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Tuesday, December 16, 2014

A Hot Brand from the North Pole

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 more specifically back to 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.

(Originally posted 2011)

Saturday, October 25, 2014

A Wing and a Prayer.

This one is a bit out of the mold because Reuters is a commercial brand rather than a specific historical figure. Well, that's not true, there is a founder and he is covered here. Nevertheless, Reuters is now strictly a brand. The last surviving member of the Reuter bloodline died in 2009. But catching my fancy is the way Reuter began his news agency. That's it. I just like the story. 

Therefore, submitted for your approval...

If you're not familiar with Reuters, or to be accurate, now Thompson Reuters, you should know it's an information agency--financial, legal, and more--but the Reuters brand still lives as the world's largest news service. I naturally mention Thompson Reuters because in 2008, Reuters ceased as an independent agency and was merged with The Thompson Corporation, thus Thompson Reuters.

Speed and accuracy have been and are hallmarks of Reuters, and its how that rep was earned that makes reviewing Reuters so cool. The whole gig started in 1851when Paul Julius Reuter moved to Paris. Reuter was about 32 when he left his home in Berlin, Germany. This was about the time of the Revolutions of 1848--a series of public upheavals across Europe. Remember that European nations in the mid nineteenth century were monarchies, whose societies were an extension of feudalism.

The masses were over it and wanted true nations with democratic structures. Reuter was one of them. He was partner in a publishing firm that distributed "radical" pamphlets. No doubt he came under scrutiny from the president of the German Confederation, which was almost always a monarch.

Reuter worked for a news service while in Paris, though it wasn't long before he ventured back out on his own. Within a year he was in a small town on the edge of the French and German border, Aachen, where he launched a fully independent news agency. This is the cool part, he used carrier pigeons between Aachen and Brussels. There were very few telegraphs in Europe, so news traveled by train. Reuter's pigeons were a crucial link for getting news quickly between Berlin and Paris. They gave Reuter fast access to stock news from the Paris stock exchange.

Ultimately a telegraph link was strung between Britain and the European continent in 1851, along with other lines connecting cities or regions. That same year, Reuter moved his operation to London, where he and the headquarters would stay. He continued using pigeons where necessary, but the the telegraph was growing more significant as his news and stock price information service grew. Still, he had active squadrons of carrier pigeons totaling 200 birds. So when telegraph service went down, for whatever reason, Reuter could still wing it and get the news out when his competition faltered.

Reuters developed a reputation for dependability, speed, accuracy, integrity and impartiality. The first newspaper client to subscribe was the London Morning Advertiser in 1858. It is worth mentioning that newspaper's subscriptions significantly expanded as a result. Another tidbit is that Reuters was the first news service to report Abraham Lincoln’s assassination.

The Reuters brand continues operating in over 200 cities around the globe. And it all started with on wing and prayer.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Your John Hancock Ain't Enough

Thebian brand
Logos make not the brand. Marketers know this. Decision makers know this, or should. Yet a persistent misconception is that logo and brand are synonymous. They are not and for explanation sake, let's start with origins of the expression "branding". The term is taken from "firebrand"—using a red-hot stick or metal to burn a mark in something, including livestock. Most of us associate the latter
with the American west. Nah. Egyptians were doing it way back in the day. But regardless of whether you’re talking stockyards in Tanis or Tombstone, the idea is the same and based on a unique or distinctive symbol burned into the flesh of horses, cattle, sheep or whatever. That symbol differentiates one person's livestock from another's. But that symbol, which could be interpreted as a logo, has absolutely zero value if you know nothing about it. The cow, and the resulting meat or breading stock, could be quality or questionable. The symbol is meaningless without something of perceived value or experience associated with it.

