Bolt And The 4R’s Of Branding

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Brands have long understood that actions speak louder than words. And it is only when they begin to become a part of daily rituals, do they truly embark on cementing their places in the lives of consumers.

Usain Bolt and Branding

Post the Rio Olympics, a few amendments need to be undertaken, as far as dictionaries across the world go. There is now a new two word synonym for speed-Usain Bolt. The Jamaican’s rousing exploits, not only obliterated the American dominance of sprinting; they have also extended the very possibilities of the human form. A repeat of the same three gold medals that he won in Beijing and London, have assured Bolt his place in history-as the greatest sprinter of them all.

But even as Bolt powers ahead to world record times, there are some interesting ideas that his career catalyzes, which find relevance to the world of branding. Elemental thought starters, which are ignited by his blazing spikes. But potent parallels nonetheless, that could stimulate branding teams to bring the same championship mentality, to their very own challenges at hand.

Presented below are the four ‘R’s’ of branding, as inspired by the feats of Bolt. For someone so fast, it is perhaps inevitable that he would have zipped past the otherwise more conventional ‘P’s’, and moved on to the next thing…

RPM – The speed imperative
Usain Bolt is a speed merchant par excellence. He holds the world record across the 100 meters, the 200 meters, and the 4x100 meters relay. And he has not rested on these laurels once he had achieved them. Over the past few years, he has rewritten his own records a few times. It is this relentless urge to stay out in front, which defines him as a sportsman.

Bolt does inform the branding world about the importance of speed. In times when every single player, from television news channels to technology companies; are trying to nudge ahead of their competitor- speed is sometimes the very essence of a branding strategy. The need to establish oneself as the pioneer of new exciting innovations; has its unique long term strategic benefits. The necessity to react quickly to competitive threats or controversies; has its own tactical rewards. The speed of customer response, often lays down the very groundwork for a lasting and fruitful relationship. The business world does ruthlessly divide its participants, into the quick and the dead. Hence it is often prudent to follow Bolt’s example, in terms of exploding off the starting blocks.

REVIEW - The need to recast things differently
Bolt would perhaps say in typically ‘modest’ fashion, that his succeeding at athletics ensured the career of many a batsman around the world. This was because he began life, aspiring to become a pace bowler. It is only when his school coach, noticing his phenomenal speed, urged him to try out the track and field events; that this sporting phenomenon hit the ground running.

A speedy start is one thing. But keeping an expert eye on what ground is being covered, is quite another. Many brands in the pursuit of innovation need to develop a keen sense of how newer initiatives are developing. Just because what is being uncovered, was not initially aimed for, does not mean that it might not have inherent value. From the time Columbus stumbled upon the ‘new world’, having initially set out to find India; great discoveries have always been marked with the flexibility in mindset to reposition what has been revealed. And just like cricket’s minor loss was athletics major gain, similar stories might be waiting to be unfolded in the competitive marketplace.

RESURRECT - The overcoming of setbacks
In 2011, Bolt had experienced the abysmal depths of failure. Hot favorite to retain his 100 meters title at the World Athletic Championships, he was disqualified in the final, because of consecutive false starts. And when Yohan Blake beat him in the Jamaican trials-just a few weeks before the London Olympics, ‘experts’ began predicting his downfall. But come London, Bolt answered all his doubters in the best manner possible. By emphatically brushing aside those failures and coming back even stronger.

This ability to rise above failures is as important in the world of branding. Teams behind brands encounter setbacks (of some sort), fairly regularly in the marketing world. And it is often their attitude to these ‘failures’, which determines the health of a brand going forward. Those which display the ability to learn from these experiences, and develop more directional ideas and initiatives; are usually the ones who ensure that their brand, returns to the same challenge triumphantly. Finally it’s the very human resolve to prove their skeptics wrong, which stands both Olympic champions and global brands in good stead.

RITUAL - The seeding of actions
Usain Bolt’s victory celebration routine, has brought a hitherto unseen showmanship and charisma to the world of sprinting. His trademark ‘bow and arrow’ routine, is a sporting meme, on the level of the ‘Mexican Wave’. It is utterly simple in execution, and always brings back memories of its creator, whenever it is rendered. For a person whose body of work sometimes lasts less than ten seconds, it also goes a fair way in helping increase his interaction with the audience. It makes his triumphs far more participatory.

Brands have long understood that actions speak louder than words. And it is only when they begin to become a part of daily rituals, do they truly embark on cementing their places in the lives of consumers. But when they manage to catalyze rituals on their own, they push involvement even further. This is especially true when these rituals, allow consumers to interpret and experience the brand for themselves. From automotive brands which foster excursions that celebrate ‘the joy of the drive’, to social networking brands which are creating newer benchmarks of audience participation and involvement; this trend like Bolt’s victory routine,  is here to linger for a long time.
As the dust clears after Bolt’s record breaking efforts, new perspectives begin to emerge. Those which point towards not letting the residual effects, of such sterling sporting endeavors subside; but to let their adrenaline rush, truly energize thinking in the board room.

Bringing the influence of Bolt, to bear on branding problems, just might ensure they get resolved in less than ten seconds.

Patron Saint-Juhu Beach United
Author, Creative Thinking Trainer, Brand Ideation Consultant,