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Wednesday, October 14, 2020

A Naughty but Skillful Brand

Gal Gadot may play Cleopatra.
There was a recent dust-up about actress Gal Gadot playing the infamous queen of Egypt—Cleopatra. Several tweets complained Gadot is not Egyptian or even African. I hate to break it to the misinformed social-media universe but, Cleopatra was not ethnically Egyptian nor African. So, to help clear things up, BIH dug into the archives to reboot one of its earliest posts. Digging wasn't tough because the entry on Cleopatra remains in the top five most popular posts since Brands in History debuted. Why? Keep reading and find out. 

Cleopatra was the naughty minx of Egypt who wasn't afraid to commit her assets to win an objective. When the original entry was prepared, it seemed only fitting as a follow up to a  prior entry on Caesar. After all, one of the men Cleopatra skillfully influenced with her brand experience was Gaius Julius Caesar. Not to mention the fact that she was simply one of history's deliciously bad girls who consciously and brilliantly cultivated her brand.

Kicking this off, we need to be accurate. Our Cleo was, in fact, one of seven Cleopatras. Formally she was Cleopatra VII Philopator, and pretty much accepted as the last effective pharaoh of Egypt. Now, this next bit might ordinarily be a who cares type of fact, but it later plays into how smart Cleopatra really was. As the last of the Ptolemaic dynasty, she descended from Ptolemy, a trusted general of Alexander the Great. So it's important to know that Cleopatra wasn't Egyptian, she was Greek, or to split hairs, Macedonian.

The short answer to how non-Egyptians came to rule Egypt is that Alexander died without naming an heir. His empire was sliced up and Egypt wound up in Ptolemy's piece of the pie. Throughout their reign, the Ptolemies only spoke Greek, refusing to speak Egyptian. However, our Cleo was kinda cool from an Egyptian perspective since she did learn to read and speak Egyptian. And, she embedded Egyptian culture into her personal brand.

But first, there's a little more backstory. Cleopatra was an amazing woman from early on. At the age of 14, she became a sort of co-regent with her father. Later she would share the throne with her two brothers–one of whom she married per Egyptian custom. But eventually, her skills would convince a Roman or two that she ought to be sole ruler of Egypt. One of those Romans was Julius Caesar. He arrived in Egypt while chasing down his rival, a guy named Pompey. While that's a whole other story, it did bring Caesar and Cleopatra together.

Cultural and temporal standards of beauty aside, Cleopatra was a major hottie in her day. Well, not aesthetically. Her beauty radiated from inside. She was said to actually be somewhat homely. Still, reports of her appeal abound in the works of Plutarch, Cicero, and Florus, as well as others. They also commented on her knowledge of the day's politics and workings of the world. And she was petite, proven by the fact she was smuggled into Caesar's bedchamber within the rolls of a rug or bedding.

While never compared to the beauty of, say, Helen of Troy, what floated the boats of the men around Cleopatra were her wit, charm, and "sweetness in the tones of her voice." Her intellect combined with youth, sensuality, and exuberance, made Cleopatra a force with which to contend.

Nowadays we call it the "it factor."

Even 100 years later, Cassius Dio wrote, "She also possessed a most charming voice and knowledge of how to make herself agreeable to everyone. Being brilliant to look upon and to listen to, with the power to subjugate every one, even a love-sated man already past his prime [Caesar], she thought that it would be in keeping with her role to meet Caesar, and she reposed in her beauty all her claims to the throne."

What modern woman gets that kind of quality press? Few, really, if any. Therefore, submitted for your approval...

