President’s Day Meets Brand-Building

February 14, 2020 | Lorraine Stewart

Charming Lesson for Marketing Leaders

One could argue that most elected officials are brand-builders in their own right, masters at tailoring their message for the market. But the history buffs among us can look to our favorite brand-building President, Theodore Roosevelt, for some fresh inspiration. Widely considered by historians to be one of the best US Presidents in history, his zest for life, quirky character and passionate expression for his cause left an indelible legacy.

In 1907, Roosevelt visited the home of Andrew Jackson in preparation for a hunting trip. He was served coffee from a famous local Nashville hotel, Maxwell House. After downing his cup, the President is reported to have jumped to his feet and declare he was “delighted”. The brew was “Good to the last drop!”. The rest as they say, is marketing history. The Maxwell House proprietors embraced the President’s product endorsement as well as his catchy turn of phrase. Maxwell House built a national powerhouse brand that, a full century later, still holds its place in America’s kitchens and our lexicon.

Our 26th President was a lawyer, statesman, writer and master orator, the first unofficial Communicator-in-Chief; he dubbed the White House platform as the “bully pulpit” and used it to make his political views regarding progressive reform known around the world; A skilled communicator, his plans were not without substance. He also subscribed to his favorite African proverb “Speak softly but carry a Big Stick.”

President Theodore Roosevelt was not a leader without compassion. He was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1906 but propelled himself into the nation’s favor as a result of this strategy. On another hunting trip, he stoutly refused to shoot a bear cub that was staged and roped to a tree. The somewhat embarrassing scene was captured by an editorial cartoonist and widely published.

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Teddy the Presidential Marketer

The cartoon inspired a New York-based toy manufacturer to create the first-ever plush toy, a honey-colored bear that stood over two and a half feet tall! President Roosevelt gave the Ideal Toy company the thumbs up to use his name and to market the bear. He fully leaned into the novel idea and embraced his new nickname. America’s first “Teddy Bear” became a national sensation and an enduring symbol for the President.

Under the Roosevelt administration his recruited Cabinet members greatly expanded his impact and influence. They worked together to make important in-roads for labor reform, peaceful foreign relations and conservation of our nation’s land assets.

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Marketing Leadership Lessons

The Most Electable Leaders

Today’s marketing leaders can lean into three effective, presidential strategies.

  1. Embrace the power of clear communication. Use words, symbols and ideas to clarify positions and build brands that will resonate with people and sustain the test of time.
  2. Stay aligned to the Mission, Purpose and Values of your company as you step up to modern media pulpits to amplify your cause; recognize the risk of style without substance and avoid any empty brand promise that is destined to disappoint.
  3. Build your own best-in-class Cabinet. Say yes to the many talented resources and creative partners that enable the success of today’s growing brands. Recruit the right choice advertising industry suppliers that not only bring a concept to life, but trigger consumer demand for it. Orchestrate your in-house agency teams and external agency partners to work better together. Commit to improving the brand offering, creating the products and services that satisfy the nation like a good cup of coffee … or inspire our affection like a favorite teddy bear.

Hat’s Off to our historical Presidential brand builder.  Like President Theodore Roosevelt, marketing leaders can embrace the widest range of interests, recruit talented people, and fully lean in to the grand adventure that is marketing!