Author branding à la française: The Sun King

Part 5 in series on personal branding

Louis_XIV_of_France

The king’s coronation robes are embroidered with fleurs-de-lis and lined with ermine. His sword is Charlemagne’s.

It should come as no surprise that when it comes to personal branding, the French take it to a higher level. The Sun King, Louis XIV, is the most outstanding in a long line of Louis who had impressive nicknames: Louis the Young, Louis the Lion, Louis the Saint. These guys had the right idea of personal brand. And then, there were a few who kind of botched it: Louis the Quarreler, and Louis the Prudent, the Cunning, the Universal Spider (this one deserves further exploration in another post!).

But The Sun King has transcended the centuries, reigning longer than any other monarch of a major European country (more than 72 years, 1643-1715). He is memorable for centralizing government, for his lavish Palace of Versailles, for his his grand poses (and shapely legs), and of course for his fashion sense.

Taking back control of his country from the Catholic cardinals, Louis XIV believed in rule by divine right. He valued fiscal and military reform, law and order, the arts, and thriving French industries that could be effectively taxed. To move forward with his goals, he had to start by eliminating the mammoth corruption and embezzlement by some of his advisors.

He gained the respect of the populace by focusing first on law an order, and relied on his new government ministers reporting directly to him to help establish and maintain his public image. King Louis understood that the display of magnificence and splendor created part of a king’s power. He also knew the value of repetition. His portraits were numerous, and his images were distributed far and wide to reach as many of his subjects as possible.

According to Peter Burke, author of The Fabrication of Louis XIV, “Louis saw himself everywhere, even on the ceiling.”

His personal symbol, or logo, was the sun, and anything that bore his standard — his bed and his dinner table even if he was not present — was to be respected as if he himself were there.

Brand guidelines

To maintain a consistency of image and message in all of this repetition, there had to be rules, and Louis understood this as well. In all its forms, his public representation had to convince the audience of his greatness. Louis identified with admired historical figures such as Clovis, the first Christian king of France, and Charlemagne. So, the artists, musicians and writers drew from such powerful images as a Roman triumph, an equestrian statue with the horse stomping some evil. In state portraits he was:

  • Larger than life, his eyes higher than the viewer

    Rigaud_Hyacinthe_-_Louis_XIV,_roi_de_France

    King Louis XIV in shining armor, high wig and heels, and ribbons.

  • Dressed in armor symbolizing valor, and/or clothing showing his high status (In the 17th century, elaborate wigs and high heels became the custom, and served to enlarge the king’s impressive stature.)
  • Surrounded by powerful props such as globes, scepters, the sword of justice, thunderbolts and laurels
  • Wearing the expression and posture of dignity and grandeur

“As for the expression on the royal visage, it tends to vary between ardent courage and dignified affability. A smile is apparently considered inappropriate for the King of France,” Burke wrote.

In addition to portraits, sermons, sonnets, poems, literature, plays, coins and tapestries all had to present the king in this idealized light.

Brand strategy

To help implement his brand, King Louis had Jean-Baptiste Colbert who devised and documented a strategy whereby the king would be glorified as a patron of the arts. This “communications plan” included a list of all the various media where the king could not only invest but be depicted, as well as a list of individuals, their strengths and weaknesses, who could be called upon for the work.

“The plan was put into place in the next decade,” wrote Burke, “when we can observe the ‘organisation of culture’ in the sense of the construction of a system of official organizations which mobilized artists, writers and scholars in the service of the king.”

Like the sun, King Louis rose with the work of his reign and the help of his brand advisors, but in later years experienced a “royal sunset” when expensive wars, fragmented politics and a shortage of talent contributed to the decline of his popularity. There would be two more Louis to rule France before the French Revolution of 1789, but none to reach so high a zenith.

The takeaways

What can we learn from the personal brand of the Sun King?

  • Again, that values rather than fashion must be the brand driver.
  • That guidelines are necessary to maintain the brand’s consistency and thus its power.
  • And, that a good written strategy helps ensure the brand is made visible and relevant to its target audiences.

Next week, part 6 of the series will focus on Napoleon.

SharavogueCoverSharavogue recently won first place for historical fiction in the Florida Writers Association Royal Palm Literary Awards! You can purchase a copy from online booksellers and at the Book Loft on Amelia Island, FL. I will be presenting at the Amelia Island Book Festival Feb. 20-21.

