By the time I lived in New York, I was 20. While attending an English and general education course on 23rd St. between 5th and 6th Avenue, I met a very nice lady called Dona Esmeralda. I remember I holding an invitation to a pro and anti-tobacco exhibition campaign sponsored by The One Club quite close to 21st St. Of course, I was pretty excited and she then understood I was a student of Communications, a guy who intended to be an Ad Man, who was fascinated by that profession so close to the city of Mad Men, and who longed to join an advertising agency. That was when she told me that her son was also in this business. He used to be an editor, was smart, and mainly “a great professional, you know? But he is overweight. I’ve already told him.”
At first, I found it funny and even a little weird to hear about excess of weight in the middle of a chat, but then I realized that it was normal. Totally. You see, it was a mother talking about her son. And it made me stop for a while and think of something that is obvious and yet not everyone manages to put into practice: the idea that there is life beyond work. No matter if we’re talking about medicine, engineering, branding, advertising, drama or any other occupation that comes to mind.
An economist who speaks of figures all of the time is annoying. People who only talk about diets are boring. As well, those who only address their religion or just talk about politics. A 20-year-old guy talking about nothing but advertising to a nice lady is really boring as well. Soccer, outfits, money. All of that, when is the only subject becomes boring.
Naturally, Dona Esmeralda had not intended to make me think about all of that. She was just talking about life. And life, at least the one I imagine to be ideal, is much more than a single subject.
Years later while working with Branding, I avoided talking about it all the time, and realized that Brands are talking and behaving more and more like that friendly lady from Manhattan. That is, they are on a level-playing field from person to person, eye to eye, and are more truthful, with less hidden agendas and not ashamed to show their “flesh-and-bone” appearance. Brands are speaking from the heart more and more. They’re more aligned with their Essences. Or at least they should begin to tread this path.
Market share, Brand value, EBITDA, invoicing, growth, commercial aggressiveness. None of these reflect the chief purpose of Branding work. They are just consequences of another vital process. The process in which a company decides to immerse itself, so that only later on it might align Business, Brand and Communication Strategies. The more it knows itself, regardless of its industrial segment, the more stories it is able to share with the world. And people fall in love with stories. It was the story that Dona Esmeralda told me that made me leave my usual course of thought at that time.
I admit: I remember her saying that her son was a very good advertising professional but that he was really overweight (in the same sentence) – and one could even assume that the guy had nothing much to show apart from his belly. Which campaigns was he working on? What agency did he work for? How many awards would he have won? But that was not the point. The small talk about real life I had with her made me rethink certain values. Probably the same values, which make me believe that multiplying our repertoire should be a basic commitment to ourselves, since it does not change our Essence, whether you’re a person or a Brand. Oh, and just for the record we must respect Dona Esmeralda son. We’re talking about Nizan.