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Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Cleopatra – Girl Had Skills

Cleopatra was the naughty minx of Egypt who wasn't afraid to commit her assets to win an objective. It seems only fitting to do her, if you'll pardon the expression, as a follow up to an entry on Caesar. After all, one of the men Cleopatra skillfully influenced with her brand experience was Gaius Julius Caesar. Not to mention the fact that she was simply one of history's deliciously bad girls who consciously and brilliantly cultivated her brand.

Kicking this off, we need to be accurate. Our Cleo was, in fact, one of seven Cleopatras. Formally she was Cleopatra VII Philopator, and pretty much accepted as the last effective pharaoh of Egypt. Now this next bit might ordinarily be a who cares type of fact, but it later plays into how smart Cleopatra really was. As the last of the Ptolemaic dynasty she descended from Ptolemy, a trusted general of Alexander the Great. So it's important to know that Cleopatra wasn't Egyptian, she was Greek, or to split hairs, Macedonian.

The short answer to how non-Egyptians came to rule Egypt is that Alexander died without naming an heir. His empire was sliced up and Ptolemy wound up with Egypt. Throughout their rein, the Ptolemies only spoke Greek, in fact refusing to speak Egyptian. However our Cleo was kinda cool from an Egyptian perspective since she did learn to speak Egyptian. And, she entrenched her brand into Egyptian culture.

But first there's a little more backstory. Cleopatra was an amazing woman from early on. At the age 14 she became sort of a co-regent with her father. Later she would share the throne with her two brothers–one of whom she married per Egyptian custom. But eventually, her skills would convince a Roman or two that she ought to be sole ruler of Egypt.

One of those Romans was Caesar. He arrived in Egypt while chasing down his rival, a guy named Pompey. While that's a whole other story, it did bring Caesar and Cleopatra together.

Cultural and temporal standards of beauty aside, Cleopatra was a major hottie in her day. Reports of her appeal abound in the works of Plutarch, Cicero, and Florus, as well as others. And she was petite, proven by the fact she was smuggled into Caesar's bedchamber within the rolls of a rug or bedding.

While never compared to the beauty of say, Helen of Troy, what floated the boats of the men around Cleopatra were her wit, charm and "sweetness in the tones of her voice." Combined with her youth, sensuality and exuberance, she was a force with which to contend.

Now days we call it the "it-factor."

Even a 100 years later, Cassius Dio wrote, "She also possessed a most charming voice and knowledge of how to make herself agreeable to every one. Being brilliant to look upon and to listen to, with the power to subjugate every one, even a love-sated man already past his prime [Caesar], she thought that it would be in keeping with her role to meet Caesar, and she reposed in her beauty all her claims to the throne."

What modern woman gets that kind of quality press? Few, really, if any. Therefore, submitted for your approval...

