Here’s a story about a different kind of ad. Now obscured by nearly thirty years, the effects of this one ad campaign single-handedly created a brand you likely still know. In fact, few probably ever remember seeing this ad.
Taking wild chances on his future, Tommy Hilfiger was relentless. Against his family’s direction he pursued an interests in fashion, but the thought of decades apprenticing with “the greats” didn’t appeal to him. Mid-thirties, broke, the young Hilfiger took a leap so bold that it cut the line thin between brilliance and idiocy.
With nearly every dollar Hilfiger was able to cobble together from investors, he bought a giant billboard on Times Square directly across from Ralph Lauren. The board was simple, it read, “The Four Great American Designers For Men are,” and it listed Ralph Lauren, Perry Ellis, and Calvin Klein, and the final puzzle piece spelled TOMMY HILFIGER.
Hilfiger said, “That was the only time in my career I thought about giving up, but I decided to just work very hard and deliver.” Without a widespread line, or a rich pedigree of design success, he boldly proclaimed his seat at the table.
That’s swagger–not because of the sizzle but because of the substance. He not only said it, he proved it. Most of us know we can prove it, but we’re scared as hell to say it. Anything worth doing is worth failing, being humiliated, being disappointed, or even being fired. History has a special place for those that take bold leaps.