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Thursday, December 31, 2015

Branded Devotion

Faith is a belief, a trust, and a confidence in something not necessarily empirically provable. In this particular case faith is about God, however one may see their creator, assuming one believes in a creative intelligence that is behind the existence of the universe. Some will cringe at this statement, but faith is the ultimate in brand loyalty. Most faithful worship “in the faith of their fathers.” Some break away to join other religions or communities because of disillusionment with their inherited religion, or because of stronger attributes of another. Regardless of the faith, however, devotion to such can a powerful force. It has been known to give profound inspiration and courage to do great deeds. From the Judeo-Christian perspective, Abraham had whole and complete faith in his Lord—shaken sometimes, yes. But his faith helped him overcome fear and doubt. The biblical heroes, Noah, Moses and David owe their successes and deeds to their faith in God. Later, Constantine, Joan of Arch, and Charlemagne would depend on their faith to help them overcome great struggles—militarily, politically and personally. More recent deeds of astounding compassion are recorded about those who work for the unfortunate—Florence Nightingale, Mother Teresa and other missionaries across the globe.

Spiritual inspiration and extraordinary deeds akin to King David are not exclusive to the Judeo-Christian tradition. Alexander believed he was the son of Zeus. Genghis Khan believed his very name was of divine authority—translated it means God’s punisher. There are the hero epics in the Hindu faith, and also the great epics of King Gesar in Buddhism. And, of course, Islam would lead off with Muhammad.

Acts of compassion, defending the faith from hordes of non-believers, building a great community for God—all of these things in our history, good and bad, come from faith. Humans, it seems, take great strength from the powers of Heaven. So for this installment, we assemble a number of posts that would not exist, were it not for a powerful inspiration from above.

Therefore, submitted for your approval...

A goliath brandDavid is an epic figure in the Judeo-Christian tradition. He is the ultimate representation of the victorious little guy, underdog, runt of the litter. And he was a huge headache to the Philistines. So influential was Davis, that Jews, Christians, and Muslims have a claim on him. 

Brand everlastingAt 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, unlike many other children of the gods, however, this Son of God brought quite a different message—reinforced with an unusual sacrifice.

Forged by fire - No where in history is the power of faith more demonstrable than in Joan of Arc. She was hip deep in a man's world—and and her faith and inspiration from God added to her inherent intelligence and strength of character, allowing her to be a child woman that commanded armies to victory. Joan of Arc is a heroine that burns in the psyche of western civilization as a divine brand brand if there ever was one.

The lady with the lamp - Florence Nightingale 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. And it was Nightingale's deep belief in God that led her to nursing. And what nurse she was.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Brand Everlasting

As we approach the anniversary of Christ's birth, and the Epiphany soon following—which is 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)

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

The Annual Return of That Hot Brand from the North Pole.

Santa Claus is back! Otherwise known as Saint Nick, Kris Kringle, or just plain "Santa." Ole boss Claus has skillfully evolved and sustained his personal brand for more than two millennia—perhaps even longer. That plump, white-bearded toy broker is soon to don his red coat with white collar and cuffs in preparation for another run around the globe. His reindeer, with thick winter fur, are well fed and restless—ready to help Santa do his thing. The sleigh is polished up and nearly loaded with goodies for all (all that are good, that is). 

There's a myth still lurking that this image was created by Coca Cola back in the early 1930s. False. Not true. No way. Nah. But it is a true statement that Coca Cola advertising of the era helped popularize this look and feel. So the cola company was a very helpful promoter, just 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. Yep, Thor's daddy. 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 in 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 architecture, 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 and helped by an army of magical elves with 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 thus become 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 (and yours, Santa)...

