“What is your brand?” asked Piers Morgan in a recent interview with Oprah Winfrey. Oprah, with a broad smile spreading across her face, candidly answered, “I’m the love brand.” As Morgan poked fun at her positioning, Oprah continued “ultimately, everything I say, whether it’s in my magazine, whether it’s Gayle on the radio, whether it’s the ‘Oprah Winfrey Show’ and now, everything about the OWN channel is about opening your space, your heart space, so that you can love more. That’s really all money is for. Money is worth nothing if it can’t buy you the opportunity to love more.”
Oprah is not the first person to become a brand.Transforming people into robust and powerful brands is a mass media phenomenon that can withstand the passing of time, and can even transcend a person’s niche against all odds.
Martha Stewart’s brand went beyond her show into home goods, and she emerged like a rising phoenix despite her brief time behind bars. Donald Trump has even stamped his name on cuts of beef, despite having suffered a very public bankruptcy.
But this mass media phenomenon is not a novel concept; historical figures have been elevated to the category of powerful brands for what they represent. Mahatma Gandhi, Albert Einstein, and even the infamous Che Guevara, can transform a plain old $3 T-Shirt into a $25 status symbol.
Why is it that some people become brands, and others don’t?
It isn’t luck or some unknown cosmic phenomenon, nor is it the result of some monumental financial machinery. It’s basic branding. Those who reach commercial brand status have a structured foundation and a clear conceptual platform. Just like Oprah, these people know who they are and they are consistent in making it clear to the world. They “stand for something.” They don’t change with the tide. The carry a roadmap under their arm and no one and nothing can change it. Not even Fidel Castro was able to change Che Guevara.
Like Oprah, who has proclaimed herself to be the love brand, Einstein represents the intelligence brand, Gandhi the peace brand, Trump is the success brand and Che Guevara is the rebellion brand, the irreverence brand, or better yet, the anti status quo brand.
At the root of all of these public figures is a very clear, identifiable symbol that conveys their message; the Donald’s famous comb-over or Einstein’s messy hair; Gandhi’s walking cane, the clothing he wore (or didn’t wear) and signature eyeglasses; and Che Guevara’s beard and beret are all part of their brand image like the color red is to Marlboro or yellow is to Kodak. What would Nike be without its famous swish; no one would ever fathom changing those symbols, not even the owners themselves. They used them without caring about fads or trends.
Sometimes I think my message is redundant, but branding isn’t as mysterious as people think. It doesn’t involve a lot of science, nor does one need to become Einstein to understand it. It’s as simple as Gandhi. A solid, authentic and unique platform consistently applied. That’s it.
But don’t take my word for it. Ask Oprah!
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