The original John Hancock
Look at it another way. John Hancock's signature may be one of history’s more famous personal logos. It is the largest, most legible on the U.S. Declaration of Independence. In fact, it has evolved into a slang term for one’s signature, “put your John Hancock there…” But if asked, most are incapable of recalling anything more than he was a signatory to the Declaration. Indeed, historians argue over whom the man really was and the substance of his contribution to the birth of our nation. While an easily recognizable logo, John Hancock is a hollow personal brand—neither resulting in a coagulated idea nor resonant with the collective consciousness.
In contrast, consider a far smaller signature such as Benjamin Franklin’s. Franklin boasts a deep personal brand in the American psyche. Even now readers are picturing either or both a bespectacled caricature and a kite in a lightning storm. Say his name and expectations come to mind, which include at least a few of his contributions to the American national culture and scientific or industrial innovations. That is a strong brand—an immediate response to the mention of his name, built on decades of his prolific participation in society, politics, and science.
A logo is simply a way to identify a brand. Without reference or understanding of its value, like Hancock, a logo is just a curious, sometimes attractive graphic.

Monday, July 14, 2014

The Blue Ghost

"The Blue Ghost" is a nickname given to the aircraft carrier Lexington (CV-16) during World War II. She earned it from her enemy, the Imperial Japanese, and it was popularized by the propagandist, Tokyo Rose. The reason was simple. The Lexington reappeared in battles following previous ones where she was reported sunk. And during her service late in the war, she was painted with the U.S. Navy's dark blue camouflage scheme, leading to the complete nickname, "The Blue Ghost." She'd even been rumored to have been scuttled. Scuttling is an act by a captain and officers to sink their own ship to prevent it from being taken a prize by an enemy. But that never happened. Actually, she is resting comfortably in Corpus Christie, Texas, where she serves as a museum.

From December 1943 to November 1944, the Lexington was involved in major engagements, including Kwajalein raid, the Battles of the Philippine Sea and of Leyte Gulf. Her first reported sinking was during the Kwajalein raid on 4 December 1943. Kwajalein is an atoll in the Marshall Islands. The battle was against a Japanese force that included several vessels and more than 30 aircraft. A torpedo struck her aft starboard side, damaging the steering system. Japanese forces left the battle area seeing the Lexington engulfed in smoke. This inspired the first occasion when Japan's Tokyo Rose broadcast that the carrier had been sunk. However, damage control crews managed to jerry-rig a hand-operated steering unit and sealed off the flooding compartments, allowing Lexington to return to Pearl Harbor for repairs a few days later.

On 5 November 1945 the "Blue Ghost" suffered another "sinking." It was on this date that the Lexington had her first taste of the kamikaze as a flaming Japanese plane impacted the flight deck near the island superstructure. Her fire crew was able to control the blaze so that air operations could resume. Four days after the battle, the Lexington found safe harbor to conduct repairs. As those repairs were made, Tokyo Rose reported the Lexington sunk.

Human DNA absolutely commands a symbiotic relationship between crews and their ships. Vessels aren't just things. They are ladies to be cared for and tended to. In return, they protects those who keep them afloat. The Lexington gave noble service during World War II, Korea and long after. Though torpedoes and the victim of kamikze, she never betrayed her crew--always bringnig them home. Her brand remains secure, even today she enjoys continuing service as a museum where visitors can explore the past in innovative ways, including opportunities to stay overnight in her crew compartments. As a result, the Lexington lives on and on, perhaps not as a ghost, but a grand dame of a victorious effort--a lady, the Lady Lex.

Sidebar: Tokyo Rose
Tokyo Rose was the World War II Allied nickname for at least one English-speaking female propagandist. There may have been others but the one most linked with the moniker is Iva Toguri, a former U.S. citizen (native to Los Angeles, California). She'd been visiting family in Japan when the war broke out, and so it was postulated that her role was one of having been forced. She was released from prison in 1956, and pardoned in 1977 for her "treason." Contrary to the intent of the broadcasts, Americans listened to Tokyo Rose to see what impact they were having on Japanese morale. Most of her reports were exaggerated or extremely slanted--revealing that the truth was likely opposite of what was broadcast. Sometimes, however, was that surprisingly accurate details were woven in, naming units and even individual servicemen.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Now That's a Knife!

