Curled up in a teeny-tiny coach seat on a Delta flight to NYC, I opened the pages of Rohit Bhargava’s “Personality Not Included.” After hearing him speak at a recent PRSA event, I was compelled to dig into the book about how companies lose their authenticity and great brands get it back. With years in corporate public relations for Fortune 500s, I’ve witnessed this dilemma firsthand, and Rohit’s observations were funny, insightful, touching - as if I was sitting in a 12-step program listening to bad choices for some and positive breakthroughs for others.
The crux of Rohit’s thesis is that personalities matter - from the inside out. Faceless is out. Dynamic personalities are in. Consistency is the coup de grâce, and although many Wall Street darlings have hid behind carefully crafted advertising messages, Rohit suggests the need for businesses to rediscover the soul of their brands in the social media, impression-to-expression universe.
While in the Big Apple, I popped into the New Amsterdam Theater to see a childhood classic, updated for today’s time, Mary Poppins: The Musical. The central theme of the book P. J. Travers penned over a century ago is family. Jane and Michael Banks are the well-to-do but troubled children of an aloof overworked banker (who gets laid off) and his suffragette wife (who is too focused on climbing the London society ladder to spend time with her children). Through word and song, Mary teaches Jane and Michael life lessons that still resonate for all of us 100 years later. Whether it’s to give from your heart “Feed the Birds”, to enjoy the little pleasures in life “Chim Chim Cheree”, to accept everyone for who they are “Jolly Holliday”, or to be a responsible family member “A Spoonful of Sugar”, Mary Poppins was truly practically perfect in every way.
As I walked back to the hotel room through Times Square’s riveting lights, I had an ah-ha moment. The soul of Mary’s brand offers time-tested and bold insights into how we work, act, live and play in today’s turbulent financial times. She’s as relevant now as she was when Julie Andrews won the Best Actress Oscar for her Mary portrayal in 1965. She’s proof of what Rohit describes in his riveting book. Personalities do matter from the inside out.
And on that note, I’m off to take my own spoonful of sugar…