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Thursday, March 31, 2016

The Lone Star Brand

April is a big month for the Lone Star State—it represents the final weeks of a months-long struggle for independence, for freedom against an egomaniacal despot, and for many—both anglo and Mexican—for a new start. 

There were the falls of valiant forces epically outnumbered. A provisional government was on the run ahead of a massive army. Even on the night before the great battle at San Jacinto, Mexican forces nearly captured the president of Texas, who narrowly escaped by canoe along the Buffalo Bayou, reaching an old riverboat to chug him toward a fortified Galveston. Part of the story is that Texas forces were bracing for a slaughter. But it was an odd turn of events on a prairie near Brays Bayou, an old dark water now flowing through the heart of the Houston metropolis, that revealed Santa Anna's strategy—and his error in thinking. That moment turned the tide for Texas, setting the stage for an epic victory on the 21st of April, 1836.

Throughout the month of April, BIH will feature the great stories of Texas and her heroes. The Alamo, Sam Houston, and Jim Bowie. Why, even Texas herself is a brand all her own. And a new entry is in the works. All of these entries hint at what makes the Lone Star State so unique, not only in the minds of her citizens, but also around the world. And why, when someone utters the word, Texas, the mind swirls in a torrent of expectation.

Therefore, submitted for your approval...Texas!

Remembering the Alamo - As Thermopylae is to most Greeks, so is the Alamo to most Texans. And while the Alamo is one of two defining moments which helped establish the Texas brand identity, the Alamo is its own stand alone brand. Click here to understand how.

Sam—I am no Wellington - Sam Houston lived many lives, but it was in Texas that he met his destiny as a commander, and as president. Click to learn more about this unusual hero.

Now that's a knife - Jim Bowie earned his legendary reputation with his signature knife long before the Alamo. Click to find out why he may be the toughtest man in history.

Celebrating a really big brand - Texas! The very sound of that word evokes an expectation. Click to learn what makes the Lone Star State such a big brand.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Brand Everlasting.

Editor's note: This entry was originally posted in January 2012 on the approach of the Catholic celebration of the Epiphany, the Christian celebration commemorating the revelation of God the Son as a human being in the Christ Child. This entry modifies for the coming of Easter.

Now that Easter has arrived, the Christian commemoration of the death and resurrection of a carpenter born in Bethlehem, 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.

Friday, March 18, 2016

Hannibal Triumphs Over Change Leadership

By Mark C. Lamela, Senior Change Consultant

Editor's note: If not familiar with Hannibal and the Second Punic War, context and deeper understanding of Hannibal and his innovations are provided in the previous entry, Hannibal kicked butt.

A relatively new branch of management science—change management—emerged after quantitative study of the American Global Corporate landscape during the mid 1990s, led by management gurus such as Harvard Professor John Kotter, among others.

Hannibal leads a battle from atop a war elephant.
But the seeds of change leadership were actually sewn long before Kotter’s work, the Digital Age, or the Global Service Economy, or even the Industrial Revolution. Specifically, change leadership dates back to the Second Punic War (218-202 BCE) between Carthage and Rome. It was a time when the legendary and visionary Carthaginian general Hannibal Barca (247-182 BCE) emerged. Not only would he demonstrate military innovation, Hannibal went on to a successful career as Chief Magistrate of Carthage, and he introduced many change leadership methods that business leaders are well advised to evaluate and embrace today.

Hannibal is revered as one of the greatest military strategists of all time—the father of strategy—who is still studied and whose methods are used today. His innovation and cunning tactics earned him many battlefield successes; thus laying the foundation for guiding principals in change leadership and management.

Modern change leaders must understand that their transformational change initiative(s) are not unlike the daunting tasks Hannibal faced—whether as a military general, or later as principal leader (Suffete) of the Carthage government. By warping back in time to the Second Punic War, we come to realize that like any change leader, Hannibal was challenging a formidable and oppressive enemy in Rome, an opponent controlling significant portions of the Mediterranean world, and well entrenched in and representative of the status quo. Rome liked how things were just prior to the Second Punic War, and in no way welcomed change.

Enter Hannibal Barca.

In ancient Spain, then known as Iberia, Hannibal begins his famous march, in parallel with his rise to lead as a military commander. It should be noted that Hannibal’s army originally served his father, Hamilcar, who died in battle. Due to Carthage’s population and Roman restrictions from the First Punic War, a homegrown citizens army was unsupportable. So these were primarily mercenaries—tribesmen from across Northern Africa and parts of Iberia. And on Hamilcar’s death, they looked to Hannibal, who strongly resembled his father, but was confident in his own right, since he’d fought along with the army as a young man. Indeed, the army actually elected Hannibal to be their general—and he was just 26 years old. Imagine a project team selecting their Change Champion from within their own ranks and at so young an age.

