Sunday, August 30, 2015

The bully pulpit

by Edward Harris

Editor's note: The entry below is the second in a continuing series on Theodore Roosevelt. It is recommended that visitors read part one before proceeding to part two. Part one delves into the early birth of the Teddy Roosevelt brand, whereas this entry begins to approach Roosevelt the president—the man with bully pulpit.

Therefore, submitted for your approval…

Thomas Nast impression of TR - 1889
Part Two of Three: Thomas Nast was one of the nation's first image-makers and helped transform Roosevelt's cowboy image into the nation's political culture. In a cartoon of 1889, the first year Roosevelt served as the U.S. civil service commissioner in Benjamin Harrison's administration, Nast blended Roosevelt's Wild West bronco busting with current notions of progressive reform. In this remarkably predictive portrayal, Nast successfully projected a youthful and determined cowboy at "Uncle Sam's Ranch," to one who disciplines the out-of-control "Spoils man" with "Civil Service Reform." During the following six years, Roosevelt gained national attention by removing thousands of jobs from political patronage, thus making civil service reform a popular cause. This move surprised the Republican Party machine and provoked the unenthusiastic Harrison to remark that Roosevelt “wanted to put an end to all the evil in the world between sunrise and sunset.”

By the time of the Cuban campaign, Roosevelt's Rough Rider performance completed his evolution from an Easterner to a hardened, purposeful cowboy-cavalry hero. He actually spent time in San Antonio recruiting cowboys in the bar at the Menger Hotel to accompany him on his adventure to Cuba and fight the Spaniards. The Menger is one of Texas’ historic hotels and located next door to the Alamo. The purpose of the campaign was a response to the sinking of the USS Maine, presumed to have been act of war perpetrated by Spanish loyalists in Cuba. At the time, Cuba was fighting for independence from Spain. America drew parallels in its view of Cuba and Spain with America and England. So the incident with the Maine sparked the flash fire that became the Spanish-American War.

Colonel Roosevelt 1898
In this 1898 photo, Colonel Theodore Roosevelt of the Rough Riders prepares to embark for Cuba. Roosevelt as a Rough Rider presents himself as a solid and muscular, mature, battle-ready horseman, ready to charge up San Juan hill and ride confidently into the nation's political consciousness. Nast had successfully remade the youthful Roosevelt, slim, decorated, and slightly built body of the studio photos into a battle-hardened man of action worthy of national acclaim.

Perhaps Roosevelt is most remembered for the words he pinned in a letter to Henry L. Sprague, on January 26, 1900, he wrote, "Speak softly and carry a big stick; you will go far." This statement, which became a slogan, goes a long way in further defining the man and his brand. This proved true during the Boxer rebellion when the marines were sent to rescue missionaries who found themselves in the middle of a civil war in China. The notion being expressed here in this slogan is the opposite of the tactics employed by every contemporary schoolteacher—who begin stern and tough and, when discipline allows, it becomes more easy-going. The 'speak softly...' doctrine was to begin gently, but hold a decisive weapon in reserve. Roosevelt claimed the phrase was of West African origin, but this cannot be corroborated. It is entirely possible that he coined the phrase himself.

Roosevelt with his Rough Riders - Cuba 1899
After serving as governor of New York and McKinley's vice president, Roosevelt became president September 14, 1901 following President McKinley’s assassination. He was 42 years old and remains to this day the youngest person to hold this office. Punch Magazine commemorated the ascent of the nation's favorite cowboy to the highest office. Sending its "best wishes," the magazine pictured the Rough Rider, complete with an American flag saddle blanket, reporting for duty as president of the United States.

By this time, the entire nation knew of Roosevelt’s youthful bodybuilding to overcome frailty, his cowboy and hunting exploits in the Dakotas, his pugnacious style in New York politics, and his bravery under fire in the war against Spain.

Roosevelt's own tireless self-promotion was supported by national magazines and newspapers which faithfully recorded his every move. A million Teddy bears were for sale in New York City alone. This came about following a hunting trip to Mississippi at the invitation of Governor Andrew H. Longino. After three days of hunting, other members of the hunting party had spotted bears, but not Roosevelt.

