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Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Soon Comes Another Sortie from the North Pole!

Early depiction of Santa by Thomas Nast.
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 yuletide 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). 

But if Santa is so good at covert gift-giving ops, then how do we really know what he looks like? After all, he never lets out press photos. Well, there's a myth still lurking around that our image of Boss Claus, like the one further down this post, 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 capturing 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, Odin rewarded those children by replacing the food with gifts or treats.

This is possibly the proto-tradition of hanging stockings by the chimney in homes. And would you believe this still survives in Germany, Belgium, and the Netherlands?

To zero back in on 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 his modern attributes. Not long after, it is revealed that Santa 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, and here for the official NORAD Santa tracking network.

Friday, December 7, 2018

The Day of Infamy

Excerpt from President Roosevelt's address to joint Congress.
December 7, 1941—a date which will live in infamy—the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan.

The United States was at peace with that Nation and, at the solicitation of Japan, was still in conversation with its Government and its Emperor looking toward the maintenance of peace in the Pacific. Indeed, one hour after Japanese air squadrons had commenced bombing in the American Island of Oahu, the Japanese Ambassador to the United States and his colleague delivered to our Secretary of State a formal reply to a recent American message. And while this reply stated that it seemed useless to continue the existing diplomatic negotiations, it contained no threat or hint of war or of armed attack.

Below are BIH entries related to or consequential to the bombing of Pearl Harbor. Therefore, submitted for your review...

• 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. Watch this short video.  After, read this entry: An Infamous Brand

• Red Tails - To squadrons of bomber crews gritting it out in the skies over Europe, the Red Tails were angels on their shoulders. This is "Pure-D" American, and it showed that absolutely no color mattered except one—Red.

• Eye of the Tiger: One of the wildest Team Brands from World War II, and highly effective to Tojo's chagrin, were the Flying Tigers. These were hard living, fast flying, ruthless-in-the-skies pilots and ground crew that made Japanese think twice. On the ground, in a "relaxed" state, they were the definition of free radicals. But in the air and on a mission, they were a solid steel unit.

• Samurai jacked: Understanding imperial Japan requires understanding the samurai. These are Japan's ancient warrior class who 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. Such a code inspired the heart of the Japanese soldier.

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

A Cursed Brand

Boris Karloff as the mummified Imhotep in The Mummy (1932)
Tattered, moldy bandages, a partially decomposed body, hollow eye sockets, and a lipless, toothy face—along with a mindless stomp towards an almost primal goal—these are the hallmarks of the mummy. It is one of the original undead creatures that scare the bejeezus out of us. Actually, they’re very, very dead as all the vital organs of a mummy have been removed and its body drained of vital fluids. Even the brain has been drawn out through nasal passages. But Egyptian curses somehow enable the mummy to reanimate. And it is this nemesis of the Egyptian-dessert adventurer that has become a horrifying subject in novels and pulp fiction since the early decades of the 19th Century. Its brand enjoyed further reincarnation in the form of black and white horror films throughout the first half of the 20th Century. Then, as if called by chants from the Book of the Dead, the mummy brand reawakened due to the popularity of films like the Brendan Frasier Mummy series. The mummy brand is now called to rise with the 2017 The Mummy remake with Tom Cruise.

Imhotep reanimates in the 1999 version of The Mummy
The mummy’s initial service in the horror genre began with The Mummy! Or a Tale of the Twenty-Second Century. This science fiction novel made mummies weird right from the start. Written in 1827, Jane C. Loudon added an odd twist, dropping an ancient mummy into the 22nd Century. It’s like a demented Buck Rogers. Of course, Bram Stoker (of Dracula fame) did his part to stoke the horror perceptions of the gift-wrapped demons. Together with other storytellers, Loudon and Stoker built the foundations for mummy awareness. But what spurred fascination with these mindless, stomping corpses of the past?

Carter examining Tutankhamun's remains (1922)
Archaeologist Howard Carter and Pharaoh Tutankhamun partnered up in 1922 in a way that brought mummies to the forefront. Carter and his team discovered the tomb of Tutankhamun. But the earned academic notoriety of the find was unraveled by the weird stuff that began to happen to Carter and his team. One of the first things was that Carter dispatched a messenger on an errand to his house. En route, the messenger believed he heard a faint human cry. Once inside Carter’s house, the messenger saw a birdcage with a cobra inside. Cobras symbolize Egyptian royalty, and the fact that it ate Carter’s canary just fanned the flames of local rumors about a curse. Creepy, yes, and it gets better.

