“Realness is an act that you cannot rehearse” — Common, Aquarius
No matter what you think of Common’s lyrical dexterity and charisma, if you are given one word to describe him, I’m pretty sure that you will say authentic. Since his debut album, “Can I Borrow A Dollar?” dropped in 1992, Common has been able to maintain his brand and street cred for over 20 years. Very few artists, let alone brands, have been able to do this, especially in today’s A.D.D. world, where young consumers are always on to the next thing. But how has Common been able to achieve it with rapping and acting and have global brands such as Diesel and Gap approach him to do multi-million dollar deals?
One word. Integrity.
Something the mobile payments startup Clinkle, has gone through some really bad press whose arrogant CEO has gradually devalued the brand and ruined their reputation. In the business world, reputation is everything. How do you prevent something from this happening?
Listening to Common back in the day and now, he has been able to maintain his individuality and commitment to his craft. From Sweet, Raw, The Corner and one of my favorites The Light, he never has been the one to do a ‘club banger’ because that never was his brand. He held firm to what he wanted to create, focused on distinguishing his brand for the others (mostly gangsta rap) and it has paid off for him big time (he’s worth over $35M!). But how do you make your business bleed with this same integrity?
- Know the difference between Character and Integrity2
When you create your brand, you usually ask yourself what are the Top 3 characteristics that you want it to represent. Characteristics are a sum of your attributes, traits, and abilities. These characteristics help guide your marketing, imagery and voice to your consumers. This shouldn’t be confused with integrity, which is steadfast adherence to a strict moral or ethical code, being unimpaired, sound, whole and undivided. Simply, it’s doing the right thing for the right reason when no one is watching. Getting a little Spike Lee up in here!
- Make a choice
Choose a set of rules, morals or principles that you believe your brand (and most likely you to as you are an extension of your brand) will lead to a happy, satisfying and better world. When you are building your team you want to make sure everyone has these same values and morals or your team will get into some real bad beef and could destroy your entire business. I know this from personal experience. Not fun.
- Look at history
Look at the choices big and small brands have made in the past, and observe how much they excelled or messed up. It seems that every big oil company or food company slacks off somewhere leading to oil spills and food poisoning, respectively. Maintaining absolute high standards for your product, team, and self will prevent these “accidents” from occurring.
- Be conscious every day of the decisions you make for your company, however big or small, and how close they bring your brand to be envied of them all
Every decision that you make, you will have to live with the consequences. Make it simple for yourself and outline the decisions in advance that you will or will not make for your company and make sure all the shareholders are in agreement with this. This will prevent beef and resentment among your team in the future when you must face a tough, possibly moral decision.