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, December 6, 2015

A Goliath Brand

King David, Borghese Chapel of the
Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore
David is an epic figure. Hero, warrior poet, lover, God’s chosen, and to top it off, he was a rock star. Okay, maybe not a rock star, but he is said to have been handy with a lyre. If you were an ancient Jew, he was your guy to lead you against the enemy. If you were the enemy, say, a Philistine, then David was a splitting headache—just ask Goliath. The Bible records David as the second monarch of the United Kingdom of Israel and Judah. And the New Testament says that Jesus descended from the House of David. He is portrayed not only as a righteous king, he also gets credited for composing many of the psalms contained in the Book of Psalms. In all, Jews, Christians, and Muslims have a claim on him. 

Everything we really know of David comes from the Old Testament—the Books of Samuel, 1 Kings, and 1 Chronicles. But in late 1993, a stone with Phoenician writing was discovered that contained the phrase, Beit David. It dates back to the 800s BC, and translated, it means “House of David,” giving scholars a loose confirmation of the actual existence of King David during the mid-9th century BC. David lived roughly from about 1040 to 970 BC, and he was king for about 40 years overall. First he ruled only over Judea for about eight years, and then it was united with Israel, over which he reined another 32 until his death in 970. 

Forty is a significant number in the Bible. Noah endured 40 days and nights of rain. Moses led the Israelites through the wilder- ness for 40 years. He also happened to stay upon Mount Sinai for 40 days whilst he was given God’s laws. And Jesus made the desert his fortress of solitude for 40 days. He appeared to the faithful for 40 days after his Resurrection. It’s important because the number is usually associated with trial or tribulation. And while David was a servant of God as king of Israel—generally considered a good king—he had Clintonian flaws that would shake his relationship with God and Israel. In other words, he was human.

Although David was a giant of a brand, he began with simple but dignified roots. His father was Jesse, a prominent breeder of sheep and a farmer who called Bethlehem home. And while David was flawed, it is said his father died without sin—so there must have been plenty of righteousness DNA in David. For a sinless man, Jesse was certainly full of carnal desire—he had eight sons we know of and two daughters. The Bible doesn’t exactly call David a runt, but he wasn’t the pick of the litter either. When Samuel sought a king to replace Saul, he looked to Jesse’s older sons, strapping examples of Hebrew men. David was not first choice. Actually he was the last one. But to God who spoke to Samuel, David was the one. It could be derived that since he wasn’t a worldly man’s choice, David was likely subtle of stature and presence, nor the strongest. No doubt there were some who questioned the Lord’s choice—even balked at it. That was unwise. 

Any discussion of David must include his confrontation with Goliath. Many perceive Goliath as some sort of giant. Early texts describe him as a big boy, for sure. But he wasn’t 10 feet tall. He was well over 6 feet—perhaps 6’9’. Like later texts, the early versions may also have exaggerated. Still, Goliath was formidable to the average man of the day, and especially to a young boy who was not the not the first round draft pick of his own people. Yet, with only a stone and sling, and some Divine intervention, the young boy bested the giant. A fluke? Well, gird up your loins. 
David presents the head of Goliath to King Saul - Rembrandt, 1627

Although David made a name of himself by taking down Go- liath, he was not instantly made king. His initial victory did launch him on quite a military career—leading forces sometimes on behalf of Saul and the Jews, sometimes not. Saul, by the way, was the first king of a united Judah and Israel. He and David had a tumultuous relationship because Saul knew that David was God’s replacement for him (having generally displeased the Lord). Despite assassination attempts and David, in effect, being exiled, there were times when the two were on the same side. On one occasion Saul offered his daughter in marriage to David, provided David battle the Philistines and bring Saul 100 foreskins. As a matter of record, David brought Saul 200 foreskins.

Ultimately Saul was killed in battle, against the Philistines no less. And David was proclaimed king of Judah. Down the road he took on Israel, too. And then he conquered Jerusalem, making it his capital. From there, the story includes David’s host of dramas that would test David’s reign and his relationship with God. One is his adultery with Bathsheba She was the wife of one of David’s soldiers. He seduced her, she got pregnant and David schemed to cover the whole thing up, eventually ending in the husband’s death. The whole affair cost David his son with Bathsheba. He did confess his sin, but the kingdom was thrust into turmoil, including civil war with one of his other sons.