1. Determine the most appropriate brand-positioning attribute.
Cleopatra had skills, she knew how to use them and she did to whatever end she needed. Remember, at the age of 21 she had herself smuggled into Caesar's bedchamber for a meeting. This was a strategic encounter to, ahem, position herself in order meet her overall objectives. Nevertheless, our little Cleo became the 52-year old Caesar’s mistress, and nine months after their first meeting, in 47 BC, Cleopatra gave birth to their son.
Cleopatra was smart and ambitious, appealing and sultry, but in no way a tease. She delivered on her brand promise.
2. Devise a distinctive way to articulate brand position.
Unlike most women—modern or ancient—Cleopatra saw no challenge in making her brand attributes into strengths within the culture and lore of Egypt. In fact, she was brilliant. The Ptolemies had long resisted speaking or writing in the Egyptian language. But not Cleopatra, she embraced the culture to the point of actually representing herself as the reincarnation of the Egyptian goddess, Isis. 
This was a powerful brand identity for her subjects. Isis was worshiped as the ideal mother and wife, and she was the goddess of nature and magic. And that is itself one of the keys to a successful brand – embedding culture into the brand 
Moreover, the real power of Isis is in the meaning of the name—"Throne." In depictions of Isis, her headdress is a throne. By association with Isis, Cleopatra made herself the personification of the throne. Thus Cleopatra would be a firm representation of a pharaoh's power. 
3. Develop a focused brand personality that customers can use to recommend or introduce your brand to others.
Isis provided a strong method for articulating the brand position as well as the brand personality. In modern terms, Isis was a popular patron saint. Everyone prayed to Isis, including slaves, sinners, artisans, and the downtrodden, and she heard the prayers of the wealthy, maidens, aristocrats, and rulers. 
We know that Cleopatra seriously took on this brand personality of motherhood, magic and fertility.
The goddess Cleopatra -- mother of Egypt.
4. Establish graphic standards. 
Using Isis brought Cleopatra a wealth of imagery to communicate and reinforce her position. But her reputation as a standard of beauty for her time must still be acknowledged.  That said, there were represerntations of Cleopatra as Isis in statues, glyphs, etc. This simply engrained her in the hearts of her subjects as truly Egyptian and, of course, a goddess.  
Another symbol was the knot, which for Egyptians held magical properties, and a symbol of Isis was the knot. 
5. Implement internal branding programs to reward employees for behaving in ways that are consistent with the brand personality.
Yeah ... Cleo had rewarded those who did her bidding. 'Nuff said.
6. Consistently and uniquely execute the branding program.
It's a tried and true strategy, secure one's position with an heir. And Cleopatra quickly put the spring back in Caesar's step as they became lovers during his stay in Egypt. The result was a son, Caesarian. 
After Caesar's assassination in 44 BC, Cleopatra hooked up with Marcus Antonius. We'll call him Mark Antony. Cleopatra was fertile. She and Mark had twins, followed by another son.
Cleopatra must have been one heck of a brand experience. In her time she convinced, perhaps beguiled two formidable men, Caesar and Anthony, to break with Roman conventions. She was the Delilah to their Sampsons. Her identification with Isis may have been the source of Caesar's later self-delusions of being a deity, which helped influence actions by the Roman senate.

She drove Anthony to abandon his legions during the final battles against Roman forces. In disgrace, Antony committed suicide. Not long after, and now famous in history, Cleopatra killed herself. Still, over the course of 18 years Cleopatra held her position as the sole or primary ruler of Egypt.

Few woman from the ancient world persist in drawing our cultural fascination like Cleopatra. Even the stunning Helen of Troy hasn't the power over us Cleopatra holds. A ten-year war raged over Helen, but that war and its characters overshadow her. Whereas Cleopatra, like the goddess she held herself to be, remains immortal—continuing her seductive rein into modern times.

Side Bar:

A modern testament to Cleopatra's brand endurance are the dozens of films with her character. Classic beauties and talents have portrayed this ancient icon of appeal and womanliness—Monica Bellucci,  the Redgrave sisters, Katherine Hepburn, Sophia Loren, and Elizabeth Taylor to name just a few. My personal favorites are Elizabeth Taylor and Monica Bellucci.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Caesar Cut Like a Knife

Rome is an amazing brand architecture with sub brands and line extensions of which its Caesars are a major part. Among all the emperors there are best and the worst, the Constantine and the Nero, but there was only one Gaius Julius Caesar—Rome's first Caesar and from whom the imperial synonym is taken.

He rose to become a respected Roman general and statesman, then he seized a position just short of an absolute monarch. And more than any single figure in Roman history, Caesar was the catalyst in transforming Rome from a proud Republic into what would become a sprawling empire that conquered a vast landscape from Great Britain to Turkey to Lower Egypt.

Caesar's general fame is really centered on his assassination. Most of us know the ancient and famous phrase, "Beware the Ides of March," which is March 15th and the date on which Caesar was killed by the Roman senate in 46 BC.

