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Sunday, December 11, 2011

A Hot Brand from the North Pole

Early depiction of Santa by Thomas Nast.
One of the oldest living brands on the planet still deeply touching to children and adults alike is Santa Claus—or Saint Nick, Kris Kringle, or just plain "Santa". Boss Claus has skillfully evolved his personal brand over nearly two millennia, perhaps even longer. He is currently our jolly ole Saint Nick—that plump toy broker with the white-beard and donning a red coat with white collar and cuffs. There's a myth around that this image was created by Coca Cola back in the early 1930s. False. It is a true statement that Coca Cola advertising of the era helped popularize this look and feel, but the cola company was not the creator. Nineteenth century cartoonist Thomas Nast gets the credit for Santa's modern conceptual appearance.

To the Scrooges out there about to pop off an email sharing their opinion on Santa ... don't. This is strictly about brand. And whatever one believes about Santa Claus, one has to admit to two undeniable value propositions ... good cheer and an inspiration to pull a little bit of magic out of ourselves.

Moving on.

What you may not know is that much of Santa's brand attributes are Gallic, Scandinavian and Byzantine. The earliest Clausian characteristics are traced back to the Norse and Germanic god, Odin. During the pagan Yule, or Yuletide, which was the Germanic winter holiday, Odin was believed to lead a hunting party through the skies. Very old Icelandic poems described him riding an eight-legged horse that leapt a very long way—not unlike our modern Santa's reindeer. Some traditions have children leaving their boots next to the fireplace and filled with carrots or straw for Odin's horse. Here's where the direct corollary comes in—albeit a bit quid pro quo. For their kindness to his horse, apparently Odin rewarded those children by replacing the food with gifts or treats.

This is possibly the proto-tradition of hanging of stockings at the chimney in homes. And would you believe this still survives in Germany, Belgium, and the Netherlands?

To zero back on the Gallic traditions, Sinterklaas, or Saint Nicholas, originally did the gift drop around a celebration of his feast in early December. That was up until the 1500s or 1600s when it aligned more with Christmas Eve. Sinterklaas also marks the introduction of a book that contains notes on all children and whether they've been naughty or nice. And the nice ones received the yummy shtuff like chocolate or spice nuts. Along with this new brand experience we get Saint Nicholas riding a horse over rooftops at night, delivering gifts down the chimney to all those good children. This, too, is where the naughty are threatened, but instead of coal and ashes the misbehaved feared being tied up and whipped.

Part of the realignment for Sinterklaas was also due to Protestants believing the true gift giver should be the Christ Child, or Christkindl, and the date for giving gifts changed to the celebration of his coming birth on Christmas Eve.

Not to overlook the Byzantine division of the Claus brand, who some say hugely influenced attributes of Sinterklaas, was Saint Nicholas of Myra. He dates back to the 4th century. Saint Nick was a bishop in what is now Turkey, and widely known for his generosity to the poor. Even today he is revered and characterized by his canonical robes.

Enter the early 19th and 20th centuries where Santa's brand awareness really snowballs. Clement Clarke Moore's 1822 poem, Twas the night before Christmas, lit up Santa's brand like a Christmas tree, defining much of the modern attributes for Santa Claus. Not long after it is revealed he lives at the North Pole, helped by an army of magical elves and a herd of flying reindeer. By 1934 there is a pop culture blizzard, including the introduction of the well-known song, "Santa Claus Is Coming to Town". Santa is thus an icon. Everybody knows him and that he's makin' his list and checking it twice—all to find out who's naughty or nice.

Therefore, submitted for your approval...

1. Determine the most appropriate brand-positioning attribute.
Santa Claus works all year long without complaint to make sure that good boys and girls are given a gift. Santa looks out to see who is naughty and nice. Okay, so you might be a touch mischievous—he still leaves a gift. And on that special night, once a year, he makes good on his promise of spreading Christmas cheer.
2. Devise a distinctive way to articulate the brand position and develop a brand personality that customers can use to introduce the brand.
He is jolly ole Saint Nick—always cheerful, happy and generous, asking nothing in return (well, except for a nibble of some cookies and a sip of milk). 
 Jolly ole Saint Nick 
 His mantra: Ho Ho Ho ... Merry Christmas
 3. Establish graphic standards.
A red arctic suit, white beard, a smile on red cheeks with a twinkle in his eye ... what more does he need. 
4. Implement internal branding programs to reward employees for behaving in ways that are consistent with the brand personality
The naughty or nice list is the single greatest management tool ever devised.
"You better watch out, you better not cry, you better not pout I'm tellin' you why ... Santa Claus is comin' to town..." 
5. Consistently and uniquely execute the branding program.
Throughout his brand building process, Santa has consistently been attentive to children, returning each year with the promise of a gift, be it a toy, a treat, or perhaps a wish come true. He is never less than expected, and sometimes more. He lives the ChristKindl spirit of giving of himself without reward or repayment.
NOTE: Click here to send letters to Santa via email.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

It's All Greek to Me

By William Falloure

We’ve been taught that Greece is the foundation of western culture and the birthplace of democracy. That’s not quite the truth. Few realize that as a nation, Greece didn’t exist until 1832. The term "Greece" is a neo-geographic expression of what we have come to call a collection of city-states located on a peninsula in the eastern Mediterranean. What’s more, our image of Greek culture stems from classic icons like architecture, philosophy, science, and art. And more often than not, many of those examples are Athenian. That’s not to say that none are available from places like Thesbia, Arcadia, or any other city-state. It’s just that Athens is one of two dominant polises of the Greek region.

By the way, the proper name for Greece is actually Hellas. The origin of that name is a minor mystery — nobody seems to definitively know how that came to be, except that the term took hold somewhere around the time Homer was writing the Iliad.

Until modern times, if you were Greek, or a Hellen, you thought of yourself as Athenian or Spartan or Thesbian. Greeks had this tendency to be very tribal. In fact, that’s how they started back in the day when they migrated from the areas of the Ukraine somewhere around the second millennia BC. So even though most of the people of all the city-states in Greece shared a common ethnicity, they were subdivided from various tribes, like Doric, Attica, Ionian, etc. They further diverged in terms of religion, dialect, and customs developed within their own city-states.

Just look at the differences between Athens and Sparta. Athens was the seat of early democracy and a mecca for philosophy and art. And the Athenian dialect was considered the more prestigious among the Greek language (and which is most closely identified with modern Greek). On the other hand, Sparta was a pure military state that enslaved the indigenous populous of its region as farmers and laborers.

Athens and Sparta were in no way buddy-buddy. But don’t be fooled by Athenian pretense of academia. Tribal status trumped everything else and their roots were also in a warrior culture. So they liked a good fight now and then.

