The Cult of Personality in Politics

This is not an article about politics. Its an exploration about how a luxury personal brand  became a political one and failed. Our love affair with the cult of celebrity has led us to this point. Trump the “TV STAR” in reality tv world was a huge money maker with his slogan “your fired” that is forever be cemented in the minds of the US TV audience.  He decided after being humiliated by President Barak Obama (at that now infamous Press Dinner) that he would run for President.  After all, how hard could it be?

What did Donald Trump have that the other Republican candidates didn’t have? From a branding standpoint he created an illusion of success with his billions of dollars, a luxury lifestyle that included the model wife and a story of being a self-made man. He was also willing to be a beacon of light for the darker side of politics. Other Republicans had political pedigree or a political inside track as members of the party.  Not very appealing to a public that was tired of feeling that their voices were not being heard.  Washington was a ‘swamp’ where the typical politicians lived and his ‘outsider’ or ‘businessman’ brand appeal seemed like a good idea to voters. He made sure they all felt like they were part of a greater vision to “Make America Great Again’.  This is heady stuff for someone who has never thought he could even be close to a guy like Donald.

What his brand stood for when he promoted the idea that “Barack Obama” was not “an American” and had no birth certificate, was a position that cemented his racist ideas that kicked off the “Trump Train”. The politics of Donald Trump had nothing in common with what was considered a Republican or conservative agenda. He confounded the pundits who declared that anyone running on his platform could not become a President.  “He simply does not have the brand of a president” they all declared.  He proved them wrong.  It could be said that this brand of politics based on a “Populist” philosophy was part of a movement that is now sweeping the world in fits and starts and rising from the ashes of disappointment.

The transposition of a personal luxury brand into a traditional political brand is fraught with difficulties.  As we reflect on how businessman and a ‘so-called’ luxury brand became a President we need to understand the story that was created. Like all old school corporate brands the story is not about authenticity, transparency or empowering to the common man or woman (and especially not to women). Trump’s brand is about luxury and exclusivity which translates into politics as “exclusion”. Politicians need to be inclusive like one of the crowd and people-friendly.  How did Mr. Trump create audience connections? He promised that from his business expertise he would fix stuff that the basic guy didn’t really understand. He reached out from a position that he could create an economy that everyone could participate.  His deal would be the best ever. This is a heady promise to his audience of people who have not felt they are “in the swim” with a vastly changing world of technology or a higher education that might be beyond them. The Trump Brand is one of luxury and is best expressed by the 14k gold chairs he and his family sit on in this magazine photo.  Like an illusion of American Royalty, they sit on their golden thrones as a total re-write of Donal’d’s previous family and children. An entire “brand revision” if you will.

But tonight is a historic night. The American presidency is not just about personality or sheer force of will. It’s a night when the personal brand of Donald Trump could not weather the series of self-inflicted wounds that a successful personal brand wants to avoid.  The unraveling of the brand and its promise began on his first official day in office.  With the murmur of conflicts of interest or secret Russian connections in the background his brand story changed in subtle ways  damaging to his main story.  The force of a brand or a personality does not make a democracy nor does it guarantee anything except the hope that a certain personality can succeed in the given challenges that are the presidency.

If there are flaws in the personality there is trouble in paradise for a personal brand. In public service our nation is not a nation of personalities but of laws.  Tonight we will see how the institutions of our government step forward and act with the full faith and promise of our constitution.  It is going to be the undoing of a personal brand we predict.

Black & White Style is Forever: The Easiest Way to build your Personal Brand.

What did I love the most about the MET RED CARPET? The black and white looks that ruled.  The trend, is a solid classic and wearable for everyone.  While the “Glitterati” look their best in their Black & White trend on the carpet you can take a note to make this your own.  It’s a fantasy trend that can be purchased at TARGET or H&M and on up the retail food chain.  From a branding standpoint there is no mistake:  Black and White is here to stay.  Season-less.  Always Elegant.  For ‘Every Body’. This is the look you can wear to a wedding, a dinner or a special event and no matter what you do its going to ‘up your game’ for your presentation,  a business dinner and even the most casual of meetings.

Black and White has the cool factor of a James Bond Tux, a Rocker T-shirt, a Black denim Jean, a White T-Shirt or a ruffled Tux Shirt or motorcycle jacket.  Iconic fashion pieces or landmarks stay around forever.  James Bond, Patty Smith, Marlon Brando, Audrey Hepburn, Cher are just a few of the famous names who embrace the black and white theme.  It’s a Brand Builder for your personal brand that will never let you down.  So go ahead, get it down to a science and never worry about your style ever again.  Really.  Just focus on the best Black or White piece that looks good on your figure, try a jacket, a coat, blazer, or even a cashmere sweater over a slack, pencil skirt or slim LBD.  There are unlimited ways to wear black and white and it will never let you down.