To avoid failure, the hunting guides tracked down an old black bear that the dogs had trailed and attacked. The guides intentionally tied the bear to a tree and later lead the President to the bear so he would have his trophy. It is said TR took one look at the old bear and refused to shoot it. He did, however, recognize that the bear was injured and suffering and ordered the bear put down to end its suffering. Word of this was soon reported by every major newspaper in America.

Political cartoonist Clifford Berryman picked up on the story, drawing a cartoon depicting how TR refused to shoot the bear while hunting in Mississippi.

Young boys began strengthening regimens, and grown men reveled in what the New York Tribune in 1907 called Roosevelt's "opulent efficiency of mind and body." By then well into his second term, the five-foot-eight Roosevelt weighed over two hundred pounds. He was a "strong, tough man; hard to hurt and harder to stop," remarked his heavyweight sparring partner, a professional boxer who came regularly to the White House for workouts. "His large frame and thick neck gave the impression of a big man," his cousin Nicholas Roosevelt observed, and "his chest was powerful and well developed." General Arthur MacArthur remarked to Roosevelt how pleased he was that at last the nation had a president who could review troops on horseback.

TR, President & Conservationist - After exploring the badlands, TR decided he would venture further west and explore lands that are now known as Yellowstone. Although Yellowstone had become a national park under Ulysses S. Grant’s presidency little had been done to bring the park to the forefront of America’s consciousness. For the west, Roosevelt was its best promoter. His most important legislation as president was in the areas of conservation.

At the urging of Gifford Pinchot, a college-trained forester who argued that the natural resources of the West required scientific management to prevent their depletion by private developers, Roosevelt seized on the 1891 Forest Reserves Act, which empowered the president to set aside public lands as national forests, and used it to increase federal land reserves from approximately 40 million acres when he took office to nearly 200 million acres by the end of his second term.

In 1905, Roosevelt gave Pinchot responsibility for administering this vast domain as head of the newly organized U.S. Forest Service, and ushered in the modern era of western land management, which aims at sustained efficient use of natural resources rather than exploitation and development. Under Pinchot and his successors, much of the West came under bureaucratic control, with local communities and business interests subject to federal regulation in their use of the resources surrounding them.

Roosevelt initiated similar sweeping change in the West with his support of the National Reclamation Act (or Newlands Act) of 1902, which gave the federal government primary responsibility for dam construction and irrigation projects. A new federal agency, the Reclamation Service, brought scientific expertise and bureaucratic administration to this task, and by 1906 there were water projects underway in all the western states, establishing federal control of the use of this vital resource as well.

Roosevelt also extended federal control over the scenic wonders of the West, using the 1906 Antiquities Act, which had been intended to preserve historic landmarks, to set aside 800,000 acres in Arizona as the Grand Canyon National Monument. All told, he created 16 national monuments, 51 wildlife refuges and five new National Parks, including Crater Lake in Oregon and the Anasazi ruins at Mesa Verde, Colorado. He helped pave the way for eventual recognition of such "national treasures" as natural resources requiring federal management to sustain their use by the west's growing tourist industry into the future.

TR, President & Arbitrator - Aside from his conservation programs, Roosevelt's most significant influence on the history of the west came as a result of his efforts to strengthen American interests in East Asia. He recognized the Pacific as a potential avenue for U.S. trade and sought political stability in the region through improved relations with Japan. In 1905, he negotiated a settlement of the Russo-Japanese War, winning the Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts, and in 1907, he worked out what was called a "Gentleman's Agreement" with Japan when he forced San Francisco to end its segregation of Japanese schoolchildren in exchange for a curb on the emigration of Japanese laborers to the United States.

Earlier, in 1905, Roosevelt had used gunboat diplomacy to resolve a similar situation with China, forcing the government there to end a trade boycott protesting the U.S. exclusion of Chinese workers. Both actions showed Roosevelt's sympathy with the longstanding racial prejudices of the West, but underscored as well his conviction that the future of the west lay in the Far East.

TR, President & Statesman – Often considered the first modern President. He significantly expanded the influence and power of the executive office. From 1865 to the beginning of the 1900’s, the power in the national government resided in the U.S. Congress. For the last twenty years of the 1800’s, the executive branch gradually increased its power. Roosevelt recognized this trend, and believing that the President had the right to use all powers except those that were specifically denied him to accomplish his goals seized this opportunity. As a result, the President, rather than Congress or, the political parties, became the center of the American political arena.