No other military leaders were seriously considered. The Carthaginian troops chose the only person whom they thought best to inspire them to fight, sometimes against all odds, to defeat their sworn enemy, who was violating treaties and agreements—intentionally. The Carthaginian government affirmed Hannibal’s selection by his soldiers; partly due to the confidence in the army’s choice, and partly to defy Rome. Hannibal himself really didn’t need Carthage’s affirmation, or cared if he had it, but change leaders benefit strongly from the power of endorsements by Executive Sponsors. To Hannibal’s leadership skills and vision for victory, support of Carthage strengthened the change leadership “spine”.

The renewed fight with Rome was ignited by Rome’s treaty violation over the city of Seguntum. The details are moot, but suffice it to say Rome intentionally taunted Hannibal, and Hannibal willingly, knowingly took the bait. Ultimately, his strategy was to take the fight to Rome, but without a navy—again, prohibited by terms of surrender ending the First Punic War—Hannibal’s position in Iberia left him one option; the one that nobody in their right mind would attempt.

Hannibal's route to Rome and ultimate retreat.
Speed was important, and Hannibal led his army on a bold, and for the time, lightening quick march across the Pyrenees Mountains. Change experts well understand that speed is a critical factor in securing adoption. Hannibal didn’t give his men time to ponder. They marched, and continued marching on to the Alps. Rome, nor anyone else, considered it plausible to push an army over the Alps. The mountain range was considered an impenetrable wall, except for a few passes that allowed small groups or less—but certainly not an army of 50,000 men, along with 37 elephants.

After scaling the obstacles of the Pyrenees Mountains, Hannibal and his forces were in Gaul. Much of this section of modern day France was controlled by the Rome, and as such, a territory that often paid tribute. The Gauls could have been resistors, and challenged or disrupted Hannibal forces and his plan to march on Northern Italy—actually, there were small pockets of Gauls who attacked Hannibal in the Alps. But he presented himself as their liberator. As he would to the several city-states he encountered on the Italian peninsula. Gauls disliked Hannibal, too, but they disliked Rome more, and were quite disgruntled with being subjected to Roman rule. Many allied with Hannibal, becoming his agents of change, and were only too happy to march against Rome. Crossing the Alps cost Hannibal almost 30,000 men. Replenishing his forces with thousands of wild-eyed Gauls was more than welcome.

Penetrating the Alps and turning subjects into allies were only a few of the innovative ideas Hannibal undertook that changed the nature of military strategy to achieve success (as change leaders must do to win their corporate transformations). Another was incorporating African elephants into battlefield tactics. Although most of the animals were lost to the freezing temperatures during the Alpine passage, a few survived—just enough to give Roman soldiers an additional surprise with their appearance and effective deployment on the battlefield. These massive beasts horrified the Roman army and scattered their cavalry, giving Hannibal the psychological advantage.

Still, it was his emerging from the Alps that really unsettled the Romans. That feat remains one most storied in history. Hannibal’s unique leadership style beckoned his troops to go beyond ‘normal’ limits and known boundaries. Combined with blending his forces with Gauls not only improved his ability to cross the Alps, it helped replace lost troops, although it must be noted that some Gaul tribes attacked Hannibal during his crossing. But Hannibal’s leadership prevailed. There is an account by the ancient historian, Livy, which recounts an awful day amidst deep snow. He writes:
Hannibal saw in all faces an expression of listlessness and despondency. He rode on in front to a height from which there was a wide and extensive view, and halting his men, he pointed out to them the land of Italy and the rich valley of the Po lying at the foot of the Alps. "You are now," he said, "crossing the barriers not only of Italy, but of Rome itself. Henceforth all will be smooth and easy for you; in one or, at the most, two battles, you will be masters of the capital and stronghold of Italy." Then the army resumed its advance with no annoyance from the [Gauls] beyond occasional attempts at plunder.
And once Hannibal’s troops successfully negotiated wintery mountains, they arrived in what we know today as Northern Italy. Here they were able to initiate and win several battles in the Republic’s own “backyard”, including a cavalry engagement at the river Ticino, east of Turin, as well as at the river Trebbia, west of modern Piacenza, and Etruria (modern day Tuscany). Similarly, change leadership requires disrupting the status quo with successive wins, often choosing “low hanging fruit” to demonstrate early success and a way of building momentum, thereby minimizing resistors and detractors. These quick victories, as well as more dramatic ones, such as at Lake Trasimine and Canae, demonstrated ability, skill, progress, and commitment.

