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What's Your Brand?

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by Helen Fu Thomas, Principal

It is reported that the US presidential campaign cost $6 billion, with over a million ads.  And the election came down to county-by-county results that showed the demographics and votes (blue vs. red) in fine detail.

 The question that came to my mind was this: What corporate brand would run a commercial campaign like the ones in this election, with the massive scale of spending and coverage?   Would any Chief Executive travel through 4 states per day, meeting people and shaking their hands?  And behind the scenes, would analysts look at all points of sales in stores of each county, tune the messaging to the targeted audience, and have forecasts of sales down to the hundreds, tens or single units? 

I was very impressed with Governor Romney in the first debate.  He was well prepared, sharp and articulate.  Isn't he the perfect role model for the leadership of America?  Doesn't everyone wish to be like him: Successful, financially independent, ethical, and supporting a great family?  Doesn’t the greatest economy in the world deserve someone like him to lead?  It didn’t turn out that way.  In this country, people of color and women are no longer minorities.  And they turned away the perfect candidate.  Was it a mistake? Do we really just get four more years of the same after all that? Haven't we all suffered one way or the other? Why didn't we make a change and exercise our rights of democracy? It all came down to the brutal facts of data, maybe too much data, depending on how you use them for your decisions. They may betray you in the end when results are not what you wished after all your efforts collecting data.  How often do companies invest in developing and launching products, but miss the expectations? So why don't people buy them even though they know the benefits?

Steve Jobs’ memoir published after his death was one of the top selling books in the world.  He was unique because of his insights.  Somehow he saw the internal motives of consumers and succeeded in selling technology in so many different industries - computer, animated movies, music, telecommunications, and publishing.  Each of us has unique insights.   How do we apply them to our careers and life decisions? That may well be the start of our own brands.  There is only one Steve Jobs and one Apple.  There is also only one of you.

Somehow, these insights need to develop into a product, a service, an offering, or maybe a business.  President Obama built a coalition of African American, Hispanic, young adults and women.  He used the contrast of the middle class versus the wealthy to make Governor Romney almost irrelevant to the majority of people.  That's right.  You have to be innovative to distinguish your product from the others, and that unique appeal should derive from your insights of your targeted audience.

That leads to Communications, the essential part of any campaign.  If you want people to buy something, you've got to tell a good story, and tell it again, and again, and again. President Obama was most vulnerable in the first debate because, somehow, he didn't look like he was in the game.  He wasn't there to tell his story.

When I was at Livescribe, my first start-up experience, I told my story with 5 pencasts that I made myself: 1) Helen's first English Lesson, 2) Teaching my son the Chinese character "rain" by descriptive way of explaining the strokes, 3) an architect's design of a bridge, 4) my son' writing his first rhyme, and 5) my advanced Chinese lesson of a Tang poem.  The point was to show, capture, access and share live content uniquely with handwriting and audio for language learning and creativity.  Many years from now it will still be magical for people to look at those pencasts, especially for my son who had the biggest giggle when he saw the pencast he wrote 4 years ago. I can’t wait for his son to see it.  The authenticity of his handwriting along his voice was just precious.  So why didn’t all parents buy one?

Execution.  Easy to say and hard to do.  Even Governor Romney fell short in the end.  How could he have done better?  I am sure everyone has lots of ideas.  One of the interesting factors is timing.  The other is momentum.  Obviously he lost some momentum in the final week if the campaign when Hurricane Sandy hit the east coast.  Some even said it was "God's will".  Could Livescribe have had more momentum had the iPad not been launched?

Politician or not, we each have our own identity.  To make it a brand, a great brand big or small, we all have to recognize that with digital and social media, we are not just who we are but what we are perceived to be.  That perception is the driving force for the others' actions.  The more you can connect your authentic self to them and offer value with great insights of their needs, the more relevant you are in this world, and the happier you may be about yourself.  The biggest satisfaction is always when you can give and are well received ...  even paid for, maybe.

Being a strategic brand advocate, I help people and companies evaluate where they are in the product cycle and what actions they can take to enhance their product positioning.  What’s your brand?  What insights and suggestions may you need to make your brand spectacular?

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