The truth of the man, however, is that Julius Caesar lived up to and earned his place in history. He was a formidable figure of his time, having followed a complex path to his rule over Rome. His father died when he was just 16 and left the young Gaius as head of the family. Muddy politics put Gaius on the hit list of a powerful Roman figure of the time. In combination with the government's confiscation of his inheritance, Gaius' options were limited and he chose to become a soldier. He was a natural. Within just a few years, he was honored for his role in an important siege in Asia Minor (now Turkey). That honor was the Civic Crown—an adornment of oak leaves and regarded as the second highest honor one could earn.

Over the next 18 or 20 years, Gaius held a number of political and military postings. A common thread throughout was his use of one post to maneuver his obtaining another—either by means of appointment or election. For most of his life, and for various reasons, Gaius was in heavy debt. Public office gave him immunity from prosecution for irregular acts that helped reduce that debt.

To help pay down some of that debt, Gaius aligned himself with two powerful forces in Roman politics––Marcus Licinius Crassus and Gnaeus Pompeius Magnus. Known as the First Triumviate, the Caesar, Crassus and Pompey alliance would present opportunity for Caesar to establish himself as a man for the people. Crassus and Pompey backed his proposed law to redistribute public lands to the Roman poor. The alliance also put Caesar on a meteoric rise in Rome with his appointment as governor over Northern Italy and Southern Europe.

The position gave Caesar command of four legions, which he used to the hilt. His military conquests in Gaul extended Rome's territory to the North Sea, and in 55 BC he conducted the first Roman invasion of Britain. It was also during the Gallic Campaigns that two other talents emerge to shore up the Caesar we would come to know. One is that Caesar was quite the military engineer, his most famous example
Completed in 1-days, the first bridge to
cross the Rhine.
being the bridges he built to cross the Rhine during his Gallic campaign of 55 - 53 BC. Under his personal direction, 40,000 soldiers used local timber to build a crossing in less than ten days. It was almost 30-feet wide and, using a conservative estimate, 500 feet long. Caesar was the first to cross the Rhine and this was mind blowing to the Gauls, and a significant step in Caesar's ultimate defeat of the European tribes.

The second talent is Caesar's affinity for writing. Up until his death, Julius Caesar was himself the best primary source of what we know about him. Most people don't know that he had a reputation for being an accomplished author of prose. In addition to poetry, Caesar wrote war commentaries on his Gallic campaigns. Written and published more as dispatches from the front, one might describe these as journalistic in style—simple, direct, and to the point. Even now, Latin students study Caesar’s Commentarii. The net effect, however, was pure brand building—our politically savvy Caesar was working a long-term public relations campaign.

These documents, written by Caesar himself, detailed his exploits and built him up as the symbol of the quintessential Roman victor. In combination with his sending war booty back to the people of Rome (rather than the patrician class to squirrel it away for themselves), he became the soldier of the people, gaining them lands, wealth, slaves, and goods.

Bold and something of a pirate, Caesar had cagunis, the Italian-American version of cajones. This brand overview reveals a caliber of such brand attributes that allowed Caesar's rise to control all of Rome, and underscore his brand stamina throughout history.

Therefore, submitted for your approval...

1. Determine the most appropriate brand-positioning attribute.
Attitude with Caesar is everything. He recognized within himself his capabilities. One story may best exemplify the man and his brand attribute—his captivity among pirates.

On his way home from an eastern campaign, pirates of the Aegean Sea kidnapped and held Caesar prisoner. Rather than act the victim's part, Caesar maintained an attitude of superiority throughout his captivity. The account goes that when the pirates set the ransom of Caesar for twenty talents of silver, he demanded they increase it to fifty. On payment of the ransom and the subsequent release, Caesar assembled a fleet, whereby he hunted down and captured the pirates. During his own captivity, Caesar threatened his captors with crucifixion, which they took as a joke and an idle threat. But Caesar made good on the promise.