As President, Roosevelt challenged the ideas of limited government and individualism. He advocated government regulation to achieve social and economic justice. He used executive orders to accomplish his goals, especially in conservation, and waged an aggressive foreign policy. He was also an extremely popular President and the first to use the media to appeal directly to the people, bypassing the political parties and career politicians. As President, Roosevelt worked to ensure that the government improved the lives of American citizens. His "Square Deal" domestic program reflected the progressive call to reform the American workplace, initiating welfare legislation and government regulation of industry. Indeed, this became a foundation of Franklin D. Roosevelt's New Deal, following the great Depression.

TR was also the nation's first environmentalist President, setting aside nearly 200 million acres for national forests, reserves, and wildlife refuges. In foreign policy, Roosevelt wanted to make the United States a global power by increasing its influence worldwide. He led the effort to secure rights to build the Panama Canal, one of the greatest engineering feats at that time. He also issued his "corollary" to the Monroe Doctrine, which established the United States as the "policeman" of the Western Hemisphere. In addition, he used his position as President to help negotiate peace agreements between belligerent nations, believing that the world should settle international disputes through diplomacy rather than war.

Next Post
: TR the President was so impactful to the Union that his bust joins the Founding Fathers on Mount Rushmore. It was during his watch that the foundations set for an America that would come after World War II. But Roosevelt did not stop after being president. Unlike others, he did not fade into the backroom of the American public psyche. His brand continued to feed a hungry American expectation.

About Edward Harris - Harris leads an award wining agency and has long been recognized as one of the top marketing leaders in Houston, and for clients nationally and internationally. His B2B branding and marketing expertise has helped many of the major oil companies. as well as vendors who serve the oil & gas industry. Harris is considered one of the original forward thinkers, developing tailored processes that has lead his clients to great success. Read more about Harris in Knights of the Round Table.

Monday, August 24, 2015

A bully brand

by Edward Harris

Editor's note: This entry is part of a series on Theodore Roosevelt—a brand in history that is simply too large, too multifaceted to cover in a single post. It is with great appreciation that this series comes to BIH from Edward Harris, who spent countless hours researching and writing this epic effort. Not in the usual format, the work does detail the development of this amazing icon of Americanism. Therefore, submitted for your approval…

Part One: Following the Civil War, surviving soldiers from both the Southern and Northern armies had a difficult time assimilating into society and yearned for new beginnings. Some turned to the words of John B. L. Soule, "Go West, Young Man". And so, thousands of men headed west for new beginnings they hoped would yield fame and Fortune. 

When you think about the old west, you most likely conger up images of Jesse James, Pat Garret, Billy the Kid, Kit Carson, Buffalo Bill Cody, Wild Bill Hickok, Doc Holiday and the Earp brothers. But shortly after these cowboys rode off into the sunset of history, another cowboy appeared on the scene, his name was Theodore Roosevelt, who along the way became the 26th President of the United States. Elected in 1901, America’s economy and society were rapidly changing and Roosevelt, with his enormous energy and vision, put the U.S. on a path of prosperity that would last throughout the 20th century.

Often referred to by his initials TR, he was an American statesman, soldier, author, explorer, frontiersman, rancher, naturalist, and historian. Because of his relationship with the western states and its people, some think of him as America’s first conservationist. He was a major player in establishing the national parks system. He integrated his rowdy personality, diverse range of interests, and world-famous achievements into a "cowboy" image that became iconic. This was the beginning of the Teddy Roosevelt brand.

With that image one might think of TR as the original Marlboro Man, a mythological cowboy character appearing in cigarette ads; TR appealed to American men because of his masculinity, individuality and freedom. In fact, Phillip Morris, makers of Marlboro, and their advertising agency Leo Burnett used this combination to rebrand Marlboro cigarettes using the Marlboro Man in the 1950’s—sales went through the roof and Marlboro became the recognized leader.

