TODAY’s article continues on the lessons you can learn from Michael Jackson in branding yourself or your products.
Jackson’s persona may have been that of an ethereal Peter Pan clinging to boyhood, but his climb to superstardom required all the grit and hard work of a man committed to making his mark on the music world.
Despite his flawed personal life, he never faded into obscurity. His problems chipped away at his brand equity but never destroyed it.
His distinctive musical sound and vocal style separated him from others and made him a legend.
After his untimely death, his music remains as popular as ever among his millions of loyal fans.
To brand yourself successfully, take your cues from Jackson:
1. Find a mentor
Renowned producer and songwriter Quincy Jones was an important influence on Jackson’s career.
In 1982, the two teamed up to produce Jackson’s definitive album, Thriller. It sold over 50 million copies, making it the world’s best-selling album of all time.
The 13-minute video for Thriller cost about US$500,000 (S$700,000), making it the most expensive production of its time. It broke new ground with its story line and dance routines.
2. Be unique
All top brands have unique trademarks. Jackson’s was the moonwalk, the single glittering glove, the military uniform and his ranch, Neverland.
As a testament to the power of branding, the rhinestone-studded glove that Jackson wore on his left hand was auctioned for US$350,000 four months ago.
The black and zipper-laden jacket that he wore on his 1989 Bad tour fetched US$225,000.
No one could dance like him. His group dance sequence in Beat It has been imitated from San Francisco to Seoul. And a prison in the Philippines is using his Thriller routine as part of its efforts to rehabilitate inmates through music and dance!
3. Give yourself a title
In 1980, one of Jackson’s closest friends, actress Elizabeth Taylor, anointed him the “King of Pop” and presented him with the Artist of the Decade award.
His professional contributions, including 13 Grammy Awards, were so substantial that the title stuck.
At the height of the Thriller mania, some tabloids started calling him “Wacko Jacko” over rumours that he slept in an anti-ageing oxygen chamber and had bought the remains of John Merrick, the Elephant Man. These reports only added to Jackson’s mystique.
Chelsea ex-manager Jose Mourinho unreservedly called himself “The Special One”.
What moniker can you give yourself?
4. Go global
Jackson’s music and videos transcended national boundaries, as well as race, age and gender.
In 1985, We Are the World, co-written by Jackson and Lionel Ritchie, was performed to raise money for Live Aid. It featured a galaxy of music stars like Bruce Springsteen, Stevie Wonder and Ray Charles.
The song cemented his global appeal. Jackson sold almost half his 750 million records outside the United States. His Black or White album was simultaneously released in 27 countries.
5. Be vulnerable
People cannot relate to icons without imperfections. Jackson was quirky, eccentric and mysterious.
For all his wealth and professional excellence, he was flawed and sad.
Sympathetic fans stuck by him when he was accused of child molestation, and tickets for his ill-fated comeback tour sold out within minutes.
6. Give back
Till the end of his life, Jackson mourned the fact that he never had a childhood as he was always working.
Because of this, he was amazingly generous to disadvantaged children.
Some 39 charities benefited significantly from his support.
He once said: “My goal in life is to give to the world what I was lucky to receive: the ecstasy of divine union through my music and my dance.”
Many successful people, from Andrew Carnegie to Warren Buffett and Bill Gates, have given away millions of dollars for projects aimed at helping the disadvantaged. It is their way of giving back to society.
On a smaller scale, you can too.
Contributing to a good cause is a positive way of building your brand. It tells people that you are not merely concerned with career success and accumulating personal wealth, but also with giving something back.
This will not only raise your profile but also help you develop as a person. It’s a win-win situation.