Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Personal brands.

As readers of Ad Aged well know, I think most of the advertising and marketing that IBM does is second to none. Yes, it doesn't win awards. It isn't cool, au courant and flashy. It's simple, smart, approachable and propagates big ideas. (If our industry judged work based on anything other than what's notorious and cool, IBM, IMHO would sweep many an award show.) They don't do creativity for creativity's sake. They do honest work that moves people--and their stock price.

In any event I've just come across the video pasted above and the last 10 seconds or so really struck me.

In them Sam Palmisano talks about how leaving a company a better place than you found it is what matters, is how a leader should be judged. However, too often, way too often, leaders spend their time cultivating their personal brands as opposed to moving their companies forward.

This is the curse of our age. A triumph of patina over foundation.

Everyone from the president, to the presidential contenders, to junior art directors are out cultivating their personal brands. Consider it a slash and burn strategy applied to everything. Doing doesn't matter, achievement is secondary or tertiary or quadriary. Boasting about things rules.

BTW, the current Republican candidates' infatuation with corndogs seems an apt illustration. Eating a corndog at a state fair, some strategist somewhere has posited, is proof that you're "one of the people." So every Republican and his cousin has been shown in some fellatio-esque shot scarfing such a monstrosity. An image as apropos for a Mitt Romney as Michelle Bachman at a Mensa meeting.

Years ago I went to a Miami Ad School portfolio review. One thing I noticed is that everyone had a resume with their picture on it, usually striking some sort or nonchalant or asinine pose. All these students had been trained, honed and perfected into personal brands.

But what's missing in personal brands and is missed by the people who cultivate them is that brands in and of themselves, brands devoid of accomplishment and spine, are meaningless.

Apple would be nothing if they didn't actually make something.


UrbanViking said...

Mr. Palmisano seems to be more circumspect in his politics than today's Ad-Aged slap at Republicans. I checked. I respect your point of view and your right to express it. And, of course, it's your blog. Even so, I suspect you are wiser than you let on. I wish more in the media and the blogosphere could let go of the fashionable yet uninformed knee-jerk reaction to Republicans of all stripes and rationally consider the ideas instead. It should not be necessary to have a category/party/ethnic/academic/etc. identification for serious consideration and discussion. Nor should such be a disqualification. At one time, this nation was a republic, and there were legal protections for individuals who did not have to identify with a group.Of course those conditions are still true theoretically, but as a society we are not operating that way. We seem to have devolved into warring tribes.

Of course, anyone aspiring to rationality would have to rein in their cynical and conceited personal branding to do so. That's probably too much to ask in these times.

george tannenbaum said...

Well, Urban Viking, I have no truck at all with science deniers. And outside of Huntsman, who will likely not be the Republican nominee, don't even believe in evolution.

peggy said...

i discovered ibm's "paperwork explosion" via the work of raymond scott, who i like for being a pioneer in sound. i particularly enjoy "manhattan research inc." released in 2000. the lightworks track got sampled quite often but i just like the original best.

apart from that, great post.