Collective Charisma: The Brands We Love
Sure, you have charisma. But does your wristwatch have it too? Charisma is that special engaging quality we recognize in some individuals. But maybe there’s  such a thing as collective charisma applicable to groups, to organizations – or even to the products they make.
Once upon a time the quality known as charisma clung every bit as much to princely regalia,  saintly relics and totemic objects (like the skull of St Valentine in the image above)  as to the actual persons concerned. Later, aristocrats and medieval guilds made use of symbols to emphasize the power or significance of their office.  Nowadays you can experience this quality first-hand, every single day of your purchasing life, although you’ve learned to identify these emotions as your brand preferences.

"Blason ville fr Miribel (Ain)" by User:SpedonaImage created for the Blazon Project of the French Wikipedia - Own workiThe source code of this SVG is valid.This vector image was created with Inkscape by User:Spedona.. Licensed Early brand: Photo Wikimedia Commons -  Blason_ville

Early brand symbols: Photo Wikimedia Commons – Blason_ville

Brand strength is really just the measure of the charisma we recognise in a special product or service that has some extra meaning for us. The loyalty we feel for certain brands and their products is directly comparable to the rapport or admiration we feel for certain inspiring people onstage or in the public eye. With people, we show our willingness to take what they say for granted and then act as they would wish us to. With products, we reach for our wallets.
As with products, so with people. Just as we might purchase a pair of Nike training shoes over their Adidas lookalike without really being sure the former will help us to run any faster, so we’re ready to accept the leadership of certain individuals for reasons we perhaps find hard to quantify or explain in objective terms.
With people we call it trust – with products brand loyalty. In certain instances – George Clooney comes to mind – the two are conflated. As a brand ambassador, he drinks the world’s sexiest coffee, while Roger Federer plays tennis with the precision of a Swiss watch.
Even if they’re not associated with celebrities, powerful brands make us do some unexpected things. Apple products can generate a degree of fidelity that’s quite distinct from their practical merit. To Mac believers, it’s not unreasonable to suggest the company is: “set apart from [the] ordinary … and endowed with supernatural, superhuman, or at least specifically exceptional powers or qualities.” This is sociologist Max Weber’s seminal 1922 definition of human charisma.
Take Apple’s new top-of-the-range US$10,000 Edition gold watch. How is it that a whole generation of design-conscious hipsters who’ve grown up with the cool-yet-rebellious  minimalism of Steve Jobs’ white and then brushed aluminium products, could today be clamouring for Tim Cook’s brashly decorative bauble, more redolent of Louis XIV’s Versailles than 21st century Cupertino?

What time is it, Mr Cook? Apple's new fetish

What time is it, Mr Cook? Apple’s new fetish

The answer, perhaps, lies in the power of objects whose “compelling attractiveness or charm … can inspire devotion in others.” (The Oxford English Dictionary’s  definition.) The watch looks like Apple’s first “must have” item prioritizing user devotion over functionalism. If so, Apple is migrating regressively from “form follows function” toward “form follows fashion.”
Charisma is a feedback mechanism: what we see is what we project onto the other person. Likewise,  brand attributes are just the things we want to see embedded in an inanimate object.

Personal branding makes my object part of me.

Personal branding makes my object part of me.

What’s really curious is not that brand strength and human charisma are so uncannily alike (that remains unproven) – but that the former seems to attract so much more scholarly and commercial attention than the latter.
In fact there’s a multi-billion dollar marketing industry and a burgeoning social sciences discipline replete with specialist business schools – all devoted to finding out what makes us so loyal to certain brand names. This even ascribes hard monetary value to this most elusive of intangibles.
Interbrand, for instance, plots the rise and fall of our love affair with charismatic consumer products to the nearest billion dollars, while Fortune 500 companies include brand asset value in their conservatively audited balance sheets. At US$118 billion, Apple’s charisma is the world’s top-ranked intangible brand asset. No wonder it has just replaced AT&T as the Dow Index bellwether.
In upcoming postings we’ll show how these two fields – the exhaustively-studied world of branding, and the too-little-studied world of human charisma – can be brought together productively to generate new and illuminating insights.
We’ll explore how Communicate Charisma – the methodology we’ve already developed to help individuals to map, measure and manage their personal charisma – might also provide a useful next step in the ongoing study of brands and measuring the collective charisma they represent.
At Communicate Charisma our primary focus will always be the study of  individual influence and the development of tools and techniques for self-development in the workplace and the wider  world. Yet one way of delivering deeper training insights into “personal branding” is to show draw parallels with how branding really works.

personal branding

As with things, so with people: branding in our times.

From the early trade-marks of medieval guilds and the renaissance merchant-venturers, through to the first monopolies of the industrial revolution that in turn gave birth to the great industrial names straddling the 19th and 20th centuries, the exploration of brands has emerged as the new anthropology of urban social studies.
Since World War II the study of brands and marketing has gone into hyper-drive. First came the work of pioneers such as Peter Drucker, Philip Kotler and E Jerome McCarthy.
After the 1960s their work in the ‘4 Ps’  (Product, Price, Place and Promotion) product-centric ‘marketing mix’ gave way to the customer-centric ‘4Cs’  (Consumer, Costs, Convenience,  and Communication) view of marketing championed through the 1990s by Robert F. Lauterborn. Another decade, another stir of the marketers’ alphabet soup, and in came the ‘4Es’ (Experience, Everyplace, Exchange, Evangelism) of experience-related marketing inspired by Ogilvy &  Mather.
Just as ‘P’ gave way to ‘C’ gave way to ‘E,’ we’re entitled to ask (as George Clooney does in his Nexpresso ads) “What Else?”
Is the power in the person - or in the object?  relics of St Valentine.

Is the power in the person – or in the object? relics of St Valentine.

The classical approach was to study made objects or services, and then measure the way people reacted to them, creating special categories or the brand attributes believed responsible for this behaviour. This brought marketing science a long way. Now, we believe, there’s a logical next step that simply turns these priorities on their head. First, understand and measure the known patterns of charismatic human behaviour – and then study how consumers project onto cherished brands those very same qualities they admire in people. This would go some way to reversing – or at least humanizing – the fetishized culture of brands in our modern world.

Could charisma be about the things your wear?

Could charisma also be about the things you wear?

Actually, it’s hardly new: the age-old study of influential behaviour that goes right back to Aristotle’s treatise ‘On Rhetoric ‘ and passes all the way through psychologists like CG Jung to the psychometric testing of modern days. Many people have worked out ideas that personalise objects into ‘hero brands’ and ‘brand archetypes,’ but there hasn’t been much meaningful measurement.
That’s where we take up the story.   Communicate Charisma has  developed a methodology to measure and visualise in clear graphic terms the effect that people have on other people as they communicate. This knowledge gives individuals the capability to expand and develop their power to influence others – a valuable leadership attribute.

Engaging leader profile

Engaging leader profile

We also believe that our methodology could one day evolve to measure the effect that products and services have on people. All it takes is the recognition that expressing a brand preference, is not so different from feeling that special rapport with a person.
That could be the first step in accurately measuring and predicting premium brand leadership.
At Communicate Charisma we teach people how to become more engaging and effective communicators. In our Charisma Dimensions workshops, we use practical exercises coupled with our bespoke self-awareness tools to allow participants to understand and experience the impact of individual personality traits on how we are perceived by others. Together, we use these insights to develop a more effective and authentic personal style, and so raise our power of influence and communications mastery.
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