I was reading the article of Joe Pantigoso on brandchannel. The references he uses and their associations are very familiar, yet well simplified. His way to define the segmentation of brands is neat and memorable. Since we all know the shades of being an emotional brand, it is easy to match your own terminology with his.
The examples he gives, make me question once again if we all talk about the same “brand” definition. He mentions the product quality when he talks about Crest and target group aspirations when it is about Land Rover. Of course, all are parts of a greater brand universe, however we cannot be ignoring the other pillars in that universe if we talk about a brand success, especially its creators and the owners: parenting organisations. Having a brand fiction is old fashioned now. The brands of today cannot be unreal, dishonest and independent from their corporate cultures.
On Crest, the brand is apparently equivalent to the product. The brand is powerful, because the product is competent. We talk nothing about the company itself -which is PG-, nothing about corporate values, nothing about its people but products. Therefore when we think about Crest’s persona, we think about the products that are driving the brand. Since the products are competent and eager Crest is a HERO as a brand. But what if an OUTLAW company makes an entrance and change all the conventions with innovative superior products?
Then let’s take a look at Land Rover. Land Rover is owned by another huge global corporation: Tata Motors. Not by Victoria Beckham. The product itself was not initially designed for self-image uplift. The brand is successful because its marketing is successful. It resembles a perfect blend of power cues with style. Its design is focused on resembling muscles to be attracted to whomever seeking power in style. As a brand, Land Rover should be a LOVER. This persona is relevant to the product, too. Not the company, not the people, not the product’s substance… Therefore Mr. Pantigoso may soon see Teslas around in the suburbs of New York.
Tom’s is an interesting example; Tom’s values are clear, apparently internalised and well communicated. The company defines itself as “one for one company” and does not only give away shoes but fights against bullying, helps people improve their eyesights, support refugees, etc… So the company and its people claim to be determined to do ONE good for ONE product sold. That is not supposed to be a communication strategy, or not a campaignable idea but a business policy as well. It it already well linked with the product marketing, and sustained in the way the company operates. Therefore a discussion about the brand’s persona or archetype is not needed since we all can see that the company is a true CAREGIVER. Since the brand name and the company name is the same, it would be very hard to settle another persona for the brand, and would be nonsense. However the category functionally has nothing to do with caring or giving… A pair of shoes, sunglasses, backpacks… They do not give care, they are just fashionable goods. So the company successfully adds a secondary purpose to the product to make it a stronger brand. You do not buy Tom’s shoes to look stylish but to be perceived as ‘caring’. Although you practically do nothing as a consumer, the company gives you the credit. So what if Brand X starts a new Corporate Social Responsibility Project and claim to give TWO good for ONE product? What if they have a more resonant product that can be more relevant to poverty? Let’s say CVS giving TWO vaccines to children in need whenever ONE of their vitamins is sold? Hmm. Who nows. In my opinion, the only missing piece would be the consumer’s instant gratification in wearing/carrying the product as a proof of being a part of the good.
That thinking leads us to Simon Sinek. I cannot agree with Mr Sinek more, about the need of coherency in why, what and how we do things. If you design something, manufacture and market it; there is a story behind. Some may have a purposeful story, some may have an idealistic story, for some a love story… But that story and you as a protagonist is the plot on the way your business pursue. In a world of professional cockroach corporations, everyone runs for himself but not inhale the values of the company. That is terrible. On the other hand, the startups that have been led by their founders keep growing and growing and creating a new corporate landscape. I do not think that Steve Jobs did much care about “brand positioning”s, “consumer segmentation”s. Because he was living in his own story and knew where he was leading the company. Jobs was a CREATOR so is the company.
Humbly adding to Sinek’s thinking, I believe that understanding the company’s story first is very critical for marketing. Not only the “why” lies within but the persona as well. Understanding the founders’ ideals, thinking, ambitions and attitude will lead you to a protagonist, and an archetype. That archetype is the compass for your brand to storytell its purpose, its reason of existence in a most authentic way. And then holistic branding follows
From Emily Hean
Going back to our examples, what is the story of Land Rover? Was it always a mirror brand or a LOVER? Referring to a video on their website, it was not. How about Crest? It was a surprise to read PG investing in an innovative research for dental care more than 70 years ago. So the founders were really the HERO.
So why not these brands are not telling their true and beautiful stories as a proof of a honest brand purposes? And why not brands are nor trying to take fake personalities and promises away from their beautiful and true characteristics?
As a summary, I really do not think that brands are independent entities apart from their heritages and people. The story of the company and the product is the primary inspiration to define the purpose. Designing only a consumer research based or an opportunistic positioning would be destined to fail. Because it is short sighted. Archetypes can be a good tool to (re)define and understand your brand’s purpose. They will be sincere, simple and timeless.