Sunday, 30 March 2008

Branding: A Lesson in Branding from Master Drummer Ras Happa

Branding is critical to the success of an individual as well as a company. Sporting icons such as David Beckham and Tiger Woods are able to attract extremely lucrative sponsorship deals because of the brand they have cultivated. Similarly, companies such as Virgin and Nike owe their success because of how their brand is perceived.

So what did I learn from Master Drummer, Ras Happa (Oginga Osaze)? Well this weekend I attended a drumming class hosted by IRIE! dance theatre - my first drumming class. As Happa introduced each of the Caribbean rhythms he had selected to teach us he put each one into historical context.

However, it was something that he mentioned at the beginning of the class that really caught my attention. He said that at the Jamaica School of Dance, classes were often accompanied by seven drummers - being able to dance in such an environment must give one such an extraordinary feeling.

He added that from way in the distance, before you even reached the Jamaica School of Dance, you could hear the percussive rhythms. What's more, the attuned ear could even identify who was playing.

Each drummer has their own style of playing but the drum is not merely a musical instrument. It's a communication tool and one so powerful that over the years the playing of drums has been banned on numerous occasions.

"Fingall puts away the trumpet and seeks to inspire them [West Indian cricketers] with a drumming solo that heats the blood, quickens the heart beat and energises the muscles. The quickening rhythmic sound of drums drives the fast bowlers on, unnerves the batsman and often wickets begin to tumble."
Hilary McD Beckles, The Development of West Indies Cricket

This intoxicating music led to attempts to ban the playing of drums at the Oval in Barbados. The Barbadian public would have none of it. The beat goes on.

The drum is an extension of the drummer. So different drummers can play the same rhythm but you can tell one apart from the other from the style or manner in which the musician plays his instrument. The musician speaks through the drum as his hands beat out the rhythms and his brand is indelibly integrated with the ensuing vibrations.

Similarly, the manner in which you communicate and everything associated with you becomes an extension of your brand. So it is important to examine everything that is associated with you and or your company to ensure that it is consistent with the message you want to communicate.

A useful exercise would be to ask your clients and potential clients how they perceive you or your company to see if the image you are aiming to communicate is actually getting through. Or, in other words, to see if your branding is effective.

Just like the drumming could be heard from way in the distance so your branding will have far-reaching effects. Similarly, just as the drumming rhythms communicate a powerful message so too does your brand. You want to ensure that you are heard and heard for all the right reasons.

I welcome your feedback on this article and indeed on any article in this blog so please send me your comments. And if you're wondering how I played - quite badly I'm afraid but it was my first class!

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