• Nicholas Tufaro

A Project Manager's Musical View on Branding Statements

Updated: Sep 15

On this #MusicalMonday, we explore Branding from the perspective of a Project Manager. For the past several years, many of us have heard the terms Personal Brand or Branding Statement. These terms are commonly used in the job market space, to be used by job seekers as a means of setting themselves ahead of the competition. This is done to lock in the focus of the company they wish to work for. This makes sense. Nothing new here. This is probably one of the best tools of a marketing campaign. Whether that campaign is to gain majority market share for a tangible product (automobiles), a service (tax preparation service) or a job (computer programmer), the campaign is a project and projects must have a detailed plan to ensure that risks are limited and opportunities are boundless. A good project manager will help see this through...identifying risks and managing them properly, while always keeping a close eye on the project schedule, the project budget and the project's scope.

In the world of job seeking, many job seekers are asked by career counselors "What is your brand?" or "What is your branding statement?". It's the second one that I am concerned with. My brand is me. Just like Ajax Powdered Cleanser is the brand of the company, Colgate-Polmolive. The brand, Ajax Powdered Cleanser is the brand of the company's product line of household cleansers. The Branding Statement is nothing more than a slogan. A slogan IS a form of intellectual property that, if the creator does their due diligence, they will protect that slogan through their government's patent and trademark office. In the United States, there is the United States Patent and Trademark Office (https://www.uspto.gov/trademark), where you can find enough information regarding registration procedures, fees and renewal steps and costs.  Now, we take a look at, or take a listen to, Ajax's Branding Statement, "Stronger Than Dirt". On January 3, 1964, this Branding Statement was registered with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (http://tmsearch.uspto.gov/bin/showfield?f=doc&state=4806:3zhtje.2.2). In their radio and television advertisements, we can hear it being used (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ToNNpP6DVsw). The comments in this YouTube video allude to The Doors' "Touch Me", which was heard a few years later (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iPTBd6fJuso). There are enough similarities between to two "Stronger Than Dirt" musical properties (melody and arrangement) that it could have been subject to copyright infringement. 

Fair use, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=62456577

Whether The Doors were taken to court for this, I don't know, but in 1987, Nike, Inc. found themselves in a precarious position. Perhaps if they had a Project Management Professional managing their marketing campaign, they would have not violated the intellectual property rights that were owned by the Beatles and their heirs. In 1987, Nike, Inc. used the original recording of the Beatles' "Revolution" in their television advertisements. This resulted in the Beatles' filing a lawsuit against them for a sum of $15,000,000.00. As George Harrison said "the spot opened the door for the band's songs to be used to advertise everything from women's underwear to sausages". (https://www.rollingstone.com/culture/culture-sports/story-behind-nikes-controversial-1987-revolution-commercial-192421/). By doing this, the Beatles' protected their brand and their reputation. This is an important lesson for all of us, as we need to protect our reputation in the marketplace. Your career, whether you are looking for new opportunities or living off of your legacy of proven work, requires that you protect it.

Fair use, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=62456568

Let's not forget the name "Apple" for a company. Who do you think of when someone asks about Apple? John, Paul, George and Ringo? Or Steve? Apple Corp, was founded by the Beatles in 1968, with their first single being "Hey Jude". In 1976, Apple Computers was founded by Steve Jobs. There was an ongoing case for years (https://sites.udel.edu/cisc356/2014/04/21/apple-corps-v-apple-computer-1978-2006/) which left the principals of Apple Corps vulnerable to other infringements of intellectual property. Whether your Branding Statement is simple and benign, something to fill up a line on your LinkedIn profile, business card or resume, OR it is a clever, little sound bite that will capture the hearts and minds of generations to come, think like a Project Manager by understanding the risks and how to manage them. According to the United States Patent and Trademark Office's YouTube page (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qHDRV2NTSEk), a company can take any intellectual property that you may not have registered and register it, as their own, with the USPTO and have legal rights to any product and marketing materials with that branding statement.

Through music, we as Project Managers can gain from the #lessonslearned about #risks, #riskmanagement, #scope, #compliance, #productdevelopment and #costmanagement by examining the things that went right and the things that went wrong. Hopefully, we'll save our clients' years, and perhaps decades, of unwanted legal entanglement.    

By Nicholas Tufaro, PMP at August 30, 2020

© Nicholas Tufaro,2020