Some members of Carter’s team suffered what were considered untimely or mysterious deaths. Lord Carnarvon was the first, having died from an infected mosquito bite. Just before this happened, a letter was published in a magazine that quoted an obscure book, stating that "dire punishment" follows any breach of a sealed tomb. The letter was largely ignored until Carnarvon’s death, and then the media went nuts, exaggerating the story with reports that a curse had been found in the Tutankhamun’s tomb. While untrue, more weird stuff happened, such as the home of Carter’s friend, Sir Bruce Ingham, twice burning down. The theory was that the fires were the result of Ingham having had a paperweight made of a mummified hand recovered from the tomb. An unfortunate personal tragedy, yes, but the reality is that only eight of the 58-team members died unusual deaths after opening Tutankhamun’s tomb.

Boris Karloff as Imhotep (1932)
Despite the lack of any real correlation to opening the pharaoh’s tomb, the story gave a budding Hollywood all kinds of inspiration, really sealing the brand awareness and attributes for mummies. And much of that is owed to an early 20th Century actor named Boris Karloff. He starred as Imhotep in the 1932 film The Mummy, which inspired the Frasier remake in 1999. Vintage movie fans talk about how Karloff really created the image and set the expectation for reanimated mummies well into today. The camera holds on Karloff, lying still in his crypt, then, an eye slowly opens. His hands begin to move with the resistance of a 3700-year slumber. It's barely a glimpse of the creature before the camera follows bandages dragged on the floor, as if they are trailing behind the lumbering zombie. In 1932, that could scare the hell out of an audience. This single portrayal led the way for a series of films featuring the immortal corpses. Audiences dug it, and still do—hence Tom Cruise willing to get behind a remake.

The reality of mummification was that it was designed to prepare the mortal body for the afterlife—not reanimation in this world. Additionally, it was an understandable extension of natural mummification that ancient Egyptians observed from the dessert conditions of their environment. They just built on it, adding tradition, custom and ceremony around it. In some cases there were curses, which were used to scare off grave robbers and tomb raiders seeking riches. Although, those curse really don’t distinguish thieves from archaeology. Still, curses didn’t involve mummies reanimating and stalking those who violated their resting place.

The realities of Egyptian culture aside, the use of mummies in the horror genre have wrapped the brand in a supernatural veneer, and preserved its ghoulish equity. Mummies are part of the pre-zombie, pre-slasher horror triad. Triggered by full moons, they rule the night with vampires and werewolves, challenging our courage and resolve when alone, sitting in front of a flickering screen, hearing the floorboards creak, and catching a faint, moldy scent in the room.

Originally published 2016, revised in 2017

Thursday, October 11, 2018

A Howling Brand

A rumbling growl, a musty odor of wet fur, piercing eyes that glow in the dark, and a thirst for blood that rivals even Dracula—these are the classic signs of ... the werewolf! By definition, a werewolf is simply a human that transforms into a wolf or wolf-like creature. Depending on the story told, the transformation can either be intentional or the result of a curse. Another name for this beast is lycan (short for lycanthrope), made popular in the modern horror genre. But werewolves are ancient—more ancient than vampires and at least as old as mummies. Indeed, ancient texts reveal very real beliefs in werewolves.

In Histories, written by the ancient historian Herodotus, are references to a Scythian tribe that morphed into werewolves once each year, changing back after a few days. The Greek geographer Pausanias mentioned the tale of Lycaon, a man transformed into a wolf because he had ritually murdered a child. The Roman poet, Ovid, also wrote of Lycaon in his epic, Metamorphoses. The wolf transformation was punishment for his crime. Ovid recounts other tales of men who roamed the woods of Greece in wolf form.

Lycaon transformed.
These and other works probably helped fuel the werewolf in European folklore, which ultimately crept over to the colonies. Now here's a an interesting nibble—belief in werewolves developed in parallel to the belief in witches sometime in the Middle Ages. Like the witchcraft trials, there were trials of supposed werewolves during 15th, 16th, and 17th centuries. Accusations of lycanthropy (transformation into a wolf) were mixed with accusations of wolf-riding or wolf-charming. "Wolf-charming" sounds like something from the 2011 film, Red Riding Hood, in which Amanda Seyfried did a fair job smoothing the beast's fur. The film, however, well illustrates the paranoia of Medieval times.

One of the leading attributes of the werewolf is it's drive to transform during a full moon. For the most part, that is a 20th Century development, and likely one associated with the idea that wolves (or hounds in general) howl at the moon. The first movie to feature the transformative effect of the full moon was the The Wolf Man in 1941. The werewolf character was played by famed horror actor, Lon Chaney, Jr. This was the movie launching the werewolf into public awareness. Chaney's character is bitten by a beast. It is later revealed that the animal was actually a werewolf, causing Chaney to ultimately transform into a wolf at the first full moon. Indeed, throughout the movie, villagers recite the following poem:  
Lon Chaney, Jr. as The Wolf Man (1941)
 Even a man who is pure in heart, and says his  prayers by night; May become a wolf when the  wolfbane blooms and the autumn moon is  bright.
One of the common weaknesses of the werewolf, as everyone knows, is silver—particularly silver bullets. This actually appeared sometime during the 19th Century in German folklore. The idea was picked up by Bram Stoker in his Dracula and related works.

