Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Personal Branding: Plight of the "Living Dead"

The concept of personal branding has expanded far beyond amplifying the careers of actors, entertainers, sports figures, politicians and the reprehensible personalities that populate various "reality" television shows. It evolved into the brand management of public figures who had passed on but still had products to be marketed to a loyal audience. Elvis Presley, Frank Sinatra, Fred Astaire, Steve McQueen and even Albert Einstein fall into this category and often posthumous licensing revenues can exceed those earned while the celebrities in question were alive.

The most challenging form of personal branding, however, involves brand management of the "Living Dead" which is to say that the client--usually an agency of the Intelligence community--wishes to plunder or make use of the assets of an individual who has become troublesome, downright uncooperative or too valuable an opportunity to ignore. It is of primary importance that the public believe that the client's subject is alive and well in spite of having passed away owing to expedience, error or--in the least likely scenario--natural causes.

Step One is to dis-associate all who have been directly connected to the target--I mean subject. Family, friends and work associates must be re-directed and all contact with the subject must be cut off. This can be accomplished in a number of ways, the least sophisticated but very effective method being imprisonment. A limited coterie of new friends/associates/confidants--be they fictional or real--must take the place of these former intimates of the subject and serve as liaisons between the subject and the general population thus providing the public with the impression that the subject is alive and condoning all that is happening with his or her assets.

Step Two is to create a denigrating controversy surrounding the subject. Hold him or her up to ridicule or scorn so as to cut the public's interest in the subject. We call this clearing the area which serves to keep the fans away. It also helps to discount any rumors that the client would ever have an interest in such a disgraced individual.

Step Three is to maintain the brand with updated press releases and pronouncements from the subject via the liaisons in order to explain and/or justify the new and strange use of subject's assets.

Step Four is to replace any real liaisons with fictional liaisons to minimize catastrophic leaks. This can be accomplished by applying this protocol to real liaisons who are no longer viable.

Step Five is to announce the demise of the subject after the immediate objectives of the brand have been realized and, advisedly, before the subject attains his or her 119th birthday leaving the now all fictional coterie in place to continue operations into the future.

In branding, as with catering, one must know what to do with one's left-overs.

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