Day 2 – Bravery or Slavery, choice is yours!

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Yes, Yes Yes… Day:2 at 23:20…NaBloPoMo!

I have been thinking of today’s topic for some time now, and I thought why not talk about what  happened in my life to you rather than talk about someone else’s, which I would eventually will after all, we have 30 days to go.

The prompts for today in BlogHer caught my eyes – When was the last time you did something brave? What happened?

Well, that is indeed a nice topic to write from my life. I am a Key note speaker, a corporate trainer, Experiential learning specialist, a Leadership coach and a Dianetics Auditor. In the course of my career span for the last 12 years I have been to many conferences, women enclaves, empowerment  workshops, leadership forums, networking and socialising clubs. My recent encounter with Nik Halik was mesmerizing.  He is an Australian financial entrepreneur and Russian trained and aspired cosmonaut, and more than all this an Adventurer. He has dived to the wreck of RMS Titanic, been active as a mountaineer on some of the world’s highest peaks, conducted a HALO skydive jump above Mt. Everest in Nepal, participated in civilian edge of space flight in modified Soviet-built Mig25 Jet, and hearing all this from him made my day on that on conclave, I still remember that last sentence which he told – “When was the last time you did something for the first time”

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My job by itself is something to do with bravery, of course training soft skills doesn’t need bravery though, but creating my identity in the field of Training required some amount of it for sure.

I shall not go so far, a recent incident that happened to me few days ago would say it all, for a trainer his/her voice is her elixir for life image loosing that and becoming “MUTE” yes, you heard me right “Completely Mute” – I have had acute infection on my throat due to the pressure  I have put on my voice over the years, and as result  one fine day my voice decided to give up on me, but was I prepared yet to halt my career for this reason? I know I was a fighter – Walking on Fire, Walking on Broken glass pieces,  was all part of my job but this one was emotional – and I as a person quite talkative would be a under playing statement to make on me, so you can imagine my plight.

I had a program to deliver in the next couple of days and it was one of my signature program so thinking of a substitute was next to impossible and the commitment I have personally made to my client made me say – Stay strong Ramya – Just stay strong – Doctor’s advice – take rest, Don’t talk, and yes, Don’t even try whispering  for the next one week, If you have to tell anything use pen and paper  – I made use of my mime skills to tell my doctor how important it was for me to be fit as a fiddle, to make him understand about my need to get well soon, very soon, the need for me to talk. 7 days for too long for me to be mute, I needed my voice back, needed it back in just another 72 hours and my husband seeing me pathetically failing to pass on my message to my doctor told him what I was trying to tell him, and he gave me his ice cold sharp look, took Hrishi out and told him something in private, later I understood, he had strictly restricted me off handling my program, and any risk would result adversing  my condition.

When they both entered the room, I was in my tears, becoming silent for the next 7 days was painful but imagining me not handling my program was even worse. I fought with my doctor tooth and nail for him to do something. I need to be there the day after tomorrow that’s it, he looked into my eyes and told – you so love your profession don’t you – Hrishi replied she lives and dies for it. – complete rest for the next 2 days – No talking, and he gave me 2 injection. I was quite for 2 days but on the third day I managed to speak up, and slowly I was making cuckoo sounds to check my voice. Next day there I was facilitating my program to a standing ovation. None would have believed this story if I would have told them that time and I wanted it that way, just that way. That was me beating my slavery into bravery.

Bravery is not something we are born with, Bravery is not something we  live with, Bravery is taking those small small decision on the right time, beating those circumstances pushing you into slavery of your own thought. Bravery is something you acquire over a period of time, Bravery is something you having the will to take one thing at a time, Bravery is being resilient to whatsoever happening around you and still having the strength to take that one step to keep moving forward, and the result – when you ask yourself what happened after that?  for me it was like scaling the Mt. Everest, feeling like a true winner, a complete leader and yes, a humble human being ready to take one thing at a time and never give up to circumstantial slavery but beat it with absolute bravery!

My first Experience on 30 post 30 days. Day 1:Nablopomo!

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When I started writing if I could remember correctly on 2000, I was cornered by my friends and my near ones for the sake of grammatical errors, sentence formations, idioms and phrases, basically lacking proficiency in the language in which I am writing “English” Did I mention I was in my 10th standard when I started writing, like that is 16 years ago and today I’m 30 years old, so you could do a simple math there to identify when my zeal for writing started.