TR, Rancher, Cowboy - In 1883 TR began exploring the west. His first trip was to the badlands where he spent time hunting buffalo. Prior to this trip he learned that over 4,000 buffalo had been slaughtered the year before and he was anxious to add the buffalo to his trophy collection. He was only 25, a skinny, bespectacled kid from a privileged life in New York who learned quickly how exhausting life was on the prairie. He never imagined how his adventures in this remote land would forever change his life. The rugged landscape and strenuous life TR experienced in North Dakota would later help shape his conservation policy, and it was during this time period he began building his brand image.

Before heading back to New York he purchased two ranches, bought cattle, and hired ranch hands. His exploits in the Dakotas became legendary— rides of seventy miles or more in a day, hunting trips of fourteen to sixteen hours, stretches in the saddle in roundups for as long as forty hours.

During his time in the Dakotas, Roosevelt’s physicality changed to that of a rugged outdoorsman. His struggles against cattle thieves and lawless gangs and his skill in breaking and riding wild cow ponies provided the physical courage.

Strengthened by the rough life of a cattle rancher, Roosevelt continued to develop his Western image. As his cowboy image evolved, his popular image changed along with it. When he bought his first ranch, both Westerners and the Eastern press ridiculed him for looking like an overdressed, overeducated tenderfoot. By 1886, his Western exploits had visibly hardened him. "What a change!" the Pittsburgh Dispatch exclaimed; "he is now brown as a berry and has increased 30 pounds in weight." His high and squeaky voice was now "hearty and strong enough to drive oxen." Reviewers of Hunting Trips of a Ranchman: Ranch Life and the Hunting Trail (1888) and The Wilderness Hunter (1893) allowed Roosevelt the full legitimacy of Western cowboy life. The New York Times certified that "Mr. Roosevelt has had full practical experience of what he writes about" and noted that "to be a cowboy . . . is by no means an easy task." Ranching life held "a special charm for the gilded youth of the Eastern states," The Dial's reviewer reported, "and Mr. Roosevelt seems to have followed it."

TR in 1885
It was not just how a cowboy looked that separated him from Easterners, but how he lived. In their struggle against nature, the New York Tribune noted, cowboys had to live lives of "intelligent barbarism" that involved "barbarous and crude forms of dissipation." "I heartily enjoy this life, with its perfect freedom," Roosevelt wrote, "for I am very fond of hunting, and there are few sensations I prefer to that of galloping over these rolling, limitless prairies, rifle in hand."

"He craved once more to be alone with nature," reported the naturalist John Burroughs; "he was evidently hungry for the wild and aboriginal—a hunger that seems to come upon him regularly at least once a year, and drives him forth on his hunting trips for big game in the West." In this intense contact with a heightened reality, Roosevelt claimed to have discovered the raw and primitive man in himself—what Easterners must have been like before being drained of their life juices. "This is what I was like when I had the bark on," he later wrote.

Though himself a New Yorker, Roosevelt enjoyed demeaning the tame outdoor pastimes of Easterners. He preferred his Western life of wild horses, wild terrain, and wild game to Eastern foxhunting, he wrote in 1884 to Lodge, an Eastern patrician and foxhunter. Western hunting required natural buckskin shirts, rifles, and rugged cow ponies, Roosevelt said, rather than tailored red coats worn during scripted jumps over fences chasing a ground-dragged scent. "A buffalo is nobler game than an anise seed bag," and one could kill buffalo only in the West. In 1883, when he had killed his first buffalo, Roosevelt spontaneously danced a "war dance" that he repeated thereafter in a lifetime of famous hunting. In the aristocratic gentility of the hunt club, no member would ever have allowed himself such freedom.

TR, Family Man – Family played an important part of Teddy’s life and also helped formulate his brand. He idolized his father, Theodore, adored his mother, Martha and kept close to his two sisters and brothers throughout their lifetimes.

In October 1878 Teddy meets seventeen-year old Alice Hathaway Lee at a friend’s house and falls madly in love with her. He tells friends he was going to marry her. At the time he is a student attending Harvard University, he graduates in 1880 as magna cum laude. After more than a year of courtship, Alice agrees to marry Teddy. On October 27, 1880, Alice Hathaway Lee and Theodore Roosevelt are married in Brookline, Massachusetts. Following a five-month honeymoon in Europe, they relocate to New York where Teddy begins attending classes at Columbia Law School while working on a history of naval engagements during the War of 1812. He will never finish law school having discovered his love for politics.

