Friday, May 18

Donna Summer

Now what are you supposed to do when a part of your "brand" dies?

Donna Summer died yesterday ... peacefully, privately, shockingly.  To the average person, Donna Summer is the Queen of Disco, and that she is.  But for me, she is also a huge part of my brand.

I don't know her, nor have I ever met her.  But for whatever reason and I'll never know why, I locked into her music and her powerful voice as a teenager ... and never let go.  And while most only know her for her big big hits from the late '70s and '80s, Donna Summer has actually been recording and performing all along, evidently right up until she died.  I know it to be true because I have every song and have been to numerous concerts through the decades.

She literally became a part of my brand.  I always found her voice to be both inspirational and soothing, getting me through the good times and bad ... always seeming to pop up with a new song just when I needed it most.  Many of them you have probably never heard, but they are forever sitting on my iPod.

As I sit and wonder why I have been so enthralled by her music, I suddenly start to understand.  Her voice is just so optimistic.  It's bright, warm, and full of life.  Something I aspire to every minute of the day.  The background of a pulsing beat doesn't hurt it all one bit.

I heard from so many friends on the day she died ... recounting memories or simply just saying, "I immediately thought of you, Jim."  That part, anyway, was cool.

As a brand, Donna Summer has a solid spot in music history, with an unfaltering title that no one will ever take away.  As part of my brand, she puts a spring to my step literally every day.  Some days I need it more than others.

She was there in high school and college, during all the parties but also when I needed to rally for a test or get psyched up for a presentation.  As an adult, she was with me during the all nighters when my infant son wouldn't sleep through the night, for months on end.  My kids would sing "I want some pasta baby this evening" because they thought those were the words. :)  During a particular rough spot in my life, her music was a daily reminder that I'd get through.  Just recently, she was the opening "number" in my first presentation as President of my agency.

Now what are you supposed to do when a part of your "brand" dies?

Carry On.  The amazing part about music is that, unlike most, it lives on forever.  So while we may no longer be graced with new material, we can relish in her brand.  Her unique brand of entertainment that made many of us feel just a little bit oh so better, and which became a distinct part of our own brand.  Can we ask for anything more?

What's your experience?  Jim.

Jim Joseph
President, Cohn & Wolfe North America
Author, The Experience Effect
Professor, NYU

There'll be another song for me, and I will sing it
There'll be another dream for me, someone will bring it
I will drink the wine while it is warm
And never let you catch me looking at the sun

I will take my life into my hands
And I will use it
I will win the wisdom in your eyes
Then I will lose it
I will have the things that I desire
And let passion flow like ribbons from the sun

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