Mike discussed building a brand and the new “authentic” venture My Dirty Jobs™ Cleaning Products during the recent Shopper Marketing Summit and his ideas are detailed in the June, 2012 issue of Shopper Marketing.
Rosemont, Ill. — Building a brand isn’t enough in a world flooded with endorsement deals and paid spokespeople, according to Mike Rowe, host of Discovery Channel series “Dirty Jobs” and chief executive officer of mikeroweWORKS. Consumers want to believe that a brand has inherent values; consumers want authenticity.
“Here’s what I believe is certain about authenticity,” said Rowe during a Shopper Marketing Summit general session. “Every single successful brand that I’ve seen today, with no exceptions, is authentic to itself. And here’s the other thing I believe: Anybody who sets out to build an authentic brand with purpose, deliberateness and intentionality is therefore fundamentally inauthentic.”
The “nexus” of authenticity and the ability to control what is already authentically valuable to the brand is the sweet spot. Rowe attributed the success of his various projects (“Dirty Jobs,” mikeroweworks.com, the mikeroweWORKS Foundation, and marketing partnerships with brands such as Ford, Caterpillar, Lee and Hewlett-Packard) to his control of the authenticity of the Dirty Jobs brand, without compromising its genuineness.
Rowe’s most recent “authentic” venture is a cleaning product line inspired by the show from newly founded My Dirty Jobs LLC (with licensing from Discovery). The line launched at retail partner Walmart and Walmart.com in March.
Rowe sees to it his brand’s consistency isn’t lost. The Dirty Jobs cleaning product campaign emphasizes his mantra that dirt doesn’t hurt. Rowe recalled a period before the Dirty Jobs products when he wanted “to get in a place where I can talk about a cleaning product … not by nature of its many features and benefits, but I want to be able to say dirt is good, work is good, and whether you’re working hard or playing hard, it’s dirt. It’ll wash off. My stuff will do that.”
The “Dirty Jobs” series didn’t experience the same success right off the bat. The idea behind the show emerged during Rowe’s freelance stint in San Francisco as the host of CBS series “Evening Magazine” in 2001. The entertainer had always admired his grandfather’s career as a skilled worker, and when the station manager gave him creative freedom with “Evening Magazine,” Rowe pitched “Somebody’s Gotta Do It,” a reality show documenting tradesmen like his grandfather and a hard day of work.
After being dismissed by a news station manager and peddling “work on TV” unsuccessfully for a year, Rowe approached Discovery with an idea for a show from the viewer’s perspective rather than that of the network’s usual “experts.” Several setbacks later and a turn of events finally led to the airing of “Dirty Jobs” in 2005.
A series of events in 2007, in the midst of a struggling U.S. economy, solidified Rowe’s brand as “hero to the working man,” aptly coined by “The Tonight Show” host Jay Leno. Time magazine ran an article on Rowe titled “America’s Most Famous Chronicler of Work.” Rowe discovered organically developed themes in the show pointed out to him by media sources and pop culture figures. And when a financial reporter from The Wall Street Journal called Rowe for a quote on rising unemployment and the widening skills gap, Rowe realized the purpose of his brand. The “Dirty Jobs” show “champion[ed] the trades” during a period of high unemployment and a simultaneous shortage of skilled laborers. Rowe found a way to harness those themes in mikeroweWORKS without losing his brand’s authenticity “in spite of [his] purposeful intents.”
Rowe focused on growing his newfound endorsement business from 2008 to 2011, saying “no” to companies more often than “yes,” and partnering only with other brands that made “authentic sense.” He approached these efforts the same way he approached Discovery in 2002: as a viewer, not an expert; as a fan, not a spokesperson.
“I can’t be ‘the Ford guy,’ but I can be somebody who likes the stuff you make,” said Rowe. “And if you let me tell it in those terms, and at the same time support my foundation … then we don’t have an endorsement deal, we have a partnership, or at least a relationship.”
The mikeroweWORKS foundation aims to revitalize the skilled workforce by allocating donations to related organizations, scholarships, and vocational or trade schools. Meanwhile, mikeroweworks.com offers articles on a wide array of topics including farming, sustainability, economics, politics and immigration, as well as separate pages aggregating resources and information on specific trades such as painting, locksmithing and forestry.
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