CEO: Brand or Bland?


In The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, the Martin Vanger character uttered a phrase that aptly sums up our politically correct culture: “The fear of offending is stronger than the fear of pain.” This fear of offending affects the branding, or lack thereof, that CEOs approve.

America has become one giant “safe zone,” both inside and outside the corporation.

Chris Rock told New York magazine’s Frank Rich that he no longer performs for college audiences: they’re too easily offended.

And, why not? These Millennials are taught to hate whites, males, success, competition, God, critical thinking, capitalism, the Constitution, and the Founding Fathers. Is this not painful?

According to Business Insider, bosses can’t even criticize Gen-Y employees: They are not good at accepting criticism — it makes them get defensive and want to quit. Poor babies.

Columbia University Law School, in New York City, just announced that coddled students “traumatized” by the grand-jury decisions in Ferguson and Staten Island may postpone their final exams. These jellyfish are America’s future lawyers and politicians. I can’t wait.

Said Rock: “Kids raised on a culture of ‘We’re not going to keep score in the game because we don’t want anybody to lose.’ Or just ignoring race to a fault. You can’t say ‘the black kid over there.’ No, it’s ‘the guy with the red shoes.’ You can’t even be offensive on your way to being inoffensive.”

As I discuss in Be Unique or Be Ignored: The CEO’s Guide to Branding, Ms. Ginni Rometty, IBM’s CEO, is devoting her company’s resources to chasing Millennials. Alas, most enterprises are doing likewise: they’re blanding.

NOTE: The only way to brand inoffensively to the easily offended is to be bland — which is not to brand at all. This is, ultimately, the CEO’s decision.
Three Steps to a Strong Brand

In my book on branding for CEOs, I outline the three R’s of building a strong brand: react, remember, repeat.

If your audiences (customers, investors, and reporters) don’t react viscerally (read chapter #3 on GutShare™) to your brand, it’s game over: they won’t remember and subsequently repeat it. Result: you’ve built bland, not a brand.

Furthermore, if your messaging is jargon-laced and product-centric, you’re blanding. Jargon, along with political correctness, is at the heart of the safe zone.

Parting Advice to CEOs

Choose: brand or bland. If your audiences don’t react to, remember, and repeat your brand, you don’t have one: you’re bland. But, that’s OK when marketing to the infantilized.

When marketing to adults, however, you must brand. Get out of the “safe zone.” Dare to pique. Risk the “pain” of standing out from the white noise of me-too competition. Oops, I said competition. Did I offend you?
POSTSCRIPT #1: Jellyfish Millennials at Harvard Law Demand Delay of Final Exams Over Grand Jury Decisions

POSTSCRIPT #2: Jellyfish Millennials at UCLA Law Get Apology from Prof for Ferguson Exam Question

POSTSCRIPT #3: McDonald’s to Chase Debt-Laden, Unemployed, Dependent Millennials

POSTSCRIPT #4: Will Microsoft Brand or Bland Its Successor to Internet Explorer?

POSTSCRIPT #5: Brown University’s Millennials Need Protection from Ideas

POSTSCRIPT #6: Millennials’ Weak Skills Threaten America’s Competitiveness

POSTSCRIPT #7: VA Schools Banning Zeroes to Avoid Hurt Feelings

POSTSCRIPT #8: Clorox CEO Cowardly Caves to Insane Political Correctness

POSTSCRIPT #9: Bud Light CEO Cowardly Caves to PC Police Over New Ad Campaign

POSTSCRIPT #10: Protein World’s CEO Ignored PC Police and Won!

POSTSCRIPT #11: Whole Foods to Build Low-Cost Chain for Broke, Unemployed Millennials

POSTSCRIPT #12: Coddling the Easily Offended Is the New American Pastime

POSTSCRIPT #13: Jerry Seinfeld Excoriates Politically Correct, Humorless Millennials

POSTSCRIPT #14: Nebulous McDonald’s Is Still Repelling Customers

POSTSCRIPT #15: UC Prohibits Meritocracy & Opportunity, Stifles Entrepreneurial Spirit

POSTSCRIPT #16: Backlash Against Jerry Seinfeld Proves Only Verbal Pablum Is Safe for Millennials

POSTSCRIPT #17: McDonald’s Franchisees Unload: Weak marketing, Poor Customer Perceptions, and Corporate Ignorance

POSTSCRIPT #18: Spineless, PC CEOs Bail on “The View” Over Nurse Comment

POSTSCRIPT #19: College Millennials Required to Wear PC Halloween Costumes


About the Author

Marc Rudov is a branding advisor to CEOs,
producer of MarcRudovTV, and author of the book,
Be Unique or Be Ignored: The CEO’s Guide to Branding.


© 2014 Marc H. Rudov. All Rights Reserved.


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