However, my inefficiency in proving my vocabulary skills made me a James Bond, meaning I started writing secretly, under the cover with a torch light, under the sky in my terrace, with just the sparkling stars above me and the light I get from the street lamp not that I did not have electricity at my home, its just that I wouldn’t want to be judged by anyone on my writing abilities neither I wanted anyone to know I was writing and yes, getting back home quietly and keeping it in my safe house where none could reach it was a serious job. I still remember the diaries which my mom would give me every year thinking I would do something better with it, and here I was falling in love with my diaries and my love grew stronger with every passing year.

I loved to write on them, poems, stories, my day to day activities, the cutest guy I met on the street or on a bus, my sister fighting with me, my teachers scolding me, my best friend talking about everything under the sky, our girls gang pranks, we going to beach or a fight with my mom sobbing and wetting the pages, my dreams or just letting out my emotions, I was better off writing than talking about it,and my diary listened to me without judging me, and after few months  when I get back to those same pages they made me laugh and that was the happiest feeling I ever had. Seeing me grow up in front of my own eyes!

But as I grew up, diaries stopped, child like writing changed and those meaning less funny 4 liners or so I thought as poems started transforming to something beautiful. Something worth sharing, something worth savoring, something worth saving.  Falling in love helped me to write better. As I entered home, I saw my notebook on my mom’s hand neither she spoke nor I asked her anything. Then one fine day on our dinner table she told me – you write so well, you have got your fathers DNA on that, don’t stop what you doing, you should write something big – May be a novel or a small time bed stories, write something, write anything, but write!

I was happy, here I was being appreciated for my world of words, I felt empowered. I don’t quite remember well, how blogging happened to me, but it was one of the most precious thing that I could imagine happening to me. I write in my space what I felt, and I didn’t know readers existed then, I started getting comments, I have a few followers – thanks to those who have read my blogs and thanks to you for reading, or so I believe enjoying my writing now, its you who makes me write more, I know now the world out there is reading my voice – A sound identity to my thoughts. I started off writing my dream novel here too, completed a few chapters but work takes you a long way from your world of fantasies thank to Suman my friend for bringing me back here through Nablopomo – 30 post – 30 days!

I for a thing wouldn’t know how am I gonna complete my 30 days – 30 posts and what the topics are going to be but I know for sure I have set myself up for an adventure and perhaps my love for writing will drag me to this space – which belongs to just you and me!

Think Big. Speak Bold!

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According to most studies, people’s number one fear is public speaking. Number two is death. Death is number two. Does that sound right? This means to the average person, if you go to a funeral, you’re better off in the casket than doing the eulogy.” – Jerry Seinfeld

The palpitation, the sweat, the lightheadedness, the horror or the fear of public speaking tops the list. It even finds its place right there to be at the top No:1 position beating the word ‘Death’. While I was searching for some more facts to discuss in today’s article other than my story of how I defeated my own Mr. Jungle monster called -Mike+Stage+Public = Mr. India (Not to be confused with the Title Mr. India World, a male beauty peagant , it’s one of our Hindi Movies where the Hero knows the Art of becoming Invisible, cut the long story short – something like Hollow-man) I tumbled upon the Fear of Public Speaking phobia’s name it’s called the Glossophobia or speech anxiety. It is the fear of public speaking or of speaking in general. The word Glossophobia comes from the Greek γλῶσσα glōssa, meaning tongue, and φόβος phobos, fear or dread.

It is even estimated that about 75% of people suffer from fear of speech anxiety which makes it the most common fear that exists in the world today.

The number one Fear of the most powerful nation in the world – The United States of America is Public speaking. It is listed as American’s number-one fear, before death at number five, and loneliness, weighing in at number seven. Guess that means that most of us are less afraid of dying alone than of making fools of ourselves in front of others.

I could still go on with some 1000 more interesting facts and quotes that are available there in the Internet which most of you all must have read, seen or heard somewhere. Is that the whole purpose of writing this article, well No! But the above facts is just a glimpse of what we say today “Making a mountain out of a mole” today it did seem like a mole to me, but back then, at the age of 13, it didn’t. It was a Mount Everest my teacher was asking me to climb, oh while writing this, I remember reading that the fear of public speaking starts somewhere around the age of 13. Which means the world is as big as our mind imagines and at the age of 13 we have imagined our Jungle Monster to be as huge as a hulk!

“It takes one hour of preparation for each minute of presentation time” – Wayne Burgraff.

