By Andrew Connochie, Director of Brand Strategy
Last week, while doing some last minute planning for a client, I was reminded that some of the controversy surrounding last summer’s addition to the Superman franchise focused on the appearance, and then disappearance, of Superman’s beard. This seemingly unimportant detail threw diehard fans’ relationship with Superman in jeopardy. After viewing the movie’s trailer, Conan O’Brian (who claims Superman is his favourite superhero) asks, “How do you shave off a super beard if you’re Superman?” (It’s worth watching: click here to see Conan’s video response to the Man of Steel movie trailer.) His desire to see the film is replaced with confusion and anger. He no longer wants to see the movie, may not see any more superhero movies, and “may never see a movie again!” Whew!
There’s an important lesson brand managers can learn from this. Imagine Superman was your brand. He’s been around sine the 1930s and the pressure’s probably on to give him an update. And maybe you’re noticing that every other male in front of the camera getting attention these days has a beard or some other sort of hipster scruff. Add one? Why not! But by doing so, whether intentionally or not, you’ve thrown your hero’s essence into question with the people who care the most. He may look hip, but his superness (his brand promise) is no longer clear and lifelong fans, like Conan, aren’t buying.
How do you refresh, without losing your essence? One suggestion for maintaining a balance between protecting your brand’s essence and allowing it to grow and innovate is to think of your brand in terms of a hero and the hero’s journey (an excellent resource on this topic is Winning the Story Wars by Jonah Sachs). Storytelling helps our agency organize our thinking—it’s helped all of us since the dawn of time—and the hero’s journey is probably the most universally recognized story format.
How We Can No Longer Compartmentalize
By Rachael Muir, Creative Director
Let’s face it. Everyday is a ‘brave new world’ lately. Technology changes not only how we see things or do things, it changes the way we communicate and relate to each other as human beings. Technology changes technology itself – and it’s changing faster than ever. Are you ready?
At the risk of sounding simplistic, I would like to just say…
1) Be aware, be open, be brave. Sometimes none of that is easy, but the more you practice, the better you’ll get.
2) Enjoy the ride more than the destination; but above all, look to where you want to go.
3) Social media cannot be an afterthought. The applications may come and go, but at the heart of it all is a fundamental thing called human relationships – complete with egos, superegos and ids. How we leverage the brand is by way of influence, connection, and trust. Social media (and beyond) is at the core of how we communicate now.
So, if it’s not about a clever headline and a compelling image anymore,
then what is it about?
Compartmentalization is dead. We have to look at all media as part of the big picture; everything hinges on everything else and everything is in a flux. The idea has to be able to accommodate any medium. It has to be true to the brand and true to the end goal.
An idea has to be felt more than noticed. Its presence – as a brand, for example – should be a complete and ongoing experience. A brand has to be trusted more than seen. Being seen and noticed is short-lived. Being felt and trusted can last a lifetime… if it’s authentic.
If creative focuses on the latter, the former can take care of itself in this brave new world of ours.