It's difficult getting noticed in this competitive world and hard to navigate that fine line between shameless self-promotion and smart branding. If you need a little help, Steve Adubato profiles over 30 people and companies in his new book to show how they market themselves in these tough times. Here's an excerpt.
New Jersey Governor Chris Christie has become a national political brand, the likes of which hasn’t been seen since Barack Obama. Christie’s brand is brash, bold, “in your face” and, as the governor likes to say, “Jersey style.”
As someone who has interviewed Christie on numerous occasions and engaged in a series of spirited and sometimes ideologically combative interviews, it is fascinating to me to see this quintessential New Jersey guy become a GOP rock star in places like California, Iowa, and Florida.
The following excerpt from “You Are the Brand” was written before “Christie-mania” took over the American political scene. However, the primary points raised below still hold true. The question remains, will Chris Christie’s political brand sustain? Will it endure? Or, will those in New Jersey and across the country tire of his act? Then again, after knowing Christie for well over a decade, this is no act. It’s who he is. Like it or not, Chris Christie will be in your face, and that’s the brand he is comfortable with.
Finally, as political brands go, he is one of a kind and even though I disagree with him on certain issues, I wish more politicians would be so straightforward and direct—their brand would be a lot better off.
Governor Chris Christie: When Being “Blunt” is Your Brand
New Jersey Governor Chris Christie has been called a bully and an intimidator with an “in your face” style of communication. According to Christie, “Listen, I was sent here to bring change…Direct, blunt and honest — that’s how I’d describe my style. And candidly, I enjoy it”.
I’ve known Chris Christie for over a decade, and I’d say he’s spot on with this self-description of his style, which translates in all areas to his brand. He first grabbed the political spotlight when he was appointed U.S. Attorney in New Jersey by former President George Bush. When he was selected, many questioned his credentials for such a lofty post, as he was just a little over 35. But, the one thing about Chris Christie’s brand, beyond his direct and, yes, confrontational style of communication, is that like many others in this book, he is supremely confident in his abilities. This confidence has gained him a name—a brand. According to George F. Will in an op-ed in the Washington Post, Chris Christie is “the nation’s most interesting governor.”
Telling It Like It Is
As U.S. Attorney, Chris Christie prosecuted and convicted over 130 elected officials for corruption and related charges. Christie used his platform as a crusading prosecutor to gain national media attention and ultimately to run for governor in 2009 against a beleaguered and brand-challenged Jon Corzine. Christie won that race more because of Corzine’s lack of popularity (and a very weak political brand) and the dismal economic climate in the state than anything else.
Once elected, Christie took over the statehouse by storm. He made it clear that he was in charge and that he was sent to Trenton to dramatically cut the cost of government and hold the line on taxes. (In just six months, Christie spearheaded the successful effort to cut the state budget by $2 billion and cap annual property tax increases at 2 percent.) But, it’s not just Christie’s policies that have created such a clearly defined brand; it’s his style. I’ve interviewed him on numerous occasions: He is convinced he is right on just about every proposal or idea he puts forward, and therefore, this guy simply doesn’t flinch when challenged.
And he’s been challenged a lot. He loves the daily fight with the public employee unions and recalcitrant legislators. He loves the battle with the media. In fact, one day, in the statehouse when my colleague Tom Moran, the Star-Ledger’s editorial page editor, asked Christie about his “confrontational tone,” Christie went off and created a YouTube sensation by saying, “You must be the thinnest-skinned guy in America. Because if you think that's a confrontational tone, then, you know, you should really see me when I'm pissed” (Barr).
Christie went on to ask Moran and others in the press core whether they would rather he communicate in a fashion similar to Jon Corzine: “Now, I could say it really nicely. We could say it in a way you all would be more comfortable with. Maybe we could go back to the last administration where I could say it in a way that you wouldn’t understand it” (Barr).
Further, he reframed the argument about him being unnecessarily confrontational and blunt by saying, “Blunt, direct, maybe you could just say ‘honest and refreshing…’ But the fact of the matter is, this is who I am, and this is who the people elected” (Barr).
That’s right. This is who the people elected, and the irony is that while people say they want honesty and candor in their elected officials, when they get it in spades it can be surprisingly upsetting to some. Chris Christie’s popularity hovers around 50 percent at the time of this writing, and I’m not convinced he’s ever going to be as “Reaganesque” as Wall Street Journal’s William McGurn claimed when he complimented Christie for “offering the voters a dose of Reagan republicanism — with a Jersey twist.” But that’s not really the point. The fact is, Chris Christie tells it the way he sees it...
Above all, be confident in who you are and what you believe. It will help you communicate effectively when the heat is on.
Your style is the brand, so stay strong when you know you’re right. But, remember, sometimes compromising is the best way to get half a loaf instead of coming up empty.
Candor counts…a lot. Be honest with your beliefs, even when that honesty is not popular.
Reprinted from "You Are the Brand" by Steve Adubato © 2011 by Steve Adubato. Used with permission of the publisher, Rutgers University Press.