“There are only two types of speakers in the world. 1. The nervous and 2. Liars.” – Mark Twain

“90% of how well the talk will go is determined before the speaker steps on the platform.” – Somers White

Today these quotes make so much sense to me than never before. In this world of rat race where everyone wants to achieve, accomplish and ace the essence of an art we trying to manoeuvre skilfully ever since we have taken up a job or a role which defines or demands us to deliver The Talking. The Storytelling. The Presenting, we are losing and we are winning!

So if these are the facts about the speech anxiety or the fear of public speaking we human kind are facing today, then we shouldn’t be having the world-famous presenters standing right there in front of us like “A knight in shining armor”

This says we have stopped looking beyond, we have stopped looking inside ourselves, we have stopped looking around us and we have stopped looking at what it takes to become what we have always wanted to be; but rather we have started looking at ourselves in a happy state where we are.

As Robin Sharma tweeted an extra ordinary tweet today it read: “The smallest of action is always better than the noblest of intentions” Isn’t it so true with regard to becoming the presenter you dreamt you were?

We cannot become what we need to be by remaining what we are.”
―  Max DePree

So now comes the million dollar question, OK Ramya, that sounds so much me and true yes, but how do I become the presenter I have dreamt I had always wanted to be?

How do I give that one speech I have practiced a million times to perfections but hasn’t been able give one minuscule opportunity to myself to go up there and stand and deliver for the fear of what others think of me has engulfed my world of words?

How do I smoothly transit from where I am to where I need to be?

How do I become a public speaker or a Perfect Presenter who can gain that confidence every time I need to face my team/meetings/ clients/reviews and discussions?

How do I overcome the Flight vs Fight syndrome before every presentations that I need to make?

There are a Zillion courses available, how do I wave my Magic Wand once, to know which one is right for me?

Ladies and Gentlemen and my fellow readers, being the Founder and Presenter may I take the privileged of introducing GEESE to you.

We are a corporate training company specialized in Corporate Training, Leadership Coaching, Experiential Learning, Behavioral Skilling, Team building and Team bonding with Premium customized workshops and programs.Our exclusive program include “Present to Impact ~ Intensive”” “Communicate to Connect” “Executive Coaching””Just 3 Hours””Warrior Within”  “Laughter Coach” and ” Era of LeadHERship”

Our cutting edge is the uniquely customized remarkable modules and unmatched delivery style that creates an inner strengthening process in the participants fulfilling the personal and organizational needs.

We are extremely happy in welcoming you into our world of possibilities!
http://geese.co.in/

Think Big. Speak Bold – Present to Impact – Intensive, Ladies and Gentlemen coming to Mumbai soon, watch this space for more information, Interested to know more, I’m all ears – Dial or Connect:80561-76232 or geesetrainingindia@gmail.com. “Happy Presenting” 🙂

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Was that ok?

Alright, this is it, I am now here in front of you, writing about my first upcoming public workshop – Present to Impact~Intensive! It’s a 2 day course, I have capsuled with most easy, effective and efficient method that will help you ease your breath in your presentation. Before even I begin going deep into that, shouldn’t you know about me a bit, I mean Who am I? What is it about Presentation Skills? Why should you reserve a seat for yourself there? and Why in mine?

Well, I’m about to take you to the year 1994, that was the time I was in my 6th grade, I’m sure, as my reader you can picturise me as a tiny thin girl in my school uniform just stepping into her high school with new and old friends, new building, new set of teachers and new set of challenges that was waiting to unwrap into her night mares. It was in her after noon class that her language teacher was making some announcements about the upcoming elocution competition, did I forget to mention “Inter-School” Yes, you read it right, “Inter – School Elocution competition” and she was asking for students nominations and I, was sitting in one those corner benches playing “Name Place Animal Things” with my bench mate, happy in my own bubble. I heard Ramya being called, luckily I have 3 Ramya’s in my class and for the first time in my life I remembered thanking my mom for keeping that “Common Name” otherwise which I use to complain about, then thunder bolt struck, breaking my bubble and bringing me back to my senses making me realize we were in our language class, and the other 2 Ramya’s have chosen Hindi and French leaving me the one and only Ramya in my class.