There were a couple of brief stints where city-states joined up to present themselves as a whole people. The most famous of which was the Battle of Thermopylae where King Leonidas led 300 Spartans against a million Persians. What is often overlooked is that there were actually 7000 Athenian, Arcadian, Thesbian, and Phoecian soldiers at the back of the Spartans. Equally passed over, and criminally so, is the fact that Athens had a navy of about 200 ships keeping the Persian fleet at bay. And that fleet was led by the Athenian, Themistocles.

Most did not care, but knew that the Persian invasions could rightly be blamed on actions taken by Athens a few decades earlier. While the primary target of the Persian invasions was Athens, they fully expected that the Persian king at the time, Xerxes, would likely move on after sacking Athens to tear up the entire peninsula ... just to make a point.

Rather telling in this brief moment of nationalism is the attitude of Leonidas, the Spartan king having led his 300 against Persia at Thermopylae. Xerxes offered Leonidas governorship and control of all Greece if he submitted to Persia. According to Plutarch, Leonidas said, “I would rather die for the liberty of Hellas than be a monarch over my countrymen.”

Considering that Sparta and Athens were bitter rivals, that says a lot of Leonidas' regard for fellow Hellens. In fact, so much so that he and his men held Persia at bay while Athens was evacuated. You could look at Greek politics this way: it’s like you and your siblings; you beat the crud out of each other and that’s okay. But if somebody outside the family messes with them, you team up against them to protect each other. To paraphrase Plato in his work, The Republic, he argued that when Hellens fight among one another, they are in a state of disorder and discord. But should Hellens fight those outside, such as barbarians or Persians, this shall be called war.

So many scholars agree that Thermopylae was a turning point in Greek politcs. If that’s true, what happened? Why didn’t it stick? You have to go back to their roots in the Ukraine. As warrior tribes, the core of their belief was survival of the fittest. This theme was repeated during the Peloponnesian war, and every other seeming civil war in the region. Resources were scarce and by the gods, your city-state better command control over most of them or die!

It boils down to the Greeks themselves having a problem developing a real brand identity. Who are they? Athenians, Spartans, Ionians, Dorians, Hellens? Similarly, Americans have splintered tribal identities, such as Southern or Northern, Texan or Californian, west coast or east coast. What’s more, and especially now, the American conglomerate has little common shared ethnicity. So why should the Hellens be any less able to unite on a permanent basis then the American melting pot?

Perhaps the answer is as basic as the ability to set aside tribal differences and develop a desire to adopt core common beliefs and culture for the common good. In short, for Greece, it was the inability to take the unity from Thermopylae — a Greek brand identity from that moment ... and live the brand.


William Falloure is the producer of the award winning student documentary, The Hellenic Revolution.   He is a National Junior Honor Society member, as well 1st Place medalist in the Houston ISD National History Day competition for Documentary (2010/2011). 

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

The Fast and the Furious

Alexander the Great conquered a big chunk of the known world in ancient times, and he did it quick. During his 13-year reign he went from prince to general to king, and he spread his empire from Macedon to the Indus River.  Along the way he totally deconstructed the most powerful empire of the day—Persia. And while he was known for dabbling in local Persian customs, Alexander also wound up with the unearned reputation for being the single greatest telegraph of Hellenic culture. Cities named for him pepper the map throughout the near east. His brand endures as being undefeated in battle, so he is the yardstick by which all commanders are measured. In his day, however, the Alexander brand ran much deeper.

As a man, he was born Alexander III of Macedon and lived from the year 356 – 323 BC. He started off by inheriting his father's kingdom of Macedon, which is just north of what is now Greece proper. Alexander's father was Philip II. His mother was Philip's fourth wife, Olympias, the daughter of Neoptolemus I. This is huge to the Alexander brand but more on that shortly.

Olympias is a central character in the Alexander brand—and she was naughty. You need to know that while Philip had several other wives, Olympias was his principal wife. And by all accounts she was a whacked out lady. She had a thing for sleeping with snakes and practicing something like witchcraft. The snake thing is a real kicker because the supreme god, Zeus, was said to have often appeared as a snake, especially when he was in a randy mood and had a vixen in his sights. So by association, if Olympias liked to sleep with snakes in her bed, then it is possible Zeus could have slithered in ahead of Phillip and fathered Alexander. Phillip was never really sure. Even the ancient historians debated it. True or not (obviously not to modern readers) it made for a strong sound byte.

In reality, Alexander didn't need the Zeus mythos. He had some serious lineage that gave him epic brand attributes. Those came from his mother's side, as she was a descendant of Neoptolemus, son of Achilles. That alone infused Alexander with some serious heroic blood. While Zeus was a "god" who may have fathered Alexander, Achilles was accepted by ancients as a real person with a traceable bloodline.

When Alexander was thirteen years old, Philip chose Aristotle to tutor his son. The context of the teaching was within the Temple of the Nymphs at Mieza. The place is really only important to the Alexander brand because it was there Alexander would meet some of his closest advisers. They were the children of Macedonian nobles, such as Ptolemy (think Cleopatra in a few centuries), Hephaistion, and Cassander. Aristotle taught these future leaders about medicine, philosophy, morals, religion, logic, and art. That's also when Alexander developed a passion for the works of Homer, and in particular the Iliad; and that helped further Alexander's identity with Achilles. He even slept with an annotated copy. His nickname among his fellow students was "Achilles."

All this adds up to no surprise that Alexander had an overdeveloped sense of ambition. In all honesty, understanding Alexander requires a lot of study time. Complex family dynamics, touchy politics between Macedon and the Hellenic League (alliance of Greek city-states), his mother's overarching position that Alexander ran with the blood of gods and immortals—combined with his Achillian identity, and you have a guy convinced he deserves an empire stretching to the ends of the world.

Most importantly, he understood brand acceptance within targeted audiences. He wielded bloody power amongst the Greeks to hold down revolts, and he presented himself a god king to Persians who believed kings were of the gods. Alexander was incredibly conscious of his brand.

Therefore, submitted for your approval...

1. Determine the most appropriate brand-positioning attribute.

Alexander carried the shield of Achilles
Alexander kicked off his brand rollout with everything going for him—rumors of Zeus as his father, the Achilles bloodline, his intellect and study under Aristotle. And he did have military skill. By the time he took over Macedon, Alexander had already fought in battle and led an army. But there is one attribute that, in truth, was his greatest weapon, though never seemingly discussed. Alexander repeatedly did the unexpected.

Example one: The city of Phrygia is in modern Turkey and was known to have a knot guarded by priests. It was called the Gordian Knot. Legend held that the knot was so complex that whosoever undid the knot would be king of all Asia. What is true is that Alexander undid the knot. It's the how he undid it that is debated is now—although either recorded solution works. Rather than try what all others tried Alexander did either of the following:
 1. Drew his sword and sliced the knot with confidence and the knowledge that he undid the knot with a single bold stroke. Or, 
 2. Removed the knot from the staff it was on, thus exposing the two ends, allowing him to undo the knot. 
The first is more fun and the one of legend and befitting the brand.