In October 1882, Alice moved to her husband's Albany boardinghouse and learned about New York state politics. When she became pregnant in the summer of 1883, the Roosevelts planned for a large family and bought land near Tranquility New York for a large home. Later that fall she returns to live with her mother-in-law in New York City so she is close to medical facilities and personnel.

TR with Edith and all five children. 
Alice gave birth to the couple's daughter at 8:30 pm on February 12, 1884; the child was named Alice Lee Roosevelt. Teddy, 26, then a member of the New York State Assembly, was in Albany attending to business on the Assembly floor. He had convinced himself their child would be born on Valentine's Day, the fourth anniversary of their engagement. After Assemblyman Roosevelt received a telegram the morning of the 13th notifying him of the birth, he made arrangements to leave that afternoon and be with his wife. Another telegram was sent and received regarding Alice’s ill health, and when he arrived home around midnight she was in a semi-comatose state. Alice languished for several hours while her husband held her, dying the afternoon of February 14, 1884 from an undiagnosed kidney failure. It was determined that her pregnancy had masked the illness. Alice was 22 years old at the time of her death. To add to his misery TR’s beloved mother, Martha (Mittie) passes away just hours before Alice’s death, in the same house. Distraught following Alice Roosevelt's death, Teddy hardly spoke of her again, much to the frustration of their daughter.

Following the death of Alice, Teddy turns to his oldest sister, Anna Roosevelt or “Bamie” as she is called, for the care of their newborn daughter, Alice Lee Roosevelt. As she grew, Alice Lee learned primarily of her mother from her aunt, ‘Bamie’ Roosevelt.

In 1884, Roosevelt returned to his ranch as a refuge from tragedy and disappointment. Both his wife and mother had died on Valentine's Day that year, and in the summer his reformist faction had been defeated at the Republican national convention. Embroiled in a scandal over the presidential nomination of the corrupt Republican James Blaine, Teddy afraid of being seen as a political opportunist resigns his seat as a New York assemblyman and moves out to his ranch in the Dakotas.

The isolation and immensity of the Badlands helped him escape these misfortunes, and offered a retreat where he could pursue his interest in writing. Roosevelt had already published a history of The Naval War of 1812 (1882), which he had begun at Harvard. Now he became a western author, publishing such works as Hunting Trips of a Ranchman (1885), Thomas Hart Benton (1886), and a four-volume history of the early frontier, The Winning of the West (1889-1896).

He returns to Albany still distraught over the deaths of his mother and wife and buries himself in work. He also commissions the construction of a house at Oyster Bay in honor of his dead wife Alice. While visiting the planned home site he visits an early childhood friend Edith Kermit Carow. Edith was the best friend to Corinne Roosevelt, Teddy’s oldest sister. A romance ensues and Theodore Roosevelt proposed to Edith November 17, 1885 and she accepts. However, for appearance's sake, the young widower delayed the announcement of their engagement.

They marry on December 2, 1886, at St. George's Church of Hanover Square, in London, England. On the day of the wedding, a quiet affair with few guests, the London fog was so thick that it filled the church. His best man was Cecil Arthur Spring-Rice, who later served as British ambassador to the United States during World War I and maintained a close friendship with the couple for the rest of his life.

After a 15-week honeymoon tour of Europe, the newlyweds settled down in a house on Sagamore Hill, at Oyster Bay. Mrs. Roosevelt, reserved and efficient, managed the household budget. Throughout Teddy’s intensely active career, family life remained close and harmonious. Alice Lee Roosevelt at age 3 moved to Sagamore Hill to live with her father and step-mother.

The Roosevelts had 5 children; Theodore Roosevelt III, Kermit Roosevelt, Ethel Carow Roosevelt, Archibald Roosevelt, and Quentin Roosevelt. All would go on to live incredible lives as military heroes, business persons, writers, and explorers.


Next Post: TR the President was a multifaceted leader as much as he was a complex man. His time in the badlands began the mold for his brand, but by no means completed it. Much of that would come as a new century dawned.

