Being Bob Hope: Becoming an Iconic Brand Superstar
Those of you who know me personally know that I am a film buff, and classic comedy historian and collector. I’ve been a member of The Sons of the Desert, the international Laurel and Hardy organization, since I was 15 years old, and I founded the Cleveland, Ohio, branch of that organization in 1973. I’ve taught college extension courses on the history of film comedy and can discuss the merits and careers of Chaplin, Keaton, Groucho, Abbott and Costello, and Jerry Lewis for hours and hours.
Currently, I’m reading a fascinating biography about Bob Hope called “Hope” by Richard Zoglin, and as the author examines the multi-faceted career of this comedy legend, I’m taking the information I’m learning about Hope and running that through the filter of how who he was and how he lived might apply to the promotional products professional. What lessons are there in the way Bob Hope lived his life that could be extrapolated (I went to college) to bring career value to you and me? As you will see, there is an approach to excellence that Bob Hope pioneered that can apply to you creating and being an iconic “brand superstar” in the promotional products industry.
Bob Hope was one of the biggest, most important superstars of the 20th century, in a class with Chaplin, The Beatles, Elvis, Sinatra and Walt Disney. He was not only successful, but top tier, No. 1-in-the-ratings successful in Vaudeville, Broadway, radio, motion pictures and television for decades. He created the persona of “Bob Hope” and marketed that image—the funny, fast-talking, cowardly ladies' man—across these multiple platforms of entertainment. “Bob Hope” became a larger-than-life brand that was universally recognized and beloved. That character didn’t really exist—he was created and portrayed by Bob Hope so superbly that fiction became fact and this larger-than-life persona was considered by the public as a pro at the very top of his game. He recreated himself as a brand. One writer said, “Bob Hope has been playing Bob Hope for so long that everything else has been burned out of him. The man has become his image.” That is not a bad thing.
In the ‘60s, someone once said to Cary Grant, “You are so suave and assured, so classy and perfect, I wish I was Cary Grant!” to which Grant replied, “Hell, I wish I was Cary Grant, too! I’m not that person you see on the screen. He’s wonderful, but it’s not me!” Same with Walt Disney, who created this great family-uncle image that came into our living rooms every Sunday on television. He said, “I’m not Walt Disney. I do things that Walt Disney would never do. I smoke, and Walt Disney would never smoke. I drink, and Walt Disney would never drink.” These are fascinating, revealing statements from iconic personalities who sacrificed self for career and immortality.
Here is how this begins to translate to something we can learn from and use. Every day, Bob Hope got up, looked in the mirror and asked himself, “What can I do today to further my career?” He did that every day—even when he was at the top.
That’s it—the secret to success. Are we working, merely doing our jobs and surviving the trials of the day, or are we creating an iconic promotional products brand superstar? We can be larger than life in this role that we inhabit for 12 or 15 hours a day. We can be the very best at what we do, have a unique brand recognized in the marketplace—with our own logo, across multiple platforms (write articles, be an expert, teach people, appear on a cable access show or at regional events), and become completely unique and one-of-a-kind. If we approach each day as an opportunity to be better than yesterday, to move forward and make a difference, then we are Bob Hope … we are Walt Disney. Create an alter ego—a persona to inhabit. Don’t let your day swallow you up and dictate what is going to happen, which crisis will engulf and consume you. Take control and make every day count—move the needle forward, in ways big or small, every single day! Recreate yourself and your company in new, surprising and different ways! Be iconic! Don’t be Snub Pollard or Evelyn Keyes or Elmo Lincoln or someone dusty and forgotten.
Be Bob Hope.
Be bold. Be different. Be memorable.
Rick Greene, MAS, is the Western regional vice president of HALO Branded Solutions, a past president of SAAC and on the PPB Editorial Advisory Board. His comic fantasy novels “Boofalo!” and “Shroom!” are available on Amazon.com. Buy one! Or Both!! Or all three, even!