Inspiration for Commitment, Redefinition, and Reinvention
Issue 138, December 7, 2023
What We Can Learn From Others
For many of us, this year has been one of surprises and some unexpected gifts. Global events have become 24/7 headlines on our newsfeeds and most of the news is troubling. 2023 is the hottest year on record for the planet. Two wars are being waged simultaneously at great costs. Inflation remains a persistent worry despite improving economic data. The vision of an EV future is in question by consumers who haven’t yet decided it is worth the higher cost to be climate sensitive. The concept of work and professional careers is being upended by Gen Z, millennials, and even Gen X. All these concurrent events, shifts, and movements are begging society for a near-total reset.
So, what are people doing in response to this? They are “Doom Spending” to cope with unpredictable market and global trends. They are experiencing accelerated FOMO, anxious that they are missing important personal experiences. Millennials are seeking what they describe as “rewiring” sabbaticals in their mid-30s, pausing professional careers and day-to-day life to explore the world or creative pursuits. Workers are requesting more mental health/wellness support from their employers. Boomers and Gen X are deferring retirement, needing the income to make ends meet. Most everyone is visibly and vocally protesting strongly and loudly for whichever cause they advocate.
It is a crazy world out there, but it’s not all negative. In the end, change can present great opportunities. Change is constant. Changes can be made through redefinition and reinvention. Change, regardless of the catalyst, is impossible if it is driven by the need for short-term success. In any organization, a redefinition or a reinvention must come from a deep base of critical thinking to assess an audience, a market or even society at large. Effective change is a steady course of understanding what stakeholders want and need, how those wants or needs may be evolving, what resonates, and most importantly, what is necessary to generate sustainable and substantial loyalty.
We are going to focus on three individuals from the entertainment industry who understand how to stay the course, redefine and reinvent themselves in response to societal shifts, situations and events. These individuals can offer inspiration to any individual or organization confronting the necessity for change. Each icon is not just an individual, behind her is an organization of individuals and teams who come together under excellent leadership and a shared purpose to excel at delivering what her customers want and need.
We can all learn lessons from these three mega-talents in how to transform ourselves and our organizations. So, as we enter the holiday season, let’s look at how they offer inspiration and so much promise.
Stay the Course: You Are Your Brand
Taylor Swift is a business machine. She is a poster child for creating, maintaining, and controlling her personal brand. It may sound like a stretch, but if there is only one unexpected thing we learned this year, it’s that Taylor Swift is an impressive economic force. Yes, she has been consistently building her persona and her career – not to mention her Grammys, Billboard Chart listings and music sales. But in 2023 she set new records with her Eras Tour, the brilliance of releasing her Tour as a concert film, and then the intelligence of streaming it … on her birthday. And she has contributed an estimated $93 million to local economies with her Tour.
Why is she so successful? She knows her audience and gives them exactly what they want. As Jasen Aten reports in Inc., “Thinking about your fans (think your customers) is good for business. Few brands are more in touch with, or protective of, their fans than Swift is. Those fans repay her not just with loyalty, but also with their cash. It just so happens that the thing her fans want very much is to give her lots of money for more of her concert tour. Swift is nothing if not intentional about cultivating her own narrative, and releasing the streaming movie to fans on her own birthday is the perfect next chapter of this fairytale.” This is a teachable moment in capsule form in how to build a brand. Just substitute your brand for hers.
But wait! There’s more. Peter Cohan writes for Inc. stating that Swift’s $6 billion tour success can be summed up with her ability to “sell relentlessly, remembering personal details, creating new products, and building on the power of happy customers.” He adds that, Swift’s success offers three lessons for business leaders:
- “Create a good product. Swift writes great songs and is a great singer and performer. What’s more, she can write many different kinds of songs. Business success depends on products customers want to buy.
- Treat your customers well. Swift knows her fans, intuits what they value, is good at interacting with them, and understands how they think. These customer relationship skills are critical to business success.
- Tell a great story. Swift got started in Nashville as a 14-year-old and succeeded beyond her wildest dreams. To be great, have a great story.”
There are two other business applications to Swift’s success. When you are successful, self-confident, and genuinely empathetic, there’s a halo effect that inspires others to rise to their better selves. And no one has ever left a Taylor Swift concert thinking, “Wow what a disappointment.” Manage expectations and always over-deliver.
You Can Redefine Yourself
Another insight from Hollywood. It would be hard to imagine that icons such as Barbie and Ken could be reinterpreted in such modern and engaging ways as in Greta Gerwig’s 2023 film, “Barbie.” The lesson here is that change is possible, perceptions can be adjusted, and relevance can be attained with a resilient, imaginative rethink. Love her or hate her, Barbie also became Mattel’s golden moment in the imaginations of today’s young customers looking for a role model for reinventing oneself and standing for something. Maybe that’s too sentimental an outlook, but when you think about it, 25% of the people who saw this film had never been to a movie before. In an unorthodox move, Gerwig twisted an age-old stereotypical story into something meaningful for a new generation. This blockbuster film, earning upwards of $1.5 billion, was more than just another entertaining story for little girls like the Disney films The Little Mermaid or Mulan.
