Anybody who didn’t spend four hours to watch the Grammys last Sunday let me summarize the important parts for you:
Beck beat Beyonce out for Album of the Year. Kanye rushed the stage. Beck invited Kanye back to the stage. Kanye recommended Beck give the Grammy to Beyonce (implying Beck was somehow not, despite his writing all of his own music and playing a gazillion instruments for it, a real artist). Beck expressed incredulity at beating Beyonce. Beck said everybody (read Kanye) is entitled to an opinion about his artistic talent, adding Kanye deserved a Grammy for his great work and that he aspires to be as good as him.
There, that’s all you really need to know. Now on to why Beck should be the spokesperson for your brand.
A spokesperson needs to represent the best of what your brand is or can be. In the course of doing business tricky, thorny and emotionally charged issues will confront brands and the brand spokesperson needs to handle them with the aplomb and humility of, well, Beck! A spokesperson should be part Zen master and part ring master in his or her ability to stay calm and articulate, see the big picture, coordinate chaos, all the while making sure the public comes away better for the experience.
Let’s break down Beck as spokesperson, shall we?
Best of a brand: nobody who has followed Beck over the last 20 years can argue that he doesn’t represent the best of the best in the music industry. He’s wildly creative, single-minded in his dedication to his art form, and even achieved a degree of commercial success that many mainstream bands crave – and he’s been far, far away from going mainstream in his career. His ability to play 16 or so instruments is the stuff of legend. Nobody doubts his song writing chops. Now, with Best Album Grammy firmly in hand, he’s represents the best of the best.
Zen master: Beck is probably a distant relative of the Buddha in a prior life or something because that dude totally stayed in the present, letting Hurricane Kanye wash over him like a sandy island in the Caribbean. He’s bounced and weaved – butterfly and bee stuff – to Kanye’s George Foreman. Yet throughout the glitz, glam and stress of the moment, he remained seemingly calm and collected.
Humility: a brand, however great, should never succumb to hubris. Nobody is immune to backlash. Beck handled Kanye’s stage antics and ludicrous affront to his artistry with so much humility that even Pope Frances was taking notes. Instead of getting angry that Kanye questioned his artistry, Beck turned the tables and actually complimented Kanye by saying he deserved Grammys for his incredible body of work over the last five years. Beck actually said he still loves Kanye and aspires to be like him – and nobody for a second doubts this. Why? Because he means it!
Articulate under pressure: this kind of relates to being a Zen master, but staying articulate under pressure is very different from remaining calm. Beck was deeply nuanced in the perception (both his and the world’s) of his unexpected win. He acknowledged its unlikelihood and his own belief that Beyonce, superstar and artist that she is, was the odds on favorite. He also deflected Kanye’s emotionally charged remarks in a moment of grace that bordered on brilliant, bringing to mind a Mom picking up an angry toddler and hugging away the hurt and fleeting fury. By saying Kanye deserved to be on the stage, Grammy in hand, he addressed what’s undoubtedly a personal animus Kanye must feel at being nominated for but never winning the best Album of the Year award (or maybe that’s just my opinion). Either way, like any spokesperson, Beck absorbed the emotions and didn’t react negatively to stoke them even more, rather he gave out compliments and sucked the poison right out of the moment.
Humor: this could also be part of humility but it’s a different mindset. Not that a spokesperson crack jokes in the midst of a crisis involving, say, a jet crash or gas line explosion. But humor is as much an ingredient of great brand positioning as any quality out there, in part because it puts people at ease in what are sometimes awkward or painful situations. Beck’s humor was quirky and organic to his personality so there were no forced funny moments to betray any suppressed anger toward Kanye or lack of sympathy to Beyonce’s disappointment.
What more can I say? Got a brand in need of an expert spokesperson to handle the battering, take-no-prisoner world of commerce? Look no further than Beck.
Plus, I hear he writes a mean commercial jingle!
About Dave Manzer: Dave Manzer founded an Austin tech & healthcare PR agency for startups and emerging-growth businesses in 2009. Dave Manzer specializes in highly integrated PR & marketing strategies that help companies in technology, healthcare and professional services reach their goals in brand awareness and revenue growth. To contact Dave directly about the PR over Coffee blog, please email him at dave(@)davemanzer.com.