Here is how the glitterati at the Met wore it, and I think we can all agree, it never looked better.

MET madness: How one woman brought POP CULTURE to America’s most hallowed instution.

Anna Wintour.  Vogue editor and “one small woman” who packs a punch on world’s cultural landscape has done it again. Everyone who is anyone, shows up to this event (by invitation) and especially if you are a POP CULTURE couple your appearance at this event by invitation is well,  required.  The range of fashion and culture “fashion madness”  reigned on the carpet and here is just a few of the couples in their duds. The couple that walks the carpet together (most likely) stays together.

In VOGUE STYLE, we trust.  Amen.

BRAND IMPLOSION: United, Pepsi, Adidas

UnknownWhen our conversation briefly turns from a large man with very orange hair to what we call in the industry “Brand Implosion” things must be pretty bad in the world of corporate advertising.  You have already seen the videos or heard on the news or read the articles on PEPSI,  UNITED AIRLINES and ADIDAS.  What does it mean for the small business or indie marketer? Taking cues from the “big mothers” of American (and international) brands there is a singular thread they all have in common:  Tone Deafness. 

What is tone? What does it mean when your brand is simply not acknowledging the community, diversity or customers in the message? It’s as if the creative team were all communicating with little orange juice cans tied with string:trying their best with the tools they had to work with, but the lifeline to the culture was simply out of date. Internally these companies have lost sight of our culture. Surprisingly they also seem to  have no systems  to check or challenge the creative of their organization.  This leads to chaos, mixed messages and in the case of ADIDAS,  no one proofread the emails that went out after the Boston Marathon.  They used in the “call to action” line in the email campaign the word “survival” which recalled the horrific events of several years ago. The President of United Airlines took days to apologize to the public and to the barely mentioned the passenger who had been dragged down the aisle of the airplane.  The fact that this was a policy that had stood for years was shocking and was nothing short of entitlement by the airlines. They simply forgot whom they were serving: the customer. 

Pepsi tried to be relevant; they attempted to be “connected” to the world but also missed the tone, the meaning and the content of a real issue. They lost sight of the seriousness of the world around from inside the corporate bubble. Apparently, there is no diversity throughout the creative teams, nor in their awareness of the politics of culture in the world around them. All brands no matter how big, or small, must keep sight of what it is to be serving the public who help them continue to be in business.  The cultural “zeitgeist” is critical to a creative campaign that needs to have a sense of itself as both a business proposition and a cultural one.  Critical questions in testing these messages was not asked before the roll out.  Astonishing, when the resources are vast at these companies. I’ts no wonder that smaller shops, stripped down teams are winning the day with creative that works.

Onwards, and upwards, I hope, from here.

What is Truth: Your Brand Must Tell It.

Is your brand telling the truth? Are you pretending to be something you are not?  A mass market brand that wants to be a luxury brand; a designer brand that has no designer; a luxury travel website that is really a mid-level booking site? All of this is truth in advertising and at the heart of it is your brand story:  Telling the authentic truth about your brand is how you will serve your customers best and achieve the success you (and your brand) deserve.

Truth can come from many sides of your company: Is your message truthful? Is your manufacturing and sourcing truthful? Can you deliver on your promises? The dangers of being untruthful to your  customers and clients is real and in the era of social media there is no where to hide. Truth, in advertising always been both a legal and strategic matter.  Hiding the truth was easy when the employees had no access to the media; now a “tweet” can ‘sink a ship’ or change the price of a stock valuation.  Organizations that are “top down” are struggling with the new kind of employee and customer community who have more power than ever before.

 Is there an “alternate” truth about your manufacturing or your sourcing? A story about your company that is patently false will someday emerge and destroy your brand.  There are many lies told by brands to keep secrets from their customers.  With the very heart of truth and “alternate facts” in the news every day, brands have to be more careful then ever about how they are communicating to their customers, their employees and stockholders.

There is no such thing as an “alternate fact” despite what you may have heard. Your brand whether large or small must be truthful to its DNA to tell an authentic story.  The story starts from its creation or founder, manufacturer or materials, sales or marketing and fulfillment of all your promises.

Seems overwhelming?  Just start at the beginning.  If you are looking at your “personal brand” and want to improve it just be honest and authentic to yourself or make choices that express your reality, “your truth”.  That’s not false, at all.

ARTIFICE ATELIER

Photo:  Authentic Hermes Bags “minis” one of the most sought after handmade brands in the world.