Command and control: In few situations, even when at a distinct disadvantage, Caesar maintained an air of authority over his situation.
2. Devise a distinctive way to articulate brand position.
Command and control dictated power and might. And Caesar very cleverly closely associated might with his own name and bloodline. Of the three or so possible histories for the name Caesar, the one chosen by our emperor is one likely derived from a family myth about an ancestor receiving the name after killing an elephant, possibly during the first Punic War. Elephant in the Punic language is Caesar.  
This does a couple of things. First, it ties Caesar to the heroism of Rome's victory over Carthage in the first Punic War. It also ties him a bit to Hannibal. Although a double-edged sword because of Rome's hatred for Hannibal and Carthage (long obliterated but not forgotten), Roman commanders had to admire the strategies of Hannibal. So too might they admire Caesar? 
Second, the Gauls came to know the elephant through the Carthaginian general Hannibal. As a result they would be familiar with the term caesar. Some Gallic tribes allied themselves with Hannibal, while others fell under his sword. Either way, there was a symbol of power, courage, and a degree of ruthlessness. And Caesar didn't mind being associated with any of the three. For good measure, he also used the animal during his Gallic campaigns.  
 3. Develop a focused brand personality that customers can use to recommend or introduce your company to others.
Mighty Caesar (spoken by Cleopatra, by the way)
4. Establish graphic standards.
In ancient times, power and authority often meant you got to mint coins. On minting his first denarius, Caesar had the elephant above his name, and treading on a Gallic serpent-horn, the Carnyx, symbolic of Caesar's victory over Gaul.
5. Implement internal branding programs to reward employees for behaving in ways that are consistent with the brand personality.
There were up to 10,000 men in Caesar's legions—many of them conscripted Gauls. He lead them into successful campaigning on any terrain and under all weather conditions, supported his military abilities being compared to other great ancient commanders, including Hannibal and even Alexander. His reputation also owes much to the strict but fair discipline of his legionaries, who both admired Caesar and were devoted to him.

Caesar rewarded their victories with spoils of war. They returned his generosity by giving Caesar a first rate and cavalry, and an ability for legendary speed with which he maneuvered. Caesar's forces sometimes marched as many as 40 miles a day.

When it came time for Caesar to return to Rome (the senate ordered his return for charges of treachery), they marched with Caesar and did what no other army dared ... crossed the Rubicon with Caesar. The Rubicon River marked the boundary of Rome. No other general marched into Rome with their legions. It was unheard of. And it signaled Caesar's power among the military, his confidence in the populace of Rome, and his intentions to hold power.
6. Consistently and uniquely execute the branding program.
These achievements granted him unmatched military power and threatened to eclipse the standing of all his rivals in Rome. Crossing the Rubicon with his legions in 49 BC, civil war was ignited and from which Caesar emerged as the unrivaled leader of the Roman world. 
Under duress, the senate would eventually grant Caesar the title, "Dictator in perpetuity." But in ancient times dictator didn't carry the negative connotations it does today. Intended as only temporary, those elected to dictator were expected to be of the highest character. And to some degree, Julius Caesar was a man of character. He had the interests of his Roman subjects at heart and was quite progressive, even considered a bit too populist by the senate. His extensive social and political reforms really annoyed the establishment. To the people of Rome, however, Caesar seemed benevolent in fulfillment of his title.
While he cut new ground in the history of Rome, unfortunately for Caesar it wasn't long before several senators became desperate to restore the constitutional government of the Republic. One of these included Caesar's close friend, Marcus Junius Brutus. On that fateful day in March, they lured Caesar into the senate chamber where they stabbed him repeatedly until he died. The result, however, had the opposite effect by further catapulting the Republic into an empire. It also sealed Caesar's position as a martyr among the populace and his soldiers, while carving the name of Caesar in history. In fact the name Caesar would forever be equated with emperor. And so you know, in proper ancient Latin, Caesar was originally pronounced "Kaysar." Play with that one for a while and you get the German term Kaiser, and the Russian Csar.

Side Notes:

One of Caesar's lasting impacts is the Julian Calendar. It is the foundation for our modern Gregorian Calendar of 365 days.

SPQR is often seen on the standards of Roman legions. It is an abbreviation for Senatus Populusque Romanus, the latin phrase for The Senate and People of Rome. It refers to the spirit of Rome's government in the ancient republic and used as an official signature of the government.