King David represents both triumph and tragedy—his triumph being the Jewish nation over its enemies of the day, even over itself when there was civil war. His tragedy is a fall from grace over his lust for Bathsheba, and yet the opportunity for redemption through trials. The enduring legacy of King David, however, is Judaism itself, with David helping to create a coagulated Jewish nation with its capital in Jerusalem. 

Therefore, consider this...

1. Determine the most appropriate brand-positioning attribute. 
Biblical tradition states that David was chosen by God to replace Saul and lead Judah and Israel. God stated that David was, “a man after my own heart,” and to Saul He proclaimed that David was “better than you.” Thus God had Samuel anoint David.
2. Devise a distinctive way to articulate the brand position and develop a brand personality that customers can use to introduce the brand. 
The anointed one
3. Establish graphic standards. 
There are multiple symbols tied to King David. For modern eyes, the Star of David is immediate, however that is a relatively new mark, beginning with general adoption around the turn of the 20th century. But the mention of David to many conjures the immediate association with the sling—the instrument with which he defeated Goliath, or the lyre that he played to rid Saul of the evil spirits plaguing him.
4. Consistently and uniquely execute the branding program. 
David was the great warrior of Judaism. He conquered the Jebusite fortress of Jerusalem, and made it his capital. Invoking God as he stood against his enemies and those who would destroy the Hebrew nation, David would ultimately be victorious over the Philistines, and also the Moabites and Hadadezer of Zobah; and they would pay him tribute.
When he established Jerusalem as the capital of the Hebrew nation and relocated the Ark of the Covenant there, David gave the Hebrew nation an anchor—a true center to itself. When David did what was expected of the “anointed one,” and his people followed him, things pretty much went their way because “God was the shield of David.” David repented his sins around Bathsheba and was told by a prophet that God had made a covenant with David, promising to establish the house of David: “Your throne shall be established forever.”

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

We are Honored by Your Service

BIH highlights those who've honored this nation by their service. And to them and you who've served, we say—THANK YOU!

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.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

A Brand that Sucks

The black cape; a thick, eastern European accent; one inch, needle sharp fangs, and a mad, hypnotic glare—unmistakably, these are elements of the look and feel of a horrifying medieval terror, the thief of souls, the Prince of Darkness ... Count Dracula.

Little about this character remains unwritten, unstudied, or untold. Bram Stoker was not the first to write about vampires, nor will he be the last, but he was the first to tell the tale of Count Dracula, as well as develop specifics to the modern vampire brand. According to Stoker, Dracula is at the core of what the vampire brand is all about. And what he began with was not fantasy, but a very real character from history. His name was Prince Vlad III. Popular history knows him as Vlad the Impaler. He was a 15th-century Romanian general and, believe it or not, a once-celebrated defender of the Christian faith against the invading forces of the Islamic Ottoman Empire. The question is: how did a defender of the faith turn into a terrifying brand of the dark side?

Vlad was born in 1431, the son of Vlad II, a nobleman. Suffice it to say that Vlad's family lines were loaded with quality, homegrown blood from the Transylvania region, which is in today's Romania. Because his father was called, "Dracul," Vlad was called "Dracula," meaning "son of Dracul." According to David Johnson, who wrote an educational piece for titled, The Terrifying Truth About Dracula, both men were a part of the Order of the Dragon, a militaristic society of nobles with the expressed purpose of defeating anti-Christians, but mostly the Ottoman Turks.  Johnson writes, 
"Dracula" is Romanian for "son of Dracul." Therefore young Vlad was "son of the dragon" or "son of the devil." Scholars believe this was the beginning of the legend that Dracula was a vampire.
Johnson also writes that Dracula's life as a noble was not all bonbons and caviar. Indeed, his homeland lay between the Ottoman Empire and the Austrian-Hungarian Hapsburgs, so political strain was always a thing, along with an irritatingly persistent threat of war, if not a near-constant state of war. Not so different than Julius Caesar, Dracula found himself imprisoned more than once. The Turks humiliated Dracula by hauling him off in chains. And then the Hungarians murdered his father and blinded his brother before burying him alive.

