I am a huge fan of Winston Churchill…He was definitely not loved by all, but in war torn UK he was the right man at the right time. He had all the great qualities of a war time leader and he understood that as a leader, you are selling a brand with values to the rest of the nation. Actually, you are selling two brands. He was selling the brand values of his country, what the UK stood for, so everyone making sacrifices knew why. And he was selling his own personal brand values as an example of a person who lived by those values. He was what I call a sub brand of the primary brand.
In corporate branding you actually do the same thing. As an example, Bodog is the primary brand and I am the sub brand or secondary brand. In my Churchill example he was doing his branding exercise to make it clear to everyone what the brand stood for so that everyone could make the right decision on what to do. In corporate branding, we are not being nearly so noble, but the basic principle is similar. We are imputing values to the corporate name so that customers can make an informed decision on which brand they want to associate with based on what they think the brand stands for. This is in fact the definition of a brand. It’s no secret that people gravitate towards brands that are like them, or more commonly, are how they would like to be.
In corporate branding, having a person as the sub brand allows you to use that person to demonstrate to others in the organization and globally what the values are that the brand represents. In Churchill’s war example there were important values in play, for me in the on-line gaming world, the values are decidedly more shallow but equally as important for the competitiveness of the organization. The name I use to describe my actions when I am using myself as a sub brand to sell the Bodog brand values is a “Brand Ambassador”.
Now the first question everyone watching your brand ambassador presentation will ask themselves is this, “So are you selling your real values or is this some calculated corporate decision that sells a brand message that is entirely for the consumption of the consumer?”
Firstly, keeping it real is the only way I know how to do it. I know this is going to sound a bit self serving….but the reality is that as long as you can pull it off as believable, what you are really doing is not important. What I mean is that the response to the consumers to this question is important, but what you are doing is only important in whether or not it’s believable. However, that said…its just that much better if, as in my case, all you have to do is just open a window for the world to see the real you. I’m in the business of fun and I live and breathe living life to its fullest in nearly every way I can.
I personally think that Winston also was in that same mold. He and I share one noted quality, we are both horrible actors. In order to sell a quality that is not innate, you need to be acting. Winston couldn’t act and neither can I, but neither of us need to. He was the real deal in his space as a war time leader and I’m the real deal when it comes to extreme living, just ask my poor assistants constantly trying to keep me on course. For me this realness causes a much higher level of self satisfaction with my role as those around me know that what I sell, I really live.
You are however allowed to exaggerate certain important characteristics in the pursuit of your objective in selling the values that you think are important for your audience to see. This is not acting if they really exist, it’s more of what I call “underlining”. Conversely, you are also able to de-emphasize things that are real in your personality that are not important to the branding exercise that you are selling to your audience. Both of these methods do not take away from the realness of what you are doing.
I routinely have people who meet me in a meeting or relaxing social setting, shocked that I am not that wild and crazy guy they see in the branding material I do. It’s because I de-emphasize other characteristics that are not important to the branding exercise (But sure were important to starting and running a business a few years back). When you reach a certain level of success in business, you are afforded the luxury of being able to focus your time on the things you enjoy most and are best at. These two groups are often the same thing as everyone usually likes doing stuff they’re good at, or get really good at doing the stuff they like. In my case I decided in late 2006 that I was selling all my existing gaming operations to Alwyn Morris who is licensed out of Kahnawake Canada (bodog.com). I kept the rights to the bodog brand however and have subsequently done three more deals bodog.co.uk and bodog.ca with a Group licensed in Antigua, Bodog88.com to a group licensed in Manila and targeting Asia and finally a Poker group that will be operating on BodogPoker.com and BodogNetwork.com shortly.
I am now solely involved in BodogBrand.com, which is the Antiguan company that licenses the Bodog brand out globally and also does global branding for the Bodog brand and the new media project I am working on that will be up on CalvinAyre.com in late 25 May 2010. I am calling the CalvinAyre.com site a tablog as it will be my personal lifestyle and business blog integrated into a tabloidish site that covers the global on-line gaming industry. Media wise, this space is centered out of London, which will undoubtedly cause me to be spending a lot of time away from my beach house in Antigua. Both these projects sell the brand values that I have come to represent and will be beneficial to anyone in the Bodog world. I now have coat tails that pull the Bodog brand with me no matter if it’s mentioned or not.
Everything I say and do is now a Bodog brand moment, just as it was for Winston, when he was selling the values necessary to keep the UK’s public moral up when things were not looking good in the Second World War. I only have to sell fun, he had to sell toughness and even meanness, which is where the title to this brief outline on my branding strategies comes from. As the story goes, Winston once showed up in parliament drunk (not surprising given the stress he must have been under…and a man after my own heart I might add) a woman parliamentarian commented on this and his response was “I may be drunk, Miss, but in the morning I will be sober and you will still be ugly.”
Now that’s branding and leadership during war time!