By Pumela Salela
It is often corporate or business that has lessons for the rest of the world. What I am about to share illustrates that corporate/ business can learn a thing or two from artists.
Recently, two South Africans : 76 year old Hugh Masekela (born April 4, 1939) and 31 year old Trevor Noah (born February 20, 1984) had different performances in London one music and the other comedy.
Hugh Masekela is a South African trumpeter, flugelhornist, cornetist, composer, and singer. He is the father of American television host Sal Masekela. Trevor Noah is a South African comedian, TV and radio host, and actor. In March 2015, Comedy Central announced that Noah would become the host of America’s The Daily Show, following the departure of Jon Stewart.
Why do I mention these two along the same breath? In my view, they are both Living Legends in their fields. I took time to reflect on what makes them Great. It boiled down to 3 things: Brand Promise. Precision. Consistency. The sum of these is Excellence.
i. Brand Promise
Hugh and Trevor are now brands. There is a certain promise that is associated with who they are . They have the ability to deliver on the essence of who they are without fail. I being , a fan of both know that I will always get my money’s worth. I do not mind going to their shows wherever they are in the world because I know that I will not be disappointed.
Lesson for corporate: if you can reach a level where your consumers can trust that you will always deliver on what you promised you will achieve brand loyalty, to the extent that your customers will be your Brand Ambassadors , selling you , knowing that “a promise you make is a promise you keep ‘’ [borrowed that line from an old advert].
The quality, condition, exactness and accuracy of Hugh Masekela’s and Trevor Noah’s performances cannot be refuted. If they say they are performing at 12h00 noon, for 5 minutes , that is what you will get. They start on time and finish on time and inbetween the quality is never compromised. In the duration of their performances you are guaranteed of nothing else but professionalism. Whether an act is 5 minutes or 50 minutes, the standards are not compromised.
Lesson for corporate: Be on Point! If you can deliver quality with accuracy, all the time, everytime, you are guaranteed a followership. Your clients want to know that they will receive on time delivery with no compromise in quality.
If we take Consistency to be a steadfast adherence to the same principles, course, form, etc or , harmony, we can safely say that the performances of both Trevor Noah and Hugh Masekela are consistent. Whether Trevor Noah performs in South Africa or America or Britain , he has the same flair, the same humour, wit, intelligence. Hugh Masekela , on the other hand, brings the same energy, skill, and versatility in his music throughout his perfomances.
Lesson for Corporate: Strive to maintain a level of consistency regardless of the market you operate in. The world is flat as it were. Ensuring that your customers receive the same experience of your brand no matter what corner of the world they are in, is vital .
Prior the Hugh Masekala performance at the Barbican in London , I had a bet with a friend. My friend had told me that Hugh Masekela does not take photos with people who have weaves ( a form of hair) . I happen to be wearing a weave . The friend went on further to create an unofficial hashtag #weave must fall as part of their correspondence to me, saying that Hugh Masekela is not going to agree to take a photo with me. After the show, thanks to the organisers, I was allowed to go for a ‘’meet & greet” with Hugh Masekela . I had never had an opportunity to meet with him at a close range, so you can imagine that as a fan , this was my IT moment – to have the opportunity to take a photo with a living legend. Guess what? Bra Hugh said ‘’why are you wearing this hair….”and he refused to take a picture with me. I then asked a nearby lady to borrow me her scarf. I quickly made the scarf into a doek ( South African term for headgear) and wore it over my head. Only then was I allowed to take a picture with one of the world’s finest artists. Later on I told some friends about my encounter. They said that they would have left there and then, “Why should someone impose what kind of hair should you have” they said. My take on this is that, if as part of his Brand Identity, Hugh Masekela does not want to be associated with weaves, so let it be. I did not actually take any offence, except to respect him first as an elder and second as someone who has taken time to carve his Brand and craft it to a level of Excellence that I can only strive for.
It made me realise that Excellence should be part of one’s DNA : online and offline, on stage and off stage , in public and out of the public eye.