What's In A Brand?

A brand is more than mere logos, slogans and fancy packaging.  It’s a cluster of ideas which—if the brand is successful—is evoked by any or all of the above. In the last Blog post, I discussed movies and their characters. But we don’t often think of the story as a brand and how that brand is transformed throughout the story.  Let’s take a closer look at those films from a brand perspective and then compare that to the cluster of ideas of well-known brands. 

It’s A Wonderful Life
George Bailey becomes more to us than a character in a story.  His brand transforms as he takes us along on his personal journey. He is not the same person in the end of the film as he was in the beginning.  He starts out as a stressed-out, almost suicidal bank executive and ends up finding peace and balance in his life.  His cluster of ideas encompasses struggle, a personal journey, and a better understanding of himself and his world.  In a way, his cluster of ideas is his personal growth and all of the elements that comprise that growth. 

The Apartment
It is not only C.C. Baxter, but every character in this film that comprise the cluster of ideas for the brand.  Each character represents something familiar to the viewer.  C.C. himself perhaps, or perhaps his boss or his love interest or his neighbor – they are all characters who are relatable to each of us.  We can see ourselves as any one of those characters and we can identify our own environment and the people who encompass it in our daily lives.  The myth creation surrounding this brand is the story of the apartment.  As the key is passed from person to person, a myth emerges about the nature of the key. C.C. is very complex yet can be seen as very simple.  He embodies what we all go through in life – trying to find a balance between who we are and who want to be. 

The Graduate
The Graduate is great example of what’s known as a creation myth.  In this context, a myth isn’t necessarily false but rather the story behind the story.  From the Simon and Garfunkel song Mrs. Robinson to other movies, the cluster of ideas surrounding The Graduate becomes a brand changer.  The most obvious brand-and-viewer transformation is that people seem to recall the movie as “the story of Mrs. Robinson” rather than by its actual name and they seem to forget all about Benjamin.  The movie Rumor Has It (2005) stars Jennifer Aniston and all-star cast in which Aniston’s character learns that her family was the basis of the story The Graduate.  The cluster of ideas for this brand transcends the story and allows the viewer and the story to both become transformed by the experience.

Ford Motor Company
Ford, or rather Henry Ford himself, can be compared to George Bailey.  He went broke five times before founding Ford Motor Company.  While there are myriad of examples of famous people and brands that almost failed, Henry is a good comparison to George.  Ford’s cluster of ideas is much more than simply manufacturing cars.  Ford is synonymous with America.  Ford didn’t take a government bailout – and neither George Bailey.  They simply found a way to make it work and their customers loved them for it. 

Wal-Mart as it is known today can be compared to C.C. Baxter.  Let’s face it, they sold out.  Much like C.C. they were okay with selling out.  They were okay with all of the naysayers who think they are the big bad corporate giant who puts every small business out of business.  But they have recently begun to think, “How can build some street cred?”  They have launched a new line of grocery stores that are meant to be placed in downtowns of cities rather than in sprawling developments. The new stores, called Marketplace, require less square footage (around 40,000sq ft) and employee less people.  They want to change their image to be more consumer and business friendly. Much like C.C. Baxter, they are trying to find balance between who they’ve become and they want to be. 

I can’t think of a better brand to discuss creation myth than Facebook.   Started in a dorm room at Harvard in 2003 by Mark Zuckerberg, the myth creation for Facebook and the cluster of ideas surrounding the brand depends on who you ask.  This is, without a doubt, a brand that has transformed and has been transformed by its audience.  Facebook has impacted pulp culture more than Sergeant Pepper.   More than Elvis.  More than the Internet itself.  Facebook is verb.  Facebook has changed everything about the way people everywhere (except China) communicate with each other.  It has changed our vernacular and colloquialism.  It has impacted the user(s) on a personal level and each person’s experience with it is different, yet the brand is ubiquitous.   We are all impacted because of the incomparable and unparalleled transformation of both brand and user.  Facebook is us.  We are Facebook.

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