ON JUNE 26 last year, while I was driving to work, I heard on the radio the news that shocked the whole world: Michael Jackson was dead.
When a world icon is taken unexpectedly, the moment is burned into our memories. Many people remember what they were doing when John F. Kennedy, Elvis Presley and Princess Diana died.
Jackson was the biggest thing in pop music since the Beatles.
His total lifetime earnings are said to have grossed over US$500 million (S$700 million). And since his passing, millions more have been raked in.
How did he win the adulation of fans throughout the world? How did he weave his particular brand of magic?
There are lessons that you can learn from him in branding yourself or your products:
1. Start early
At the tender age of four, Jackson began entertaining.
At five, he banded with four of his brothers and, given his immense talent and precociousness, he became the lead singer of The Jackson Five.
At 10, he and his brothers were signed to the renowned Motown label, but national recognition came with their appearance on the Ed Sullivan show.
A year later, the Jackson 5 became the first group in pop history to have four singles top the charts.
The lesson: Begin your branding early.
2. Believe in your brand
He once said: “I’ve been in the entertainment industry since I was six years old.
“While some have made deliberate attempts to hurt me, I take it in stride because I have a loving family, a strong faith and wonderful friends and fans who have, and continue, to support me.”
There will be competition that tries to bring you down. Believing in your brand will help you weather adversity.
3. Don’t be afraid to go solo
In 1972, at the age of 13, he decided to reinvent himself as a solo artiste.
He felt that the Jackson Five was limiting rather than fuelling his musical growth. But the move came at a price.
He confessed he was “one of the loneliest people on this earth”. Nevertheless, he did not look back but went on to take the music industry to new levels.
If you are convinced that your company has to move in a new direction, do not let others hinder your progress. Be prepared to go solo, if necessary, to achieve your vision.
Before Thriller, the album that launched him into the music stratosphere, he struggled to receive coverage on the MTV channel because he was African-American.
He and his supporters did not give up the battle. Finally, MTV agreed to screen Billie Jean and Thriller, and the rest is history.
Success is often said to be 90 per cent perspiration and 10 per cent inspiration. You have to adopt a “don’t quit” mentality — knock on doors and challenge the doubts of others until you succeed.
5. Be innovative
He transformed music videos into an art form and enthralled audiences with his creative dance steps.
In 1983, at Motown’s 25th anniversary TV special, he introduced his trademark moonwalk to the world while performing Billie Jean.
Those famous gliding steps and his single sequined glove became synonymous with the Michael Jackson brand.
And clinics all round the world reported a dramatic rise in sprained ankles because everyone wanted to moonwalk like him!
6. Try new media
His slick dance moves and innovative sound were showcased in music videos, a medium he made his own with big-budget productions and theatrical storylines.
He was also the first pop icon to appear in a commercial.
Pepsico offered him US$5 million to appear in a Pepsi-Cola commercial. Sales of the soft drink rocketed to US$7.7 billion.
Today’s Web 2.0 applications — which enable information sharing and support social networking — are having a significant impact on the business environment.
Many companies, large and small, are reaching out to customers through tools like Facebook and Twitter.
Find out how you can incorporate new media and applications into your business model to further build your brand.