Regardless of political background and preference, any sensible person can agree that Monica Lewinsky is by far one of the internet’s most shamed names. Her infamous tryst with the 42nd U.S. President was such a dominant global news story that even if you weren’t of age in the late 90’s, her reputation has penetrated your pop culture radar through a variety of crude means (http://goo.gl/HMkxEX). I’m not here to explain what she did in the context of U.S. history, but one dynamic has been introduced with Lewinsky’s return to the media spotlight. She is the modern media’s first victim of cyber bullying, specifically “public shaming.”
She recently gave a TED talk where she declared herself as an emerging voice in the anti-cyber-bullying phenomena. If you take some time to view the 20 minute piece, you might agree with her position as “Patient Zero.” This is an incredibly fascinating decision by Ms. Lewinsky, one that could reframe her legacy. An unbelievable statement if you made it days prior to her TED talk. Until now she was the easiest of punchlines. Shortly after the posting of her presentation, she started trending nationally on Twitter and Facebook. A most ambitious re-branding project is taking place before us.
My graduate professor of marketing, Gauri Kulkarni (http://goo.gl/62qtkf), taught me that even the most contrasting perceptions of what a person/entity is or could be are possible. She humbled me once in class when she asked if a historically successful feminine brand famous for gentle soaps and lotions could transition to a leader in mens care products while carrying the SAME BRAND NAME. I spit my Dunkin Donuts everywhere when a blurted out “YOU’RE NUTS!” Sure enough, “Dove” (http://goo.gl/QhYkws) pulled it off. I would have NEVER thought this to be possible. I mused that Dove would have to develop a male-specific brand called “Large Manhood”, or something hulking with testosterone. Not necessary.
The key to rebranding is that the product, no matter what brand perception it comes from, has to be AMAZING. Dove is clearly a leading manufacturer of mens care goods. And I can’t think of anyone who can speak more poignantly and effectively about cyber-bullying and internet shaming than Monica Lewinsky. So, let this be my public contribution to Ms. Lewinsky’s brave attempt to change the modern world with her horrific story. Every week there seems to be a new national story about a young adult taking their own life because a social media rumor, true or not, overwhelms their emotions and stains their reputation. More programs need to be developed to deal with this issue proactively. As you know, our children aren’t always open to dialogue about the most embarrassing of public social crises, and some parents aren’t naturally adept at managing this slice of the parental pie. Monica Lewinsky could become the face of proactive and rehabilitative cyber-bullying programs. I’m all in.
When you Google her name in 20 years, the results will always reference her Oval Office romance. The question yet to be answered is what page will that part of her tale appear on? Page 1, or Page 2? If the product or service is AMAZING, any brand can influence and change how its audience perceives it, no matter the degree of contrast.