November 12, 2016

The Penalty Of Leadership

Don Mann

Don Mann
VP, EVP, Chief Marketing Officer (Brand & Data-Driven P&L Marketing Leader)/Blue Cross of Idaho

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As marketing changes, the importance of a brand resonating with its consumers remains. If you think the values-based following for brand's such as Apple or Tesla are unique to the social media environment of today, think again.  With all due respect, and although he has articulated a concept very well, Simon Sinek's famous message of 'Why' is not an entirely new idea.

In 1915, one of the greatest examples of advertising was created.  Cadillac Motors was under pressure from Packard.  Cadillac's brand reputation was suffering and vulnerable and it's innovative new V8 engine was suffering from negative consumer 'buzz,' as glitches and bugs were being experienced.

The times and tone were certainly different over 100 years ago (as you read the ad copy, some of the text feels like watching an old movie), but there are also truths that still ring true today.  The advertising creator clearly: 

Set out to achieve a bold impression that inspired respect for a company's authentic effort to create a better product
Understood the brand's luxury automobile consumers - their values - their appreciation of innovation, the technology of the day
Even though the advertising message was absent product features or specifics, the advertising understood the emotional benefit of leadership sought by Cadillac consumers

The Penalty of Leadership

"In every field of human endeavor, he that is first must perpetually live in the white light of publicity. Whether the leadership be vested in a man or in a manufactured product, emulation and envy are ever at work. In art, in literature, in music, in industry, the reward and the punishment are always the same. The reward is widespread recognition; the punishment, fierce denial and detraction. When a man's work becomes a standard for the whole world, it also becomes a target for the shafts of the envious few. If his work be mediocre, he will be left severely alone - if he achieves a masterpiece, it will set a million tongues a -wagging. Jealousy does not protrude its forked tongue at the artist who produces a commonplace painting. Whatsoever you write, or paint, or play, or sing, or build, no one will strive to surpass or to slander you unless your work be stamped with the seal of genius. Long, long after a great work or a good work has been done, those who are disappointed or envious, continue to cry out that it cannot be done. Spiteful little voices in the domain of art were raised against our own Whistler as a mountback, long after the big would had acclaimed him its greatest artistic genius. Multitudes flocked to Bayreuth to worship at the musical shrine of Wagner, while the little group of those whom he had dethroned and displaced argued angrily that he was no musician at all. The little world continued to protest that Fulton could never build a steamboat, while the big world flocked to the river banks to see his boat steam by. The leader is assailed because he is a leader, and the effort to equal him is merely added proof of that leadership. Failing to equal or to excel, the follower seeks to depreciate and to destroy - but only confirms once more the superiority of that which he strives to supplant. There is nothing new in this. It is as old as the world and as old as human passions - envy, fear, greed, ambition, and the desire to surpass. And it all avails nothing. If the leader truly leads, he remains - the leader. Master-poet, master-painter, master-workman, each in his turn is assailed, and each holds his laurels through the ages. That which is good or great makes itself known, no matter how loud the clamor of denial. That which deserves to live—lives."

The Penalty of Leadership, written by Theodore F. MacManus is considered one of the greatest and most influential advertisements of all time.  Mr. MacManus’ own opinion was this:  “The real suggestion to convey is that the man manufacturing the product is an honest man, and that the product is an honest product, to be preferred above all others.”

The ad worked.  The Cadillac brand persevered.

The Packard brand died in 1958.

(The story behind the story:  This ad hung poster-sized and framed on the wall in my father's office.  As a 10-year-old, playing with the stapler and Rolodex in his office, I often stood and read the ad's copy with awe.  The ad's impact was even evident many decades later to an unintended reader.)

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