Author branding: Like Good Queen Bess

Part 4 in series on personal branding

Elizabeth_I_(Armada_Portrait)Sometimes called Good Queen Bess, Gloriana, or The Virgin Queen, the second daughter of Henry VIII became Queen Elizabeth I of England at the age of 25. She quickly and masterfully defined herself in the eyes of her people — that is, she established her personal brand.

At a disadvantage from the beginning because she was female, protestant, and the daughter of the executed Anne Boleyn, she was also coming into power after the death of her half-sister Mary, aka “Bloody Mary.” Elizabeth needed to establish a firm base of power that her courtiers and her people could respect and accept. In her case, facing the likelihood of Catholic assassins, a strong personal brand was truly a matter of life or death.

Values and positioning

Elizabeth had been in training for royalty for a long time. She knew what she wanted: Increased world trade, supreme naval power, religious unity, and economic prosperity. She didn’t care for war, but did not shrink from it in order to protect and defend her power and her nation.

To those ends, Elizabeth not only created a powerful persona, but also “positioned” herself as a strong and just ruler, a most noble and formidable king in a gentle woman’s body.

Positioning is a way to define yourself to your audience in a positive and memorable way, while differentiating yourself from your competitors or predecessors.

If I were to quickly write Queen Elizabeth’s positioning statement, first I would beg forgiveness at being so bold and admit a royal positioning statement would require a lot of serious thought and development time. That said, it might go something like this:

For the people of England, France and Ireland, we (the royal we) descend under divine right from Britain’s greatest monarchs, to establish peace, religious unity, international trade and naval dominance, and to maintain their well-being, security and prosperity. 

  • Elizabeth based her claim to the throne first on history, descending from the Trojans, linking to King Arthur and Henry VIII. This history and provides the background to her many symbolic portraits, and to this she added color choices, iconography, and especially consistency.
  • Elizabeth did not care to sit for portraits so eventually artists were given “approved” facial forms to paint from, adding to the consistency and agelessness of her persona.
  • She preferred white gowns to emphasize her fair skin and bright hair, and augmenting her image of purity. Her courtiers wore miniatures of her to show their devotion, and had their own portraits painted wearing Elizabeth’s colors – black, white, red and gold. (At the time, red and black dyes were difficult to obtain and process, so they were restricted to the wealthy.)
  • In addition to portraits, Elizabeth’s persona was communicated (and sometimes created for her) through poetry, drama, music and architecture.

Power of Portraits

Elizabeth had no advertising or social media to broadcast her message, so of course portraits were the best way to establish her persona. After the defeat of the Spanish Armada in 1588, a famous portrait (above) shows her with the ships in the background and her feet upon a map of the world. Her hand rests on a globe below the crown, her fingers cover the Americas, indicating England’s plans for expansion , and she is flanked by two columns suggesting her history. In the background  the ships are driven to dark destruction while Elizabeth enjoys the sunlight.

“Elizabeth’s savvy in regard to managing and manipulating public opinion was substantial. She spent lavishly on gowns, jewels, portraits and royal progresses, whistle-stop horseback tours of her domain that let her see and be seen. Her skill with rhetoric, both visual and verbal, was undisputed, as in the legendary speech delivered to her troops on the eve of the Spanish Armada. The queen, dressed in an Athenalike white gown and silver breastplate, told her men, ‘I have the body of a weak, feeble woman, but the heart and stomach of a king—and of a King of England too.’”
–Hanne Blank
Virgin, The Untouched History

In what is known as “the pelican portrait” she wears pearls indicating purity, the Tudor rose indicating unity, and a pendant that shows a pelican mother caring for her young. In Elizabeth’s time, mother pelicans symbolized self sacrifice of mothers to care for their young, and as an icon represented Elizabeth as mother and protector of her Protestant nation and her subjects.

Queen_Eliz_The_Ditchley_portraitLike a virgin

As Elizabeth aged and determined that she would never marry, she became famous for her virginity — even though many believed she’d had a long-term love affair with Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester. She was celebrated as The Virgin Queen in the portraits, pageants and literature of the day.

Virginity was a courtly ideal. In younger days Elizabeth’s virginity had represented her purity, innocence and chastity, making her a perfect bride for some wealthy prince. As she aged and all suitors were refused, her virginity was spun into a maternal sacrifice of herself for her country and her people, lending an air of holiness to her reign.