I stood up with trembling feet and any minute about to cry look in my face, she calls me close to her and I walk, I still remember that walk I took with heavy palpitation and for the first time feeling, heart coming out of the mouth, hate it. She took pity on me, anyone who saw me that minute eventually would have, but that pitiness dint last long for she had called me to ask some basic questions of my primary school and confirming my last name to go in for the nomination list. My world swirled back in and around me! Ramya Rajagopal – Representing Anna Adarsh Matriculation Higher Secondary School for the Inter – School Elocution Competition! yeah right, first time in my life I experienced “Heart-Attack” may be would the Guinness World Record team had known this news then, today I would have held a record for the Worlds youngest to have survived a massive heart-attack at the age of 10!

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I retaliated, I argued, I fought, I cried, days passed, stood in front of her teacher’s cabin during mid-breaks, lunch-breaks, and even after the school hours while she use to correct the students notes and test papers ignoring one live specimen standing in front of her asking her to take my name off the list and letting me live free from those night mares I started getting the very first day my name was announced. I thought of taking my mom to my rescue, but knowing her she would consider not to hear me out but to congratulate my teacher for her action. I was such a shy kid! Days kept passing and I kept trying hard, harder and hardest to convince her I’m no good. She chose to speak to me one final day seeing my determination, my winning antenna was flittering all sides in joy.

Her spoken words “Ramya watching you for the last couple of days, I can see that you are a very strong and persuasive child who will go way out to get your things done, and that is making me feel right about my decision in nominating your name. Rather than wasting your time standing here and convince me otherwise, why don’t you go up their to the library and prepare.You are representing your School, remember. Prepare to lose or else Prepare to Win! Choose your choice Ramya, and I chose latter!

Today after 21 years, when I look back connecting the dots,that nomination was the best ever thing that happened to me in my life. I was left with no choice than Fight~Prepare~Win, rest is a history!

Listening to Steve Jobs, Oprah Winfrey, Garr Reynolds, Nancy Duarte, Robin Sharma, Dr.Sashi Tharoor,Devdutt Pattnaik, Arunachalam Muruganandham , Shekar Kapoor, Nandan Nilekani and many other extra ordinary presenters and innovative minds, I had a dream of becoming one of these legends, but then I took a step back and saw the same names one more time, this time mine written beneath theirs and I saw my name blur, that minute I realized, I can be a much better Ramya than be a pretend Oprah!

With over 12 years of experience in Corporate Training and Experiential Learning, imparted training to over 1,00,000 participants through 1,500 and more training programs in 3 countries and 21 years of experience in Public speaking and Presentations, today I stand in front of you as a Erickson College International Certified Business and Life Skill Coach. ” When you learn, teach; When You get, give!

For all those people who take their trembling walk every morning towards the team/client/business/sales meetings, for all those who survive a massive heart attack right before presenting their ideas, for all those who want to give a killer presentation, Present to Impact will be your calling, because than anyone else I understand the depth of“Was that ok”

Interested to know more about Present to Impact – Intensive workshop,Happy to hear from you or even other wise call me – 98408-00779. or else, happy to read your queries/feedback/suggestion – geesetrainingindia@gmail.com

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Heels and Personalities!

There are more than 3 reasons I wanted to write this post. First and the Foremost reason, an Image in the TOI newspaper the result, my writing!

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Reason No: 1 Can you ever imagine someone telling you, how confident are you by looking at your length of your heels, or how Less Confident you are because you choose to wear a close – toes sandals, or else, even better one, how High- Maintenance demanding Women you could be just because your favorite color turned out to be Hot Pink or Neon Yellow, or keeping the best for the last, how Laid- Back personality you are because you ended up wearing Flats as you thought they were comfortable for your heel, if you cannot imagine, well, that’s exactly what this US research is trying to educate us and thus, decided the Indian Newspaper to spread the Word to the World!

Reason No 2: There were couple of incidents that happened in my life recently that I wanted to share. – It was a humid day and I had a client call to take, so decided to wear an Indian Formals – Neatly Pressed – Starched – Salwar kameez and there was a colleague of mine who had accompanied me on our call, the meeting went well, and we took a small stroll to get to the nearest coffee shop, on the walk, I sensed my friend wanted to say something to me and she was reluctant, understood her vibes and told her to tell me whatever she wants and I was educated that, most of the clients takes us seriously on our business calls when we wear Western Formals and the dress which I wore that day, probably made me look casual and that meant I dint mean Business and she had told me to remember it next time, and till today I had not forgotten that.

