Great Brands are Born that way.
Great Brands, like great sales people, are born.
The idea is quite simple (sort of). Here’s how it works: Someone with an idea, or inspiration and some talent – creates a product. It delivers value to its users, remains consistent, and stays true to its inherent promise. The product, its name, packaging and associated imagery become entrenched in the hearts and minds of its satisfied consumers. A Brand is Born. That’s it.
It’s not a chicken and egg sort of thing. This formula is like gravity – or time.
The sequence of events is simple:
Product or service is created.
Product or service is awesome.
Product or service consistently delivers on its promise no matter what.
Outcome: Great Brand. Or Born Brand.
This dynamic remains consistent throughout all industries.
Take music, for example.
Led Zeppelin simply wrote and performed the greatest sound imaginable in the history of rock. (Go ahead, argue). Four guys in a room, banging it out. Making magic and delivering the goods – time over time over time. My children’s children will be listening to Dazed and Confused (a live recording, I hope) and will no doubt be experiencing the same feelings of awe that I did back in 1974.
They BECAME a brand.
A Born Brand.
And here’s the key: They never set out to become one.
They just did what they did, solved what they solved, delivered what they delivered – and did it better than anyone.
Their resulting Brand was an OUTCOME of their excellence and consistency.
Then something happened.
Corporations got their hands on this great new thing called Brand Marketing.
“What a great brand!” “Let’s build a brand!”
This spawned the era of the petri dish-ification of Brands. Scientifically researched, focus group approved, pre-packaged brands – built just for you.
A good example of this reverse engineering is Blue Moon Beer. Masquerading as a hipster microbrewery, Blue Moon is actually produced by suds-giant Coors Brewing Company. Blue Moon is the spawn of a Brand Strategy team at Coors who were looking to appeal to the artisanally inclined, home-spun, Billyburg / Portland set (and all of the poor lost souls who for some bizarre reason aspire to emulate them). Blue Moon’s Belgian White recipe with the trademark orange-slice garnish and “Artfully Crafted” product messaging are all components of a marketing scheme engineered to capitalize on the then-burgeoning beer-craft hoopla taking over universities and farm-to-table restaurants in gentrified neighborhoods near you.
The brand’s TV spots expertly tell a story about a basement grown beer product and feature two local hip-meisters regaling the story of how the orange peel garnish accidentally became the crowing identifier of the brew. Cutesy, folksy, accessible, home grown, the messaging emulates a sense of organic discovery. But it’s all smoke and mirrors. Now the product itself may taste good, but this is not a truly Born Brand.
Modern Brands are engineered in a lab by Corporate Marketers and Product Engineers in the pursuit of category representation in new or emerging markets.
Invariably, and not without irony, most of these new markets (like the micro-brew market) were inspired by the emergence of authentic products made by people who simply wanted to share their passion or clever idea with others – or, by Born Brands.
Markets that were created by Born Brands:
- Starbucks: Coffee Bar
- FedEx: Overnight Delivery anywhere
- Coke: Soft Drinks
- The New York Dolls: Punk Rock
- Sony: Personal Music Player
- IBM or Apple (let the argument begin): Personal Computers
- Levi Strauss: Blue Jeans
- McDonald’s: Fast Food
- Disney: Animated Entertainment
Each of these Born Brands spawned a new market and each quickly became populated by competitors and imitators.
Some of them succeeded in creating a brand following, others did not.
However, one thing is certain: Born Brands are here to stay – even long after they are dead and buried. Born Brands bring something to the marketplace that a run-of-the-mill Corporate Engineered brand cannot: Legacy.
Born Brands in their pristine form cannot be engineered.
But some would argue that this is not the case.
Is a test tube baby a “real” baby?
Was Neo a “real” human?
Hard to make the case against both for sure. Purists would argue that Born Brands are “true” and “authentic” brands. And it makes sense. A 2014 study by Cohn & Wolf on Brand Authenticity revealed -among other things -that 63% of global consumers would buy from a company they consider to be authentic, over and above competitors.
While suckers are born every minute, consumers are savvy to fakery and pretense. They may take a bite, but they don’t stick around and order another plate.
Brand Marketing as a science has spawned a galaxy of products and services that have no soul. And we marketers have become their enablers.