Skip to main content

What's your brand narrative?

I've posted before on how great brands have a sense of true north -- a compelling point of view that shapes their beliefs and actions and keep them moving forward with an infectious sense of momentum.

I want to expand on that and add another dimension -- great brands also know what they oppose. Three brands illustrate this point.

Harley Davidson's new campaign, "screw it, let's ride", is a powerful manifesto for the brand. This campaign found a way to link Harley's defy authority ethos to today's zeitgeist of war, recession and slippery politicians. The campaign and website unite a community in a crusade against fear.

The Dove "Real Beauty" campaign shook the cosmetic world a few years back by standing up for individual self-esteem and exhorting people to question and defy the pretense of media-defined beauty.

For over two decades Apple has been on a crusade in celebration of creativity by demonizing grey conformity. This was set in motion in its epic "1984" spot, continued through its "Think Different" positioning and still exists today in its cheeky "Mac vs. PC" campaign.

What all three brands have in common is an appreciation of narrative. In any great story a protagonist must also have an antagonist. Every hero's journey involves overcoming challenges and adversaries, whether they be dragons, tyrants or competitors.

So what's the lesson for marketers?  Create a compelling story, not just a strategy. Go beyond defining what you stand for; decide what you oppose.  The most passionate causes tend to be in pursuit of both -- an ideal that inspires and a status quo that must be vanquished.  It is the yin and yang of these two forces that trumpets a call to arms.


Unknown said…
Not someone I often quote, but words that I remember from an old college paper:

“The leader of genius must have the ability to make different opponents appear as if they belonged to one category.”

- Adolf Hitler
Anonymous said…
would be interested in brands you think should be doing this and are failing miserably...
David Murphy said…
Great question: what brands are ripe for this type of "hero's journey"? Jeep could be an advocate of our pursuit to find meaning and freedom and a foe of walls and asphalt. Coke could be an advocate of friendships and shared moments and a foe of isolation and social divisions. Microsoft Office could be an advocate of the common language uniting people and cultures and a foe of senseless barriers. Thanks for asking the question...this could be a good parlor game (for brand wonks).
Anonymous said…
yes on Jeep. Coke could do more. on Microsoft Office — brilliant strategy.

what about Electronic Arts? Nintendo has captured the hearts and minds of the people with the wii. What does anyone feel for the EA brand? EA should stand for limitless imagination and a foe to the expected.
Ed Reilly said…
HP attempts to graft on storytelling with their Reimagine ROI.
Seems forced and is not as much a brand narrative as an attempt to encourage customers to tell stories while pushing their own message...
Anonymous said…
Hey David - did Coke see your comments here when creating their current campaign!!!!!

Popular posts from this blog

What makes a premium brand premium?

I was thinking the other day about the DNA of premium brands . One thing is certain -- it's a relative idea. For example, Hyatt is not a premium brand if you're used to staying at a W or a Ritz Carlton. But if your vacations to date have been holed up in a Holiday Inn, then by all means a stay in a Hyatt is a premium experience. Another thing is certain -- a brand is considered premium only when we believe it is worth the price. And that's where we can dig deeper. Why are we willing to pay more for a product when there are others that provide the same service or function at a lesser price? I have spent a good part of my marketing career developing strategies and ideas for a wide range of  premium brands, including American Express, Sony, Callaway Golf, Hilton, Jaguar, Land Rover – even the Toyota Prius.  Through these experiences I have come to believe that a premium brand is built upon specific tangible and intangible attributes that give it a sense wort

Super game. Dull ads

As a passionate Giants fan it is safe to say that I had a good time yesterday. But as an advertising professional I felt a bit underwhelmed by the caliber of the advertising . Many were entertaining. But few possessed that intangible Super Bowl-ness...big, pop-cultural, fun. Even fewer seemed to have anything relevant to say about the brand, such as the Planters "uni-brow" spot. I loved the Bridgestone "screaming animals" spot, but it would have been a much better spot for the Saab featured in the spot than the tires the car rode upon. As for Bud, good spots, but I've seen the dog and horse thing before. Tide's talking stain was funny, but did it have Super Bowl-ness? My fav? The Coke "balloon float" spot. It was classic Coke (for Coke Classic). Big. Entertaining. Unexpected twist. Utterly charming. And Charlie Brown finally won something. Coke is about smiles. And that spot was just that. The Audi spot that I wrote about last week liv

Marketing as a service.

What if we re-imagined marketing as a way to serve customers?  What if we designed it as a way to provide real-time value and utility to customers? Our SXSW panel at explored these issues and more.  Marketing as a service harnesses Big Data to provide more meaningful and helpful experiences for customers.  It is a principle born of the belief that the dynamics of customer loyalty have fundamentally changed.  Loyalty can no longer be solely defined by customers staying loyal to a brand.  Because the internet provides us with unlimited choice, the tables have turned – brands must now demonstrate their loyalty to customers by serving them.