My parents have a cottage-like home with big open space and incredible rock cliffs in behind them. When I visit, we have campfires, drink lots of coffee, have silly family nights, and I get to soak up the love of their two beautiful setters. Time slows right down.
That’s why it’s also such a perfect time to watch episode after episode of Bob Ross.
Every time I rediscover Bob Ross, I’m reminded of the pure genius of his brand. He truly is the perfect example of a personal brand turned into a business legacy!
So, let’s deconstruct the things that make him so noteworthy. If you’re unfamiliar with him, you can watch the video at the bottom of this post before reading further — it won’t take you long to get a taste of what he’s about.
He started a movement.
His work was always about so much more than teaching people to paint. It was (and still is, even after his passing) about changing people’s lives and the world for the better. He had a vision for a better world and saw how spreading the joy of painting could make it happen.
“I can’t think of anything more rewarding than being able to express yourself to others through painting. Exercising the imagination, experimenting with talents, being creative; these things, to me, are truly the windows to your soul.” (Vol. 29)
He is the prime example of “emotional value.”
His videos and his tools are rich in functional value – make use of them, and you’ll inevitably become a better artist. But there’s something much more interesting about the value that Bob Ross provides.
Even if you had no desire to ever pick up a paint brush, you could still reap great value from his work because of the reliable emotional impact you know he will have on you.
In this rushed, noisy world filled with impossible demands, Bob’s videos slow you down and evoke a big sigh of relief. He makes the world feel like a happier place, and makes you feel capable of anything.
That is emotional value at its finest. He achieves this through his soft tone, but also through his language (“Happy little trees!”) and light-hearted philosophies:
“There are no mistakes, just happy accidents.”
“There’s nothing wrong with having a tree as a friend.”
“I believe talent is just a pursued interest. Anybody can do what I do.”
Don’t you feel lighter already?
He innovated his craft.
There’s a point in each episode where my jaw drops as something goes from unidentifiable blob to uncanny life-like mountain, cloud, or tree! Much of this is a result of the trademarked, lighting-fast “Bob Ross Wet-on-Wet Technique” he developed.
As an expert in his craft, he was able to see and package up a better (or at least, different) way of getting positive results and enjoyment out of the painting process. One more memorable stake he put in the ground and will forever be known for, rooted in his insistent belief that anybody can create beautiful paintings.
He strengthens it with story.
I often get asked about where stories fit in when building your brand, and Bob is a brilliant example of this, too! His stories explain his style and his philosophies. When you follow him for a while and learn about his military career, his life in Alaska, and his early years painting, they fill in some important blanks about why he is the way that he is.
And that’s the role of stories: you use them to make your claims more believable and yourself more approachable.
He doesn’t stop at his own stories either, but regularly puts his viewers in the spotlight sharing glimpses into their success.
And what about that afro?
You can’t read about Bob Ross without finding a mention of his iconic permed afro. But would Bob have been as successful without this unmistakable feature? I want to quickly touch on this because of the role I think something like this plays in building a brand, versus what it might sometimes look like at first glance.
I see this feature as a very likely amplifier of his success, because it’s so recognizable and amplifies his ability to make you feel happy. But something this superficial is never what truly makes a brand – it would have been meaningless without the foundational elements we just talked about.
So keep this in mind next time the glitzy pieces of another brand catch your eye: they are just the cherry on top, amplifying the groundwork that has already been laid.
Well there you go. Bob Ross, over-analyzed. :)
How does your own business stack up in these areas?
PS – Bob Ross is on YouTube and Netflix. Give him five minutes and tell me you’re not hooked!