Example two: Alexander's route to conquer Persia was atypical. His initial course was south along the Mediterranean coast. Rather than sack a few towns and turn east to chase down opposing armies inland, he captured the critical port cities between modern day Turkey and western Egypt. And since the Egyptians saw Alexander as a liberator from Persian rule, they covered his southern flank. All in all it prevented Persian armies from getting behind Alexander and trapping him or cutting off his supply lines. That's when he turned east and swept across old Babylon to Pakistan.

That was out-of-the-box thinking in those days.

Example three: One of those port cities was Tyre, which was built on an island off the coast of modern day Jordan. Tyre had high walls, too. Alexander simply constructed a causeway from shore to the island so he could get his army and siege machines onsite. From there he wore down the walls and its defenders.

Seriously, that's bridging the gap!

Surely only the gods inspire such original thinking! And surely such a man is destined for greatness.

Destined for greatness.

2. Devise a distinctive way to articulate the brand position. 
On the day that Alexander was born, Philip was preparing himself for his siege on the city of Potidea. On the same day, he received news that his general Parmenion had defeated the combined Illyrian and Paeonian armies, and that his horses had won at the Olympic Games. It was also said that on this day, the Temple of Artemis in Ephesus—one of the Seven Wonders of the World—burnt down, leading to the headline that it burnt down because the goddess Artemis was attending the birth of Alexander. 
Combine his skill and out-of-the-box thinking and these events with a possible bloodline from Zeus and from Achilles, and it would be apparent to the ancients that Alexander was "favored by the gods."
"Favored by the gods." 
3. Develop a focused brand personality that customers can use to recommend or introduce your brand to others.
Alexander the Great—what else do you need from an epithet earned while alive? Never having lost a battle, his success as a commander was unparalleled. He was constantly outnumbered. But it was through his creative strategies, use of terrain, mastery of the phalanx, and cavalry tactics that combined with bold strategy and ability to inspire fierce loyalty among his troops—these made him great. 
4. Establish graphic standards. 

Alexander cultivated his graphic standard through a reputation of being hansom and of pleasant presence. In reality he was around 5'3", short for even then. He was not unattractive according to Plutarch, nor was he the classic Greek hood ornament of the day. But statues represented him as such. And his coinage showed him as fair and powerful. 

5. Implement internal branding programs to reward employees for behaving in ways that are consistent with the brand personality
Do or die. In no way did Alexander tolerate opposition. He wiped out the entire city of Thebes for revolting when he first took power. And his taking power was very likely a result of his ordering the assassination of his father. He preferred diplomatic solutions, but if it came to blows, you were toast. And on the flip-side, it was fortunate Alexander's reign was short-lived—his hold on the empire was not sustainable. The Persian campaigns severely drained Macedonian treasuries and manpower, opening the door for Roman conquest in the centuries to come.
6. Consistently and uniquely execute the branding program.
It is recorded that Alexander eventually exhibited signs of megalomania and paranoia. Some of it is derived from his extraordinary achievements combined with his sense of destiny, and the propping up by his companions. Some of his delusions are evident in recorded history. Did he really believe himself a deity?  
Olympias strongly suggested he was the son of Zeus, something confirmed to him by an oracle. And he did begin to identify himself as the son of Zeus or Ammon (Egypt's version of Zeus). However, Alexander was a pragmatic guy who well understood the challenges of ruling a vast array of culturally disparate subjects. Some of their cultures stated that the king was divine. In reality, it may have been a strategic marketing decision playing to the demographic of his subjects. Rather than megalomania, it may have been a practical attempt at shoring up his rule and keeping the empire intact.
Alexander moved into history as fast as he did across the plains of the near east. He was a quick moving storm hitting everything in his path with fury. But it has to be said that in many ways his true test was never held. No one really saw him coming in the way that he did. Many armies surrendered before the fight even began. He was turned back at the Indus River by his own men, not the great army amassing to fight him. Had he lived, he may have been an epic fail. But shortness of time saved him. And like many bright lights that burn out quickly, they leave an indelible mark.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Up to His Ankles in Legend

Achilles slays Hector of Troy.
Achilles is a truly legendary brand from the ancient world. He is written as the invincible hero in Homer's Iliad. And yet his brand was very well established long before Homer wrote his epic tale and the Achilles brand remains strong to this day.

But was he real?

Possibly, and probably—not that it impacts the Achilles brand. Although you have to set aside the scholarly debate about fact and fiction in Homer's work. Like all ancient scribes, and even the venerated historians, Homer included embellishments in his characters, wrote of the gods intervening in human affairs, and so on. That doesn't disprove the essential Achilles. Not unlike the Iliad and accepted ancient historical accounts, contemporary historical fiction similarly stretches the truth all the time. That even happens in supposedly objective modern journalism.

So number one on the ignore list is the whole "Achilles heel" concept. That was conjured up by a poet in the 1st Century AD to explain why Achilles seemed to be so invulnerable (see more on this below in the Sidebar by Wayne Rowe). The ancients had no such element in their original Achilles traditions. In fact, Homer writes of Achilles being wounded during a fight with Trojans.

Once you pull the fantastic out of the equation, a couple of things stand out about the potential reality of Achilles.  Item one is that he was not an original creation of Homer. Oral traditions featuring Achilles long predate the Homeric epics and, in fact, he appears in other stories by Homer's contemporaries and on into the early Christian era. That much press might suggest a real Achilles who was a brave warrior fighting with the Greek armada at Troy.

Replica of Achilles' shield.
His exploits were so important that Alexander the Great aspired to be like Achilles; and it was written by historians that he even visited the tomb of Achilles and took his shield from the temple of Athena. Alexander was convinced the shield is what helped him win his campaigns into the Middle-East. He then took it a step further and believed he was a descendant of Achilles from his mother's side. Oh yes, it is written that Achilles had offspring.

Still, who was Achilles? Legend says he was the son of the nymph, Thetis, and Peleus, the king of the Myrmidons. Along with that are a lot of naughty antics over Thetis by the gods Zeus and Poseidon. Again, set those aside and go with the idea of Achilles' mother being a nymph. Mythology describes them as nature spirits appearing as beautiful young women. Well, men in rutting stages still think of attractive women this way. So let's just call Thetis an "it" girl with whom a king fell in love, resulting in a child—Achilles, who would have been a prince. Ultimately he would have been a king, which justifies him being part of Agamemnon's coalition of kings as described by Homer.

All that said, Achilles was born in a region of Greece known as Thessaly (that's where legend puts the home of the Myrmidons). The exact when is a mystery and always will be. However you could say it happened a long time ago in land far, far away.

According to Plato, Achilles was the Brad Pitt of his day, but without mention of Mr. Pitt. What a coincidence, right? Pitt starred as Achilles in the film, Troy. Also in the time of the ancients, Achilles was the deadliest warrior—practically invincible.