From the Carthaginian perspective, and with respect to Hannibal’s objectives, he well understood that inspiring people under stressful situations meant working with them, shoulder to shoulder, and not ‘hiding’ or insulating himself from his men, or from the environments and situations they endured. Many historians and scholars consider Hannibal one of the most unselfish of all ancient generals. His unique leadership style for his time both inspired and emboldened his mercenary troops. Unlike his Roman counterparts, Hannibal slept and ate along side his men. He fought with them, as opposed to remaining in a safe place to observe the action. He even lost an eye during a battle against Roman troops.

During the Battle of Canae, where Rome pitted 90,000 soldiers against Hannibal’s mere 25 or 30,000-man army, the Carthaginian general positioned himself in the center with his mercenaries. Yes, virtually the whole army was mercenary, but these men were more so, and considered the least reliable of Hannibal’s forces. His presence gave them strength to not break as Rome advanced. Indeed, he kept them calm during a slight and planned retreat, drawing in the Romans as his Numidian cavalry surrounded the enemy. Before the Romans knew it, they were packed into a tight circle as the Carthaginian army closed in, slaughtering tens of thousands, and handing Rome the worst defeat ever recorded in its history.

The victory at Canae remains the stuff of scholarly study at major military institutes.

Despite these victories, Hannibal wisely sought a diplomatic solution, hoping for peaceful resolution with Rome and its allies, the most significant contingent of change resistors. He didn’t want to wipe out Rome, only convert it (by force if necessary) into a neutral, or non-confrontational co-existence, which is an essential component of change management. But with Rome being Rome, that was not to be. They had a saying, “the victor is not victorious if the vanquished does not consider himself so.” That is entrenchment. Then again, no one told Hannibal.

When the Carthaginian army established Capua as its capital in Italy, something never before done by an invading army on Roman soil, many Roman allies switched sides, joining the then 32-year old general in his newly forged Italian stronghold—again, converting resistors to supporters for his cause and as change agents. The capture of Capua was poignantly illustrated with Hannibal boldly riding into town, atop the last his surviving elephant. Change professionals know the importance of using internal marketing communications to influence the minds and hearts of those effected by change. In ancient times, with the absence of the printing press and email blasts, this display proved to be incredibly impactful, generating powerful word of mouth story telling.

Ultimately, two decades of turmoil led the Roman senate to finally commit the necessary resources and radical military leadership to go on the offensive against Carthage and its allies, starting in Iberia. In actuality, Rome adopted some of the techniques Hannibal used. Iberia was Carthage’s source for silver and losing it and the tribute-paying territories weakened Carthage. A young general named Scipio then landed on the shores of Carthage with a substantial army. The Carthaginian government recalled Hannibal from Italy in order to protect Carthage itself against the Roman threat moving towards them.

It is noteworthy that this was the same government that failed Hannibal, and his repeated requests for more funding and troops during the Italian campaign, to secure and keep his hard fought gains. This point goes to the reason why in change that sustainability is the final critical phase, to stymie backsliding, and sustain and ingrain changes’ forward momentum. Carthage did not succeed in this, and suffered horrific consequences.

Hannibal and Scipio meet at Zama.
Hannibal and Scipio, along with their forces, met in 202 BCE at the Battle of Zama. Using Hannibal’s own unique military tactics, learned so well by his adversary, Scipio defeated Hannibal, and thus ended the Second Punic War. In spite of that ultimate defeat, so remarkable was Hannibal’s military strategic thinking, that the Romans studied it and adopted it into their own ‘tour de force’. Even beyond the Battle of Zama, Roman legions continued to consistently use Hannibal’s innovative tactics, winning more battles in conquest of the known world.

Following his loss at Zama, Hannibal rose to Chief Magistrate of Carthage and continued to innovate as a governmental leader, performing as well as he did as a general. And again, that would bring Rome down upon him, and Carthage, which was wiped from the map during the Third Punic War.

Hannibal challenged the oppressive Roman status quo, and after his death, no on else seriously challenged Rome and its sphere of influence for almost six centuries. Nevertheless, Hannibal’s name remained in the stories told by Roman heralds, he was portrayed during spectacles in arenas, and mentioned significantly in Rome’s history texts. Hannibal’s name was spoken carefully—both with respect and fear.

Clearly, many of Hannibal’s change tactics & innovations lay the groundwork for the mid 90’s change principals outlined by John Kotter, among others.

About Mark Lamela: Mr Lamela is certified in Change Management, Project & Program Management & Business Process Improvement, a former vice president at Ernst & Young LLC, and an International Management Consultant with global business experience. He has authored numerous professional articles and blogs, and is a published author. Learn more about Mr. Lamela on the Knights of the Roundtable page.  And he can be contacted here: