The First Black Singing Prime Minister

No matter how good your product is, don’t forget the branding.

I am a fan of the UK version of The Voice which has just come to an end for another year. This reality TV singing competition franchise, which originally began in Holland, has gone global since 2011 and it is now running in 49 countries, including China, Afghanistan, and Kazakhstan, with a children’s version in 21 countries. The show starts off with four celebrity judges building teams of 12 purely on the basis of their voices, in the “blind auditions”, as the judges aren’t able to see the contestants until they decide that they want them to join their teams. Whilst all this is going on, we, the audience, not only get the chance to see what they look like but we get the back-story of each contestant too.

Whilst it is only “the voice” that gets contestants through the blind auditions it is the audience vote alone that decides who goes forward during the latter stages of the competition, or who eventually wins, and the judges can just advise or plead for their own team members still left in the competition.  As the show progresses the back-stories are deepened and loyal viewers like us inevitably “position” the contestants in our minds, not only on the basis of their singing ability but on other things too, and this is the emotional component of their respective personal brands. All good brands have both a functional and emotional component.  Lynx deodorant uses scent to hide your body odor, like many other deodorants, but it famously also makes men irresistible to the woman and of late is encouraging us to “make love, not war”.  If you haven’t seen the iconic Lynx Pulse TV advert you can see it here.

Personal branding isn’t new: I can’t think of any really successful person in my lifetime who didn’t have a great personal brand with a strong emotional component to it. This year there were some extremely talented performers on The Voice but the finalists had some fabulous personal brands too and I wonder to what extent this affected the outcome in the end? When faced with any buying decision you have a trade-off decision to make and it may well be that when choosing the winner of The Voice 2014 we didn’t just rely on singing or performing qualities alone. Interestingly, in last years’ competition, a judge and Jedi Master of personal branding himself, was a little put out when Leah McFall didn’t win and partially-sighted Andrea Begley pipped her at the post.  The implication being that it wasn’t just Andrea’s performance that was being judged.

This year the winner’s name was not only tantalizingly familiar but how could anyone not be blown away by Jermain Jackman’s voice? It seems almost silly to suggest that he won for any other reasons, but he had a fascinating and highly differentiated back story too: from the relatively humble background he is a God-fearing boy who wants to change the World and become the First Black Singing Prime Minister. Apart from anything else this ambition resonated strongly with who gave him a pep-talk after winning about “the work just starting now”. He was competing with the hauntingly emotional and tear-jerking Sally Barker who had been setting-off on a successful singing career before her husband died and she had to give it up to look after her two boys: Family Before Career and Now It’s Sally’s Time. The third competitor in the final, Christina Marie, quit her job as a legal secretary to appear on the show. She also had a wonderful voice, which was different yet again from the other two, but hers was perhaps the weakest personal branding of the three.

To what extent did the emotional element of their branding influence the outcome of The Voice 2014? You can make up your own mind but if you think it had some then no matter how good your product (or voice) is you should probably also work on your branding if you want to make the most of whatever it is you have to sell.