A huge source of that invulnerability, at least on the battlefield, was his armor. Although he should have warn it more often, having finally been killed when not wearing it. Okay, he was pretty, he was tough, just not necessarily bright.

After his death, Achilles' armor was coveted by other warriors and sparked an epic feud between a few of them. Eventually the armor was passed to Neoptolemus, the son of Achilles. Yep, there's mention again of that offspring. This leads to a direct connection with Alexander, beyond bloodlines. Achilles' bronze-headed spear was said to rest in a temple of Athena on the acropolis of Phaselis, Lycia, (breath) a port on the Pamphylian Gulf. And that city was also visited by Alexander in 333 BC, though he did not confiscate the spear, which remained there until it disappeared in the 2nd Century AD.

Whatever his true deeds may have been, they must have been of such note that Achilles made a lasting impact not only on ancient Greece, but also Persia, Egypt and beyond—and into our modern brand awareness.

Therefore, submitted for your approval...

1. Determine the most appropriate brand-positioning attribute.
Achilles was a fierce, seemingly invulnerable warrior. Apparently he never lost a fight—or at the very least just a few. He is the winningest, deadliest warrior in the annals of time. The keyword here is “warrior.” The mention of the word in western culture brings Achilles to mind. Alexander thought so. As a result, we can position Achilles as the ideal warrior.
2. Devise a distinctive way to articulate the brand position and develop a brand personality customers can use to introduce the brand.
In the case of Achilles, we can combine two normally separated components of the analysis. Because the answer for both is the same. Here the brand is the category and the category the brand. Mention Achilles and the ideal warrior comes to mind, embodying the traits of ferocity, invincibility, and heroism.
Achilles ... enough said.
3. Establish graphic standards.
Achilles was and continues as the picture of a supreme warrior. His armor is symbolic of his fighting prowess, in particular the spear and shield. Rarely is Achilles depicted without, at least, either or both.
4. Implement internal branding programs to reward employees for behaving in ways that are consistent with the brand personality
A warrior king, Achilles commanded what was considered at the time Greece's finest army, although primarily mercenary in nature. They were staunch in their loyalty to Achilles, no doubt because the rule of war in the day gave much of the spoils of war to the fighter. And with Achilles at the lead, there were a lot of spoils won. Homer also wrote of Achilles being noble in his nature and with high regard for his men. This is illustrated by the moment in which Achilles sends his men home so as not to be dishonored by the slaughter at Troy.
5. Consistently and uniquely execute the branding program.
The power of the Achilles brand and its endurance for at least three millennia says something about living the brand. Who ever he really was, whatever he really did, left us with the indelible expectation that he was the supreme, ideal warrior.

Sidebarby Wayne Rowe

Brand re-vitalization can be tougher than new brand development... Market perception is sticky and stubborn. Is the exercise to see if you can take a brand 180 degrees or overcome a brand perception issue?

Although the heel concept came along later, (very disappointing to learn) it is single handily responsible for the longevity and popularity of the legend. How do we ignore that? It's a very powerful concept that has come to define the brand. To change public perception I think we need to tackle that head on, not ignore it.

Achilles - no more weak spot

Wayne Rowe is Creative Director at Communicatos in Toronto, Canada. 

Sunday, August 21, 2011

The First "Top Gun"

The Baron Manfred von Richthofen is the owner of the most enduring brand from the First World War—he was, and in history he will always be, The Red Baron. Controversy still swarms over who was responsible for shooting down the great Red Baron. But other than Snoopy, who really cares? Every warrior must eventually fall.

Richthofen's mark on history was the fact that he alone racked up 80 air combat wins during the war in less than three years. Twenty victories was nothing to scoff at and insured pilots their legendary status, along with the coveted Pour Le Mérite (the famous "Blue Max"). Richthofen had four times that and is still universally regarded as the "Ace of Aces."

The Baron regularly took British, French, and American air corps pilots to clinic. His prowess in the air made him a German hero during World War I and a twentieth century legend. His own people called him "der rote Kampfflieger" (The Red Battle-Flyer), The French called him "le petit rouge," and he is known in the English-speaking world as The Red Baron. And before you start yawning, thinking of Tom Cruise in an F-14 screaming at mach 2 with his hair on fire, let's put this in context.

WWI aviators were at the leading edge of air combat, flying in machines that were barely more than box kites with engines, and machine guns mounted as an afterthought. Planes were constructed mostly of wooden frames covered in canvas or lightweight fabric. No armor protecting the cockpit. No radio. No parachutes. Nada.

The Baron's Squadron - Richthofen is in the cockpit
Those who became pilots in any military were extraordinary men. They had to be. And Richthofen was no exception. He was a man of courage and honor who seemed not to view opponents as vermin or faceless machines. He saw them as men and, like knights of old, were engaged in an aerial joust. His autobiography shows both his regard for the enemy and determination as a pilot. He once wrote of a fallen adversary, " honorable death at the hands of a 'worthy' opponent..." Richthofen once even placed a stone marker at the site of an opposing pilot's death.

Perhaps his nobleman's regard came from his heritage. Richthofen was the son of Major Albrecht von Richthofen, a Prussian aristocrat, and his wife, Kunigunde. Now here is an interesting brand attribute—one Richthofen shares with many great people of history. Family names of historical significants often have a relative meaning to the name holder's position in history. Richthofen is no different because the name means "court of judgement." And it was bestowed by the Holy Roman Emperor Leopold I in the late 17th century. More than 80 pilots met the judgement of the Baron, and few survived.

Young Richthofen was born on May 2, 1892 in what was then Breslau, Germany (now Wroclaw, Poland). He was the eldest of three sons and second eldest to his sister, Ilse. To follow in his father's footsteps, he attended military school at Wahlstatt, and then attended the Royal Military Academy at Lichterfelde. Admittedly a better athlete than student, Richthofen revealed in his autobiography a notion that he only performed adequately in academics, believing that was all that was necessary for the task.

Ultimately he became a cavalry officer and was commissioned in 1911, quickly rising to lieutenant in 1912. This brings up a side note. Eventually Richthofen would carry the rank of Rittmeister Baron Manfred von Richthofen. Roughly translated, Rittmeister means Calvary Master—and the rank would be a last vestige of old world warfare.

Propaganda painting of Richthofen
Ever forward-looking, Richthofen was no fool and saw that twentieth century warfare would gallop past the need for a mounted cavalry. The machine gun led to trench warfare, a place Richthofen knew was not for him. So he went maverick by looking to the new air service in 1915. And it led to his meeting a future mentor—Oswald Boelcke, who would remain Richthofen's hero and idol, and deservedly so. Before his death, Boelcke chalked up 40 kills of his own and literally wrote the book on aerial combat. 

Richthofen was a natural, qualifying for his solo flight after only 24 hours of training. That was in October of 1915. Over the course of the next two and a half years, he would become the scourge of the air for any allied pilot unlucky enough to encounter him.

