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The enclosed numbers, courtesy of Forbes, reveal the magazine’s 2017 ranking of “The World’s Most Valuable Brands”:
What do these brands all have in common? Great products, brilliant management and spot-on execution, of course. Probably a good deal of luck as well.
But I believe there is another element that separates legendary brands from all the others, something that I call Brand Myth.
Brand Myths are the unique creation stories possessed by all great brands, which does not exclude the use of data. How these brands leverage data influences the power of the stories they tell, which include:
- Two guys in a garage create the personal computer to empower individuals with technology. Apple changes becomes the world’s most valuable brand by changing the very way we live and work.
- An appliance salesman attends a trade show in Milan where he stumbles on to the community of the Italian coffeehouse. Envisioning a “third place” between work and home, Howard Schultz creates Starbucks, as we know it today.
- A track coach in Oregon is inspired by a waffle iron to create a new shoe for a world-class runner. Named for the Greek Goddess of Victory, Nike goes on to dominate athletic shoes and apparel by selling aspiration, letting everyday people know that their shoes will give them a taste of the glory experience by elite athletes.
Do you know these stories? Maybe you do and maybe you don’t, but it hardly matters. What does matter is that these are the foundational stories that make brands truly authentic. The unique, often revolutionary visions of brand creators are imparted to employees, investors and consumers alike, infusing them with passion and creating loyal, sometimes cult-like followings.
These are Joseph Campbell’s “hero stories,” drawn from Jungian archetypes. They penetrate the psyches of consumers, mingling and ultimately melding with the consumer’s personal myths, stories and self-perceptions.
Why Coke, not Pepsi? Why Starbucks, not any other coffee chain? Why McDonald’s and not Burger King? Why Disney, not Universal? Because dominant brands are the stuff of myth.
Can Brand Myth be quantified? To an important degree, yes.
How one applies data – how one converts the quantifiable into a quality message – is where creativity shines.
But consider what’s now going on in the packaged yogurt market, too.
Yoplait, the market leader for years, was busy slugging it out out with chief rival, Dannon, with traditional packaged-goods marketing efforts focusing on rationally based claims. Yoplait can authentically claim French heritage and a back story of sorts. But neither are top of mind with employees or consumers.
Along comes Chobani.
According to the New York Times:
“A Turkish immigrant named Hamdi Ulukaya arrived in the United States with $3,000 in his pocket. Sixteen years later, he was selling $1 billion worth of Greek yogurt by employing refugees from local resettlement centers and extolling the artisanal virtues of Chobani for the body, environment and soul…This story of authenticity has been essential to Chobani’s success and central to positioning Greek yogurt as an alternative to the sugary concoctions that come from companies like Yoplait.”
If this story wasn’t powerful enough on its own, as Dannon and Yoplait continue to fight it out over which has more “goodness” or “richness” or “quality,” Chobani is making big news by sharing profits with employees.
As a result, Yoplait’s overall yogurt sales have declined by over $100 million since 2010 and they have fallen to third place, behind Chobani and Dannon in market share.
The entire packaged goods industry is in a tailspin for similar reasons. They’ve not only been upended by the ecommerce and specialty retailers, they’ve suffered at the hands of upstart brands with great origin stories and fresh marketing tactics.
Brands we can connect to real people and real places. Inspiring stories infused with humanity that connect on a personal, highly emotional level.
Again, the story strengthens the data: Rather, the data lends itself to better storytelling and sales because marketers can take the prose of the numbers – the data about inflection points, community and real-time interaction – and translate it into the poetry of great communication; the stuff responsible for Brand Myth.
As the saying goes, not everything that counts can be counted.
But count out the importance of combining data with Brand Myth at your own peril.