Brand Obama – Beyond Logic
President Obama Connects at Gut-Level
Regardless of your political stripe, you have to be impressed by President Obama’s ability to articulate a thought and express it with force, authenticity, and grace. His speech at the Tucson memorial service is an example, and testament to his communication skills.
The President is adept at distilling a message, appropriate for the moment, yet also enduring because it taps into a huge reservoir of good will that resides in the hearts and minds of decent people everywhere.
He not only gets the message right, but the tone and manner of his delivery complement and enhances the idea expressed. He is a gifted public speaker, something we have not seen in a president for quite some time. His words inspire people. But, he understands that it takes more than words to get people to act.
If it were just words and their delivery, the President’s style would be easy to copy. Gather talented speechwriters, brief them, write, edit, refine, practice, and deliver. If you can read and write, you can (in theory) eventually become proficient in the art of delivering a speech that connects with the intended audience.
It’s not that simple.
Exhibit A: Sarah Palin. Her scripted and rehearsed delivery for the camera, as opposed to her “live” delivery at events, may be smooth and polished, but it lacks something. Authenticity.
The words are fine, tone and manner is studied and practiced, the delivery performed. That’s the problem. It’s a performance for the camera, and has trouble getting beyond that to connect with the audience. It’s shallow and self-serving. It’s motivated by self-interest – hers, and that of like-minded individuals whose worldview aligns with it.
Although it may be a sincere effort, it lacks authenticity that prevents it from connecting with emotions and feelings that are at the core of people’s motivation to act.
No doubt, it resonates with “true believers”, those whose values are closely aligned with her expressed ideas. But, it must ring hollow in the ears of many listeners, precisely because its motivation is transparent. There is an ulterior motive that limits the appeal of the message – a subtext that eclipses the message.
The process of how politicians connect with an audience (their constituents), and what makes a brand resonate with customers and prospects – or not – has many parallels.
A clear message, communicating value, addressing specific needs, while acknowledging broader understanding of what customers and prospects value in the long term, is the foundation of a strong brand.
Strong brands connect with people at the gut-level. People rationalize action, after the fact, which is initially informed by an intuitive feeling in their gut.
A brand is a person’s gut feeling about a product, service, or company.
Strong brands create loyalty that is beyond rationalization. People favor, choose, and reward brands that “just feel right.” It’s beyond logic.
Individuals – not companies or markets, define brands. Individuals decide where to place their allegiance. When enough people collectively decide to favor one brand over another, by selecting it over and over again, they have effectively created more value in that brand, in the form of loyalty and repeat business, than the company that created it could ever produce on its own.
Strong brands create trust. Trust is founded on belief. Belief occurs when experiences register as true on an intuitive, emotional, gut-level.
Trust is developed further by consistently delivering on expectations set by previous experience with the brand.
Strong brands communicate their reason-for-being in a clear, relevant, compelling, and appealing manner that attracts people to them.
Strong leaders do this as well, by connecting with people at the gut-level, with a message and delivery that fosters trust because it is authentic. It feels right.
Understanding these principles as the underpinning of strong brands – and strong leadership – is not enough.
Putting them into practice, consistently delivering actions and behavior that meet expectations – that are “on brand” – takes more than simple understanding.
It takes guts – authenticity that inspires action because it resonates deep within our core.