A classic style of Bowie Knife
James Bowie is a celebrated figure in history, even beyond the part he played during the last stand at the Alamo and the Texas war of independence from Mexico, But his notoriety was not always for noble reasons. His trademark was the Bowie knife, a large blade with a curved tip--it has long been a symbol for frontiersmen, hunters, and survivalists, and a favorite of collectors and knife aficionados since the 1820s. The knife became famous because of Bowie. And the man became famous because of the knife. Much like his massive blade, he could be counted on for certain degree of 'cutting." And to understand this in terms of the man and his legend, one must understand Bowie's roots.

Born in 1796 from tough Kentucky stock who liked to move around some, from Kentucky to Tennessee to Missouri. By 1801 they'd settled into Spanish territory, specifically what is now northeastern Louisiana not far from the town of Natchez. It was in Louisiana that Jim Bowie would grow into a man, and build his brand. Between 1809 and 1821, the family patriarch, Reason Bowie, became a plantation owner and significant slave trader. These are the years in which the young Jim Bowie began to make his mark. To earn a living he floated lumber to market and invested in property. Family tradition holds that young Jim enjoyed hunting and fishing, and that he not only caught and rode wild horses, he rode alligators, too. And not unlike a man he would meet in 1836 (David Crockett), Bowie also trapped bears. He makes the Robertson family of Duck Dynasty look like cub scouts.

Bowie was very straightforward and tough enough to defend his opinions. And if angered, his reaction was swift and mean, which will come into play later and account for the fame of his knife.

In 1808, the Act Prohibiting Importation of Slaves took effect. It meant that no longer was it legal to import slaves into the United States. Unfortunately, that didn't stop the activity. Other nations continued the practice, so shipping of slaves thrived in the Caribbean and the Gulf of Mexico--and those were stomping grounds for Jean Laffite. Known as the gentleman pirate because rarely did he kill his raiding victims, Laffite originally operated out of New Orleans with his brother, Pierre. But it was decided that Jean would move to Galveston, displacing another pirate, and headquarter there. New Orleans is where Bowie and Laffite met, and where they concocted their slave smuggling operation. Much of the route was along the upper Texas and Western Louisiana coasts, but also included a labyrinth of bayous, rivers and marshes between Galveston Bay in what is now southeast Texas and Vermillion Bay of Louisiana. Bowie quit slave trading sometime around 1829 when he and his brother had amassed $65,000.

The first style of Bowie knife. 
For the most part, Bowie was a well-liked personality, although he had a knack for sometimes rubbing people the wrong way--and they him. One was a local banker in Alexandria, Louisiana. His name was Norris Wright, and he happened to be the Rapides parish sheriff. As banker he declined a loan to young Jim Bowie in 1826. Bowie didn't much appreciate Wright's refusal and tempers flared. Wright fired a pistol point-blank at Bowie. Somehow the bullet was deflected. But it was this event that convinced Bowie's brother that Jim needed protection, and that protection was the gift of a big ole hunting knife. And it was a wise gift, because Bowie and Wright would square off again.

Jim Bowie is likely the only individual to ever survive bringing a knife to a gunfight. September 19, 1827 was the occasion of the Sandbar Fight. The Sandbar fight was just that--a fight that took place on a sandbar outside of Natchez, Mississippi, probably along the Mississippi river. This is what made Bowie and his knife globally famous. The whole magillah started as a pistol duel between Samuel Levi Wells III and Dr. Thomas Maddox. Neither man hit the other and they shook hands and declared the matter resolved with honor. But not their seconds, which is important to note that Bowie and Samuel Cuny had been supporters of Wells. Supporting Maddox was a man named Alexander Crain, who fired at Cuny and missed. His shot struck Bowie in the hip and knocked him to the ground. A firefight ensued, sort of, these were single shot or double barrel pistols. Still, Cuny and Crain exchanged fire, with Crain suffering a flesh wound in the arm and Cuny a fatal shot to the chest.

