Miss California USA Should Quit or Be Fired

By John TantilloMarketing Expert/Founder and President, Marketing Department of America

It's time for Miss California USA, Carrie Prejean, to turn in her crown or get fired.

I might get some heat for this statement, since Miss Prejean has garnered quite a bit of sympathy from one side of the political/social spectrum. But I mean no personal insult and the marketing point here is simply too important for me to pass it up.

Let me start by saying that Miss Prejean deserved to lose the Miss USA contest.

Not because of her pro-marriage views, but because choosing to air those views showed that she was not Miss USA material - her brand characteristics simply did not match the job description.

It wasn't that she spoke her mind or answered honestly and this was wrong. Right and wrong have nothing to do with it.

It was the way she said what she said that disqualified her from consideration for the Miss USA crown.

Forget the uncalled for nastiness of Perez Hilton's blog rant after the fact, what I'm talking about are the two core brand featuresof the Miss USA brand.

No, not swimsuits and evening gowns, but diplomacy and leadership.

A Miss USA represents an organization and an ideal and as such any candidate for the job needs to be both a diplomat and a leader.

A diplomat considers the feelings and worldviews of those around him or her. A leader must do the same and also demonstrate that she is prepared to include, not exclude, no matter what surprising and uncomfortable public speaking situations she might find herself in as she performs her Miss USA work.

I'm not saying don't speak the truth, but there is a way of delivering truth that can make all the difference and a time and place for opinion as well.

Carrie Prejean might have spoken from the heart, but a leader and a diplomat must process the emotion through the brain -- and in this case the brain should have told her to temper what she was saying in such a way that it would have been more palatable to Perez Hilton and the audience.

Does this mean sometimes pulling your punches?

Yes, absolutely, and there's simply nothing wrong with that -- especially if you are auditioning -- as Miss Prejean was -- for a job that is all about diplomacy and leadership.

Diplomats and leaders must be like this because it means they are thinking about the concerns and feelings of those around them (not just themselves and their own personal convictions).

Marketing (and life) is not always or even usually about your feelings -it's about responding to the needs of others and knowing how your brand actually does this.

A diplomat and a leader is a bridge builder nota bridge burner and it isn't unreasonable to think that someone who can be objectively insensitive of a judge when she is auditioning for the job and the pressure to conform is high might be even more insensitive in any number of situations where diplomacy is called for and the pressure to conform is off.

The key lesson here is that certain jobs demand that the personal brand characteristics of the individual be sublimated to the brand characteristics of the job.

Another Queen (Elizabeth) could tell you a lot about that truth. She never forgets her Target Market and never forgets that as a queen you never live for yourself and your agenda alone.

Now, Miss Prejean is using the Miss California platform to promote her own beliefs and her own brand --not the state she is supposed to be representing. As a result she is not upholding the responsibilities of her crown. She is, after all, Miss California, a representative of a state and a people that are many things but unanimously anti-gay marriage is not one of them.

Her decision to star in a television ad campaign for the National Organization for Marriage should be the definitive last straw in the question of whether she continues as Miss California.

From a real marketing perspective both sides (the Miss California people and Miss Prejean) would benefit from a divorce. The Miss California organization could regain its brand identity and Miss Prejean could freely do what she seems intent on doing anyway: representing her own agenda.

As far as building a celebrity brand after losing a crown is concerned, Miss Prejean can take heart from another famous crown relinquisher: Vanessa Williams.

And remember, things are always easier to understand when you keep marketing and branding in mind.

John Tantillo is branding editor for Fridge Magazine, the magazine for small business owners and entrepreneurs. He is the author of "People Buy Brands, Not Companies."