Despite the fact that I am definitely NOT your typical LOGO channel viewer, I recently discovered the reality television series RuPaul’s Drag Race. It’s Project Runway meets America’s Next Top Model except RuPaul is everything Tyra should EVER hope to aspire to be! (meow!)
I discovered the show at about the fourth episode and fortunately, LOGO is loving this show as much as I am, so the entire season has been replayed LIBERALLY and quickly filled up my DVR when I set it to “record all episodes at any time on this channel.”
In what may qualify as child abuse in the Midwest (but not in Florida where bestiality is still legal -as long as the animal in question doesn’t exhibit distress over the violation), I allowed my 14 year old son to watch the Drag on a Dime episode with me.
My two older children remember exactly where they were the first time they saw RuPaul in all her glory. Somehow, my youngest didn’t know who this 6’4″ supermodel of the world was until he joined me in watching the show.
Thus the title of this blog post… because my son had a REALLY hard time wrapping his brain around exactly WHAT RuPaul and the other lovely drag queens were all about.
One question was, “Do they wish they were born with women’s bodies?”
My answer, “No, sweetie. There is definitely the “change the make and model” option via surgery which is covered in GRAPHIC detail in an episode of South Park – but I’m pretty sure than none of these gentleman WANTS to be a woman all day, every day.”
This brings us to the branding/marketing portion of the program.
Branding Lessons from America’s Favorite Drag Queen
The RuPaul “brand” is a study in authenticity which is kind of ironic if you think about it. I mean, I’m touting a DRAG QUEEN as a study in authenticity – but RuPaul has never claimed to be what he appears to be on stage. He admits that he’s a master of illusion!
Because he is such a master of presentation (e.g. hair and makeup) and most importantly “illusion”, he became a spokesperson for MAC cosmetics in 1995. Who better to demonstrate the transformational powers of the right make up than a drag queen?
However, there are several essential branding lessons every business owner can learn from RuPaul – but I think the most important one is:
Be consistent in your presentation and representation of your brand.
RuPaul has NEVER denied being a man in a drag. Love it – hate it – he is what he is.
He’s a 6’4″ tall black drag queen sporting a platinum wig. Take one look at him and you won’t be surprised when he opens his mouth and out spills something outrageous! Mac cosmetics didn’t have to wonder if he would appeal to the middle aged housewife in the Midwest when they chose him as their spokeswoman – because that wasn’t the audience with whom he was supposed to connect! He was voted Queen of Manhattan in 1990. Mac wanted the ultimate urban socialite and they saw that in RuPaul.
As you peruse RuPaul’s site (click on the image above- it goes there) – you’ll notice that MOST of the time, RuPaul is in character and most of the time he’s in character, he’s sporting a platinum blond wig. He may be wearing some of the most AMAZING fashions – but his “look” never deviates.
Since the “real” RuPaul is bald, I don’t know his natural hair color but I’m pretty sure from his complexion that platinum blond is NOT what grows out of his head (or any other part) naturally. He has complete control over his hair color – yet he almost always chooses to portray his character with platinum blond hair.
RuPaul COULD choose to appear with a dazzling and ever changing array of hair colors -yet he chooses only one most of the time. RuPaul has found a look that “works” and he’s stuck with it.
By choosing a look and sticking with it, RuPaul doesn’t have to “explain” himself and his brand over and over!
A HUGE problem many business owners encounter when it comes to “branding” and “advertising” is that they often get tired of a campaign at precisely the moment when the brand or the campaign is starting to make an impact on their audience.
If RuPaul were following the path of America’s largest retailer – he would have traded in his blond wig (a.k.a. fired his ad agency) of 20 years and “revamped” his image. In my opinion, RuPaul trading in his platinum wig for a more sensible “brunette” is the moral equivalent of Walmart dumping the little smiley face guy.
RuPaul could choose a new hair color – WHY WOULD HE?
The blond wig WORKS so why change it?
The same question can be asked of companies large and small. Walmart isn’t the only huge company to suffer from this affliction. From “new Coke” to the “new US Army” – why oh why change something that is WORKING?
If you follow local advertising – you’ll see examples of local businesses who change their branding on an almost daily basis – to the point of not HAVING a single cohesive branding thread upon which to hang a marketing message.
In the end, RuPaul has been very deliberate and equally consistent in crafting and delivering his own unique “brand” of entertainment. The clothes change, but the character doesn’t.
If a drag queen who can change her hair color as quickly and easily as she changes her shoes can stick with a consistent hair color for more than 2 decades – why would your business want to change it’s branding essentials?
If your branding is broken – fix it! However, just because you “can” doesn’t mean you SHOULD. It could be that what’s broken is NOT the marketing – but something else.
Find out BEFORE you start fixing something that used to work!