A couple years back I was quoted in the book Primal Branding about my work with LEGO. Since reading the book, I’ve been fascinated with the concept that “every brand is a belief system”. I certainly felt that way about the work and product at LEGO, but I’ve wondered what happens when someone says “what about our toilet paper brand?”
CREED. Once we know where you’re from, we want to know what you’re about. Are you a good guy, or a bad guy? If you believe in capitalism, world peace, free markets, life after death, or Just Do It®, the consumers’ brain then compartmentalizes and categories you in a way where they know what to think about you. The creed is not your lengthy corporate mission statement. It’s what you want people to take away and associate with you in an instant.
ICONS. The Sydney opera house. The Statue of Liberty. The Eiffel Tower. The Forbidden City. All of these icons identify the civic communities in which they stand. Brand communities have icons, too. The swoosh. The polo player. The Coke bottle silhouette. The iPod. The Rolex. The Hummer. Icons establish a visual tag that extends beyond the song catalog, and helps members of the community identify one another. Think memes (“Stand Up & Stand Out” ppt; Slide 4)
RITUAL. Communities have things they like to do together. Run marathons. Chat over coffee. Beer fests. Knitting circles. Spring rites. Rituals are the patterns of our lives; the web of daily activities that bind communities together.
SACRED WORDS. Every group has a specialized vocabulary that identifies those who belong within the community and those who do not. Whether you’re a doctor, lawyer, computer geek, football fan, music freak, patriot, marketing director, or bricklayer, to belong to that community you have to know the words. In fact, how well you know the language establishes where you fit in the community hierarchy.
NONBELIEVERS. For every trend there is a countertrend. Hawks and doves. Guzzlers and Green. The sacred and the profane. Target marketing helps us narrowcast who our customers are, but there are always those people who do not want to be one of us; instead they’d rather be one of them… gotta love ’em. There is pain in realizing some people do not want to be just like us, but there is also great opportunity: if we can identify a group of people who do not want sugar in their diet, we can create sugar-free. If we single out a group who does not want caffeine, we can invent decaf.
THE LEADER. This is the individual who set out against all odds and the world at large to recreate the world according to their own point of view. These are the Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Richard Bransons, Oprah Winfreys and other front cover personalities at the macro level. They are the “Brand Setters.”