Elizabeth_I_Rainbow_PortraitWings to fly

Elizabeth was also immortalized by the poet Edmund Spenser in his epic The Faerie Queen, where she was represented as a goddess and the embodiment of beauty and virtue. In reality, about this time her skin had been damaged by small pox, she’d lost much of her hair, and had to wear wigs and heavy makeup. Still, her gowns in some portraits are magnificent constructions of high shoulders and great wings. The Rainbow Portrait, painted when Elizabeth was in her 60s, is actually one of her sexiest, with her white floral bodice, her loose hair and elaborate headdress, a mantle draped over one shoulder, and a cloak designed with eyes and ears motif, the serpent of wisdom on her sleeve, the a rainbow with the motto “no rainbow without the sun.” She reminds me of the recording artist Cher in this one: Ageless and outlandish.

In spite of many difficulties during her reign, Elizabeth remained popular with the majority of her subjects, and was praised as a heroine of the Protestant cause and the ruler of a golden age. Following her death in 1603, the date of her accession was a national holiday for 200 years.

Reason to believe

So what can be gleaned from Elizabeth’s positioning in terms of personal branding?

  • Your persona must support your positioning statement.
  • Once developed, positioning can guide your marketing strategy and tactics to serve you for the long-term.
  • The choices you make to represent your brand, such as colors, imagery and messaging, should be thoughtful and consistent, repeated again and again.

To create a good positioning statement you should (1) define your target audience, (2) include the frame of reference, as in the category or genre in which you operate, (3) articulate the benefit or unique qualities being offered and (4) give customers a reason to believe you will deliver on your promise.

Next week, part 5 of the series will focus on Louis XIV.

SharavogueCover2Sharavogue recently won first place for historical fiction in the Florida Writers Association Royal Palm Literary Awards! You can purchase a copy from online booksellers and at the Book Loft on Amelia Island, FL. I will be presenting at the Amelia Island Book Festival Feb. 20-21.

Author branding and Henry VIII: Royal persona

Part 3 in series on personal branding

If England’s King Henry VIII had been an author, who might he have been? Authors, like royalty, can project certain images to create a persona in the minds of their audiences and the general public, to thereby be remembered and gain policy support, or book sales as the case may be.

Henry_face_youngAs noted in Part 1 of this series, the proliferation of social media apps today make it nearly impossible to project an inauthentic persona. The moment you thought you had created a good one, someone would post an instagram of you carrying out the garbage in your underwear. But King Henry was able to create and project a persona that met his needs, and the Hemingway_facecorresponding author that comes to mind for me is Ernest Hemingway.

As young men, both Henry and Ernest were good looking with athletic physiques. Henry was known for having “an extremely fine calf to his leg,” for example. Both played hard at sports, be it jousting or hunting, and both saw themselves as warriors. Both were interested in education and literature. Both married a few times. Both drank to excess. Both attained a “larger than life” persona that continued long after the men themselves had faltered due to illness and, well, bad behavior.

King Henry’s Brand Persona

Henry-VIII-kingofengland_1491-1547Henry VIII valued education, religion, arts, architecture, innovation and ostentation. He used his physical size to advantage — he was 6’2″ at a time when most men were considerably shorter — and in many cases his portraits show him taking up most of the canvas. In the background of some portraits he was surrounded by the cultural sophistication reminiscent of imperial Rome.

He excelled at sports and held jousting matches, wearing his gilded armor, satin and pearls, as a way of showing his wealth, strength and power to visiting dignitaries.

To promote his campaign for church reformation, he had pamphlets created and broadly distributed, and paid theatrical and minstrel groups to travel the land and portray Catholic priests as devils while he was the defender of the true faith. (Reminds me of the branding road show I once led for employees in various departments, but in my case the past was the devil and the new brand was the hero.)

In architecture, the exterior of buildings included hundreds of busts, the laurel-wreathed heads of emperors, imperial authorities and military heroes, suggesting these heroes were the foundation upon which King Henry’s Tudor dynasty was built.

In art he was featured at the center of huge architectural structures in classical style, in at least one case receiving the water of life and the book of life directly from the angels, a clear reference to his religious persona as head of the Church of England with the divine right of kings.