Werewolves were once tortured souls, unable to control their beastly tendencies or endured their condition due to being punished for some horrid offense. This theme was central to the 2004 film, Van Helsing. But in most contemporary werewolf renditions, however, they are malevolent, such as those in the novel The Howling and its subsequent sequels and film adaptations, along with the Underworld film series. Furthermore, werewolves go from being beastly-looking men to actually becoming four-legged monsters with uber-aggressiveness, super-human speed and strength, as well as accelerated healing.

What's the takeaway? Pack silver in your clip, along with raw steak and plenty of Milk-Bones.

Originally published Oct 2016.

Saturday, April 21, 2018

On This Day—April 21st...

April 21st is noted for the birth of Rome, the independence of Texas, and the death of the Red Baron. So, we feature entries on Julius Caesar, Sam Houston, and Baron von Richthofen.

Cut like a knife - There was only one Gaius Julius Caesar –– Rome's first Caesar and from whom the imperial synonym is taken. He changed Rome forever. But it's what you don't know that is fascinating.

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.

Baron Manfred von Richthofen - The Red Baron is the most enduring brand from the WWI. He alone racked up 80 air combat wins in less than three years. He is the "Ace of Aces."

Monday, February 19, 2018

The Oval Brand

Serving in the Oval Office of the White House is no small thing. The people who serve as its primary occupant are of extraordinary resolve. And so it is that we observe Presidents' Day, although it is really the unofficial name for Washington's Birthday—that actual legal holiday commemorating the birth of our first president. We use the day to not only remember Washington and Lincoln, whose birthday also falls in February, but to celebrate all those who've served in the Oval Office.

Below are some doozies. Each of these presidents brought something unique to the role which helped define it and, had something personally and profoundly admirable. These are men we think we know well, but you might be surprised that there are some details you didn't know—and are worth your interest.

Therefore, submitted for your approval...

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.

Abe Lincoln - 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.

Theodore Roosevelt—Some would argue that Teddy Roosevelt was the greatest U.S. president of the 20th Century, perhaps of all time. Few presidents have had as much impact on the evolution of American status, policy—both foreign and domestic, while influencing future presidents of both major parties. For this one, it took three entries to tell his story.
A bully brand        The bully pulpit         The old lion

Franklin Delano Roosevelt – FDR, as he was known, is held up as one of the greatest of the U.S. presidents. Elected to office four times, Roosevelt presided during the Great Depression and World War II, all while battling a crippling disease. Like his cousin, Teddy, Roosevelt has lasting influence on American politics, even today. Many of his Depression-era programs remain in effect, leaving his legacy both revered and reviled.
A new deal           A new deal for new hope 

Monday, January 29, 2018

History's Valentines

February is the month of love, and BIH has no shortage of valentines. Below are women who make up some of the most fascinating characters from the human timeline, turning accepted convention of their day flat on its ear. There are no shades of gray here—you will fall in love with these ladies who kicked the idea of a "man's world" squarely in the jewels.

Therefore, submitted for Cupid's arrow...

Cleopatra is one of our first loves in history. She was the original temptress and simply one of history's deliciously bad girls. Oh but there was much, much more. Cleopatra consciously, actively, and brilliantly cultivated her brand like no other woman in history. Give her a read and understand why she was able to seduce Rome, well, at least its leader.

Joan of Arc was the young maiden of France—innocent, caring, and full of faith, yet she was perhaps one of the toughest, if the not THE toughest woman in history. She conquered whole armies, starting with France's. She not only convinced experienced warriors and generals to follow her into battle, she also persuaded them to change their ways. Yeah, she actually got guys to change. Click to see just how she did it.

Florence Nightingale was the mother of modern nursing. What you may not know, however, is that she went against the wishes of her family and swam upstream of medical opinions of her day. She broke new ground, using her skills as a writer and statistician, which significantly aided her efforts. And it was her deep belief in God that led her to be nursing. Read more to see just what nurse she was.

The warrior queen Boudicca wreaked havoc on Roman forces in Briton, following outrageous and deplorable acts upon her family and tribe. In short, Roman soldiers did things to her virgin daughters no mother should witness. Consequently, a mom's wrath was unleashed on Rome in a way the empire had never seen. Learn her story and tremble as Romans did.

Amelia Earhart flew into history like that girl that rolls into your life with thunder, and who abandons just as suddenly. Like our other valentines, Earhart didn't hold with convention. However, what sets her apart is that from day one she was a tree climbing, belly-slamming sledder, and rat hunter, completely used to shocking the knickers off her contemporaries. Earhart always intended on plowing new ground for women. Read more about what made this pilot tick.