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Babe Ruth, the Supreme Court and Your Personal Brand

I hope I make it to 90.  If I do, I’m definitely gonna shoot for 100.  No sense in thinking small.  You make it to that age and you end up with some stories to tell.

That was the case with a certain 90-year-old I saw interviewed on “60 Minutes” a couple weeks back.

Scott Pelley (and his perfect hair) interviewed Justice John Paul Stevens who had just retired from the Supreme Court.  The big “9-0.” God bless him.

Covered a lot of stories from his 35 years on the bench.  From the Florida election mess in 2000 to challenging George Bush on the legal rights of Gitmo prisoners and even a glimpse into the Justices’ robing room — interesting.  But really, it was all legal stuff.

Then something caught my attention…

It was something Pelley noticed on his wall toward the end of the interview.

A score card from game 3 of the 1932 World Series at Wrigley Field!  (A Cubs fan?  Who’da thought I had anything in common with a Supreme Court Justice?)  It was the scene of the famous “called shot.”  You know, the one where Babe Ruth rode the count to 2 and 2 and then (supposedly) pointed to the outfield and promptly deposited Charlie Root’s next pitch in that very section of the bleachers.

Justice Stevens had a firm opinion on that.

But whether the Bambino made the call or not is irrelevant.  Point is, I was transfixed by that story.

Had they cut the interview after the segment on the court’s Citizens United ruling, well… another law interview.

But that bit of personal info made him about 1,000 times more interesting to me.  Sure because I’m a Cubs fan.  But he’d probably be just as interesting to a Yankees fan.  Or even a baseball fan in general.

The thing is, it was a humanizing factor.  And it was a big one.

Humanizing your brand

The financial industry is boring.

Maybe not so much “boring,”  but stable… steady… professional. When things get “exciting,” it’s usually bad news.  Nobody wants to think about their money on a roller-coaster ride.  There’s Vegas for that.

It’s supposed to be perceived that way.  It’s the “industry brand.”

I have a cousin who used to work for a major Trust corporation in Chicago back in the 80s. They wore the “uniform.” Dark suit. White shirt (starched). Solid tie.  Black oxfords. That was it.  (Reminded me of my Catholic school uniform days.  Talk about boring.)

Casual Friday meant they could wear a sport coat and maybe a blue shirt — tie was still not optional.

This is how financial professionals are expected to look.

Clean cut, well groomed, pressed, – in a word, “professional.”

Human beings wanted — Signs of life preferred

But that “brand,” while meant to be reassuring, also creates a dangerous element of “sameness.”  Wearing the “uniform” creates uniformity.  And that’s not necessarily good.

I sometimes bash the idea of brand marketing. Let me be clear.

A brand identity is necessary.  Brand marketing is stupid.

It’s expensive, a long time in developing, and not trackable. Rather than worrying about building the whole “brand presence” thing, I like to talk about plugging in your “personal” brand.

Something about YOU.

Put that stuffed penguin out on your desk. Frame those programs from your daughter’s dance recitals and hang ’em on your wall. Be the crazy tie guy – or a boutonniere? There’s something you don’t see  a lot of.   What about your Dan Marino autographed jersey?  The big fish you hauled in on your last trip to Canada?

Instant benefits…

Come on.  There’s got to be something personal and interesting about you that you can bring to the fore.  Add it strategically to your marketing and two things instantly happen.

  1. You’ll get noticed.  I don’t mean noticed like the guy who stands at the bus stop talking to himself.  I mean you’ll stand out from the crowd.  In a good way.  Can I overstate the importance of that today?  No.  I cannot.
  2. It’ll humanize you.  Make you into a real person.  A human being.  With a family and friends, with charities and interests and hobbies — Guess what, just like your prospects and clients.

So it’s only a couple weeks until the new year.  Time to start thinking about ramping it up for 2011.  Take a look at your marketing and be honest.  If you’re one of those people using “industry branded” marketing material or tactics, ask yourself what you can do to enhance it with your “personal” brand.

If you’ve already got some personal brand going, are you using it to the fullest extent you can?  How could you make it work better for you?

Now’s the time to do it.  That way, you can hit the bricks running come January.

Oh, and if you’re interested to see Justice Stevens’ ruling on the called shot, you can watch it here