James Bowie and his natural look of irritation.
In the meantime, Bowie gets to his feet while drawing his knife. He charged Crain who walloped him on the skull so hard with an empty pistol it broke. The impact knocked Bowie to his knees once more and Norris Wright, Bowie's credit nemesis, saw an opportunity. Wright took a shot at Bowie but missed. He then drew a sword cane and stabbed Bowie in the chest. Now get this. The thin blade was deflected by Bowie's sternum, but it stuck in his chest. Wright struggled to pull the sword free when Bowie yanked Wright down by the shirt and pushed that massive hunting blade into the banker's chest. Wright died quickly. Bowie, on the other hand, stands up with the sword still embedded in his chest, was shot again and stabbed by yet another member of the group. Bowie pulled the sword cane from his chest as the Blanchard brothers fired at him, hitting Bowie in the arm. That's when Bowie spun and cut off part of Alfred Blanchard's forearm. Carey Blanchard defended his brother with a second shot that missed Bowie. The Blanchard boys ran for the hills.

Seriously, this beats any Hollywood action movie contrivance ever. 

The Sandbar Fight was a ten minute tussle that meant the end for Samuel Cuny and Norris Wright, and wounding Alfred Blanchard, Carey Blanchard, Robert Crain and Jim Bowie—wounded. But wait, there is a twist. Crain, the man who missed Cuny and hit Bowie, helped carry Bowie to receive medical help. Witnesses say Bowie thanked Crain, saying, "Col. Crain, I do not think, under the circumstances, you ought to have shot me." One doctor reputedly said, "How he [Bowie] lived is a mystery to me, but live he did."

Accounts of the battle and of Bowie's performance and his lethal blade captured public attention, even in Europe. This exploit made him known as the South's most formidable knife fighter. From then on through today, men asked blacksmiths and cutlers to make a knife like Jim Bowie's.

Now, that is one helluva knife, but it was wielded by one helluva man. Like him or hate him, he was the stuff of legend. Even without his participation a fews years later at the Alamo, Bowie was destined for history.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

In Rememberance of US Memorial Day

"The honor is to serve..." That's a Klingon saying. And while from a fictitious character, it nicely sums up the spirit of the men and women who serve in our armed forces—and very much those who have sacrificed in the defense of our nation. The fallen are remembered each Memorial Day, and on this one, BIH highlights those who've honored this nation by their service. But something new has been added. Although Memorial Day is about our fallen American heroes, much of the traditions our military embraces were born in ancient bands of brothers. A common thread among those who serve is a team united in cause and vision. Additional links below reveal ancient examples of team brands. 

Red Tails - The Tuskegee Airmen represent some of the most heroic and honor-bound men that have served our nation. Read their story and find pride in your nation.

Flying Tigers - These were the tough guys, the streetfighers of World War II. They came, they saw, they kicked butt and chewed bubblegum.

George Washington - No lie—George Washington was a man well prepared to lead our nation against the British. If there was one better, he never surfaced. Not only did he serve our budding nation with honor—his leadership demonstrated deep conviction for that which he fought.

Living in Infamy - Pearl Harbor was a watershed moment for the United States of America. Reminiscent of Hannibal's defeat of Rome at Cannae, Japan made the same errors and let loose a sleeping giant.

Just a little bigger - Abraham Lincoln was never a soldier, but he studied hard about military history and tactics while leading a nation through a divisive war. And for his duty, he gave the ultimate sacrifice.

