Why do we prefer Coke over Pepsi or Apple over Samsung or Ford over Chevy?
Stories, unlike any other element, allow brands to connect with customers on an emotional level. And stories in the digital age are particularly potent. In markets that aren’t natural monopolies or where there are clear, agreed-upon metrics, how do we decide?
Yes, every brand has a story—that’s how it goes from being a logo and a name to a brand. The story includes expectations and history and promises and social cues and emotions. The story makes us say we “love Google” or “love Harley”… but what do we really love? We love ourselves. We love the memory we have of how that brand made us feel once. We love that it reminds us of our mom, or growing up, or our first kiss. We support a charity or a soccer team or a perfume because it gives us a chance to love something about ourselves.
We can’t easily explain this, even to ourselves. We can’t easily acknowledge the narcissism and the nostalgia that drives so many of the apparently rational decisions we make every day. But that doesn’t mean that they’re not at work.
More than ever, we express ourselves with what we buy and how we use what we buy. Extensions of our personality, totems of our selves, reminders of who we are or would like to be.
Here are some of our favorite brands that have successfully honed in on key brand attributes and developed great stories as a result. Hot Wheels has come and gone into and out of favor since 1968, but an affinity remains in the hearts and minds of most men between the ages of 20 and 50. The memories come flooding back at just the thought of playing Hot Wheels in the floor with their son. So here’s to celebrating a brand that has managed to grow up just like us, yet having never lost that sense of inner child. Not even for a certain 50-something year old child.
And who doesn’t recall Saturday morning cartoons with your favorite sugary cereal. Count Chocula, the caped, pointy-eared count with a stereotypical Transylvanian accent was, for some reason, a magnet to children. Even his pet spider couldn’t repel them. But, of course, it was really the sugary goodness that drew them in — kids probably didn’t even notice the count’s wiry fingers or single sharpened incisor hanging from his jaw. To make matters worse, Count Chocula promoted his “double-chocolaty” cereal while cavorting with his fellow cereal monsters Frankenberry and Boo Berry, who had equally scary dispositions and promoted equally unhealthy breakfast cereals.
Great marketers don’t make stuff. They make meaning. What brand has special meaning for you?