Can you sum up your professional you in one or two words?
I was very touched watching the documentary, Being Elmo, on PBS‘ Independent Lens. The movie is about Kevin Clash (the puppeteer behind Sesame Street‘s Elmo). From a very young age, Clash demonstrated a strong desire to be a puppeteer. While that seems quaint and points to someone who was focused on what they wanted to do in life from a very young age, you can imagine the struggles he faced growing up in Baltimore. While all of the other kids were out playing baseball or causing mischief, Clash was at home sewing puppets together and entertaining the local toddlers.
One of the highlight in the documentary comes when Clash explains how he was able to take the character of Elmo and turn him into such a beloved character. He says that each and every muppet needs to have its own, one unique thing. For Miss Piggy, her one thing is a truck driver who wants to be a movie starlet. For Fozzie Bear, it’s being a Vaudeville performer. For Elmo, it is love. Elmo loves everyone. Elmo loves love. He loves to hug and he loves to kiss and everything that Elmo does is an expression of his love for others. As basic and as simple as that sounds, kids know it and they feel it… and that’s why he is the most beloved muppet of them all.
What’s your one thing?
I often think about why one blog is that much more popular than another. My friend, Chris Brogan, has one of the top-ranked marketing blogs in the world. Why? I think Chris’ one thing is: making business human. It’s who he is. He genuinely wants to meet and help everyone he sees. While we’re on the road together, I’m busy trying to get to my hotel room and get some sleep, while Chris is busy trying to connect and meet up with more people. It’s not wonder he has an audience that is ten times the size of mine. He is deeply in touch with his one thing. Not only that, everyone who connects with him believes it to be true. This is the interesting part: you may not like him, his content or what he stands for, but you can’t deny that it is who he is. That one thing has be believable… not just a platitude.
Being in touch with your one thing.
If you do a quick survey of the most successful people you know, it’s clear how direct and in-touch they are with their own thing. It’s no different for brands. You can have all of the values and brand expressions in the world, but if you can’t sum it up into one, unique, thing, it’s going to be hard to truly do groundbreaking things. While this may seem like a simplistic concept and one that has been bandied around when it comes to branding for years, it was enlightening to see Clash capture that concept, transpose it to muppets and be able to see how those characters connect with the human emotion. Too many individuals and brands are clamoring for attention, while those same brands and individuals probably grapple to define that one great thing.
We could all use a little more Elmo in our lives.