Teamwork is defined differently depending on who is writing the definition. But no matter how you slice it, most agree it includes communication, coordination, effort, and most importantly—cohesion. Without some sort of binder, the individual ingredients are free radicals, to use a chemical term.  Yet as any former or serving military will tell you, once a bond is set ... the team is not only tight and effective—it's lethal. And these teams below have inspired the training and spirit of the American fighting man and woman since our nation was founded. 

• Spartans are Beast: If you want a lesson in teamwork, then the Spartans should be on the coaching staff. Just 300 Spartans held off Persia's King Xerxes and his massive army for three days. Yeah, there were Greek brethren there too, but they scattered quickly. The Spartans stood their ground and gave the Persians a sound spanking before being overrun.

• Samurai jacked: These are Japan's ancient warrior class. On arrival to the battlefield, they'd scare the Zen out of their opponents. All samurai lived and died by the Bushido—a code that bound them together in ferocity, devotion to duty and master, and an "all-in" willingness to die in battle. It just makes you want to see a match-up on Deadliest Warrior between 300 samurai and 300 Spartans. 

Thursday, February 20, 2014

An Explosive Brand

Pompeii is a symbolic disaster of truly epic proportions--the result of Mount Vesuvius catastrophicallyblowing its stack sometime in the autumn of 79 AD. It's said that the eruption took place a day after the festival of the Roman god, Vulcanalia, making for interesting timing. Nevertheless, the event marked the final day of life in ancient Pompeii. The blast obliterated everything in its path and buried Pompeii under ash and pumice, leaving the site lost for well more than a millennium.

For reference, the ruins of Pompeii are located south of Rome itself, between the modern cities of Naples and Salerno. Researchers believe that the town was founded in the seventh or sixth century BC, and was captured a hundred years or so later by the Romans in 80 BC. It ultimately became a gem of the empire--a countryside getaway dotted with summer villas. It was home to a thriving port for commerce, and the streets teamed with art and a culture. By the time of its destruction, the population was probably around 20,000.  Residents enjoyed a
complex water system, a gymnasium and even a gladiator facility. The amphitheater is considered to be a model of sophisticated design, both in terms of aesthetics and functionality. It's bathrooms have actually inspired architects to design better facilities in modern stadiums. Still used for events today, scholars marvel at its design for crowd control. Amazingly, it was built around 70 BC and is the oldest surviving Roman amphitheater in the world.

Pompeii is often depicted as, well, a hotbed of naughty. The culture there was undeniably erotic. Throughout its rediscovery and excavation, observations record the persistent use of the phallus as decoration--some large, some not so much, but there's a lot of them. Scholars believe these decorations were used as good-luck charms to aid in fertility. Excavations have also exposed impressive collections of erotic-themed art and artifacts, including several blush-inducing frescoes.

We know all of this because Vesuvius covered the city in around 75 feet of ash within 6 hours of the start of the eruption. This mummified the entire city, locking it in time. Tiles, cups, urns, and whole buildings were preserved as they were on the day of the eruption. What ever was in the city stayed in the city--including the Pompeians.

It's mistakenly believed that the victims suffocated from the lack of oxygen. The reality is that they died
long before suffocating or being buried. Extreme heat with temperatures rising to nearly 500 degrees Fahrenheit killed everything within 6 miles of the crater. Early excavators often encountered voids in the ash layers. But it wasn't until the 1860s that an Italian archaeologist realized what the voids were. Giuseppe Fiorelli realized they were molds in the solidified ash, left behind from bodies decomposing. He developed a plaster injection technique used to recreate the victims' forms. It is the result of these plaster casts that so symbolize Pompeii in the minds of the public. Haunting and heart-wrenching are images of families, mothers, children, even pets in death throws and despair.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Brand Everlasting...

At this time of the Epiphany—the Christian celebration commemorating the revelation of God the Son as a human being in the Christ Child—we explore the brand that is Christianity. Controversial, enduring, inspiring, and even misappropriated—Christianity is the faith in the life, teachings and sacrifice of Jesus Christ. And for more than two millennia, this brand has persisted in its evolution and command of brand loyalty.