Having your family slaughtered in gruesome fashion is not so much a justification, but at least some reasoning behind Vlad's transformation into a bloodthirsty ghoul on the battlefield. 

Dracula's preferred method of torture was to impale victims and leave them to slowly slide down a wooden spike in agony and without mercy until they bled out—hence the nickname, "Vlad the impaler." Death often took days. The near-dead and corpses were left on the spikes as birds pecked and tore at their rotting flesh. It was a ghastly site intended to have impact. And it did. Once a Turkish advance was thwarted because the foul stench was too much for the sultan.

Dracula's earthly reign over Transylvania lasted from 1448 until his death in 1476. Twice his rule was challenged and twice he reclaimed his throne. While the Vatican disapproved of his methods, it did praise Dracula for defending Christianity.  

Now, things really start to take creepy shape with one report stating that Dracula ate a meal amidst hundreds of impaled victims, having actually dipped his bread in human blood. But the demonic brand transformation doesn't stop there. When the Turks finally defeated Dracula and his forces in 1476, they severed his head and displayed it in Constantinople. His body was buried in a monastery near Bucharest. It was in 1931 that archaeologists rediscovered the site and found a casket, presumably Dracula's. Among the adornments of the skeleton, was a faded silk brocade, similar to a shirt depicted in an old painting of Dracula. But the kicker is this, those remains have since disappeared without a trace, leaving the whereabouts of Dracula unknown.

But the kicker is this, those remains have since disappeared 

without a trace, leaving the whereabouts of Dracula unknown.

Much of this, except for Dracula's vanishing skeleton, weave into Stoker's lore of the vampire. Count Dracula was very passionate about his warrior heritage, emotionally proclaiming his pride. And he was primal and predatory in his views, as you might expect the real Dracula to be, given the conditions in which he lived. It is interesting that Stoker writes Dracula as pitying of us ordinary humans for possessing a revulsion of our darker impulses. Vlad certainly embraced dark methodology in his efforts.

There are some interesting ironies to the Dracula brand, however. One is that he can only be killed by decapitation preceded by impalement through the heart with a wooden stake. Dracula was decapitated, and perhaps it is symbolic that it is a wooden stake, an ode to Vlad's many impaled victims, that is needed to kill the demon. And then there is blood. All that Dracula needs to survive is fresh blood, which rejuvenates him, but isn't required frequently. 

Watch any Dracula or vampire horror flick and the vampire brand will quickly reveal itself. Indeed, I leave it to Abraham Van Helsing for detailing the attributes of Count Dracula, along with Buffy Summers and teams of others to wage their nocturnal wars against the Prince of Darkness and his horde. 

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Reuters Covers Alexander the Great at Bat

Ask yourself what Alexander the Great, Thompson Reuters, and the Rosetta Stone have in common with one another. Yep, you guessed it: all three are October posts on Brands In History. Scary, huh. No, but worth dusting off and bringing to the forefront.

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. No one really saw him coming in the way that he did. And like many bright lights that burn out quickly, they leave an indelible mark. Click here to see if that mark was earned. 

Reuters is a great story because the whole speedy news agency concept took flight on a wing and a prayer—literally. And while many thought Reuters would lay an egg, he wound up soaring. Read more here.

MLB playoffs are here, and if you're asking what in Ty Cobb's name that has to do with the Rosetta Stone, a crucial tool in deciphering ancient languages and our understanding of their civilizations, well, click here! But trust me when I tell you, it'll hit you like a Louiville Slugger on a Nolan Ryan fastball. 