Things came to a head in April 1917, known at the time as "Bloody April." Following months of rain and cold, the weather allowed pilots from both sides to get in the air and start hunting. The German air corps tore the allies apart. Richthofen, himself, shot down 21 enemy aircraft and brought his total up to 52. He had finally broken Boelcke's record of 40 victories, and making Richthofen the new master of the skies.

As a hero, postcards were printed with his image. Heroic stories were spread everywhere. But what sealed the brand awareness for Richthofen was an idea on a spring day in Germany.
 "One day, for no particular reason, I got the idea to paint my crate glaring red. After that, absolutely everyone knew my red bird. In fact, even my opponents were not completely unaware."—Manfred von Richthofen
Therefore, submitted for your approval...

1. Determine the most appropriate brand-positioning attribute.
Richthofen was a singularly determined man. While he even thought of himself as somewhat arrogant, that may have been unfair. He flew with one premise that defined the man:  "He must fall!" was the ultimate result of any encounter with opponents. He considered it the only acceptable outcome.
2. Devise a distinctive way to articulate the brand position.
At the time of WWI dogfighting, advancements in aeronautical engineering were moving quickly. Any small advantage might mean the difference in battle, but not against the Baron. If it had wings, you were already at a disadvantage. Skill, nerve, persistence, and an understanding of aerial tactics won battles—men, not the machines were the victorious.
This quote has been attributed to Richthofen, though I haven't confirmed it. Still, it fits Richthofen to a "T" and serves as a concise articulation of Richthofen's brand position: 
"It's not the kite, it's the man flying the kite."
(Note: WWI aircraft were often referred to as kites, or even crates because of the flimsy construction)
3. Develop a focused brand personality that customers can use to recommend or introduce your company to others.
The Red Baron
 Few brands really get the perfect storm. Richthofen indeed was a baron. And the red color was born from the nose art of his mentor's plane. Amazingly, Richthofen understated the affect of red on his enemies. Certainly the bright red plane made an attractive target. Perhaps the color even served as bait. But it quickly became part of the Baron's persona, especially when the plane and pilot kept downing enemy aircraft. So the bright red plane emoted both respect and fear.
4. Establish graphic standards.
Part One - Big RED:  Though several other pilots had painted different sections of their planes special colors, Richthofen
noticed that it was difficult to see these during battle. To get noticed, and think about that, to ... get ... noticed, from the ground and from the air, Richthofen decided to paint his entire plane bright red.
No one from either side had yet been so ostentatious.
Part Two: Meet the Fokker (Dr. I)! The Red Baron actually flew other aircraft as his victories mounted up. He's just best known for flying the bright red version of the Fokker Dr I—a trademark triplane for Richthofen and WWI. The three wings gave the airship an amazing lift capacity and unprecedented maneuverability. It's said that Richthofen actually maneuvered the plane to fly momentarily backwards in order to shoot at pursuing enemy planes.
5. Consistently and uniquely execute the branding program.
The enemy created nicknames for Richthofen: Le Petit Rouge, the Red Devil, the Red Falcon, Le Diable Rouge, the Jolly Red Baron, the Bloody Baron, and the Red Baron. However, the Germans never called Richthofen the Red Baron; instead, they called him der röte Kampfflieger ("The Red Battle Flier").
Still, everyone knew of the moniker. And with earned his reputation for aerial skill, he led his squadron and Germany to continued victories until Richthofen's demise.  

The Red Baron was shot down Vaux sur Somme, France on April 21, 1918. He was 25-years old.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Sam—I Am No Wellington

To all Texans Sam Houston is known as General Sam. While trite, it is true to say that in 1836 he led a ragtag, fugitive band of Texican rebels against a massive Mexican army commanded by dictator General Santa Anna. That confrontation defined a proud people—Texans, be they of the nation or the state in the Union. And it very much engraved Houston into history.

In the 2004 film, The Alamo, Houston's strategy against the Mexican army is revealed. Whether or not he actually spoke these words is irrelevant, though the wish is there, the clip provides insight into Houston's genuine thoughtfulness of his actions guided by battlefield experience gained from an early age, as well as a "feel" for the land that must ally with his purpose.

Right after his victory for Texas independence, Houston was known to the new republic as Old Sam Jacinto. It underscored his place in Texas history and forever equated him with the Battle of San Jacinto. There is no escaping that aspect of his brand—it is the most enduring element to this day. But in terms of his vintage brand awareness, Sam Houston was much more complex.

Houston started out a Virginian. But his father died when he was but 14, and he moved to Tennessee with his mother and eight siblings. There the family began farming while the young Houston attended a nearby academy. His education was limited but he was an avid reader of classical literature with a fondness for the Iliad. In fact he knew it by heart.

Young Houston quickly came to the conclusion that he was no gentleman farmer like his older brother. Perhaps more accurately, he wasn't in the mood to be under his brother's boot. So at the age of 16, he lit out for the Tennessee hills. There he began a lifelong relationship with the Cherokee Nation. It was his second life, a sojourn with Indians that significantly shaped his outlook on life and his brand attributes. Like the Cherokee, Houston developed a spiritual relationship with the wilderness, as well as their planning and cunning by "carefully listening to and stalking his prey."

Houston became the adopted son of a tribal chief and given the name Colon-neh. The uninformed often state that Colon-neh is Cherokee for "Big Drunk." But that would be a no. While Houston did have a bout with heavy drinking, he eventually overcame the problem. In truth, Colon-neh translates to "The Raven." Now here's the tricky part—research to date reveals no particular reason why it was chosen for Houston. Although, a hint may be provided by Cherokee culture. Depending on the specific legend, a Raven can either be good or not so good. In any event, the Raven is cunning, clever, and in some instances loud. Houston, by the way, was considered quite an orator.

Cunning and determination are differentiators Houston shared with another great brand—Hannibal.  Like that ancient general, Houston faced very uneven odds against Mexico, and also like Hannibal, Houston first rode into battle at a young age. It was the War of 1812 and Houston was recognized for his abilities to command. He led several charges during the Battle of Horseshoe Bend. Wounded from an arrow, as well as from bullets to the arm and shoulder, Houston forced a young lieutenant at sword point to pull the arrow out of his leg in the midst of the battle. Andrew Jackson witnessed the event and was impressed by Houston's courage and determination, and it sparked lifelong friendship. 

As Indian ambassador, Houston appeared in
Washington dressed in native garb.
Sam Houston lived many lives. He was a schoolteacher, a lawyer, a politician—no, that's not fair. He represented Tennessee in Congress and later was elected its governor. Just as notably, he became a leader of the Indian tribes of what is now the Oklahoma-Arkansas border, and ultimately their ambassador to Washington D.C. But it was in Texas that he met his destiny as a commander, and as president. His loyalty to Texas further saw him as governor and a senator. 

