Posts Tagged ‘Brand’

What Sex Can and Can’t Sell

Tuesday, October 6th, 2009

Sex is the core of many celebrities’ personal brands. These popsugar people make a living being hot. They play out their lives with others who are just as hot. Megan, Brian, Scarlett, Ryan, Brad, Angelina, Gisele, Tom and the phalanx of usual suspects dance among their own kind. Their brand

Sexy Sells

Sexy Sells

images are not just the output of stylists and press agents. Sex is the brand born out by these celebs’ behavior. It works because, like the core elements of all successful personal brands, sex isn’t just aped by these lookers. Sex is embedded in their characters, it’s authentically embodied and it’s relentlessly, consistently and clearly communicated, with well chosen co-branding partners.

Sex isn’t the same as “sex appeal,” which was a quaint notion that some people have a kind of “X” factor. Paul Newman projected that intense, undeniable magnetism. At the same time, he was a devoted married man for 50 years. Newman and his wife, the very elegant Joanne Woodward, enjoyed a very un-Hollywood life in Connecticut. In a then timely but now quaint simile, Newman told a too-inquiring member of the press that he didn’t need to eat hamburger out of town because he had steak at home.

Sex still sells

By contrast, today’s celebrity X-factor pretty much means X-rated, with proof of concept. We watch Kendra Wilkinson jump off The Girls Next Door to move on down the aisle with her baby bump to wed pro athlete Hank Baskett. If you haven’t seen enough Kardashians, more’s on the way as Kourtney sports a bump as the result of off-again, on-again relations with Scott Disick, or so says People magazine.

Good for them? Yes. As marketers and civilians alike know: sex sells. That’s why sex is such a powerful personal brand element. It sells movies, magazines, music and more.

Sex goes wrong

So how can a great personal branding technique as old as sex go horribly wrong?

This week another married man from Connecticut came forward to tell us he’s a victim of his sexiness. That unlikely man is David Letterman. Apparently, untold numbers of young assistants throughout the years find sex with him consensually impossible to resist.

Apparently, he regularly hires small armies of young women assistants, and in his public words has “creepy” sex with some of them. Letterman’s utter lack of contrition and just plain conscience about the lives he tainted, evoked the mindset of a plantation owner. The master knew whomever he choose to serve the family in the plantation house got a better job than most, and it was a job worth doing what it took to keep. Kind of like serving a production company owner and talk show star, and occasionally looking after his son.

When the story broke, I watched a clip featuring Letterman and one of his “favored” assistants. They were playing Letterman’s signature bit “know your cuts of meat. It was a rude simile, given the situation.

In the bit, Letterman’s assistant, lucky to get that camera time, was cast in the role of trying to guess the piece of meat, as she looked at pictures of meat flashed on the screen. She played the ditz, got it wrong and everyone laughed. He asked her if she wanted to play again. Playing the patsy, she did. She never did get one right.


Is it acceptable?

Some things are just really hard to watch.

This isn’t the dance of equals, like Brad and Angelina meeting on the set of Mr. and Mrs. Smith and leaving Jennifer to be America’s aging sweetheart. This isn’t watching Julia Roberts get serially engaged to one leading man after another until she finds settles on Danny for her happily ever after. This isn’t Tom making babies with Bridget and Gisele.

This isn’t even a reality show where people sign up to exploit their bodies and bad habits.

It took a celebrity to prove that sex can’t sell everything. Maybe even another season of the Late Show with David Letterman.

Nance Rosen is the author of Speak Up! & Succeed. She speaks to business audiences around the world and is a resource for press, including print, broadcast and online journalists and bloggers covering social media and careers.

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    Rocking Your Reputation – My column for Personal Branding Blog

    Tuesday, August 11th, 2009

    What are you worth? At least one-third of your market value comes from your reputation – whether the brand is you, your company, product or service. Reputation- not a head-to-head comparison of the features that relate to your skills, products or services – accounts for why Johnson & Johnson’s market capitalization is so much greater than Unilever. How does YOUR market perceive who YOU are? And, what are the high priority elements that effect your image? Learn, decide and change what matters most.

    Happy to cover the ways reputation rocks your world this week in my column for the Personal Branding Blog.

    PBB blog

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    Who’s The Target, Target?

    Tuesday, May 5th, 2009

    You know who did me a “Fay-vah?” You’ll never guess. Target. Actually, you‘d never think of it as a “fay-vah.”  It would normally be called the rudest possible customer “service.” Apparently, in the upside world that blames our entire economic misery on the robber barons at AIG, Lehman Bros (okay, I lost a lot of money on that one, too) et al, we have forgotten that consumer confidence drives purchases (and the stock market).

    I wouldn’t call it consumer confidence anymore. Let’s call it pain tolerance. Shopping – that’s right, spending MONEY that greases the machine for all of us, is almost too hard to do at most retailers.