About Edward Harris - Harris leads an award wining agency and has long been recognized as one of the top marketing leaders in Houston, and for clients nationally and internationally. His B2B branding and marketing expertise has helped many of the major oil companies. as well as vendors who serve the oil & gas industry. Harris is considered one of the original forward thinkers, developing tailored processes that has lead his clients to great success. Read more about Harris in Knights of the Round Table.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Killer expectations

by Cecelia Ottenweller

“Any progress on BB?” This was the email I found in my inbox as I toyed with my phone one recent evening. I was drinking some water at the time and almost choked.


I’d forgotten I’d promised a blog entry on the brand of Edward Teach, AKA Blackbead, the notorious pirate.

Interestingly, the email interrupted my evening plans to relax by hanging out in my jammies and watching The Pirate with Judy Garland and the oh-so-sexy Gene Kelly for the umpteen thousandth time.

You may not know this delightful little piece of celluloid fun; it’s a Cole Porter musical that suffered greatly during filming from emotional drama behind the scenes. The plot is fun, though: Garland plays Manuela, a dreamy young woman living with her aunt and uncle in a small town in the interior of an unnamed Caribbean island. The family was once well off, but thanks to her uncle’s gambling debts, it is necessary to marry sweet Manuela off to an older man: the chubby, mustachioed Don Pedro Vargas, who also happened to be the very wealthy town mayor.

Manuela consents, but she’s secretly, madly in love with—and perpetually fantasizing about—Mack the Black Macoco, a notorious pirate who sails the Caribbean, capturing prizes, burning towns, and ravishing young maidens. He’s everything her young heart wants: dashing, fearless, handsome, willing to do anything it takes to get what he wants…

So, what happens next in The Pirate and what does it have to do with Blackbeard’s brand? Well actually, absolutely everything. 

Engraving of Edward Teach, c1736
First off, who was Blackbeard?
Blackbeard’s pirate career lasted only three very short years, but in that time he gained a reputation that has lasted literally hundreds of years. This is amazing: his story takes place during the Golden Age of Piracy and his peers included the notorious and bloodthirsty Charles Vane; the dashing Calico Jack Rackham; and pirate viragos Anne Bonney and Mary Reed. Of that class, however, Blackbeard has the most lasting legacy.

According to Captain Charles Johnson, author of the 1724 best seller, A General History of the Robberies and Murders of the Most Notorious Pyrates, Blackbeard’s real name was Edward Teach a mariner from Bristol, England. He shipped aboard a privateer during Queen Anne’s war against France and Spain, from 1701 - 1714.

Privateers were a type of licensed piracy. Back then, paid navies were small, so governments at war gave private ships a letter of marque licensing them to attack enemy’s vessels during wartime. They legally raided and plundered as opposed to being full-blown pirates who illegally raided and plundered. Truly, this was a very fine line.

Privateering was what Teach knew: His career choices at the end of the war were very limited for men with his skill set. He could join the navy or a merchant ship as just another crewman with little chance of advancement, or he could ship with someone who had, let’s say, a more “entrepreneurial vision” as a pirate and rapidly climb the corporate ladder. Teach was 34 year old man with ample ambition and by all accounts he was quite intelligent. His choice must have seemed very simple.

He at first sailed with pirate Captain Hornigold before taking command of one of the band’s prizes. Hornigold became an honest man, however, and took advantage of the Royal Pardon offered by Woodes Rogers, the British governor of Port Royal. This left Teach to his own devices and he took advantage of the opportunity to captain his own ship.

The Birth of the Blackbeard Brand
A pirate’s career was notoriously short and Teach must have recognized that fact when developing—to use modern parlance—his overall business strategy. If he was going to be successful, it had to happen fast. There wasn’t much time to build his brand and command his niche before he’d be bumped off his pedestal.

Teach was a very smart man and he seemed to have the heart of a master marketer: He instinctively knew that a well-developed brand would do the bulk of his work, so he deliberately created Blackbeard the Pirate, the fearsome son of Satan who sailed the Caribbean, taking what he wanted, leaving only death and destruction in his path.

