people. It seems every time you look around the media and even “the man in the street” is wielding the concept of branding.

The straw that broke the camel’s back was my beloved Sunday New York Times where no less than two separate articles in the same issue declared that both Malcolm Gladwell and Megan Fox were brands. Being a best selling author/essayist or the current “It Girl” does not automatically give you status as a brand. Not to worry, the word is regularly bandied about in a way that is condescending, dismissive and pejorative.

If you’ve spent as much time as I have in the marketing trenches you know that creating and building a brand is not as easy as people think and tainting one is actually easier than running over a fire hydrant and crashing into a tree.

So what are the requisites? “A brand is a promise,” I once opined while sitting on a panel at USC. A tried and true test is the ability to successfully extend the name to other products and ventures. You may be famous. You may be a spokesperson. Being a celebrity is not enough. Nor are lucrative endorsements. Even being a super star does not a brand make.

I sat down and proceeded to make a list of people from all walks of life. I asked friends, family and colleagues to weigh-in. After further review, as they say, I decided on who was and who was not a brand. (Please post or email your votes.)

Unequivocally nominated to my short list were Oprah, Martha and Tiger, quintessential examples of a person as a brand. These three are so powerful they need only their first names. You knew exactly who and what I was talking about. The person and the brand.

As I was procrastinating – I mean researching this piece and building my list – okay sleeping off my Thanksgiving – the Woods family was up in the wee hours: Tiger debating the downside of night putting as the Mrs. was working on her nocturnal short game.

As we know, things have gone quickly from the need for some damage control on the dented front end of the Tiger Woods brand to a full blown sex scandal that brings a whole new meaning to body shop.

With all due respect to the Woods family, this piece is about branding. Brands live in the hearts and minds of people. The crucible of public opinion creates its own tiered value system where excess vanity is soon forgotten, insider trading is forgiven and even infidelity may find redemption. However, the continued revelations of the number and type of so-called “transgressions” are each blows to a formerly pristine brand.

Please remember what I said earlier – “a brand is a promise.” Beware the perils if you become more of a brand than a person. The rewards are great but so are the risks.

Gotta go. I have an overwhelming desire to make some Newman’s Own Popcorn and watch the news.