Posted by Andrew VanderPloeg
Last week I wrote about the “Own the Podium” program that the Canadian Olympic Committee, VANOC (Vancouver Organizing Committee) and Canada's sport federations established back in 2005 which involved greater funding for our athletes than they had ever had before and also provided a really aggressive goal for the athletes.
Thing is, it just wasn't us. It isn't a Canadian thing to go around chanting, “We're #1! We're #1!”.
Then, halfway through the Olympics, the “Own the Podium” program was rescinded because it was clear that there was no way that we would actually end up winning the Olympic games which quite frankly, was embarrassing. So, even though after the program was rescinded our athletes went on an unbelievable run to win the most gold medals by a country in the history of the Winter Olympic games, our bold strategy at winning the Olympic games outright left us with a bit of mud on our faces.
Enter the closing ceremonies and at one point, a small, kinda shaky guy in glasses, jeans and a sport coat stood in the middle of the ice and said: “Hi, I'm Mike”.
BC Place erupted with cheers and applause.
“Mike” in this case, was Michael J. Fox, one of Canada's most famous actors having starred in shows like Family Ties, Spin City and Boston Legal and films like the Back to the Future trilogy. But what many know him for today is his courageous battle with Parkinson's and advocacy on behalf of finding a cure for that disease.
So here's a guy with a lot to brag about if he wanted, but instead, he kinda humbly, almost sheepishly gets out on the ice of BC Place and introduces himself to a global audience as if we were all standing in his front foyer and he was welcoming us individually.
And immediately, I was struck with the thought that the reason everyone was cheering was not just because it was Michael J. Fox, but it was also because that in that demure statement, he embodied so much of who Canadians are. We identified as a nation and we cheered at how refreshing it was to just be ourselves along with Mike down on the ice.
But that kind of identity isn't just a Canadian trait. It's a human one.
Wouldn't it be refreshing if we would just drop all the pomp and circumstance around our brands (personal, corporate and organizational) and just approach the people we interact with in our personal lives and at our work by saying our own version of “Hi, I'm Mike”?
It's a long way from “Own the Podium”, but it goes a lot longer of a way to creating trust and a lasting positive brand impression.