At the core of the Christian brand is Christ himself, Jesus of Nazareth and Son of God. Christians profess their faith that Jesus was born of a virgin, died for the forgiveness of human sin, rose from the dead and ascended into Heaven to later return for judgment day. Those are strong attributes—meaningful to the faithful then and now. And while being born of a virgin is not unique in the history of religious faiths, it provided Jesus with divine DNA from God the Father.

Strengthening this divine heritage is his very name, underscoring the mission for which prophecy says he was sent. Jesus is basically translated to mean "Yahweh rescues".  And according to the Gospels of both Luke and Matthew in the New Testament, the angel Gabriel tells Mary and Joseph to name their child Jesus. The reason given was "because he will save his people from their sins". Right from the start this lends a redemptive attribute to Christ. Of course the title of Christ translates from Greek to mean "the anointed" and also used to translate the Hebrew term for "Messiah" into Greek. Combined that set Jesus up to be the Anointed one to deliver salvation.

Jesus has a well-documented life in the New Testament. Christians obviously put a great deal of trust into the text and it is within these chronicles of Christ's life, and the very Genesis of Christianity, that so much of the brand is found. Healing, miracles, firm resistance against human temptations, as well as the Crucifixion and Resurrection are hallmarks of Jesus' divine brand. But the more subtle of Christ's deeds seem to be those that have the most impact.

Jesus calls to Zacchaeus
Just in the company he kept, Jesus didn't associate himself with the upper crust of society. Indeed, his affiliations with those of lesser status and questionable reputation made him a target.

One example is the account of Zacchaeus from the Gospel of Luke. Simply put, Zacchaeus was a tax collector in Jericho—hated by everybody and in particular by other Jews who saw him as a traitor for working with Rome. On the day Jesus passed through town, he arrived early along the path Jesus would take, climbing a sycamore tree. Zacchaeus was a short man and would have difficulty seeing over the crowds. As Jesus passed, he looked up into the tree and called out to Zacchaeus by name and told him to come down. Jesus then announced he would visit his house, sending the crowd into shock that Jesus would associate himself such a low sort.

But so moved by the gift of Jesus' undeserved love and acceptance, Zacchaeus publicly repented and vowed to make restitution for them. This is chief among the attributes of Christ—forgiveness and embracing those who are not evil but outcast.  That's an unusual attitude for the time—one might argue even for today.

Adding to the desirability of forgiveness is the idea of an afterlife. Not all religions have a bright future for our souls. In some we are reincarnated, doomed to relive this life until we miraculously figure out how to behave in order to move on. In others there are several levels of Heaven or Hell—sounds more corporate than ethereal. And still others believe there is nothing beyond this life at all. So a Kingdom of Heaven can really resonate if you ain't tickled with the status quo.

But the deeds of Christ, including his Resurrection, were only the beginning of the Christian brand. Although let's face it, Resurrection is major since that means death can be defeated, further reinforcing that afterlife thing. Still, Christ's life was the foundation—the rock on which the church was built. From there it spread across the ancient western and near eastern worlds like the original social media.

Emperor Constantine c 302 AD
There are two specific people deserving the lion's share of credit for Christianity's facebook-like success—Constantine and Charlemagne. Nothing can pull an underground movement out from the shadows like state endorsement. Constantine was an early 4th Century Roman emperor who was responsible for exactly that. Before his rein, Christians were a persecuted lot. After all Jesus was crucified for sedition, real or not. And most of the ancient Mediterranean was pagan, whereas Christianity required reneging on many naughty but potentially fun elements of paganism. Maybe that's why Constantine waited a very long time before being baptized.

On the other side of the condemnation coin was Judaism itself—Jews didn't care for Christians because most didn't hold that Jesus was the Messiah, not to mention the fact that Christ's teaching seemingly went against the Jewish mainstream current. Add to that the whole idea that gentiles were welcome in the new faith. In other words Jesus went outside the tribe and Jews didn't appreciate it.