In every way, Houston was The Raven. He was cunning for sure, an orator, and not unlike the Raven Mocker—a feared character in Cherokee legend—Houston was a creature of many lives. No one title suits him, except, perhaps, Colon-neh.

Therefore, submitted for your approval on the coming 175th anniversary of the City of Houston...

1. Determine the most appropriate brand-positioning attribute.

Houston offers a lot to work with and selecting one single attribute is a challenge. Clever, determined, and honorable, but most definitely he was unpredictable. Again, you couldn't really pin one thing on Houston.

2. Devise a distinctive way to articulate the brand position.

There are two quotes by Houston that together state his position well:
A leader is someone who helps improve the lives of other people or improve the system they live under. And,  I am aware that in presenting myself as the advocate of the Indians and their rights, I shall stand very much alone.
3. Develop a focused brand personality that customers can use to recommend or introduce your company to others.
In Cherokee legend, the Raven could provide service to man, and he could be a rogue—both descriptors of Houston. 
  Colon-neh—The Raven

4. Establish graphic standards. 

Houston often had the look of a frontiersman—predominantly dressed in the attire of or inspired by his red brethren, living his Colon-neh brand. That's how Texans prefer to remember him.

5. Consistently and uniquely execute the branding program.
Friend or foe, Houston believed in the honorable treatment of all. Of an ex-wife, he threatened death for any and all challengers to her reputation; he let Santa Anna live; and he refused to take an oath to the Confederacy, knowing all too well that secession would damage his beloved Texas.
Like his namesake, the City of Houston, Sam Houston was a survivor. He never fell into a template or an easy category. He continually reinvented himself while staying true to his moral compass. And it was that moral compass that led him to retirement, refusing to lead Texas into secession and destruction. Houston retired from public life when the Civil War broke out. He died in 1863, at the age of 70, never knowing the fate of his beloved Texas.

Under 21 at the outbreak of the War of 1812, Houston needed his mother's permission to join the army. She granted it and she gave her son two gifts: a gold ring and a musket. Inscribed inside the gold ring was the word "honor," because she said this one word should forever be a part of Sam Houston's life. He wore it until his death. According to his mother's own words over the gifts, son, take this musket and never disgrace it; for remember, I had rather all my sons should fill one honorable grave, than that one of them should turn his back to save his life. Go, and remember, too, that while the door of my cottage is open to brave men, it is eternally shut against cowards.
Perhaps the best epitaph for Houston is, to him her cottage door was never shut.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

The Wrath of Khan

No, this is not about the Star Trek character played by Ricardo Montalban. The real Khan of history, or THE great Khan of them all was Genghis Khan. Like the fictional character, however, the Mongolian Khan was a prince who did become emperor, and certainly wielded power over millions. 

Mentioning Genghis Khan brings to mind the Mongol hordes of the 13th century that swept across the Asian plain like locusts, that made deep incursions penetrating the eastern frontiers of medieval Europe. Whole nations trembled before the horse-mounted archers of Khan's armies. The Turks revere him even now, while the rest of the Arabic world curses his name. In his lifetime, Khan went from prince to slave to emperor, casting Mongol dominance over the largest continuous land empire in history.  Unlike Alexander, Caesar, or most other of history's conquerors, Khan's empire outlasted him and even expanded.

Talk about brand endurance and market share...

Like all nomadic tribes, Khan's family roamed north central Mongolia with the Burkhan Khaldun mountain at its territorial center—and where Khan was born. No one knows the exact year, but Khan was born somewhere in the mid twelfth century on 31 May, maybe around 1162. His birthname was Temüjin, which means "iron." So he began with a strong branding attribute—he was also the son of a tribal chieftain. Although not a major one, Temujin's father gave his son noble blood. 

The discovery phase for Khan reveals differentiators from the outset. In addition to being of a noble clan, he emerged from the womb marked for success because legend holds that Khan was born grasping a clot of blood in his fist. In Mongolian tradition this meant Khan was to be a great leader. Another sweet brand attribute to start with, to be sure. But it may have been Khan's early life that fueled his drive to unite the Mongol tribes—perhaps even his wrath for events that formed the warrior to come. 

Khan's trials began at age nine. His father was murdered by a rival tribe—and Khan's own tribe refused to recognized the boy as chief. This left him, his mother, brothers and half brothers in poverty, surviving the next years by eating wild fruits and nuts, and hunting small game. While learning to survive the harsh, rugged Mongolian landscape, Khan's mother tutored him in Mongolian politics—tribal rivalries, the need for alliances and tips on how to form them. Then during a hunting trip, Khan killed his half brother over the spoils, which put him as the undisputed head of the family. What's more, it was the first of many strategies that defined the rise of Khan.

Therefore, submitted for your approval...

1. Determine the most appropriate brand-positioning attribute.

As a young man of 20, Khan was captured in a raid by former family allies, the Taichi'uts, and temporarily enslaved. He later escaped and formed a fighting unit with his brothers—the lead steps in Khan's ascent. Eventually with an army of 20,000 men, he set out to erase traditional tribal divisions. In doing so, he quickly proved his military tactics and merciless brutality. 

On the receiving end of Khan's wrath were the Tatar tribe who murdered his father. Khan wiped out the Tatar army and had every Tatar male less than 3 feet tall killed. The Taichi'ut tribe was up next. A series of massive cavalry attacks hammered the tribe and Khan showed no mercy in having all Taichi'ut chiefs boiled alive. By 1206, Khan also had taken control of central and eastern Mongolia.

The key words here are “merciless brutality.”

2. Devise a distinctive way to articulate the brand position.
In Khan's own words, "It is not enough that I succeed—all others must fail."
3. Develop a focused brand personality that customers can use to recommend or introduce your brand to others.
Following the victories over the rival Mongol tribes, tribal leaders pledged to Mongolian peace and Temujin became "Genghis Khan," which means "universal ruler." This not only provided huge political clout, but it gave Khan divine  authority—recognized by shamans and playing off the position of God's punisher. With divine status, it was accepted that Khan's destiny was to rule the world.
4. Establish graphic standards. 

One image is synonymous with Khan and his Mongol horde. The mounted archer—a devastating and innovative weapon in Khan's attacks. Mongolian horsemen could maneuver a galloping horse using only their legs, leaving the riders' hands free to loose arrows.

