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Management students Barbara Sochanski and Joy Bennett write about meeting the local star
Quebec celebrity Normand Brath-waite was invited to talk about his experience of "marketing" himself in Quebec to management professor Karl Moore's MBA marketing class in February. Although Brathwaite is a popular CKOI radio show host and the host of the weekly TV show "Belle et Bum," most of the students (90 percent non-Quebecers and international) had no idea of his stardom.
As we welcomed the celebrity, it was obvious he looked different than he does on TV, and he was less boisterous than we expected - even shy. Most of us imagine stars to be arrogant, yet Brathwaite came across as unassuming and humble.
Brathwaite was discovered when in a relatively unknown improv troupe. His first role on a well-viewed show, "Chez Denise," catapulted him into the limelight. Brathwaite suggested that the phenomenon of Quebec television broadcasting, which is different from North America, is what helped him in his overnight success. He said that for American shows, such as "Late Night with David Letterman," 2 million viewers are considered successful; in French Quebec, broadcasting shows can attract over 4 million viewers on a given night.
The next day, people called out to him "Tabanouche!" - the word he had used repeatedly in the previous night's show. He was recognized all the way to northeastern Quebec: a new star was born.
In response to questions about image and how he felt he was positioned in the minds of Quebecers, Brathwaite said he felt he came across as real and as honest as the average Quebecer.
On his experience in promoting brands such as Chrysler, it was quite revealing to learn that Chrysler, an American firm, had to be convinced by its Quebec subsidiary that Brathwaite's skin color was no justification to refuse him as a spokesperson for Chrysler in Quebec. He also talked about the conflict of interest he faced as the spokesperson of Réno-Depot, when Home Depot's entrance into Quebec prompted them to buy advertising for one of his popular shows.
We learned about the importance of branding an entertainer and the importance of one's image. Normand's warm and humble attitude helped all of us get to know him better and brought another touch of Quebec culture to McGill. The next day on his CKOI morning show, he told his audience that he had had a great experience at McGill and that he was quite "taken" by its beautiful women. Thanks, Normand, and au revoir!