The Michael Jackson memorial service was a celebration of his music and a collective mourning of the loss of the man, father, son, brother and friend. I watched as a marketer, mourner and the little girl whose first concert at age 5 was the Jackson 5.
In life and death, Michael Jackson is a global brand and we have only come to grasp the magnitude of what he truly accomplished.
As I watched, listened, and participated in social media discussions I was acutely aware that in Michael’s case the man in the mirror was also his brand. Michael Jackson created a global base of customers and fans who so closely identified with his brand that it was interwoven into the fabric of their own lives. His brand story became a backdrop of their own history.
Brand evangelists are the holy grail for many in business. We diligently work to deeply engage our customers and build brand affinity. We look upon the attainment of such as marketing heaven but in the business world the trip from marketing heaven to the nether regions is not that far.
Passion and intimacy go hand in hand and your raving fans can direct that passion for or against you. We saw this in action earlier this year when long time brand Tropicana redesigned its packaging and their consumers revolted. Tropicana is a multi million dollar corporation and they changed their packaging and survived the ordeal. But how do you handle it when you are your brand?
Michael Jackson created a level of intimacy with his fans that made them feel that he was part of the family (and he was incredibly gracious to fans). That family never let him rest and in death it appears this will continue. For Michael Jackson the market did not separate the man from the brand, and they unleashed their passion both for and against him during his lifetime.
In marketing, it is wise to decide on your relationship strategy with your customers. Will you casually date or embark on a fiery love affair? Will you be friends for a season or join together till death do you part? Know your strategy and be prepared to embrace the good, bad and ugly because in marketing heaven and hell are in very close proximity.
What are your thoughts? Are there boundaries in personal branding or do your customers have open access? Have you ever lost control of your brand message? How did you handle it?
As my friend Rosa Say would invite, let’s huddle and learn together.
Karen Swim says
Brad, I agree it’s not for everyone. We watch entertainers struggle under the weight of such scrutiny but even on a smaller level, it can be easy to confuse you the person with you the brand. I can also see how easy it is to lose control of your brand when it is personal. A negative review, press release or encounter can snowball into something that puts you at the center of a firestorm. When your brand is depersonalized the crisis points are still hard but not as personal.
Brad Shorr says
Karen, At SOBCon09 Brian Clark talked on this very subject. He said that personal branding is the strongest form of branding, but it’s not for everybody (including, he said, himself). Reason being, staking it all on your personality requires an extremely thick skin, a willingness to push the envelope, to offend, to invite criticism and even hatred. We’re not all cut out to do that, and I wonder sometimes if it’s possible to carry a personal brand half way and avoid the downside. In Jackson’s case, he seems to be an example of a personality who shouldn’t have taken his brand so far. Perhaps that would not have been good for us, but it would have been good for him. What do you think?
.-= Brad Shorr´s last blog ..Business Model Innovation Comes before Branding and Marketing =-.