Similar incident happened when I was to give one of my images to the designer for my business card, and I decided to give one perfect picture of mine, were I’am wearing a Saree, the first and the impromptu answer I received from my husband was, why this picture why don’t you give the other one you in blazer, and my question was Why? What’s wrong with this one? and very much to what my friend wanted me to remember, I was once again reminded by my husband saying, Corporates take you seriously in your business when you are well dressed in Western Formals, I was like ahh huh..

Reason No:3  Wanted to draw a connection between the Heels and Personalities. Just beside the Heels and Personalities Image, this picture caught my eyes, Isn’t it indeed an irony to see How length of a small wooden piece in your footwear can actually define your personality and on the other – hand What that same length we call Heels can Exactly Do To Our Body?  The Famous Falls!

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I chose to wear a Flat not because I think I’am a Laid – Back Personality, I chose to wear a Hot Pink sandal not because I’am a High- Maintenance demanding women, I chose to wear a Close – Toe – sandals not because I am Less Confident, or I chose to wear a wide short heel not because I’ am insecure, In-fact the very very reason I choose to wear What I feel like makes me a strong thinker using my brain to Think – Choose – Act & Take my walk – Simple!

Flats & Indian Formals – From Laid – Back to Leading Forward Personalities:

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The first one to display Women Empowerment – She is Ms.Indira Gandhi – First Female Prime Minister of India – Was called The Iron Lady, The Next Stands Tall is the Ms. Chanda Kochhar – Managing Director of ICICI – India’s Largest Private Bank and Overall Second Largest Bank in the Country – Next sitting with much Elan is Ms. J Manjula – First Women Director General – DRDO  and Along with them I Stand as Ramya Rajagopal – Director of GEESE – India’s Leading Corporate Training and Leadership Coaching Company!

We chose to wear Indian Formals not because we did not know how to carry on a western formals neither because for others to have us taken casually, we chose to wear a Flats not because we are a Laid – Back Personalities neither because we did not know how to take our walk on those pointed Heels, its because we have more self-awareness to do what is right for our body, for the day, time, hour we are in.

Does that mean I don’t support Blazers and Formals, Skirts and Shirts – Absolutely not, I love to wear them at my choice that I would Choose, and that does not define what or who I’am!

Don’t try to find our strengths in our foot because we mean business in our Head!

100 days before I turn 30!

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Dec 21 2015 I shall officially bid farewell to my 20’s, before I do that, I have 100 days to fulfill my Vision of 20’s. When I was in my 2nd year Business Management there was a class were I was asked to draw my Entrepreneurial dream, and I still remember what I drew, A company named ushas ( Inspired from my mother’s name Usha) I drew what we were taught, the Organizational ladder, vision, mission, purpose, Business strategy, how shall I sell my product/service, and I recollect how my name as the CEO was written in Block letter and I knew that minute I had sketched down my dream for the first time on a sheet of paper.

2006 when I finished my college and started to work, like any other mother, mine too wanted to get me married, and like any other girl I retaliated, what? No way, I’m just in my 20’s why get married so soon was my answer, and yes, she was extremely understanding and liberal, her statement was, you keep doing what you are doing, I shall do what I’m doing, I remember going to her work place once and her colleague asked me so Lady when are you getting married – and my impromptu answer was, when I become an Entrepreneur and have my own company and I told that with heaps and bound of confidence in myself and that Uncle I shall do it in 5 years from now! Bingo

Last year, my mom and I had visited him and his first question was so, are you now an Entrepreneur? With no words spoken I exchanged my Business Card with him, written Ramya Rajagopal – Director – GEESE and my Mom with all her pride was explaining him about my company giving me no little worry to explain what we do, and I hear him say – Oh, so the Little Lady did do what she did say huh? and he recollected my statement I shall do it in 5 years from now and he did a little calculation. When you met me you were 23, 5 years – 28! GEESE was Incorporated 2013, exactly 28 years I was – Nailed it!

My next vision for my 20’s was to enhance my knowledge on the field of Training and Development. Today I stand in front of you as the South India’s first woman licensed auditor of Dianetics – which is a study on the relationship between the mind and the body from the institute of Scientology – Delhi, Erickson College International, Vancouver – Canada accredited to ICF – International Coach Federation – Certified Coach, A post-Graduate in Psychology, Thomas International Certified Behavioral Trainer. The number of participants who have been personally Trained and Coached by me crosses 1,67,793 founder of GEESE, A Corporate Training and Consulting Firm which specializes on Experiential Learning, Behavioral Training, Executive Coaching, Soft Skill enhancement, and Warrior Within. “Era of LeadHERship” stands today as one of the most impactful workshop exclusively for Women were they are trained and coached on business and Life Skills by several successful women entrepreneurs and Leaders across India who are specialist in their own field.