    Here’s a ditty about one of devolving shopping experiences I endured in several stores this weekend. On Sunday evening, with my last bit of retail courage, Jon and I went to a Target Supreme (okay, Super) Store on La Cienega in Los Angeles. It’s quite a drive from Bel Air, but this Target is really big and open late. The check out gal kept smelling a bottle of Axe body wash Jon bought, checking him out with a lot more focus than she had for the other items in our usual Targetmanical shopping spree. “Oooooo,” she sang over and over like Diana Ross, “this is the nicest thing I’ve smelled all day,” as she rubbed the plastic bottle. Fine, Jon’s a handsome man, he smells good and apparently she’s spent the day with foul smelling products or people or whatever she’s comparing it/him to.

    The real problem is revealed when we drive, like the last little piggy, all the way home. “Did you bring in another bag?” Jon asks me. Because Jon is the most chivalrous, strong and just darn helpful man in the world, my answer is no. When we arrived home, as usual, I entered the house empty handed and was immediately attacked with pent up affection by our two small dogs. I find holding bags impedes my participation in their wildly enthusiastic greeting ritual.

    We realize the Target smell good girl didn’t give us all our bags. Oddly, the body wash is with us, but not the Mother’s Day cards and a small fortune in (and week’s supply, which is five bags of) dog snacks. For some reason, our dogs snack, they don’t get treats. I think we say, “snack,” because our dogs don’t do anything to “earn” a life size fake bacon strip or tiny adorable fake porterhouse steak. So, to be honest, we just ask the dogs, “Would you like a snack?”  We’re those kind of straightforward people.

    We also find a leaking diet Rockstar emptying into a thin plastic Target bag – sorry, we forgot to bring our canvas bags, which would have soaked in a Rorschach stain to remember.

    We drive back to Target, in some part because 7-11 has Terminator cups that Jon is collecting, and there are two or three 7-11 stores along the way. If there’s an action movie opening, we drink a lot of slurpees.

    We arrive back at Supreme Target and stand in line at its customer no-service area. The gals behind the counter are screaming and laughing and talking and look like unwashed, bloated homeless people in red vests. They are as rude and crude as high school detention students.

    The one with the hair that hasn’t been washed this year, finds our ungiven bag. “You musta lef it here,” she raps at us. We nod because we’ve learned from grade school that there’s no retort that transforms bullies into decent people. Jon has the physical means to change their brains, but we are decent people and she and her sister-in-customer-service are girl-bullies, so that’s not an option.

    We present the punctured Rockstar can. “Ah dohn no what ya kin do with dat. Yoh bought a 4 pack and ya dohn bring me dah 4 pack,” she emits linguistically. I suggest we go and get a replacement can. We (Jon) does. Then we wait 20 minutes while she looks at our receipt like an immigration officer at the Mexican border scrutinizing our passports as we pass through the swine flu inspection gate.

    I have experienced this and chronicled it in order to sound an alarm about our economy, even as the stock market inches upward this quarter. To everyone who is wondering why retail sales are down, you know why. It’s that no one can successfully or pleasantly shop. If I told you my whole day, including asking 5 dumbstruck clerks (all grown ups) where I could find cabinet baby locks at Bed, Bath and Beyond Hell, and trying to buy a cup of coffee at a giant Starbucks that didn’t have hot coffee, you would remind me to never leave the house.

    Back at Target, she says, “Ah am doin you a FAY-VAH, you uhnerstan? So dohn you be nuhthin but nice to me. Ah am doin you a FAY-VAH, a FAH-VAH you uhnerstan? Ah dohn work in dat department. Ah’m not involved with the drinks or nuthin you have a problem with.”

    No, I “dohn unnerstan.” Your store’s check out person doesn’t give me all my stuff, I’m sent home with a leaking can in a four pack and I’m tired of begging clerks to clerk. I go find the manager. A young man whose soiled red vest is flapping open above his untucked shirt, is identified by another cashier as the manager. I quickly share my problem. His eyes dart and his mouth is slack. “I really ain’t no manajah. He on lunch, so he ask me to take over. You wanna fill out a customer card?” says the “acting manager.”

    I leave the store. Jon grips the dog treats and holds a new Rockstar aloft like a prize. “I got her to replace ours,” he says after a negotiation where small countries could have been bought and sold during the same time.

    So, Target – cut out all those hipster ads targeting people like me, who are “swing shoppers,” so-called because we’re as likely to shop at Neiman Marcus as we are at Target. We drive luxury cars but we wash them ourselves. Hence we visit Target with credit cards that have no balances because we pay our bills.

    Invest the money you’re draining with your ads into recruitment and training for your clerks. Same for you Bed, Bath and Beyond My Tolerance for Dazed, Confused and Angry, Unkempt Clerks. Same for you Saks Fifth Avenue, making an appointment at La Mer for a free “half-hour makeover” that that didn’t involve any making over, just a bait and switch sales pitch for seriously over-hyped kelp-fed hope in a jar. Honestly, I didn’t wear make-up to work for this?

    Give your people some attention because they’re not paying any to the traffic you’re driving with your uber-cool ads and giant 20% off any-item-in-the-store-if-you-can-find-one coupons. And, don’t get me started on the Saks “make-up artist” who told me about his mother being happy to be hit by a car and enjoy being a quadriplegic now that “her kids are grown.” Wow, that’s a mid-day downer.

    So, how is your brand “represented” at customer touch points?

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