Randy, Ellen, Kara, Simon. Every week millions of TV viewers across America welcome them into their homes for the most popular music show on the tube: American Idol. But is it really a music show, or is a branding show? Think about it. Marketers and business owners can learn a lot from the music world, a place where great brands crank out products that make a bundle. If you sing it they will come? Not really, unless you’re a brand.
Those brands aren’t the record labels. No they are the artists themselves. The Beyonce’s, the Lady Gaga’s, the Chris Daughtry’s, which brings us back to American Idol. While Simon and the gang talk a lot about singing quality and whether a performance was “pitchy” or “just okay for me” or “a complete disaster” what we’re really judging these young performers on is their brand. Singing is just a part of it. When the illustrious judges say, “You made the song your own,” or “You are blossoming as a performer right before our eyes,” they really mean, “You’re developing into a marketable brand.”
The transformation from rookie to rock—and in some cases pop, country or R&B—star is a journey that every business owner, every entrepreneur can study and take to heart. Because if you notice on American Idol, the strongest brands are the ones that truly find their heart and bring it to life in every performance. Their brand essence comes from deep within. It’s part of their DNA.
The same goes for building a brand in business. The strongest brands start from the heart and keep it alive for the duration. People respond. Just go to Nordstrom and you’ll see many making their pilgrimage, no matter what the economy is doing. The principled, demanding leaders at Nordstrom aren’t willing to sell out their purpose and their passion.
But, understand just like the brands Carrie Underwood, Kelly Clarkson or Jordin Sparks, staying true to some loftier purpose—their artistry for example—doesn’t mean they are averse to making money or being famous. Fame is the price of serving the many, and big money is the reward for doing everything right.
Last week, Simon told one contestant, “If you’re in the bottom three every week it means you are doing something wrong.” Notice he didn’t say, “Singing poorly.” What he was saying was, your brand wasn’t connecting with the public. In business the same thing happens. It’s just harder to perceive because the feedback loop isn’t instantaneous.
And finally the ultimate winner on American Idol is the brand that can get on stage week after week and deliver a “Moment” to the audience—translated as a spell-binding, moving performance that is on brand. Moments must happen in business, too. Great brands create them all the time. At Nordstrom, they are Moments Masters. Even being assisted by the sales staff is a memorable experience. It’s like shopping with a friend who has good taste. Compare that to your company’s sales process.
What we’re talking about here is Heart & Mind® Branding, and it is the difference between brands that just do okay and brands that break through. This week if you happen to catch American Idol, listen carefully to Randy, Ellen, Kara and Simon and ask yourself, “Are they talking to the contestants or are they talking to me?”
What is branding? Heart & Mind® Branding.