What Can Brands Learn From Celebrities?
Of all the supermodels, this month’s Vogue cover girl Kate Moss is my favourite. Apart from her effortless style and beauty, I love the way that she has been in the spot light for over 22 years and is still as relevant as ever. Her ‘brand’ has grown every year, despite the many scandals that beset her rock’n’roll lifestyle and she is now worth over £40m, according to the 2009 Times Rich List.
But what I like best about her is her resilience. 22 years modeling at the highest level takes a HUGE amount of discipline and I love her ability to keep pushing forward creatively with her one asset. Her looks. She knows what she is good at. (She hasn’t tried to release a single or launch a range of cup cakes!) And when she had all her problems with drugs and Pete Doherty, she bounced back bigger than ever, even though the media had written her off. (Something that Tiger Woods and the 2010 class of tarnished of celebrities could learn a lot from).
The way that she handles her image and sticks to her strengths reminded me of the fabulous book ‘The Hedgehog and the Fox’ by Isaiah Berlin. It was famously turned into the Hedgehog Concept by Jim Collins in Good to Great and was the basis for the brilliant Wile E. Coyote story lines.
Written in 1953, The Hedgehog and the Fox highlights the main difference between single-minded success stories like Kate Moss and the many others that we quickly forget. Despite what Garth and Wayne think, Kate Moss is not a fox! You really want to be a hedgehog…
According to the story, the fox comes up with a different plan every day. He’s clever and he knows it. He has LOTS of ideas and different strategies for catching the hedgehog and each plan seems more cunning than the last. The fox has something to prove and he easily disregards the consequences; he is easily distracted and is constantly working out new schemes.
The hedgehog on the other hand is dismissed as dumb animal, but each time the fox launches a new plan ~ the hedgehog simply roles up into a small ball and spikes the fox until he gives in. Each time the fox attacks you can almost hear the hedgehog sigh, “Here we go again” and he does the one thing that he is brilliant at. Defending himself. Each time the fox gives up, the hedgehog goes back about his business.
With his constant energy, and willingness to try anything that might improve the company, many would think that the fox would come out ahead. He sets himself up for success by being willing to try new things. This is not the case, as it turns out. The fox has no real long-term goals, and does not have a clear vision of the direction he wants to go in. He just wakes up each morning with a different plan.
And that’s the big difference between the successful brands and the ones that we forget. The best brands have one big idea. One purpose. One main focus. I worked with Marmite a while ago and they’re a perfect example. They tried a few different ideas (such as trying to take on Oxo for the lucrative stock cube market) but soon gave up and realised that they should focus on their core product.
Whatever you think of Nike, you’ve also got to admire the focus of their CEO and founder Phil Knight. He has remained true to his vision of “never making anything that doesn’t enhance the performance of an athlete”. One fixed purpose. One common goal that’s easy to communicate.
All the successful brands have that kind of focus. The ones you forget about don’t. Ultimately, being the biggest isn’t about being the smartest in the room, just ask Virgin boss ~ Richard Branson. He is chronically dyslexic, incredibly shy and despite what you may think, he’s terribly self-conscious in front of camera. He’s also the first to admit that he’s not very bright ~ but he obsesses about surrounding himself with people smarter than he is. And with a net worth of over $2.5billion, he makes a pretty good hedgehog!
Knowing what YOUR strengths are (and sticking to them) will ALWAYS position you for success.