I never miss the Oscars. I find them fascinating because I'm not just a film and fashion lover--I'm also a branding and marketing strategist. I always pick up a few great lessons in business and personal branding from the Academy Awards.
Here are just two of the ideas I took away from this year's red carpet:
1. Great brands are ageless--if they stay relevant.
Jane Fonda is 80 years old, but walking onto the red carpet in a white gown, she radiated the same kind of presence she's been known for her since her youth.
How has she managed to keep getting great roles for more than six decades? Simple. She knows how to keep the essence of her brand intact, while reinventing herself to be pertinent to the times we are living in.
Fonda's left behind the young and sexy Barbarella and instead become a role model for her fellow boomer-age women who are committed to remaining passionate as they age. The same goes for other red carpet walkers: Rita Moreno (87), Christopher Plummer (88), and James Ivory (89) who was nominated for best adapted screenplay with Call Me by Your Name.
The lesson to take away here is that even if you have a brand that has been around for decades, you can't rest on your laurels.
Simply existing over an extended period of time does not ensure survival. Instead, leverage your longevity with an occasional re-brand that keeps your business, product, or service relevant for current times and concerns.
The practical action: If you haven't stepped back and taken a look a hard look at your brand and asked yourself whether it's still hitting the mark today's world, it's time to do so. I recommend these three actions to my clients:
- Host a series of customer panels where the only purpose is to hear what your clients have to say about how relevant they think your company is today, and what suggestions they have for moving forward in the future. One hot tip: You may want to use a professional facilitator, since he or she will be more able to stay neutral in the face of any feedback.
- Hold lunch-and-learn sessions with your front-line employees and ask them the same questions you ask at the customer panels. They deal with customers every day, so they're experts.
- Have an off-site with 10-15 key people in your organization to discuss the feedback from customers and staff, and to determine the three most critical areas your company needs to focus on in order to stay current.
2. Brand in a bold--not boring--way.
Remember Viola Davis in florescent pink, Allison Janney in bright red, Ashley Judd in royal purple, Jennifer Garner in colbalt blue, and Whoopi Goldberg in a huge flower print dress sporting a large tattoo covering much of her right shoulder?
These ladies are not afraid to rock it in a crowd. It almost makes me feel sorry for the men, who are relegated to a uniform black tuxedo.
It takes confidence to stand up and be noticed. It's not just about talent, reputation, or brand equity--it's about being brave and bold.
Maybe it's time your business or personal brand put on a bright red dress, with bolder colors, fonts, images, websites, brochures, social media, and sales pitches. Often companies and individuals sacrifice bold in favor of businesslike.
Many CEOs I've coached about their personal brand are concerned about crossing that fine line between being bold and being obnoxious--but playing it safe (and small) isn't the answer.
The practical action: Create a team that includes creative types such as writers, artists, and graphic designers. Task them with turning a critical eye towards a few of your brand's collateral pieces.
It could be your website, a section of your website, a brochure, your logo, or business card. In particular, pay attention to the following:
- Are you using language to its fullest potential here? Is there a way you can integrate more powerful words and descriptions that will convey greater emotion?
- Are you using color to its greatest impact? Is there a way you can enhance your message with the strategic use of color?
- Are your photos conveying the greatest strengths of your brand? Do they enhance your message or simply just accompany it?
Maybe the closest you and I will ever get to the Academy Awards is being curled up on our couches, eating popcorn and hoping we win the office Oscar pool. But if you take these branding lessons and put them into play, you could be the winner in your category.