My next Vision on my Wish-list before I complete my 20’s is writing my name Ramya Rajagopal ACC (ICF) Associate Certified Coach from International Coach Federation, where I will need 100 Coaching hours completed. The Irony here is, when you believe in yourself you make miracles happen. When your result is directly proportional to others believing in you, your dream’s dwindling happens.I don’t have to become a Robin Sharma,  Richard Branson, Marshall Goldsmith, Jack Welch, or Antony Robbins for then you shall trust in me as a best Entrepreneur & Successful Coach,I shall get there soon, I want Ramya Rajagopal an Indian Women’s name to be there on the list. I want you to believe me for what I have been made of. I want you to believe in me, for I believe in Indians are natural transformationalist, I want you to believe in your Country’s Values, In your Country’s Ethnicity, In your Country’s History, I want you to believe in your ancestors DNA who had the ability to Invent Zero, to Invent Surgery, to Invent Binary Number System, and countless Innovations in field of Mathematics, Science, Medicine, Astrology, Philosophy, History, Education, and lastly, I want you to believe In your own ability – in your own self.

In almost all the field we look upto the west, is it because we don’t have any talent, knowledge, wisdom and experience here, or is it because we have been trained in our DNA to look upto them. Remember? We are country with the History of Independence which is just 68 years old, which means we could very well be the First generation Doctors, Engineers, Scientist, Educationalist in our family, which almost makes it crystal – clear the reason why we look upto the English names even today.

“A team wins when the individuals win; An Individual wins when the teams win!

I am going to knock your door soon, You may want to charge me with loneliness – or a want of sense,you may want to welcome me – or you may want to make me think I’am not there yet, I leave that thought for you to decide, but I’m sure my knocking will not end, not until I carve my name in the History of Training and Development — not until An Indian Training Companies name stand tall among the west, not until I have fulfilled the purpose of starting GEESE – Enhancing Peoples Lives!

I’am more than sure this 100 days shall be the best days of my 20’s for I have a vision to compete and I have a dream to complete!

The Branding Logic Behind Google’s Creation of Alphabet Kevin Lane Keller August 14, 2015 – Harvard Business Review!

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The Google brand is one of the most valuable brands in the world. In 2014, Interbrand placed a valuation of the brand at $107.43 billion, only trailing the Apple brand in value.

A reasonable person might ask, if the Google brand is so well-known, why muddy the waters by introducing a new parent brand, Alphabet? To help answer this question, the stories of two other iconic brands – Starbucks and Virgin – are instructive.

Starbucks

Starbucks offers a cautionary tale. There is a danger to any brand from diluting its brand promise or overextending into areas where that brand promise is not relevant.

At the turn of the century, having experienced two decades of spectacular growth, Starbucks began to view itself as more than a brand about coffee or a coffee experience, but as a “lifestyle brand” that transcended those roots to reflect more of an attitude that would be relevant to many other categories. Reflecting this broader viewpoint, the company began to expand its market footprint, by, for instance, investing in a start-up that planned to sell furniture via the internet.

Concerned about the company’s lack of focus, Wall Street hammered the Starbucks stock, resulting in a drop in share price of 28% in one day – a $2 billion loss in the company’s market capitalization. Hearing the message from the financial analysts, Starbucks went “back to basics” to focus more on its core business of coffee and a coffee experience and reaped the rewards, maintaining their price premiums and profit margins throughout the subsequent economic downturn.

However, as the decade wore on, the company made a series of decisions – using bagged coffee rather than freshly ground coffee, no longer scooping fresh coffee from the bins and grinding it fresh in front of the customer, blocking the visual sight line customers previously had to watch their drink being made, and so on – that collectively resulted in a significant loss of the personal experience that consumers had with Starbucks and its baristas. By failing to deliver on the Starbucks brand promise of providing the “richest possible sensory experience,” sales naturally slumped as unhappy customers chose to go elsewhere.