5. Implement internal branding programs to reward employees for behaving in ways that are consistent with the brand personality
Religious tolerance was practiced under Khan, that was the reward for loyalty. But to defy him was akin to defying the will of God. Thus Khan is supposed to have said to an enemy, "I am the flail of God. If you had not committed great sins, God would not have sent a punishment like me upon you."
 Khan was also known as the "Punisher."
6. Consistently and uniquely execute the branding program.
Khan wasn't above diplomacy. In fact he often sent ambassadors to heads of state, allowing his reputation to precede him. In one incident, however, Khan's brand was dismissed when the Shah Muhammad of the  Khwarizm Dynasty defied a diplomatic overture by sending Khan the head of a Mongolian emissary.  
The wrath of Khan was personally unleashed with 200,000 Mongol soldiers sweeping through every city between central Asia and eastern Europe with unceasing savagery. Those not immediately slaughtered were marched ahead of the Mongol army, serving as human shields when the Khan took the next city. No living thing was spared. Even the Shah Muhammad and later his son were captured and killed, making the Khwarizm Dynasty extinct in 1221.
Genghis Khan died in 1227, although no one is exactly sure why—age, a hunting accident, or possibly intrigue. Regardless, he had appointed his third son as Khan, who continued to expand the empire. One final tidbit: Perhaps Genghis Khan's legacy is that his DNA remains the single most prolific DNA on the planet today.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

The Lady with a Lamp

Florence Nightingale was the woman who lit the way for the entire modern discipline of nursing by creating the world's first secular nursing school in 1860. In doing so, Nightingale embedded herself in western culture as the conjured image of a gentle, concerned, and dedicated caregiver. Yet more than simply history's celebrated English nurse, Nightengale was a writer and statistician, which significantly aided her efforts. And it was Nightingale's deep belief in God that led her to nursing. And what nurse she was.

While the overview is that Nightingale established professional nursing, it came with sacrifice. Her decision to enter nursing in 1844 angered her mother and sister because she was going against the accepted grain of expectation—meaning she wasn't going to automatically become a wife and mother. Her access to family capital was therefore reduced. Despite this family opposition and the restrictive societal code for affluent young English women, Nightingale went on to educate herself in the art and science of nursing. Moreover, she remained celibate her entire life. Certainly Nightingale was courted by men of influence and means, she even developed emotionally intimate friendships with men, but she was convinced that marriage would only interfere with her ability to follow her call to nursing.

Catapulting Nightingale's nursing efforts was the Crimean War, circa 1854. Without overindulging in background, suffice it to say that the Crimean War was a powder keg that went off between Western and Eastern European powers—a preview to World War I, and it took place primarily on the Crimean peninsula of the Black Sea—hence, Crimean War.

Word of horrendous conditions for the wounded reached Nightingale, then in Britain. Along with a few dozen volunteer nurses she had trained, Nightingale traveled to a British base in Crimea. Team Nightingale arrived in November of '54 to find an overworked medical staff, indifferent to the wounded and resulting in poor care. Mass infections were common and often fatal.

Eventually the experience would convince Nightingale that most of the soldiers at the hospital died because of poor hygiene and living conditions. On her return to Britain, in fact, she arrived at convincing evidence about the importance of sanitary living conditions through statistical study. This was a compelling study that proved the need for better hygiene in hospital care. Ultimately her efforts would reduce military deaths in peacetime. This also led to her focusing her attention to the sanitary design of hospitals.

Still, the situation Crimea was overwhelming. Team Nightingale worked hard to treat the wounded, leading to public recognition of the effort. This led to the establishment of the Nightingale Fund for the training of nurses with the help of generous donations. It was with £45,000 now at her disposal from the Nightingale Fund that Nightingale set up the training school at St. Thomas' Hospital on 9 July 1860. Her first trained nurses began work on 1865 at the Liverpool Workhouse Infirmary. Her movement only grew from there.

By 1882, Nightingale had established nursing as a growing and influential presence. Her trained nurses were becoming matrons at leading hospitals throughout Britain, and her movement was spreading to Europe, the United States, and as far as Australia. Nursing was no longer plodding care by the uninformed. Nursing was budding as a profession of dedicated professionals educated to provide healing assistance.

Therefore, submitted for your approval...

1. Determine the most appropriate brand-positioning attribute.
Florence Nightingale is in herself a brand position. Her astounding efforts make her name synonymous with nursing and excellent care of the sick and wounded—and the founder of professional nursing.
2. Devise a distinctive way to articulate the brand position.
Nursing—caring for the infirmed—is a calling from God. 
3. Develop a focused brand personality that customers can use to recommend or introduce your brand to others.
During the Crimean War, where Nightingale tended to wounded soldiers, she was dubbed "The Lady with the Lamp", after her habit of making rounds at night while carrying the lamp through dark wards.
She is a ‘ministering angel’ without any exaggeration in these hospitals, and as her slender form glides quietly along each corridor, every poor fellow's face softens with gratitude at the sight of her. When all the medical officers have retired for the night and silence and darkness have settled down upon those miles of prostrate sick, she may be observed alone, with a little lamp in her hand, making her solitary rounds.  —London Times
4. Establish graphic standards.
The very mention of her name still conjures the image of a gentle face in white bonnet and apron. She was considered an angle, and not altogether unlike a Mother Teresa. Not so much today, but the lamp was also a symbol of Florence Nightingale—holding vigil over the sick, the bright light in the darkness to give hope and comfort. 
5. Implement internal branding programs consistent with the brand personality.
Once trained, Nightingale nurses took an oath as follows:
I solemnly pledge myself before God and in the presence of this assembly, to pass my life in purity and to practice my profession faithfully. I will abstain from whatever is deleterious and mischievous, and will not take or knowingly administer any harmful drug. I will do all in my power to maintain and elevate the standard of my profession, and will hold in confidence all personal matters committed to my keeping and all family affairs coming to my knowledge in the practice of my calling. With loyalty will I endeavor to aid the physician, in his work, and devote myself to the welfare of those committed to my care.
6. Consistently and uniquely execute the branding program.

Writing aided Nightingale in her successes in establishing nursing and the importance of disciplined care of the infirmed and wounded. Published in 1859, her 136-page Notes on Nursing was the cornerstone of her curriculum her school and other nursing schools being established. Once excerpt follows,
"Every day sanitary knowledge, or the knowledge of nursing, or in other words, of how to put the constitution in such a state as that it will have no disease, or that it can recover from disease, takes a higher place. It is recognized as the knowledge which every one ought to have-distinct from medical knowledge, which only a profession can have."
Nightingale's slim book appeared when the simple rules of health were only beginning to be known.

It isn't widely known that from 1857 onwards, Nightingale was sometimes bedridden and suffered from depression. There is no documentary evidence on the cause, or causes. But some agreement proposes that Nightingale might have suffered from a particularly extreme form of brucellosis, the effects of which only began to fade in the early 1880s. Nevertheless, Nightingale was a phenomenal impact on social reform. During her bedridden years, she still managed pioneering work in the field of hospital planning, and her efforts spread quickly across Britain and the world.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Viva Villa—the Centaur Lives On

Villa rides! He is Francisco "Pancho" Villa, the enduring brand as the iconic Mexican bandit to most Americans and Mexicans. To Americans, Villa is the quintessential Mexican bandit as characterized in films such as the Treasure of the Sierra Madre, The Professionals, and Blazing Saddles. And to most Mexicans, Villa is a legendary folk hero along the vein of Robin Hood—fighting for not only Mexico's poor and downtrodden, but Mexico herself.

