Few of us would have believed that a few years after delivering a rousing address at the Democratic National Convention, that Barack Obama would be the Democratic nominee for the office of the President. Fewer still would have imagined that this political unknown, four years ago, would arrive in such an audacious fashion on the world stage, and challenge the stereotypes of race in America.
For me, Obama is the quintessential embodiment of ‘being the brand.’ From humble beginnings, he has risen to become one of the most recognized figures in modern history. Barack did not allow himself to be defined by the circumstances of his birth. He was not the tragic mulatto, struggling with a sense of identity that plagued him into his adult years. He accepted that he was a black man in America, and understood that society would attempt to define him by his external color (because he is still half-white despite the fact tha everyone associates him as a ‘Black’ man to the exclusion of his actual racial makeup).
Nor was he a ‘sell-out’ utilizing his white parentage to distance himself from his ethnic African heritage or disassociating himself from other Black people. Barack has taken care to build a brand identity shaped by hard work, service and unyielding belief in himself and the human spirit. As a result, his ‘brand’ withstood a vigorous challenge from one of the most recognizable brands in America today, the Clintons, to become the Democratic candidate.
Obama stands as clear example of the individual as the brand. More importantly, his commanding presence, skillful oratory, mastery of crowds and the media, has been instrumental in defining the Obama brand.
Not all of us will have the opportunity to craft our identities in the same way as Obama. Each of us will have to find the way to individually, beyond the glare of cameras and the national spotlight, develop our brand and craft our identity. We can learn lessons from Brand Obama, however, that we can apply to our own brand quests.
For example, Obama was continually assailed from all sides by people who sough to marginalize him or define him by the sin of assumption. Rather that shirk away from confrontation, Obama took each swipe at him as an opportunity to clarify who he was. He rarely shied away from a challenge. Similarly, each of us, at some point in our lives encounter rumors, stories and outright lies about us. Rather than to allow them to persist, being the brand requires that you dispel myths, and don’t let them linger. In this way, YOU define who you are, rather than the wags.
Another example of something we can learn from Brand Obama, is the manner in which he uses the slights against him as a means of advancing his agenda. When he was beleaguered with the Rev. Wright debacle, Obama took the stage to announce his commitment to eradicate the racial divide in America.
When you find yourself up against difficult odds or circumstances, take the stage and announce how you intend to address whatever issues you might face. Again, by this approach, you are turning an imagined weakness into a source of strength.
Remember, you are the brand. Be the brand.