How Boring is Your Brand?

Any brand has the potential to ramp up its fame factor and generate real traction in culture, but it demands taking a viewpoint that may feel counter-intuitive to conventional strategy.

Here’s three behaviours I’ve applied many times with global brands that have generated amazing results in fame and cultural traction.

 1. What’s the story?
Most brand advertising delivers nice complete, carefully crafted stories. Nice to watch, good for general recall, but ultimately boring.

The modern socially driven news-cycle thrives on actions that start the story. New exciting stories that can be talked about, passed around and play out in culture. Just like any good news item, it’s about stirring up opinion and fuelling the public discourse. It’s about how justice is restored, about triumph in adversity, about ‘will, they or won’t they’, or simply about an incredible feat that leaves the Internet in disbelief.

The crux of writing the brand story for cultural fame is to determine what the discourse in culture should be. Create the right story, to create the right reaction.

2. Be Predictably Unexpected.
Brand’s tend to be predictably predictable. After all repetitive messaging works. It helps build recall, salience, blah-blah-blah, but it doesn’t build fame.

Fame relies on being unexpected. Sustained fame relies on building a reputation of being unexpected. Think about celebrity culture; it’s based on the constant stream of predictably unexpected actions, announcements and events that an individual is instigating. Brand fame isn’t any different, but it means the way an idea is developed needs to be planned to a different brief than that of conventional communications.

3. Act like a TV series.
A hit TV show works by constantly teasing out part of its story in a predictably unexpected way. The narrative evolves, the character affinity grows and the sense of ‘what’s going to happen?’ anticipation builds momentum throughout the series.

This concept of ‘Series Planning’ is perhaps the toughest element for companies planning brand fame. It demands for planned evolution – finding a new way to manage continual change within a moving timeline. It means accepting that brand strategy shouldn’t be fixed, it should be fluid. That it should be an ever-evolving storyline playing out in culture.

Clyde McKendrick
About the author: 

Clyde McKendrick is Managing Partner at Zeitgeist Laboratories, a London-based cultural innovation consultancy.  His executive career also includes assignments as Group Planning Director at TBWA\Chiat\Day and strategy and planning roles with POSSIBLE, Crispin Porter + Bogusky and WDCW in the UK. Follow Clyde on Twitter.