If BG were a Brand Boy…

n015_blog_stewart.jpg“If I were a boy, even just for a day, I roll out of bed in the morning and throw on what I wanted and go…”––from “If I were a boy,” a popular song by Beyonce (a.k.a. SASHA FIERCE).

If Brand Girl were a Brand Boy, even for a day, she would roll out of bed in the morning and say what she wanted––and she’d be Jon Stewart.

It doesn’t quite work as a pop-song lyric, but the point is that like Brand Girl herself, Mr. Stewart has a knack for calling it like he sees it—up front and on camera. And the master of satirical news has done it again. Nobody wants to be mocked by Jon Stewart nor interrogated, but that’s exactly what happened to Jim Cramer, host of CNBC’s Mad Money.

After weeks of batting back media spitballs, Cramer finally met face-to-face with Jon Stewart, Comedy Central’s acclaimed Daily Show slugger, for a show down. Yet the meeting itself was more of a letdown, with Cramer practically served himself up on a silver platter for Stewart to slay. As if Cramer’s public humiliation could serve as a sufficient sacrificial offering to beg the money gods for forgiveness—for the dishonesty, greed, and wrongdoings of Cramer’s fellow financial-minded gurus, for the world’s tumultuous markets, indeed for the topsy-turvy state of our entire nation. It was indeed painful to watch as Stewart did a better-than-fine job of using his pulpit to sermonize. You almost had to feel a little sorry for Cramer in that balancing the job of television entertainment with the more serious job of offering financial expertise—and on managing the corporate purse strings especially—is no easy task. But of all the poignant statements that were made about the financial freefall we’re in, how could you not resonate with Stewart’s overall accusation to Cramer: “… to pretend that this was some sort of crazy, once-in-a-lifetime tsunami that nobody could have seen coming is disingenuous at best and criminal at worst.”

Like the Brand Boy said, everything we have known about the market is in shambles. Period. It’s a whole new game, and you know what, kids, according to my astrologer, it’s far from over. Bailouts, re-worked mortgages, and strings of 40%-off sales are just not going to be enough. Honestly, the money world is in such a state of anarchy that, much like Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, whose face seems to have a constant deer-in-headlights expression these days, BG finds the whole business paralyzing. It’s as though we are, as a nation, playing an endless, rigged game of Monopoly, and we keep hoping some random act of nature—a gust of wind? an overzealous two-year-old careening through the living room? an overturned bottle of Merlot? the dog ate my mortgage?—upsets the existing board so that we have to wipe it clean and start over, with everyone safely returning to “Go” with a humbling $200 bucks in seed money.

The nation has cried out for change. And change we’ve seen: Obama’s hair has grayed already and he hasn’t been in office 100 days yet. Given that grim backdrop, how is it that Citibank, a bailout recipient whose stock is worth nothing today, continues to bombard the public with federally-funded ads that neither restore consumer confidence nor address past blunders? Should we as a collective be ignoring the irony? This week in particular, there’s much heat over AIG using its bailout funds to honor prior commitments (i.e., executive bonuses). How is it that those prior commitments still hold without any reality-based concessions? We have peeked behind the curtains; we understand there was no wizard, but there was much wizardry—or at least sleight of hand. The bailouts are being used by brands like AIG, Citibank, and Merrill Lynch as mere Band-aids on a body that’s hemorrhaging.

At what point does the bleeding stop and the healing truly start? It is undoubtedly time to revisit the basics of brand integrity, positioning, and core business. How do we advise clients to move forward? How do we as individuals move forward? I certainly don’t have all the answers, but I do know that both personal and corporate brands could benefit from a shot of self-regulation and serious Jon Stewart-esque self-reflection—exactly the qualities that have been so absent on Wall Street and from cable news “experts” like CNBC. And in the meantime, I’ll settle for a little less mad money and a little more Brand Boy Jon Stewart tough love. (And by the way, the next guy I’d line up for a little slapping around is that Chris Brown dude. Then I’ll throw him in a ring with Oprah, her audience, and SASHA FIERCE herself—and let the headlocks and biting begin…)

Filed: boys, branding, entertainment, rants

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