According to Captain Johnson (who writes like he knew the man personally), Teach took advantage of what he had, namely a tall, muscular stature and a “… large quantity of hair which, like a frightful meteor, covered his whole face and frightened America more than any comet that has appeared there a long time.”

A common depiction of Blackbeard, wide-eyed and mad.
That massive beard became the centerpiece of Teach’s Blackbeard brand graphic standards. Here’s a more complete description of this new persona:
“This beard was black, which he suffered to grown of an extravagant length; as to breadth, it came up to his eyes. He was accustomed to twist it with ribbons, in small tails, after the manner of our ramilies wigs, and turn them about his ears. In time of action, he wore a sling over his shoulders with three brace of pistols hanging in holsters like bandoliers, and stuck lighted matches under his hat, which, appearing on each side of his face, his eyes naturally looking fierce and wild, made him altogether such a figure, that imagination cannot form an idea of a fury, from hell, to look more frightful.”
Once created, Blackbeard then bolstered his brand by fueling rumors of his bloodthirsty nature. He plied this new persona at every possible opportunity. The more dramatic he appeared and behaved, the more wild the rumors.

Map of Ocracoke Inlet. 1775
This is important: there were far more successful pirates of his time in that they made oodles more money than Blackbeard. But, go ahead and ask the question: how many people did Blackbeard actually kill? Well, to tell the truth—outside of the battle at Ocracoke Inlet where he was finally done in—none. Blackbeard successfully leveraged this fearsome persona to achieve fast surrender by his targets with minimal damage to his assets.

Truly, of the pirates that who sailed during the Golden Age of Piracy, Blackbeard was the most skillful at leveraging his brand to get what he wanted with minimum effort. His name immediately communicated ruthlessness and it struck terror in the hearts of honest men throughout the Caribbean and English colonies. He literally became a legend in a very short period of time. And that legend paid off in spades: more often than not, captains quickly surrendered when they saw Blackbeard’s flag flying on the mast of an approaching ship. They reasoned it was better to do that than to suffer the torments rumored from previous conquests.

Let’s not be mistaken, however: even though he didn’t kill many people, this was not a nice guy. He burned ships and marooned people, and he was astoundingly atrocious in his marital relationships (he went to the altar fourteen times). Blackbeard did, however, shoot one of his sailors, Israel Hands, in the kneecap without provocation, claiming, “that if he did not now and then kill one of them, they would forget who he was.” So, let’s all agree he was somewhat unbalanced and leave it at that. (Incidentally, Hands made out decently in the end; of the men who were captured after Blackbeard was killed, Hands was one of two pirates who were acquitted while the rest hanged.)

Blackbeard's flag: A skeleton toasting Satan and stabbing a heart.
Here’s one of the best examples of how he successfully leveraged his notorious brand: With a gargantuan crew of nearly 300 deployed on his three ships—the Revenge, the Queen Anne’s Revenge, and Adventure—Blackbeard blockaded the port town of Charleston. He easily captured ships coming into and out of the harbor with barely a shot fired; he simply hoisted his flag, showed his face surrounded by smoldering firecrackers tied to his beard, and everyone turned their hands up. He took several hostages during the blockade and threatened to hang them – men, women, and children—unless the town delivered a large chest full of medicines to his flagship. Frightened out of their wits, Charleston gave in to his demands and Blackbeard happily released his hostages after, of course, fleecing them for all they had, including clothing. They reportedly walked onto the quay in their underwear or were outright naked.

When a Good Brand Goes Bad…
Blackbeard’s fearsome brand, combined with his innate recklessness, ultimately did him in. If he had been a quieter sort, less interested in the limelight, less ambitious, he might have slipped away and led a quiet retirement with his fourteenth wife but no. Because he was “the notorious Blackbeard” he became a prime and visible target. He flaunted his cozy relationship with the Governor of North Carolina and
Capture of Blackbeard, 1718, Jean Leon Gerome Ferris, 1920
set up a hangout on the Virginia border. Fed up with the pirate’s predations, Virginia governor Alexander Spotswood took it upon himself to place a one hundred English pound price on Blackbeard’s head, dead or alive…preferably dead.