Monday, September 7, 2015

The Old Lion

by Edward Harris

Editor’s note: Below is the final entry in a series on Theodore Roosevelt. It is recommended that visitors read parts one and two before proceeding to part three. Part one delves into the birth and early life of the Teddy Roosevelt brand, whereas part two explores Roosevelt the president as the brand reaches its full blossom. Part three is Roosevelt after the White House—the explorer. 

Therefore, submitted for your approval… 

Part Three of Three: Popular after leaving office in 1909 Roosevelt was sought out to mount a serious run for the presidency again in 1912. Believing that his successor, William Howard Taft, had failed to continue his program of reform, TR threw his hat into the ring as a candidate for the Progressive Party, also known as the Bull Moose Party. Although defeated by Democrat Woodrow Wilson, his efforts resulted in the creation of one of the most significant third parties in U.S. history. 

During his campaigning and while in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Roosevelt was shot in the chest as he entered the auditorium to give a campaign speech. John Schrank, the shooter and a Bavarian immigrant, who tended bar in New York, was immediately arrested. When interrogated by police, it was learned he had shot Roosevelt because he was concerned that a third term would establish a monarchy in the United States. Amazingly, Roosevelt was saved by his heavy wool army overcoat, the fifty page manuscript of his speech folded in half, and a steel glass case, which he carried in his right breast pocket. Still the bullet managed to penetrate five inches deep into his upper chest, lodging near his rib cage. Incredibly, Roosevelt entered the auditorium with blood dripping down his arm, facing a terrified and transfixed audience he roared, “It takes more than that to kill a bull moose!” The audience roared with applause and laughter for several minutes. 

Later in New York’s Madison Garden, Roosevelt delivered what was to be his last great campaign speech. His audience kept up the boisterous cheering for forty-one minutes before he was allowed to begin his speech. The time was 10:03 pm, and he still carried the bullet lodged in his chest. And without the aid of a microphone, Roosevelt delivers one of the greatest speeches of his political career. Several times during the speech, cheering from the audience interrupts him. To the people in the hall, and to millions of Americans, Roosevelt was their hero. Even as he stood on stage, giving his speech, he knew he would lose the election in six days, thus ending his life in the political spotlight. He would later become reviled by many and then ignored. This was what gave Roosevelt nightmares. 

Roosevelt spent that winter hunkered down at Sagamore Hill with his wife, Edith, and youngest daughter, Ethel. He was fifty-four years old and had already lived a full life. In February 1913, a letter arrived from the Museo Social in Buenas Aires that would change his life. Its Board of Directors wanted Roosevelt to be a guest lecturer. This appealed to Roosevelt’s Achilles’ heel, his vanity, especially since he was allowed to define all the terms of his visit while in Argentina. Although Roosevelt inherited a large estate from his father most of the inheritance had been spent on elections and living expenses. He was concerned about what he would be leaving to his children, and was determined to provide them with some inheritance. Kermit, his youngest son, had been working in Brazil for the past year, and he was also driven by the need to spend time with him. 

But there was another factor involved in his decision. South America’s vast, largely unexplored interior was calling his adventuresome soul and he felt the need for one last adventure. Following his defeat in 1909, he and Kermit went to Africa on a safari, there was only one problem, according to Roosevelt, Africa had become tame and there were no unknown lands left to be explored. So, when he decided to accept the offer to lecture in Brazil, no one who knew Roosevelt was surprised. For Roosevelt this trip would also allow him to return to his youth as a naturalist. When he was only fourteen he was already providing specimens to New York’s American Museum of Natural History, the same museum his father helped found in 1869. Although Roosevelt chose politics over science, he never lost his love for natural history. 

He knew the Argentine museum’s invitation would not cover his plans for exploration while there so he began soliciting help from friends and business contacts made during his long political career. He also sought and gained assistance from the Museum of Natural History. Henry Fairfield Osborne known as “Fair” by Roosevelt had been a friend for several years and was President of the museum. The first scientist to hold this position and would do so for twenty-five years. Together they assembled a team for exploring the Amazon and began to make plans. 