The reality of Villa was that in as much as he really was a bandit, and a ruthless killer, there was another side to his brand that cements his immortal status. Far more than a simple criminal is the amazing revolutionary who passionately fought for a constitutional government against the conspiring dictators like Porfiro Diaz.

To this day, Villa is remembered with immense pride by most Mexicans.  Rightly so, really. An effective leader, he is celebrated for having led the most important military campaigns of Mexico's revolution—and winning most of them. When speaking with Mexicans about Villa, especially those of the northern regions, do not underestimate the respect this brand still commands.

Villa was born circa 1878 as Doroteo Arango in San Juan del Río, Durango. The son of a sharecropper, his life was typical as a Mexican peasant.  He knew all too well the hard life of his class, and that too often peasants were little more than slaves.

Manhood came to Villa at the age of 15 when his father died, leaving him to work in the fields to support his mother and four siblings. Yet within a year, he would be set on the path dominating the rest of his life. Coming in from the fields, Villa found the landowner about to have sex with his 12-year old sister. Some historians record it as rape. Either way, Villa became incensed, grabbed a pistol and shot the offender. 

From here, there is a burrito supreme-wide gap in the "official" record for the next 4-years or so. We do know that within this time frame Arango changed his name to Francisco Villa. "Pancho", by the way, is a Spanish nickname for Francisco. And Pancho Villa rolls off the tongue. Of course, the whole idea of a name change was to confuse the law. It was also a major step in repositioning himself from sharecropper to, well, something else entirely.

We do know he worked here and there as a miner, a laborer, even as a wholesale meat-seller. Although the latter is in the official government biography, historians note that it is a metaphor, meaning  that Villa sold stolen cattle. But hey, the prices were wholesale!

Around the turn of the century, Villa discovered bank robbery and added it to his criminal repertoire of cattle rustling and murder. This is about the same time he established himself with a band of bandit followers and dug in somewhere in the sierras. That is, until Villa made his historical transition from bandit to revolutionary in 1910.

Joined by his men, Villa sided with the forces of Francisco Madero. Apart from how we perceive the man, Villa was reportedly very charismatic—at least enough to ably recruit an army of thousands, including American mercenaries.

Unfortunately for Villa, he was on the losing side of the revolution. Although Madero enjoyed a short-lived victory, he was assassinated. However, Villa so earned the respect and regard of his enemies that he and his forces were permitted to remain intact. Based in Chihuahua, Villa ruled over northern Mexico like a medieval warlord. He financed his army by stealing from the endless cattle herds in northern Mexico and selling them north of the border. Sometimes the sale was outright cash, other times Villa found willing American merchants to trade for guns and ammunition.

Villa sits to the left.
Perhaps out of the caricature of bandits, but worthy of note, is that Villa did not drink. He did love to dance and had an affinity for the ladies. In fact, he supposedly married 26 times. And here is something else out of mold. Villa was an avid swimmer and would run to stay in shape.  Huh, go figure.

Even though Madero was gone, and there were interim presidents/dictators, the revolution kept on. And as these things often go, a split formed among the revolutionary leaders. The result meant that Villa squared off against former allies, sort of, Obregón and Carranza. Of course, and despite that this was an internal affair, the U.S. got in the middle of it ... a couple of times and not on the same side twice. At this point in the mess, the U.S. supported of an opposition presidency. Understandably annoyed, Villa raided a few U.S. border towns, the most famous raid being on Columbus, New Mexico.

Villa's brand in the southwestern U.S. was pretty strong up to this point. But the raids dropped his stock significantly. On the flip side, Mexicans saw Villa as an "avenger" of American oppression. Apparently they'd forgotten Santa Anna.

At any rate, all this led to Villa's eventual defeat. The Mexican government accepted his surrender and, once again, let Villa live. He retired on a general's salary to Canutillo, Durango. The terms of his retirement prevented him from engaging in any politics. However, Villa couldn't help but be Villa. The result was his assassination in 1923. Still, in nearly a century, the bandit's brand lives on. Therefore, submitted for your approval...

1. Determine the most appropriate brand-positioning attribute.
Villa was a daring tactician. He won 9 of 13 significant engagements during the revolution. Whether in battle or in negotiation (diplomacy would be too refined for some of the encounters with Villa), Villa knew how to turn the tide in his favor. He was forceful, convincing and successful—the strongest of all metrics.  In modern vernacular:
He came, he saw, he kicked butt!
2. Devise a distinctive way to articulate the brand position.
A lot of Pancho Villa’s fame is due to his flamboyant personality which he deliberately cultivated. He used the budding Hollywood media by appearing as himself in several early movies. This reinforced the popular image of Pancho Villa as a fearless horseman battling the forces of injustice (Can you say Robin Hood or Zorro?).
3. Develop a focused brand personality that customers can use to recommend or introduce your company to others.
In reality, Villa's brand personality was unto himself—Villa. And that name said all that was necessary to convey personality, concept, and brand experience. Of course, there was "Viva Villa!" But Villa was enough to encapsulate the entire brand in just two syllables.
4. Establish graphic standards.
No one put their personal stamp on the American perception of the Mexican bandit more than Villa. And he wholly owned the style. He sported a bushy mustache, the sombrero and the bandolier full of bullets. Moreover, he was an accomplished horseman. He often made sure he was photographed or recorded in movies riding into battle, exhibiting superior equestrian and fighting skills. In fact, he had a nickname beyond Pancho. The Centaur of the North because of his abilities in horsemanship. Not bad, since it also gave a mythical quality to the man. 
5. Implement internal branding programs to reward employees for behaving in ways that are consistent with the brand personality.
Villa had a multi-pronged program to incentivize support for his brand. Faced with a stagnant economy, Villa issued his own money; if merchants refused to take it, they risked being shot. Executions, which Villa often ordered on a whim, were usually left to his friend Rodolfo Fierro, so the brutality wasn't directly on Villa himself. On a generous side, and in true Robin Hood style, he broke up vast land holdings of local landowners and parceled them out to the widows and orphans of his fallen soldiers.
6. Consistently and uniquely execute the branding program.
Villa was persistent in his pursuit of a constitutional government for Mexico. He was further consistent in his tactics, his reward for service and his punishment for opposition. Yet he understood the benefit of a communications program, too.
At the height of Villa's popularity as a folk hero in the U.S, Hollywood filmmakers and U.S. newspaper photographers were on Villa like paparazzi. They captured his battle exploits, and others, many of which were staged for the benefit of the lens. And therefore, he put the best light on himself to target audiences outside his direct sphere of influence. It helped him gain support––political and financial.

Pancho Villa was the poster child for Mexico's wild side. Rebel, thief, general of the Mexican Revolution, and invader of U.S. territory—Villa was a man as complex as his country, and despite his dark side, you have to have a sneaking admiration for his abilities. The fact that his brand is living long is proof—Viva Villa!