Again, Starbucks responded by going “back to basics,” making a number of changes such as introducing new coffee-making machines and selling coffee paraphernalia in stores again, bringing back freshly roasted coffee and introducing new blends (Pike Place & Blond), and famously closing all 7,100 U.S. stores in February 2008 for three hours to re-train baristas. As founder Howard Schultz remarked, “We lost the focus on what we once had, and that is the customer.”
Through these different episodes, Starbucks has come to appreciate the importance of keeping a tight focus and delivering on its brand promise.

Virgin

Virgin has taken an entirely different tack from Starbucks by directly expanding its corporate brand into an incredibly diverse set of industries. Internally, their businesses are organized into seven categories: Entertainment, Health & Wellness, Leisure, Money, People & Planet, Telecom & Tech and Travel. In all that they do, Virgin’s brand promise is to be the “champion of the consumer” – to go into categories where consumer needs are not well met and to do things differently and do different things to better satisfy them.

Such an abstract brand promise has potential relevance across a vast array of categories. Actually delivering on that promise, however, has proven to be extremely difficult, as evidenced by the problems or even failures the Virgin brand has encountered across a whole set of product and service markets. Consumers evidently felt their needs were met sufficiently well enough that they didn’t need a cola, vodka, or bridal apparel from Virgin, among many other products and services which Virgin has introduced and subsequently withdrawn. The danger to Virgin of continuing down that hit-or-miss path is that as young, hip or cool as their brand might be now, repeatedly violating their brand promise will raise doubts in customers’ minds and weaken their bonds to the brand over time.

Think of the equity of a brand in terms of a bank account. When the brand does “good things,” such as introduce a highly innovative new product, a deposit is put into the brand bank account. But when the brand does something “bad,” such as introduce a new product that fails to satisfy or excite consumers or even fails, that results in a withdrawal from that account. Virgin has benefited from the launch of some highly successful new products through the years –Virgin Megastores, Virgin Atlantic, and Virgin Mobile among others – that placed huge deposits in their brand bank account. If they are not careful, however, they run the risk of drawing down that account with too many compromises of the brand promise. The recent tragic crash of a Virgin Galactic test flight underscores the dangers associated with adopting such an expansive corporate brand strategy and the potential tarnishing of the brand that could result.

In contrast to Starbucks, the Virgin brand strategy is a high-wire act that requires incredible management and marketing skill and creativity.

Google

Google is wise to learn from these two brand histories. Up to this point, the company has employed both a “branded house” strategy, where they have used their Google corporate brand one way or another across a broad range of products (such as Google Glass and Google Play), as well as a “house of brands” strategy where they assembled a brand portfolio of different brands where the Google brand is not present (such as with Nest, Calico, Fiber, etc). Hybrid brand strategies are not uncommon, but it is important to ensure that all aspects of the brand strategy are designed and implemented properly.
In Google’s case, they have no doubt come to the realization that as strong as the Google brand is, like all brands, it has boundaries and takes on more meaning and value in certain areas. Just as a “rich, rewarding coffee experience” is at the core of the Starbucks brand, “relevant, available information” is at the core of the Google brand, following directly from its stated corporate mission “to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.” Their search product exemplified that brand promise as well as the related different extensions that followed, maps, books etc.

As Google moved farther and farther afield, however, into areas such as driverless cars and curing diseases, the relevance of that brand promise and corporate mission seemed remote and fairly removed. The brand was being associated with too many different areas, potentially blurring its meaning and creating confusion as to its purpose for both consumers and financial analysts.

With the creation of Alphabet, Google has codified and clarified this dual brand strategy that allows them to have the best of both worlds – a tight focus with the Google brand, as well as a broad portfolio approach with the Alphabet brand. Alphabet will allow the Google brand to focus more directly on its corporate brand promise and mission. That sharpened focus will benefit their business partners, drive profitability, and be rewarded by financial analysts.

Separation also allows the Alphabet brand to serve as an umbrella brand over a diverse portfolio of individual brands. The Alphabet brand would be in the background to the individual brands making up the portfolio, although it could be used, if desired, as an implicit or explicit endorser brand.

Fundamentally, brands survive and thrive on their ability to deliver on a compelling brand promise – to provide superior delivery of desired benefits in ways that can’t be matched by another other brand or firm. By aligning their brand architecture strategy with their brand promise and product development strategies, Google has brought needed clarity to the consumer marketplace and to financial markets.
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Kevin Lane Keller is the E. B. Osborn Professor of Marketing at the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth College and the author of the best-selling textbook Strategic Brand Management.
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