Later in life, even after a jousting injury and other health conditions changed him dramatically — and even though the noble king was responsible for about 70,000 executions — the glorious persona that he had created still permeated. Fans of the Tudors television series may recall in the last episode just before Henry dies, he orders the portrait artist Holbein to change his latest, and accurate, depiction of declining, sickly Henry into the standing image of the strong, virile (note codpiece), magnificent king he wanted his people to see.

In part, I would say, the success of Henry’s brand persona is that the powerful, charming, man’s man image he created was something the citizens of his time wanted and respected in their king. It was an image that was easy to accept, and easy to follow because it met with their own values, and even in the face of horrible truths it was hard to let go.

Stay tuned for Part 4 of this series, next week: Elizabeth I

SharavogueCover2Sharavogue recently won first place for historical fiction in the Florida Writers Association Royal Palm Literary Awards. You can purchase a copy from online booksellers and at the Book Loft on Amelia Island, FL. I will be presenting at the Amelia Island Book Festival Feb. 20-21.

 

Author branding: A royal legacy

Part 2 in series on personal branding

In my last post I talked about some differences between corporate and personal branding, and how values rather than product should be the core driver for the brand. Because kings and queens were probably the first successful users of personal branding, we can learn from their practices.

HapchepsutIn ancient Egypt, if the monuments and pyramids can attest, rulers valued nothing more than a legacy. Not only to be remembered by their people, but also to help open the doors to a prosperous afterlife, something akin to the Christian belief that good folks go to Heaven and get presents at Christmastime.

Way back in history, c. 1479 b.c., Hatshepsut became the sixth pharaoh of the 18th dynasty, one of few women to achieve that post, and she ruled successfully for more than 20 years. So concerned about legacy was this queen, she had an obelisk at Karnak inscribed: “Now my heart turns this way and that, as I think what the people will say — those who shall see my monuments in years to come, and who shall speak of what I have done.”

When her pharaoh husband died and she was named regent to serve while her infant stepson came of age, Hatshepsut saw a unique opportunity and took full advantage of it. She had herself declared king of Egypt. But now, especially because she was a woman in a man’s role, she had to take steps to secure her throne.

She had herself portrayed as a man in the media of the day — stone carvings — complete with false beard, Khat head cloth and shendyt kilt, and looked much the figure of a man, showing strong shoulders, small breasts. (In fact, archaeologist have discovered she was obese, had very large breasts and suffered from a skin disease, the salve for which probably contained toxic chemicals that led to her death.)

She also renamed herself “Maatkare,” basically a combination of words meaning truth, soul and Sun God (Re), suggesting she was in direct contact with the god and thereby legitimately held her throne.

In pursuit of her legacy, she focused on two things: Architecture and art. She built roadways and sanctuaries, erected commemorative obelisks, and carved her immense temple into the limestone cliffs near Thebes, containing more than 100 statues of herself in various religious poses.

Hatshepsut was basically everywhere. Even though her stepson, ascending to power after her death, did everything he could to remove and erase her legacy from history, most of it still remains.

And so, what four things can be learned from Hatshepsut’s strategies for establishing a personal brand?

First, values. For Hatshepsut, they were leadership and legacy.

Second, opportunity. You may not be able to have yourself declared king like Hatshepsut, but in an author’s world, to me this means finding a niche that will allow you to shine, and has subject areas that speak to you (like Re) and can keep you interested. Branding is a long-term relationship.

Third, focus. Hatshepsut did not try to do everything, but focused specifically on a few main things that addressed her values. She promoted trade, which made it easier to obtain the things she needed, like building materials for monuments, and art from all over the world. An author may have a lot of demands on his or her time and resources, and still needs time to write. Don’t participate in every charity, choose one or two that fit your brand values. Don’t try to attend every event or be on every social media platform. Choose the ones that really serve you in some way and fit who you are.

Fourth, endurance. A strong brand will endure. Note that Hatshepsut’s has been around for nearly 3,500 years. Most of us can remember corporate brands we grew up with as kids, even if the company that created it no longer exists. I’ll bet you can think of some authors right now who have amazingly durable personal brands. Their names alone conjure mental pictures. Bronte? Hemingway? Melville? Austen? Dickens? Twain? And the list goes on and on…

Stay tuned for Part 3 next week.

SharavogueCover2Sharavogue recently won first place for historical fiction in the Florida Writers Association Royal Palm Literary Awards! You can purchase a copy from online booksellers and at the Book Loft on Amelia Island, FL. I will be presenting at the Amelia Island Book Festival Feb. 20-21.