Lieutenant Maynard of the British Royal Navy very quickly took chase after the bounty was set, cornering Blackbeard in Ocracoke Inlet on the shore of North Carolina on November 22nd, 1718. It took 25 saber and gunshot wounds to finally bring Blackbeard down. Maynard cut the head off and hung it from the yardarm of his sloop, the notorious black beard saturated and dripping with the pirate’s blood.

Move over Coke: Pirates have a Killer Brand
When he looked into the mirror and made the decision to capitalize on that full beard of black hair, Edward Teach created something much bigger than anything he could possibly have imagined in that moment. The Blackbeard brand is a timeless representative of not just ruthlessness and danger, but also boldness, daring, lawlessness, and adventure. (Basically, the male gender run amok.) In essence, Blackbeard’s legacy has become, in many ways, the establishment of the overall “pirate” brand.

How so? Let’s do the list:

1. Determine the most appropriate brand-positioning attribute:
Blackbeard set the standard for the proper pirate as a complete desperado, living totally outside the boundaries of acceptable society. His entire purpose in life was to take what he wanted by any means while laughing in the face of likely death. Here is an individual who does not value convention and who is not afraid of what his mother might think of his behavior.
2. Devise a distinctive way to articulate the brand position.
He is the devil incarnate, a larger than life inhuman demon risen from the depths of hell, with fireworks bursting from his hideous black beard and a mad piggy glint in his bulging eyes. Better hand over your ship/town/purse/girlfriend or he’ll haul your soul down to hell with him.
3. Develop a brand personality that customers can use to introduce the brand.
Blackbeard the pirate.
4. Establish identity standards
  • Bushy, nappy beard with ribbons, set a-flame with firecrackers
  • Brace of pistols crisscrossed over his chest
  • Full brocaded coat with many gold buttons, likely taken off some poor guy who gave it to him just before being stripped of all his goods and sent home in an empty ship
  • Loud bellowing laugh, emitted just before brandishing one of aforesaid pistols and a long curved saber while throwing someone’s girlfriend over his shoulder
  • Big cockaded hat. (He likely had it reblocked in Tortuga during his last weekend off.)
6. Consistent and unique execution of the branding program:
Cannon recovered from wreck of Queen Anne's Revenge
Throughout his brand building process, Edward Teach was very consistent, with no historical reports of his straying from his established standards. In fact, he frequently solidified the overall “pirate” brand position with very creative marketing efforts, including:
  • Marooning 17 men on a desert island
  • Deliberately running two of his ships ashore in order to divide his crew and run off with most of the loot
  • Marrying a 16 year old girl as his fourteenth wife
  • Being in cahoots with the governor of North Carolina and paying him ample bribes to support Blackbeard’s business operations
  • Taking a royal pardon as a “shelter” until he got a good rest, then went out pirating again
  • Having a notorious sunken pirate ship, which was then found hundreds of years later and became the cornerstone of a museum to Blackbeard’s legacy

Meanwhile, back in Hollywood…
So, let’s go back to The Pirate and Manuela’s impending nuptials to Don Pedro.

Gene Kelly plays Seraphim, the star of a traveling troop of actors. He happens to see the sweet Manuela when she’s traveling to pick up her wedding dress at port and it’s love/lust at first sight. He accidentally finds out about her passionate fantasies about Mack the Black Macoco and what happens next is pure deliciousness as only Hollywood can dish it out.

I won’t spoil the plot, but let’s just say Kelly successfully adopts all of the power of the “Pirate Brand” to get what he wants. There’s even a fabulous interpretive pirate dance, just in case you miss the point. And, the movie does a nice job of juxtaposing the brand against the real human that lies behind it… but that’s all I’ll say. You’ll just have to put on your jammies, make a batch of popcorn, and find out for yourself.


Cecelia Ottenweller is based in Houston and her resume reads like the mad wanderings of a moonstruck calf. A variety of adventures have prepared Cecelia for her current job, including a 7-year stint as on-air traffic announcer "Ann Parker" on Houston's news talk stations, and a career as a museum educator at the Houston Museum of Natural Science. She's parlayed this varied experience into a decade-long career as a business communication consultant and Creative Director for HexaGroup Creative in Houston, Texas. She loves travel and currently splits her time between her work as an independent consultant and storyteller in Houston, and gallivanting around the globe.