Roman shield with Chi Rho
Anyway, just before a battle Constantine had a vision of the Christian symbol, Chi Rho, which convinced him the Christian God was on his side. His resulting victory in what was thought a hopeless battle inspired Constantine to lift the persecutions of Christians. And he would spend an enormous effort for the remainder of his rein in supporting and spreading the faith.

Skip about 500 years to the end of the Dark Ages and we get Charlemagne. He was a conquering emperor—he was French, so go figure. Known then as Charles I, Charlemagne managed to unite much of Europe. In doing so, and as a good Medieval Christian (a somewhat disreputable time for the faith), he forced the Christianization of the Saxons, the Danes, and the Slavs, while banning their native paganism under threat of painful death. Charlemagne integrated all these people into his empire, while simultaneously integrating select pagan traditions into Christianity. This had the effect of easing brand acceptance by utilizing certain advantageous elements to further spread the faith.

Gold bust of Charlemagne
It is during the span of time between Constantine and Charlemagne that the cross really becomes the standard for Christianity—a reminder of Christ's sacrifice and Resurrection. By this time the Catholic Church established itself as the dominant authority on everything from western politics and society to science and medicine. The cross was on everything you could affix it to, draw it on, weave it into, or incorporate into its very making. Biblically speaking, the cross spread like locusts.

Christ is an everlasting brand. Even if you set aside the divinity of Jesus and look at him with a strict historical perspective, it is accepted fact that he existed. Jesus was a Rabbi … a teacher. And Roman records confirm that Pontius Pilate crucified him for sedition against the Empire. His impact is no less than profound. Jesus is even recognized by other faiths as being at the very least a prophet. These include Judaism, Islam, and the Bahá'í faiths. It may be an oxymoron, but Jesus was a conqueror whose weapon was ... forgiveness.

Therefore, submitted for your approval...

1. Determine the most appropriate brand-positioning attribute.
Forgiveness and compassion are the leads here. In his life, Jesus was noted for consorting with social rejects—the unwashed, the tax collector, and those of questionable reputation. He professed not a God who favored the rich and powerful, but a Father who loved all His children and promised a place especially for the meek and the poor.
2. Devise a distinctive way to articulate the brand position and develop a brand personality customers can use to introduce the brand.
He died for our sins ... enough said.
3. Establish graphic standards.

Early Christianity used more than a couple of symbols. Emperor Constantine saw a vision of the Chi Rho (the first two letters of Christ in Greek). which inspired him to take up God's standard and spread the church across the known world. The fish is a popular sign even today. But very early on it was code among a persecuted people. Eventually, Christianity settled on the cross as reminder to the faithful of Christ's sacrifice for all sins, and a death from which Jesus rose. This remains the most common Christian symbol today.

4. Implement internal branding programs to reward employees for behaving in ways that are consistent with the brand personality.
This is where things get sticky in Christianity. Early Christianity was more "advential" in that they truly believed the risen Jesus would return any moment. Plus there were the persecutions. So early Christians endured and sacrificed—walking paths not wholly dissimilar to Christ's. 
Then there is the less pleasant period of the Church when it becomes less about the divine and more about the corruption of power—the heretic trials, inquisitions, Crusades, and the suppression of knowledge. The reward for good behavior, as prescribed by church authority, was that you wouldn't be skinned alive, boiled, flogged, or some such unpleasant treatment. If so, then you were being purified for Heaven. You're welcome!
However, the real incentive for living a life in the footsteps of Jesus are in his root message: 
Heaven awaits those who follow in Christ's footsteps.
Stated another way: "The way to the Father is through me."
5. Consistently and uniquely execute the branding program.
Christ was most certainly consistent in his behavior. And his message for following the brand was direct and simple: 
Love one another as I have loved you.
(Originally posted January 2012)