Our digitized world is obsessed with branding. The road to success, we’re told, is to create a public image of a consistent experience/product/person that people will want to acquire or be exposed to.
That’s why the trade association for accountants published “Five Tips to Branding Yourself” (how, in fact, do accountants brand themselves?). It’s why Success Magazine advised “How to: Brand Yourself.” And it’s why Semantic Scholar magazine explored the power of branding (“Researchers themselves are brands”).
Even writers are supposed to brand themselves (painful!) with online posts like this one, social media chirpiness, and identifiable literary products like my historical mystery series, each with “Deception” in the title. [Which means I should mention that the paperback The Babe Ruth Deception will release on June 27!]
So let me put in a vote for the best brand ever: BABE RUTH.
The Power of the Name
What’s the evidence? I’ll stake my case on the name “Babe Ruth” and how we use it. When we want to say that someone is dominant in a field, is the absolute best, what’s the metaphor that we reach for? Often, it’s the Babe. Among the examples I’ve noticed in just the last few months:
- When Donald Trump’s spin artist wanted to tout her candidate’s performance in a debate, she called him “The Babe Ruth of debating.“
- To explain why Yale University named a residential college for Grace Hopper, a largely unknown navy admiral/computer whiz, the New Haven newspaper called her “the Babe Ruth of the computer industry.”
- When a federal trial witness wanted to describe a sports gambler and investment guru, he called him “The Babe Ruth of Risk.”
- How to describe Bill Clinton on the campaign trail? He’s the “Babe Ruth of Presidential Campaigns,” according to the Observer.
- Even Marty Aronoff turns out to be the “Babe Ruth of Television Statisticians,” or so USA Today told us.
This just scratches the surface. Willie Sutton as the “Babe Ruth of Bank Robbers” and Enrico Caruso as the “Babe Ruth of opera singers”? Of course, according to Time Magazine and the New York Times, respectively.
Atlantic Magazine said that Wilt Chamberlain was “the Babe Ruth of Basketball“? But Fox News thinks Kobe Bryant was “the Babe Ruth of the NBA“? Who knew there was a “Babe Ruth of bridge“? A “Babe Ruth of Relationships“?
Or that Bible teachings of the Old Testament are “The Babe Ruth of Kindness?
So how did the Babe do it? He was a lightly-educated kid from the wrong side of Baltimore’s tracks with a family so dysunctional that he mostly was raised in St. Mary’s Industrial School. Yet he built the Best Brand Ever.
For a full answer, we’ll have to wait until this time next year, when Jane Leavy’s book on the Babe comes out — Hey Big Fella: Babe Ruth and the Advent of Celebrity. Like Jane’s other books, it’ll be compelling and fascinating. Until then, here’s a quick list of reasons that pop into my mind:
- Do something that lots of people do and love (baseball!), and do it better than anyone else ever has.
- Have FUN while you’re doing it.
- While you’re at it, fundamentally change how that thing is done — say, by hitting more home runs than anyone ever thought was possible.
- Slap a charming grin on an ugly-handsome, unforgettable face.
- Have an easy-to-remember, two-syllable name that sounds as friendly as your grin looks.
- Make it clear that you like a good time as much as — hell, more than — most people do.
- Love kids and get yourself photographed with them all the time.
Then go ahead and endorse every product that will pay you to do so. Don’t be shy about it.
Among the items the Babe touted for America were:
- Babe Ruth Underwear.
- “Ruth’s Home Run” chocolate bar (the Baby Ruth bar was a total ripoff of the Babe by the Curtis Candy Company, but I digress).
- Quakers Puffed Wheat and Puffed Rice.
- Old Gold Cigarettes
- Pinch Hit Tobacco
- Red Rock Cola
- Esso Oil
- Murphy-Rich Soap
- Mrs. Sherlock’s Bread
- Sinclair Oil
- Raleigh Cigarettes
- White Owl Cigars.
- A.J. Reach Co. baseball mitts and baseballs
- Barbasol shaving cream.
- Girl Scout cookies!