Roosevelt aboard the Vandyck
TR, the Explorer – On the morning of October 4, 1913 he boarded the Vandyck in New York Harbor, a two-year-old, ten-thousand-ton, steamship. Gathered there were ambassadors from Argentina, Brazil, and Chile to wish him success. Also accompanying him was his wife, Ethel, who was eager to visit with Kermit while in South America. Ethel was also concerned about her husband and wanted to be closer to monitor his health. For Roosevelt, this journey also provided the opportunity to separate himself from the doomed Progressive Party, a humiliating defeat, and the self-doubt that had eaten at his psyche now for over a year.

On October 18, 1913 the Vandyck landed in Bahia, Brazil. In the harbor, Kermit waited on a flag-draped launch. Because of TR’s popularity there were thousands of Brazilians waiting to greet him. His reputation was known in South America and he was revered. However, Roosevelt was anxious to get ashore, dispense with the greetings, and leave for the city of Rio de Janeiro. He wanted to be there by October 21 because he was anxious to meet Lauro Muller, Brazil’s Minister of Foreign Affairs. Muller was to act on behalf of Don Domicio de Gama, Brazil’s Ambassador to the United States, who volunteered to help Roosevelt during his expedition efforts in Brazil. It was also de Gama who planned this expedition with the help of Roosevelt’s friend and fellow traveler, George Cherrie. In addition to Cherrie, there were Anthony Fiala, Father John Zahm, Kermit Roosevelt, Frank Harper and Leo Miller who would accompany Roosevelt on the Amazon expedition. 

During his time with Roosevelt, Muller recognized quickly that the trip down the Amazon would not present the challenge Roosevelt desired. With a single question Muller was to change history. He made Roosevelt an offer to go down an unknown river. The river, Rio da Duvida (The River of Doubt) was remote, unknown, mysterious, and by its very name was a warning to would-be explorers. Another significant point that should be known is it was Colonel Candido Mariano da Silva Rondon who discovered the rivers source and named the river. Even when he reported his findings, very little was known about the river’s course or, its character. Randon is significant because he was Brazil’s top guide and would lead the party into the Amazon region. He was not the typical guide; he had spent half his life exploring the Amazon and traversed roughly fourteen thousand miles of wilderness in Brazil that was unmapped and unknown. He also made it clear at the time he was requested to join the expedition, that he would do so provided the expedition would be a scientific endeavor. 

No maps existed, every eddy, waterfall, and direction, were unknown. Both sides of Rio da Duvida were covered in dense jungle, sometimes blocking out the sun for miles. Wild Indians that lived in the jungle preyed on explorers invading their territory. Upon hearing Muller’s proposal to explore this uncharted river, combined with being eager for adventure, Roosevelt’s answer was immediate. This was a perfect storm scenario. Instantly, Muller was regretting his proposal for Roosevelt to descend the River of Doubt. 

Now that Roosevelt had made his decision to explore the River of Doubt, he had to convince his fellow explorers, and equally important, his financial backers at the Museum of Natural History in Washington DC. When the news of Roosevelt’s decision was presented to Henry Fairfield Osborne, president of the Museum of Natural History, he totally rejected the idea. Osbourne did not want the museum to assume any responsibility should Roosevelt not survive the expedition. 

For the next few months, while correspondence flowed back and forth between Roosevelt and Osborne, TR honored the terms of his agreement, traveling throughout Brazil and South America giving lectures. It was while he was in Chile that he learned not everyone appreciated his tenure as President. One of his significant accomplishments was the negotiation and construction of the Panama Canal. The students at the University of Santiago opposed the canal and everything Roosevelt stood for, while there a heated debate with the former Chilean Ambassador to the United States, who was leading the charge against the Panama Canal, took place and Roosevelt did not back down. In addition to the debate, a speech in Chili won over the crowd of antagonists. Once again he had his audience in his pocket by the time his speech ended. The old lion had entered the den of his detractors and with his debate performance and impassioned speech, had won the crowd over. He never backed down nor apologized for his actions, he knew the Panama Canal was the right decision, and his decision would prove to be on the right side of history. 

