Ok, so I admit I’m a big Oprah fan. I don’t have 8×10 glossy photos of her around my house or anything but I do like her overall purpose of teaching and learning. After all, I AM in her target market– female, age 0-100. I happened to catch one of her “Master Classics” shows the other night and it made me think a lot about branding.
She talked about how she stumbled into journalism by accident. She was in some kind of pageant with several other girls and there was an interview segment (with Barbara Walters, believe it or not). The question was “What do you want to do with your life?” (or something to that effect) and the girls that went up before her kept saying all these good things…..nurse, teacher (which is what she was going to say). Well, she didn’t want to say the same answer so she just all of a sudden said “I want to be a journalist.” And from then on it just snowballed.
She became a radio DJ of sorts and then became a news anchor where she realized something just wasn’t right. She felt like she was trying to be a “fake Barbara Walters” instead of a “real Oprah Winfrey.” One day she was invited as a guest on a local talk show and a lightbulb went off in her head. She loved it! That was one of her many “Aha!” moments. She was still on air and teaching/communicating to the masses but she felt like she could be herself and not hide behind some manufactured idea of what she should be. (Can you imagine all the world would have missed out on if she was still stuck behind a desk reporting pre-written, pre-rehearsed news that someone else wrote?) Actually, she probably would have quit because she’d have gotten so miserable.
I immediately thought about how it applies to branding. So many companies try so hard to imitate their competitors that they lose sense of who they really are on the inside. There’s just an overwhelming sense that they’re not doing something right and something is “off.” In my opinion, Steve Jobs approached computer design as a Real Steve Jobs. Where would we Mac users be if he’d just settled for being a Fake IBM?
When we first engage with a client, we often bring in a researcher to help companies figure out who they are. Sometimes it just takes an outsider asking the right questions. It’s like having a person walk into a dark room full of people and turning the light on. Everyone’s like “Ahhhhh. There’s the switch!” And then everyone can see.
So, are you a fake Barbara Walters? Or are you a real Oprah Winfrey?
Something to think about.
By Trish Rawls