Why is Starbucks so successful while other coffee brands falter? Why are we so infatuated by Apple products such as the iPod and iMac? Why do we choose Nike footware over competing products? These are all questions that don’t seem to have a clear answer. I’ve wondered many times why one brand does so much better than others. Why seemingly equal products end up with such different outcomes.
Enter Idea-engineer, Patrick Hanlon and his new book, Primal Branding. Patrick has asked these questions and many others and distilled the results into seven pieces of “primal” code which he believes is the key to brand identity.
The seven pieces of primal code are: the creation story, creed, icons, ritual, sacred words, nonbelievers, and leader.
The creation story aspect is fascinating. It’s the interesting part of the company identity. How did this company come to exist? We all know about the two guys in a garage that started Apple computer, the college students that started Google and the guy who started Ebay in his back bedroom. Creation stories draw us in and give us an attachment to the product. We feel more a part of the company if we know the struggles and passion that it took to get it started.
The creed is the mission statement. All companies have a declaration that tells us what they are all about. It may be honesty or passion or going one step better than the rest. It uniquely identifies the direction and vision of the company or brand. If we can relate to the creed the company may have a customer for life.
The icons may be the actual graphic or logo of the business. It may be the taste of the food or the smell of the gourmet coffee. Icons differentiate the brand and give us instant recognition. We all know the Nike swoosh, the Starbuck’s mermaid, and the startup sound of a windows computer. Michael Jordan and Tiger Woods are very recognizable icons for Nike.
Almost every shopping experience involves ritual. In Starbucks you order, pickup, add sugar and creme, and then find a seat. The Amazon experience involves viewing the product, adding it to your cart, checking out, and then enjoying the fun of opening the brown box with the large smile on it that the UPS man just delivered. Different businesses, different rituals. Humans are creatures of habit and if a company can turn their ritual into one of your habits they will have a steady customer.
Sacred words are the language of the enlightened. People that know the sophisticated vocabulary of a business develop a close affinity for the product or service. Think about the vocabulary of Starbucks… tall, grande, vente, all provided by a barista behind a bar. Once you learn the language you have a feeling of belonging. You’re a part of the team, someone in the know.
The unbelievers are anyone who doesn’t believe in your product. With Starbuck’s it’s the people at home sipping instant coffee, with Coke it’s the Pepsi drinkers, with Democrats it’s the Republicans. Unbelievers offer contrast and a way to differentiate products and services. This contrast gives people a reason to use your product.
And finally there is the leader. It may be the CEO, the founder, or even a TV personality. Someone who you can relate to. Someone that gives you confidence in the product, that if something were to go wrong, would be there to fix it. If this person can gain your trust, they may have you as a customer for life. Personal connections are powerful.
Creating a brand that people believe in, means they want to be your customer and no one else’s. They prefer you above all other choices… even when the competition beats you with innovation, price, or other advantages.
Primal Branding is an amazing read. Patrick Hanlon is the founder of Thinktopia an idea task force whose slogan is, “Better Thoughts Through Thinking. He has served as the Creative Director at various advertising agencies