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Your Brand Obligation

You know when your mom and dad embarrassed you in high school? I was kicked out of my high-schooler's basketball game once. It really wasn't my fault. I was screaming something at the ref, the exact language of which alludes me now, and couldn't be heard above the fray anyway, when somehow everyone else stopped screaming. I didn't. "Out," he shouted and the long, undignified walk down the bleachers and out of the gym was ... well, it was endless.

Judging from my Fitbit's message to me this morning about the 'celebrity' challenge between Dell's Michael Dell and Salesforce's Marc Benioff, I can only assume that all those who work on brand awareness and development for Saleforce and Dell feel like my daughter did after my undeserved ejection. The word 'celebrity' should have been the first tip off that this wasn't for them, or for their brands.

They would say it's for a good cause, the American Heart Association. Is that why they did it? It surrounds two brands that don't sit at the Apple or GOOGLE pinnacle of media power and might be searching for some sort of recognition with a demographic that uses Fitbit. Aside from the fact that one of them will lose, and that neither of them mirror the Fitbit demographic, an average age user is under 30 with running shorts on when there is a blizzard outside, there is the fact that it's way too personal. It's about them personally, and that should never happen. Never. And lastly, their brands are not in competition with each other. It makes no sense. This competition between a Gates and a Jobs would have been akin to the ice bucket challenge of last summer, but this? it just makes them ridiculous.

Jobs and Gates would never have done this challenge. No matter what it was supporting. Gates puts his personal brand around global education and health out there all the time, but it's always separate from Microsoft. And, he still looks and 'feels' like a smart boy. Class act. And, Jobs? Well, he didn't have a personal, so it was never an issue.

You must represent your brand, whatever you sell, in a way that mirrors your user and those that aspire to be your user. If you are the CEO of a surfboard company, you can dress like Brian Wilson in the late sixties. Frank Perdue could sell chickens because he looked like one. But he never went on T.V. and acted like one. So if you sell computers, you best put your finest foot forward in another way other than counting how many times a day you put your foot forward.

And, what is Fitbit thinking? Their team should be tarred and feathered or run out of town. (Get it? Fitbit tracks your steps each day. Run out of town?) And, the American Heart Association is the only one who gets a pass on this critique. Connecting to Fitbit is perfect for them. We'll assume they didn't pick the pair off couple.

Then there is the social media surrounding it. The only people posting about their competition is ... them. #DellBeatsBenioff is not exactly trending on Twitter. So, if you are going to put your CEO out to dry without a t-shirt on, you best be willing to spend the dollars to create some buzz around it. Maybe do a Facebook buy to AARP'ers? I'm not kidding.

Do I sound harsh? I hate that. Look, I'm sure their families are thrilled that they did this and walked more than they might have. I'm grateful I had something to rant about today. And, the American Heart Association is trying to find ways to improve their messaging. It's all good. And, Dell and Benioff have been kind enough to give us all a lesson in carefully thinking through what you do in the name of your brand. So, lesson learned. Extra steps walked. Christine had something to write about. Have a great marketing day. Namaste.

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