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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.

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