I have a rucksack that has served me for years, but because it didn’t look attractive, I wanted something that I would carry on my back and everyone would admire. Whenever I went on the tube, I saw some guys with beautiful backpacks, and I felt like having one. One day, I went to a high street and saw a shop with some fantastic looking rucksacks, and I said to myself, “this is it!” Without wasting time, I jumped into the shop and was spoilt for choice. It was so difficult to decide the design I wanted because they were all looking fabulous. After a careful scrutiny, I went for one black colour. My wife so liked it that she asked if she could take it on holidays to Africa, but I vehemently refused as I was so much in love with my new rucksack. Without hesitation, I abandoned the old one and on the next working day, everyone saw me with my attractively designed rucksack. After two weeks, I started noticing the strain on the handle, and in another two weeks, the bag couldn’t withstand any more stress; it started tearing off bit by bit until I lost its two arms. I was so pissed off especially when I realised that I just threw some money into an inaccessible pit. I had no choice but to appeal to the old bag to come out of retirement. It was old, but it was tough. Where beauty couldn’t help me, toughness saved me!
In those days, Brazil dominated world football. Their games were beauty to behold. Their dribbling skills were enigmatic; everyone wanted to watch them. When football became big business, it moved from beauty to toughness, and sometimes, roughness. No one was interested in how beautiful anyone played; everyone wanted to win. Football tacticians began to adopt different strategies. When Brazil came with beauty, others came with strength, and where there is strength, beauty never emerges. Toughness, roughness and strength overpowered beauty. Others began to win because they put strength first, and beauty, secondary.
How far can your beauty take you if you haven’t got the strength to survive? How long can you run if you don’t have the stamina? What makes you tough and rough are your knowledge, tests, skills and disciplined and continuous training. Even in beauty contests, decisions aren’t made on physical appearances alone; the mental capacities, characters, intelligence and other attributes of the contestants are tested. The beauty of your offering is immaterial if it can’t stand stress, strain and time. If you easily crumble over little pressures, you aren’t a trusted brand in spite of being the most beautiful.
Where does beauty become sensational? Beauty becomes sensational when it works hand in hand with toughness. How many football clubs in the world can boast of beating Barcelona? Not a handful! Why? Because Barcelona combines beauty and the beast. When some brands cost $10, and for the same product of another brand, it is $100, look closely, and you will likely see the longevity of the more expensive one. Longevity takes into consideration, the ability to maintain beauty and status in spite of opposing harsh circumstances. Your cost isn’t just because you’re beautiful; it is because you’re tough and don’t easily cave in. You’re considered an inferior product if you only glitter but don’t have substance.
It is obvious that beauty appears to wear out with age, but if beauty combines with strength, it never wears out; it only gets concealed in toughness. To maintain your radiance, show some character. If you have to win ugly, please win ugly, but one thing you must never do is lose the fight. Isn’t it better to be beaten bloody and still win than to come out clean and lose? Before the fight between Anthony Joshua and Charles Martin took place, I saw a beautiful Charles and a rough Anthony. In my head I knew Charles wouldn’t last five rounds in that ring, although I gave him the benefit of a doubt. When toughness landed on beauty, there was a knock out. You can knock out that challenge if you persist. You can stand out if you insist.
When I looked at the etymology of brand, it surprised me to know that brand first meant fire! If that is the origin of the word, it suggests that every brand should be able to withstand anything that should turn it into ashes. Certain monstrous competitions challenge the capability of a brand to take it’s position in the marketplace. If it wasn’t designed to resist the flame, there is no promotion that can keep it long on the shelf. In short, if you want to embarrass a weakling, put it on the stage, and it will die of fright even when there isn’t an opponent.
Copycat brands always feel inferior before originality. When I talk about brands, I am not just addressing manufactured products or services; l am being holistic, which also includes personal branding. You want to be the best chief executive in the world? Thank goodness for your dream, but how much can you soak as a person, and at what level does your mental elasticity get to a breaking point? I once worked with someone who was told to take charge of a department for a single day; not even two hours into the long day, she was already palpitating over what I consider insignificant.
When I watched the 2015 Man Booker Award on TV, the winner Marlon James spoke about how he almost gave up writing ten years ago because publishers never believed in him, but his mental ability to carry on kept him going and believing. When I read “A Brief History of Seven Killings,” I was wondering why such a book mostly written in Jamaican patois should win such a prize. On a second thought, I realised that resilience is a hidden value behind what may look infinitesimal. The book wasn’t built by the language; it is valued by years of remaining strong when nothing appeared to be happening.
Strength drives a brand far beyond those that designed or developed it. Apple keeps going after Steve Jobs because it is a tough brand. In spite of the criticisms against fizzy drinks and how they lead to obesity, Coca Cola has become stronger after Pemberton. In Africa, like him or hate him, your murmur doesn’t stop the Dangote brand. If it wasn’t tough and strong, it would have been knocked off balance long ago.
Which would you prefer if you were given the opportunity to pick one; beauty or the beast? The beauty will die in an entrepreneurial desert while the beast will come out successful. If you can stick beauty on the beast, do it, but if not, ruggedness is the answer to the sustenance of a brand. To survive history and to compete with the future, don’t rush an untested brand into the marketplace; do a pre-test, a post-test, and continue occasional tests because the market environment is dynamic!