The Barbie film hit a cultural and professional nerve. Dr. Stefanie Johnson at the University of Colorado at Boulder developed five leadership lessons based on the film:
- Self-Awareness and Identity. Through their journey of self-discovery and self-acceptance Barbie and Ken gain agency in becoming their true selves. Identity development is integral to leader development: Knowledge is power, and self-knowledge can become a superpower.
- Effective Communication. Through conveying emotions, expressing needs, and coordinating plans, Barbie exemplifies the importance of effective communication. A key takeaway is to think about how to communicate great ideas to the team, investors, supervisors, customers. A good idea alone isn’t enough; other people have to understand your vision through your communication.
- Teamwork and Collaboration. Although Barbie seems collaborative by nature, her success is contingent upon teamwork. Collaboration can increase the productivity of teams by 50%. And what happens when collaboration breaks down in favor of competition? The Kens go to war. Leaders need to spend less time doing tasks and more time investing in the creation of a collaborative team to get work done.
- Diversity and Inclusion. Any collaborative team is beneficial, but a diverse, inclusive, and collaborative team can change the world. That’s Barbie’s ecosystem. The ability to “inclusify” – or lead in an inclusive way so that you can benefit from the diverse perspectives on your team – is a key driver of leadership success.
- Resilience in the Face of Adversity. The importance of crucible moments cannot be underestimated. These are difficult challenges that make leaders stronger and better humans by facing challenges. Barbie transforms herself by understanding her true self. It’s impossible to understand and motivate others if you don’t understand yourself and what motivates you.
The movie is not just a cultural success, it became Warner Brothers highest performing movie, ever, demonstrating that redefinition and recasting with a resonating message can result in great success.
You Can Reinvent Your Brand
Another entertainment powerhouse, Beyoncé, is viewing her tour and movie as a self-proclaimed rebirth. Rebirth takes confidence and the humility to change. Reinventing your brand shows that you are listening to yourself and responding to your audience. The Renaissance (literally rebirth) Tour is a crucible moment for Beyoncé. Rebirth is not necessarily a full-scale shift. Reinvention is an evolution and remains relevant and valuable to your stakeholders. Like Swift, the Renaissance Tour is in theaters, and business geniuses Beyoncé and Swift distributed their films directly to AMC, disintermediating the traditional studio distribution model. So, when it comes to the parallels for an organization, being stuck in place is not an option for brand growth and rebirth. Beyoncé’s Renaissance Tour could be seen as a master class in the art of business finesse, according to Nisi Bennett on LinkedIn. She says from the power of confidence to the art of endurance, Beyoncé provides a symphony of insights that can resonate with business leaders.
- Know Your Worth. Beyoncé’s unshakable self-worth serves as a reminder for entrepreneurs and organizational leaders not to undervalue their offerings.
- Have a Trusted Team. Queen B’s seamless performance highlights the power of a well-coordinated team behind the scenes.
- Confidence. Beyoncé’s palpable confidence on stage underscores the confidence that inspires trust among stakeholders, including clients, investors, and employees.
- Authenticity. Beyoncé’s integration of her personal narrative into her brand encourages others to embrace their authenticity. Authenticity not only humanizes your brand but also sets it apart in a crowded marketplace.
- Glitter Makes Everything Better: The glitz on stage enhances the spectacle, emphasizing the importance of uniqueness and appeal in business. Adding a touch of “glitter” or distinctiveness to your products or services can attract and retain customers.
- Endurance. Beyoncé’s relentless energy showcases the endurance required to succeed in the entertainment industry. Similarly, building a business demands resilience, perseverance, and the ability to overcome challenges.
- Recognize the broader impact of your business. $4.4 billion. That’s how much money the New York Times estimates Beyoncé will have generated for the American economy by the end of the Renaissance Tour. Your business decisions can have ripple effects on suppliers, employees, and the community.
Inspiration in Troubled Times
All three ionic women have teachable moments for thriving in difficult times. Swift for staying the course, Beyoncé who experimented with her last album and reinvented herself, and Gerwig who recognized something familiar had enormous hidden value when recast and redefined for today’s culture. Each of them represents the power of knowing their audience, reading the tea leaves, critically assessing, thinking how to remain relevant and most importantly, understanding what people (their fans, i.e., your customers) want and need. In a time of anxiety about the outcomes of global and national events, unexpected, inspirational gifts are teachable moments to cherish.
Get “The Truth about Transformation”
The 2040 construct to change and transformation. What’s the biggest reason organizations fail? They don’t honor, respect, and acknowledge the human factor. We have compiled a playbook for organizations of all sizes to consider all the elements that comprise change and we have included some provocative case studies that illustrate how transformation can quickly derail.