My friend Blaine Parker writes a weekly screed he calls HOT POINTS! He’s given me permission to republish today’s edition, which I think is chock full of valuable insights for all of us voiceover types.
HOT POINTS for The Week of March 5, 2012
COULD HOT POINTS HELP SOME POOR SOUL YOU KNOW?
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THE POWER OF OMISSION IN YOUR PERSONAL BRAND
In these relentless weekly screeds, we’re frequently ranting about the ingredients required for building a business’s brand.
We don’t typically spend so much time talking about personal brand.
Perhaps we’ve been giving personal brand short shrift. Maybe it’s time we looked a little more seriously at what personal brand can mean to your business.
Especially if you’re a sole proprietor or a consultant, your personal brand is significant. A powerful personal brand can change your life.
A powerful personal brand can help you leap tall buildings and change course of mighty rivers.
Metaphorically, of course.
But it can do all this only if you’re smart enough to leave stuff out.
BRANDING FOR LAUGHS AND PROFIT
We’ve talked previously about how successful comedians represent the power in personal branding.
For example, compare Andrew Dice Clay with Jeff Foxworthy.
Dice is not nice. You wouldn’t ask him to babysit your three-year old. You might call him and say, “Hey, I need a creative and vile way to talk about sex with animals. Any ideas?” You will not take your mother to see Andrew Dice Clay unless she wears a leather jacket and keeps a pack of Luckys rolled up in the sleeve of her T-shirt just above the “live to ride” tattoo.
But the kinder, gentler, “you might be a redneck if…” happy-go-lucky hick Jeff Foxworthy? Sure. You could ask him to babysit your three-year-old. You might even go to church with him. You can be fairly certain that he helps old ladies cross the street without pushing them in front of a bus.
Two very distinct, different and polarizing brands. Two very successful brands.
And if you’re a faithful reader to this relentless screed, you also know something else about Mr. Foxworthy.
You know about one of those important things that he knew to leave out of his brand.
HE’S A COMPUTER GENIUS
Foxworthy went to one of the nation’s finest institutions of higher learning, majored in computer engineering and used to work on IBM mainframes.
It’s definitely something to be proud of.
You also haven’t heard about it in his comedy.
In fact, you probably haven’t heard about it at all unless you’ve researched his life.
That’s because Mr. Foxworthy apparently understands the power of omission.
“You might be a redneck if…” does not jive with juggling the zeroes and ones inside some of the largest and most powerful computers in the world.
And Jeff Foxworthy is not alone in this kind of skilled omission.
Other personal brands have deceived you through their ability to omit irrelevant info in deference to honing the keenly honed blade of brand.
HOW’S YOUR BRAND IN FRONT OF THE CAMERA?
Just to show that this power-of-omission branding is nothing new, let’s venture back to the golden years of Hollywood.
There’s an actress whose brand was one of great beauty. She was always cast as glamorous and seductive.
If you’re a fan of film, you probably know who she is. Born to assimilated Jewish Austro-Hungarian parents in 1913, her given name was Hedwig Eva Maria Kiesler.
We know her as MGM’s silver screen stunner, Hedy Lamarr.
She was gorgeous. She was always cast for her looks. The glamorous and seductive beauty was her brand.
She certainly wasn’t known for her brains.
Which is why it might come as a surprise to find out that Hedy Lamarr was co-holder of a US patent for spread-spectrum communications and frequency hopping.
COME ON UP TO MY PLACE FOR A LITTLE POWER FLUX DENSITY LIMITATION, BABY
In a pre-digital age of analog radio communications, Hedy Lamarr designed a way in which radio signals could be spread across a frequency domain with the express goal of guiding US Navy torpedoes to their targets in a way that couldn’t be jammed by the Nazis.
She presented it to the Navy. Know what they said?
In essence: “We appreciate your interest in the war effort. You’d be better suited to taking your glamorous brand on the road and raising money from an adoring public.”
They had no interest in her technology.
But they did understand her brand. That might even be why they had no interest in her technology.
Had she handed her spread-spectrum torpedo guidance plans to John Barrymore and sent him into that meeting in a white lab coat, things might have been different.
Hedy Lamarr’s personal brand was wildly successful, and that brand precluded her from being seen as a brainiac.
Being brainy is something to be proud of. But the studio knew genius didn’t have a whit to do with her brand and it was left out.
See also, Jeff Foxworthy: not a computer engineer as far as you know.
IS THAT AN INGOT OF AUSTENITIC NICKEL-CHROMIUM-BASED SUPERALLOY IN YOUR POCKET OR ARE YOU JUST GLAD TO SEE ME?
Another profession not known for bringing super geniuses to the runway is modeling.
Instead, the modeling business is known for creating that iconic creature known as the super model.
Periodically, there are certain women who become globally exulted as the most beautiful in the world, and they are endlessly paraded before us draped in all manner of overpriced designer wear that looks good on nobody but tall, skinny women who get paid big money to parade accordingly.
You would not think about sitting down with a super model and having a game of chess.
Which is why it’s all the more interesting to find out that the fabulous Cindy Crawford, she of the prominent mole, was (a) valedictorian of her high school class, and (b) was accepted to Northwestern University on a chemical engineering scholarship.
Yes, had she stuck with chemical engineering, Ms. Crawford could be toiling away somewhere in an obscure laboratory, figuring out a new process for separating impurities and various non-methane hydrocarbons and fluids from natural gas in order to make it pipeline quality.
Instead, through the magic of YouTube, she will forever be with us as the host on House of Style.
Proud to be a genius? Perhaps.
But not too proud to leave it out of the brand.
OMISSION IS ONE OF THE MOST POWERFUL TOOLS IN BUILDING ANY BRAND
Big brands thrive on intense focus.
Your personal brand is no different.
One of the frequent challenges I’ve faced in working with small business owners on their advertising is an unwillingness to Leave It Out.
Typically, it’s ego talking. “This makes me important and people will care!”
Well, it might make your mother care.
Often, it’s fear-based. “I’m afraid that if I don’t say this about me, people won’t like me!”
Well, if you’re trying to sell widgets, knowing that irrelevant thing about you isn’t going change their opinion about you re their intrinsic need for widgets.
As with any other exercise in branding, the Prime Is Imperative.
What is the ONE thing you want to be known for?
AND THAT IS INTENSELY DIFFICULT TO FIGURE OUT FOR YOURSELF
Because with an entire lifetime under your belt, there are uncountable things to be known for.
Figuring it out takes hard work.
It often requires assistance.
But knowing what to leave out is vital to figuring out The One Thing.
Hedy Lamarr’s glamour and beauty.
Cindy Crawford’s gorgeous, all-American mole.
Jeff Foxworthy’s redneck roots.
Geniuses, all three.
And part of the genius is that the genius always stayed behind the curtain.
Your Lean, Mean Creative Director in