The Single Most Important Principle in Brand Strategy Today

Posted by Michael Leis on April 7th, 2013 at 3:33 pm

The start of another Mad Men season reminds me of the shift in marketing strategy that I most often discuss with colleagues and clients now, but have yet to expressly write about.

What separates great brands and marketing from good, or even bad ones can be boiled down to this one thought I first heard at sxsw 2011:

Make The Customer The Hero

Seems obvious today, right? Look at our most disruptive brands today and you'll see it as a common theme. From Apple to Coke to Facebook and Instagram. It's more than Millennial cultural attribute, although they demand it more vocally than other consumer segments. What I see across the board is that products that position themselves as tools to make their customers more heroic in the eyes of their peers, wins.

This may be a result of the social media era, as it's more important than ever that people have content to represent their small triumphs to friends and family. Brands, more and more, are valued by how their content works effectively as social currency. But it could also be that in these economic times, what makes global corporations unique or special is what we as individuals can do with it.

This is a marked difference from almost all effective brand building and communications of the past, and especially during the heyday of the Mad Men era, when a brand established value not from being the tool that makes the customer the hero, but the hero that potential customers aspire to be like.

Take a look through the Advertising Age Favorite Ads of the 60's and you'll see barely any people at all. Most ads focus on the product alone, what it would be like to live the life that uses that product, or the Fear / Uncertainty / Doubt strategy of what could go wrong if you don't get the telephone extension in your kitchen. Look around today and you'll see these sparingly in use -- mostly for older audiences.

Today's successful brands focus on what the audience wants to do, and how the brand can help them to achieve that hero moment.

What do you think? Leave a comment below or continue the conversation on Twitter @mleis...

2 Responses to “The Single Most Important Principle in Brand Strategy Today”

  1. I generally agree with the point of making the customer the hero but I would caution against recommending any one creative approach for doing so -- you don't need to show the customer in order to make him/her the hero just as you didn't need to show the product in years past -- the more ingenious communications are the ones that get noticed, talked about, and shared. -- denise lee yohn

  2. Michael Leis says:

    Thanks for taking the time to write, Denise. I agree with your point. I'm attempting to write more about strategy than just creative. Creative that effectively targets the customer's personality and becomes usable in a social context (think shares on FB or SomeECards, or linking to YouTube videos) perform this same strategic goal as well.

    Thanks again!


Leave a comment