With his obligations met, he left to meet Rondon at the juncture of the Paraguay and Apa rivers on Brazil’s southern borders to begin the journey to the headwaters of the River of Doubt. Roosevelt felt like a boy again. He had told Osborne in his last correspondence that he had lived the lives of nine men and that if he was to leave his bones in South America, he was prepared to do so. 
Roosevelt with fellow explorers on the river
The trip was begun, perhaps unwisely, on December 9, 1913, the height of the rainy season. Prior to this expedition, no naturalist had penetrated deep into the central region of Brazil that ran between the mighty Amazon and La Plata river systems. Roosevelt's entourage endured a 900-mile trek, including a 40-day excursion across the Paraguay-Amazon divide, leading to the headwaters of the River of Doubt. 

During this portion of the expedition, a meeting among the group took place and it was decided that Roosevelt and those he selected would descend the River of Doubt, while other members would explore other rivers. Roosevelt's crew consisted of his 24-year-old son Kermit, Colonel Rondon, a naturalist sent by the American Museum of Natural History, named George K. Cherrie, Brazilian Lieutenant Joao Lyra, team physician Dr. Cajazeira, and sixteen highly skilled camaradas, or paddlers. Once the crew reached the River of Doubt, all travel would be made in seven dugout canoes. 

Portage around the rapid
Dangerous rapids were the norm. The river rose and fell in the space of a few hundred yards. In spots, the river narrowed to less than two yards between unforgiving boulders. 

The river claimed its first member of the expedition on March 15 when one of the camaradas, a man named Simplicio, drowned while attempting to rescue Kermit's overturned canoe. The turbulent rapids tossed the fragile boats around and scattered precious food rations. With dwindling food supplies, Roosevelt and his men looked to the jungle shores for sustenance. Monkey meat became a diet staple. 

Along with the lack of food, the men also battled various other jungle perils: fever and painful insect bites. Roosevelt recounted: 
"The little bees were in such swarms as to be a nuisance. Many small stinging bees were with them, which stung badly. We were bitten by huge horse-flies, the size of bumblebees. More serious annoyance was caused by the pium and boroshuda flies during the hours of daylight, and by the polvora, the sand-flies, after dark. ...All of us suffered more or less, our hands and feet swelling slightly..."
Roosevelt himself came so near to death—from a leg injury and a soaring fever—that he counseled the rest to go on without him. They would not. He even considered suicide so the crew would continue on without him.

On April 27, 1913, Theodore Roosevelt with the help of rubber trappers reached the end of the River of Doubt and arrived in Sao Joao. The trip was considered a success in that it provided information necessary to map, for the first time ever, the interior of Brazil. Over 2,000 species of birds and 500 mammals had been collected for further study. The river was renamed Roosevelt River by the Brazilian government.
The trip exacted a heavy toll on the once indefatigable Theodore Roosevelt. Writing to a friend, TR confessed, "The Brazilian wilderness stole away 10 years of my life." Once home, Roosevelt faced detractors who said he did not make the trip that he did. For the next several years he fought for recognition of his Brazilian adventure. Roosevelt got his grand adventure, leaving him with tales that rivaled those from Africa and the Dakotas. 

On January 9, 1919, while with the occupying army in Germany, Kermit received a telegram from his brother Archie, it simply read, “The old lion is dead.” A 60-year old Roosevelt had died in bed at his beloved home, Sagamore Hill. His death was attributed to cardiovascular disease. Two days later, Theodore Roosevelt was buried at Youngs Memorial Cemetery, just down the road from his longtime home. Roosevelt was finally at peace, he had fought the good fight, and he had finished the race, having lived every day of his life like it was his last day.

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