1. Determine the most appropriate brand-positioning attribute.
Cleopatra had skills, she knew how to use them and she did so to whatever end she needed. Remember, at the age of 21 she had herself smuggled into Caesar's bedchamber for a meeting. This was a strategic encounter to, ahem, position herself in order meet her overall objectives. Nevertheless, our little Cleo became the 52-year old Caesar’s mistress, and nine months after their first meeting, in 47 BC, Cleopatra gave birth to their son.
Cleopatra was smart and ambitious, appealing and sultry, but in no way a tease. She delivered on her brand promise.
2. Devise a distinctive way to articulate brand position.
Unlike most influencers—modern or ancient—Cleopatra saw no challenge in making her brand attributes into strengths within the culture and lore of Egypt. In fact, she was brilliant. The Ptolemies had long resisted speaking or writing in the Egyptian language. But not Cleopatra, she embraced the culture to the point of actually representing herself as the reincarnation of the Egyptian goddess, Isis. 
This was a powerful brand identity for her subjects. Isis was worshiped as the ideal mother and wife, and she was the goddess of nature and magic. And that is itself one of the keys to a successful brand—embedding culture into the brand 
Moreover, the real power of Isis is in the meaning of the name—"Throne." In depictions of Isis, her headdress is a throne. By association with Isis, Cleopatra made herself the personification of the throne. Thus Cleopatra would be a firm representation of a pharaoh's power. 
3. Develop a focused brand personality that customers can use to recommend or introduce your brand to others.
Isis provided a strong method for articulating the brand position as well as the brand personality. In modern terms, Isis was a popular patron saint. Everyone prayed to Isis, including slaves, sinners, artisans, and the downtrodden, and she heard the prayers of the wealthy, maidens, aristocrats, and rulers. 
We know that Cleopatra seriously took on this brand personality of motherhood, magic, and fertility.
The goddess Cleopatra -- mother of Egypt.
4. Establish graphic standards. 
Using Isis brought Cleopatra a wealth of imagery to communicate and reinforce her position. But her reputation as a standard of beauty for her time must still be acknowledged.  That said, there were represerntations of Cleopatra as Isis in statues, glyphs, etc. This simply engrained her in the hearts of her subjects as truly Egyptian and, of course, a goddess.  
Another symbol was the knot, which for Egyptians held magical properties, and a symbol of Isis was the knot. 
5. Implement internal branding programs to reward employees for behaving in ways that are consistent with the brand personality.
Yeah ... Cleo had rewarded those who did her bidding. 'Nuff said.
6. Consistently and uniquely execute the branding program.
It's a tried and true strategy to secure one's position with an heir. And Cleopatra quickly put the spring back in Caesar's step as they became lovers during his stay in Egypt. The result was a son, Caesarian. 
After Caesar's assassination in 44 BC, Cleopatra hooked up with Marcus Antonius. We'll call him Mark Antony. Cleopatra was fertile. She and Mark had twins, followed by another son.
Cleopatra must have been one heck of a brand experience. In her time she convinced, perhaps beguiled two formidable men, Caesar and Anthony, to break with Roman conventions. She was the Delilah to their Sampsons. Her identification with Isis may have been the source of Caesar's later self-delusions of being a deity, which helped influence actions by the Roman senate.

She drove Anthony to abandon his legions during the final battles against Roman forces. In disgrace, Antony committed suicide. Not long after, and now famous in history, Cleopatra killed herself. Still, over the course of 18 years, Cleopatra held her position as the sole or primary ruler of Egypt.

Few women from the ancient world persist in drawing our cultural fascination like Cleopatra. Even the stunning Helen of Troy hasn't the power over us Cleopatra holds. A ten-year war raged over Helen, but that war and its characters overshadow her. Whereas Cleopatra, like the goddess she held herself to be, remains immortal—continuing her seductive rein into modern times, ever stirring controversy.


A modern testament to Cleopatra's brand endurance is the dozens of films with her character. Classic beauties and talents have portrayed this ancient icon of appeal and womanliness—Monica Bellucci,  the Redgrave sisters, Katherine Hepburn, Sophia Loren, and Elizabeth Taylor to name just a few. My personal favorites are Elizabeth Taylor and Monica Bellucci.

Thursday, October 8, 2020

Dark Brands

 That time of year has come 'round, yet again. Darkness falls across the land, the midnight hour is close at hand. Creatures crawl in search of blood, to terrorize the neighborhood—and whosoever shall be found without the soul for getting down, must stand and face the hounds of hell. We bring the funk of forty thousand years, while grizzly ghouls from every tomb are closing in to seal your doom. Fight though you might to stay alive, your body starts to shiver. For no mere mortal can resist the evil of the ... thriller*!

The werewolf—found in ancient texts as far back as those by Herodotus, references to werewolves were not flights of fanciful horror. They were believed real and several accounts given by eyewitnesses. Indeed, it was reported that a Scythian tribe morphed into werewolves one each year, changing back after a few days. Here is more ancient evidence of the werewolf's curse.    

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, the odd twist was 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. Here is the answer to what spurred fascination with these mindless, stomping corpses of the past.

Dracula impaled victims made up of political opponents or Turks captured on the battlefield, and left them to slowly slide down a wooden spike in agony and without mercy, until they bled out. Death often took days. The near dead and corpses were left on the spikes as birds pecked and tore at their rotting flesh. Here are the answers to why Dracula scare invading Turks.

*Introduction unabashedly lifted from Michael Jackson's song, Thriller.