March 24, 2015

When Worlds Align in Surprising Ways...

Wildly separated by nationalities, cultures, races, generations, history, personal experiences, and more, people share certain common human emotions that unite them, such as those associated with life's diverse paths from aspiration, through struggle, to achievement and excellence.

Earlier this year, my employer Huawei Technologies launched a global corporate marketing campaign centered around a striking image from famed photographer and ballet enthusiast Henry Leutwyler.  That image, featured immediately below, is both emotion- and thought-provoking.
The Huawei ad leveraging this image was the brainchild of the company’s 70-year-old Founder and CEO, Ren Zhengfei, who saw in this image a reflection of the history of the company that he founded in 1987: Aspiration, struggle, pain, hard work, harder work, achievement, and the sublime satisfaction (joy) of delivering excellence to an audience (customers).

The result:
When the ad debuted internally in January, there were a number of Huawei employees who initially reacted with some concern.  The image, after all, is truly striking.  Graphic.

But, however you may initially perceive the image, it makes you stop.  Think.  Imagine. Perhaps contemplate the challenges and rewards of any journey, whether artistic, corporate, or personal.

External reactions ranged from thoughtful reviews by marketing professionals – for instance, AdAge’s February 4 piece titled “What a Ballerina's Beat-Up Feet Have to Do With A Chinese Tech Brand” – to not-unexpected tweets from everyday folk who were, for whatever reasons, disturbed by the image, e.g. "I don't know what @Huawei does/sells, but I do know that their ads freak me out. Plz stop showing me wrecked ballerina feet. #marketingfail."

Now, flash forward a month-and-change to late March…

What do a 70-year-old Chinese entrepreneur-CEO and a 34-year-old American hip hop/R&B star have in common?

An understanding, it would seem, of the physical, psychological and emotional path from aspiration, through struggle, to achievement and excellence.

Below is a meme posted on March 21 on the Facebook page of Grammy-nominee and platinum recording artist Keyshia Cole:
The Huawei and Keyshia messages are perhaps as distinct as they are alike, but the underlying emotions are clearly aligned.

In this context, some food for thought: 

In a world in which we too often find elements of our lives defined in the context of one or another “us” vs. some other “them,” we should perhaps reflect on unique, quirky - quite remarkable, actually – instances like this one in which the commonality of the human experience and human interpretation and emotion are so classically depicted.

What do a 70-year-old Chinese entrepreneur-CEO and a 34-year-old American hip hop/R&B star have in common?

They are both human beings, each uniquely gifted, each with emotions, aspirations, struggles, achievements, and, at the core of their life journeys, a common desire to experience and share joy.