What Mariah Carey taught me about marketing.

I have had the pleasure of meeting Mariah Carey 3 times. The first time was July 1st 1996 at Rye Playland. Rye Playland is the amusement park where she shot the video for "Fantasy" and they decided to have a party there to celebrate the fact that she had sold something like 60 million albums in her career at that point. Here's photos from Getty Images that were taken that day. I met her again 2 years later Sean "Puff Daddy" Combs birthday party at Chelsea Piers. Here's a Getty Image from that night. Shortly thereafter I met her again at a party being thrown to celebrate the release of her album #1 at Webster Hall. Getty Image from that night. At all 3 events I posed for a photo with her. All 3 were taken by one of her people at the record label. I never received any of the photos. 

This is the Rye Playland party with Boyz II Men singer Wanya Morris who is far less concerned with his image than Mariah. 

This is the Rye Playland party with Boyz II Men singer Wanya Morris who is far less concerned with his image than Mariah. 

I was invited to all of these parties because at the time my job was to pick the music that went on the radio station. It's in the labels best interest to schmooze the folks who pick the songs so they'll hopefully play more of their songs. Clearly the label wanted me to have a picture with Mariah. They went through a lot of trouble to make sure I shook her hand and had 30 seconds or so to converse with her before turning towards the photographer. Other people who went to these events did receive their pictures. Why didn't I?

Because Mariah didn't like the way she looked. Every photo that is mailed out, she looked at first. So if you see a photograph of Mariah Carey with a radio or record executive, she has approved it. I just had bad luck. She didn't allow any of the 3 she posed for with me to go out. I told her about how I hadn't received a photo yet from our first 2 meetings when I met her the final time. She joked with me about it saying "Let's try real hard to get Kelly a good one this time. Keep clicking". But alas it wasn't meant to be. Was I upset? At first I was. Disappointed? Sure! She's one of the biggest recording stars in history, and I almost had several really cool photos with her! As a side-note to make the disappointment even greater, the Chelsea Piers photo had her boyfriend at the time on my right side, with her on my left. That guy was Derek Jeter! As a Yankees fan I wish she would have cut herself from that pic and just sent me the part with him. 

But here's the thing. If your image is important to your business you have to protect it fiercely! Chances were high I would have hung that photo in my office next to other celebs I had met. Who knows how many folks would have seen that picture in my office and lowered their opinion of her beauty. As a prominent radio executive our local paper or industry publication may have run a copy. This was long before the internet had sites whose sole purpose it is, is to make celebs look bad. These days it's impossible to not get caught with an awkward face if your an A lister. 

The point is that in your business, if your image matters, and it really matters no matter what your business is, you need to protect it fiercely. Most of our images are not built on beauty, but think about what your image is built on, and then protect it. Even if it means upsetting some people along the way.