Friday, April 25, 2008

Primal Branding... When Nobody Gives a Crap

For decades marketing types have talked about how some brands have a soul, a voice, a personality. They rant long and hard about how Apple brand has a cult, Nike has a tribe, Coke has enthusiasts, and other beloved products and services have brand loyalists, advocates, zealots and vigilantes.

But how do you create your own posse? Looking at brands as belief systems is a long leap toward creating brand communities, tribes, and ardent evangelists. Why? B ecause when you design a belief system, you attract others who want to share your beliefs.

It's the bond created between Lego enthusiasts, iPod and Blackberry owners, MiniCooper drivers, Starbucks drinkers, Rolling Stones fans and Whole Foods and WalMart shoppers that creates the buzz, the vibe, the community. It's a primal connection that has a scientific basis. Makes you want to pay attention to who your demographic is, doesn't it?

I've discovered readings about seven components that go into the creation of a belief system called the pieces of primal code. The code itself is seven elements: creation story, creed, icons, ritual, sacred words, nonbelievers, and leader. Once all seven pieces of code are in place, people are attracted to your brand in ways never thought possible, but it takes all seven to create a relevant, vibrant community.

The creation STORY is the beginning of your brand saga. It's how (and probably why) you got started. Dell was started in a dorm room. EBay was started in a spare bedroom. Hawaiian Tropic started in the garage (as did Apple and Hewlett-Packard).

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."

Marketers everywhere want to number their consumers in the millions. The way to accomplish this effectively, and to keep them hanging around, is to design vibrant communities where they can live, play, and buy. For whatever reason, we are hard-wired as human beings to respond when all seven pieces of primal code exist. What brought us out of the caves thousands of years ago, also drags us into the shopping mall today.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Very good stuff (and not just because you gave a shout out to LEGO community :)). I think this is spot on.

And yes, it's not about the millions. They naturually show up when you have an enthusiastic, dedicated core. If most marketers spent more time on smaller groups, they'd affect the millions without the foolishness and expense that is the mass market campaign.