From my May column for the Kitsap Business Journal…
Last month, I was in Bogotá, Colombia, to speak at a conference. I stayed an extra week to visit with family, as I am half-Colombian on my mother’s side. I have five aunts still living and scads of cousins. It’s always a joy to mix business with pleasure, especially in such a cool city as Bogotá.
I was sitting with my aunt and two cousins on a gorgeous Saturday afternoon in her living room that overlooked the mountains in the distance. The view was spectacular and I had that feeling of being a continent away from my normal world. That changed suddenly when the radio station we were listening to made a switch in programming from its Latin music to one I was very familiar with. As I was absorbing the ambiance of the classic South American city, I recognized the unmistakable dulcet tones of … Johnny Cash. I literally did a double take. Here I was in Bogotá and the voice coming from the radio was a legendary American country artist. I might as well have been perched in Nashville.
It doesn’t matter your age, the area you live in, or your taste in music. If you’re an American over about 20 years old, you know the name and the sound of Johnny Cash. Although he passed over a decade ago, Johnny Cash developed a symbol so powerful, that millions of Americans can picture him in their mind by just listening to his music. Now that’s brand.
When I say Johnny Cash, you probably picture the ruggedly handsome man in black, with wavy jet-black hair and a guitar slung over his shoulder. You hear the deep, rich, baritone voice with a slight twang that drips with heart and soul.
How badly would you like to create a brand like that for your business?
If you’re smart, then pretty badly! We all want to be “top of mind” when it comes to our profession, whether we offer a product or service. The question becomes, how can we become like Johnny Cash?
Without belting out a rendition of “A Boy Named Sue,” I’ll share with you my five strategies and tactics to Being Johnny Cash …
1. Create a Look. Johnny Cash was “the man in black.” Heck, he had a song by the same title. He became synonymous with the bad boy image of his time by always being dressed head to toe in black. What “look” can you create through consistency? Consistency in marketing is critical. It includes your logo, your signage, your documents, your letterhead, and your social media presence. When people see your work, they should immediately be able to identify you.
2. Create a Sound. Johnny Cash’s voice is so unique, once you’ve heard it, you will always recognize it. How are your products or services unique? What separates you from your competition? If you aren’t unique and an object of interest, why would anyone do business with you over someone else? Cash’s voice drew people in. How does your exclusivity and image of difference do the same?
3. Create a Following. Johnny Cash certainly wasn’t the only country-western singer of his time, yet he created an immense following of loyal fans. Do you have that? What kind of a business community are you building? What value are you providing so that people will follow your writings; listen to your speeches; buy your products at any cost; or seek you out because of the experience of others? Entertainers are skilled at creating “groupies.” Maybe you need some, too.
4. Create a swagger. JC was one of the original entertainers with “swag.” The term swag comes from the hip hop music industry and means superlative style. JC had superlative style based on the machismo that he exuded. Do you have swag in your persona? Now, I’m not talking arrogance; rather a powerful self-confidence. If you don’t have supreme confidence in your ability to help others with your products and services, then why should they? The first sale is to yourself, and you need to buy in big-time.
5. The Music. Johnny Cash reached into people’s souls with his music. It was often describing pain, sorrow and loss that his audience could identify with. He also sang with humor to lift spirits. What’s your message? Don’t have one? You’d better get one then, and a good one. Your message is about how you improve the conditions and lives of others, and you’d better “sing” it in a way that causes an emotional response. Logic makes people think; emotion makes them act. Too often, business people like to express themselves logically, and lose the attention of their audience because they couldn’t uncover the emotion.
Bottom line — People of all types are hugely successful in this world when they have a consistent message that engages the masses and do it in a confident manner that touches people’s emotions. Johnny Cash did that. So did Steve Jobs, Walt Disney and Mark Zuckerberg. If you’re not doing it, you must start. Take a look at my list and start moving boldly forward. If you are doing it then keep learning, growing, and developing your brand so one day, you will be as legendary in your world as Johnny Cash is in his.
Dan Weedin is a strategist, speaker, author and executive coach. He helps business leaders and executives to become stronger leaders, grow their businesses, and enrich their lives. He was inducted into the Million Dollar Consultant™ Hall of Fame in 2012. You can reach Dan at 360-697-1058; e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit his website at www.DanWeedin.com.