Creating Intimacy with Labels [Video]

American’s love their slang. I’m not talking about the four-letter words that get bleeped if they are mistakenly uttered on TV (though we do love that as well). I’m talking about things like “Beemer” (BMW), “Mickey D’s” (McDonalds) and, of course, “Chevy” (Chevrolet). In some ways this kind of slang is a badge of honor. It says: “I love this product so much; I feel comfortable enough to be causal and informal with it.”

We don’t use these terms to deride, we use them to celebrate. Unfortunately, Chevrolet no longer feels comfortable with the nickname, “Chevy” any longer. Richard Chang of the New York Times reports that GM has circulated a memo suggesting  that Chevrolet employees refrain from saying “Chevy” in order to promote brand “consistency.”

The last time I heard the word “Chevrolet” I was 10 years old living with my parents in a very small apartment. The place was so small that whenever my parents turned on the giant 13″ Black and White TV it was loud and clear in my bed room. I was kept up late into the night by Ed Sullivan claiming they were going have “a really big shooow,” or Dinah Shore singing that I should “See The U.S.A in your Chevrolet.” Years later, hearing “Chevrolet” doesn’t make me want to buy a wonderful new car, it makes me want to buy a Dinah Shore CD.

From the point of view of leadership the issue is not about labeling, but about the creation of intimacy through labeling. When we try to sell a brand the message is important, but the tone, the creation of intimacy, is even more important. Certain things, certain labels, have not simply become icons, but they have become intimate reflections of our culture.

The word “Chevy” bridges the 1950’s, 60’s and 70’s. It’s a communal expression doesn’t belong to the corporation, but it belongs to the culture at large. There is no reason to throw away such a level of hard earned intimacy. Most companies would pay any amount of money to find their products enmeshed in all parts of the popular culture.

If gas prices ever come down or if we ever find a way to make our cars more fuel efficient, I hope we will still have the chance to see the U.S.A in our Chevys.

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SATs & Global Change: The Power of Vision

My room was dark and cold as I contemplated whether the chill I felt was through the lack of heating or the cloud of fear floating over me. I pondered on the darkness being a result of the lights going out or simply the confusion and uncertainty that plagued me. For the third day that week, the electricity had been interrupted. With inflation over one thousand percent and unemployment rising to over seventy percent, my beloved country Zimbabwe, was now a sea of corruption, broken hopes, and dreams. I looked down at the wax candle and sadly viewed the fading candle as my own personal representation of losing hope of ever achieving my dreams and visions.

I remember this defining point in my life because it was the day I decided that with an eternal flame of hope inside my heart I would take action towards achieving my vision of staring a new life in the USA and attending college. I almost dropped out of high school because I could not bear to see my parents suffer working daily for meager salaries. Although, I had a deep burning desire to go to college, our local University was constantly closed due to political violence. I then took on the responsibility of helping pay the bills at home. Our money never really had any value so anything we earned was always spent on daily expenses. Since childhood, I had clear visions of where I wanted to go and what I wanted to do but I almost lost hope and accepted defeat as the situation in my country left me powerless.

Joel Barker writes about how action without vision just passes time. My life at that point felt exactly like that, passing time. Dreaming about moving to the USA and attending college, I would imagine the journey, meeting new people, and the academic heights I would reach. Yet, that is all they were, dreams. That night, watching the candle fade, I kept hearing my mother’s words about how the universe would always provide us with everything. With these words echoing in my mind I made a list of actions that I would take to ensure my path to studying in the USA. I analyzed my situation and immediately changed my way of thinking. Nothing was going to stop me from achieving my vision.

I wrote to my aunt in Dallas and asked her to send me practice books on the SAT and information about colleges in Dallas. I explored my options on making more money by changing jobs and industries, accepting a new challenge of a commission based salary. Initially, it was difficult, but I remained focused on my vision of going to the USA and attending college and worked harder and harder as time progressed. My determination impressed my boss and he promoted me to a sales manager. I actually started making enough money to save up for a plane ticket to the USA. Every night before I went to bed, I would voraciously study my SAT handbook and the universe also noticed my positive actions and I was graced with winning a green card lottery. My SAT score was in the top ten percentile and I had saved enough money to move to USA and finally realize my once forgotten dream.

I truly believe that if you develop a vision and follow it through with action you can change your life, you can change your community, your nation and the world. Leaders such as Gandhi and Mandela had positive and inspiring visions, so well developed, that when followed through with action, they changed the history of the world. Vision with action helped achieve my dreams.

Picture Credit: Pure9