Thursday, June 28, 2012

Branding: Lessons from Anthony Bourdain

A few years ago, a friend mentioned a show called No Reservations and touted the originality of the show’s star.

Intrigued, I checked it out. In one of the first episodes I watched, Anthony Bourdain visited dive hot dog grilles in New Jersey. I completely identified with that (being a product of that fine state) as I marveled at his audacity. He was brutally honest and upfront with everything he said and I was impressed that he had no issues with dining under $10. 

Hello, not everyone goes to La Bernadin every week! And there’s nothing like a good old fashioned hot dog, laden with cheese, chili, onions, or whatever your fancy is.

Bourdain’s show included some world travel too which was just as fascinating as his romps in the states. Wisely, he would rely on a local accomplish for help with language barriers and to show him the ropes. 
Together, they’d explore street markets and cheap places that are unlikely to be listed in Fodor’s. 

While he was never outright rude on the show, his cocky attitude suggested he could be. After all, he’s a New Yawker who attended high school in New Jersey (double whammy). 

He is an industry. 

For Christmas, one of my gifts was a book, Kitchen Confidential. This is the book that put him on the map; it documents his life “in the trenches”. Sounds kinda boring, right? Nope. It’s Sex and Drugs and Rock ‘n Roll: Full Throttle! The term screwing is about more than a cap on a bottle of olive oil here. Who knew about the shenanigans going on behind those kitchen doors?

The read is blunt, honest, entertaining, and may make you squiggle in your seat. Get used to the “F” word being used often as both a verb and an adjective. It may be there as a noun too.

Oh, but there’s more! If you’re involved in the food industry, in particular a restaurant owner, all those “little secrets” are laid out on the table. So that’s how you make a profit off of five day old fish? And now I know how twenty cents worth of garnish aids in charging an additional three to four dollars for a plate of food. 

Who knew?

So, what IS it about this guy? He’s not in his thirties sporting rugged good looks, he’s showing signs of wear and tear, smokes like a chimney, has attire that suggests “I don’t give a crap about anything" (because he doesn't), and heck, most of us had no clue who he was five years ago. How does he get away with that?

He is himself.

And that teaches us all a valuable lesson. Your brand’s foundation stems from you. It is created by you, it is guided by you, and it evolves because you do. It’s not something that you aspire to: It’s what you are today. It projects your personality.  It grows from your passions for the product or service. So let it show.

No compromises!

Now excuse me while I log in to Amazon to order his latest book.

Anthony Bourdain likes listening to LOUD music while cooking, including this band (I like the Ramones too)...

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Tim Armstrong said...

Cool post, and it is as much about self esteem as it is your personality.

Shannon Grissom said...

Great post Gerry! I love how you craft a fun post with valuable lessons.

Gerry Wendel said...

Thanks Shannon...I was impressed by the book that basically launched his career and noticed he didn't change a thing about himself. Have seen a few episodes of his new show "The Layover".

Gerry Wendel said...

Glad you like Tim. He went through some tough times early on his career but rebounded and took that self esteem and ran with it!