Good Brands Are Not For Everyone

Film critic of the Chicago Sun-Times, Roger Ebert, recently wrote that good movies are not for everyone, only the bad ones are. How very poignant. I began to think about what he said and how it could relate to marketing.

If bad brands are made for everyone, what does it take to be a good brand?

Let’s ask a simpler question: What are bad movies? We’ve all seen them. Recall films where the producer was obviously thinking,  “Let’s add romance, action, suspense, drama, a little indie charm and make it kid-friendly so everyone can enjoy it!”

Like bad brands, bad movies tend to have formulaic components that dumb it down to give it broader appeal. By watering down a brand to appeal to everyone, marketers lose their real value and ultimately, appeal to absolutely no one.

Although growing a broader audience should be a marketer’s aspiration, make no mistake there is a difference between branding strategies based on aspiration and strategies based on realistic objectives.

Establishing fundamental values that go beyond just the image or illusion of a brand (e.g. name, symbols, colors and slogans) and conveying the real essence of the brand is the first step to achieving good brand status. A clear objective helps marketers communicate to consumers who the brand is for and who it isn’t for.

Some may believe establishing goals to gain a broader audience outrightly is more important. But consider this. There are thousands of brands out there, all aiming to cast a wide net in hopes of gaining most of the market share. While these brands may gain some consumers, they simultaneously lose something extremely valuable – brand differentiation. By aspiring to appeal to the masses, brands begin to look like the thousands of other brands aiming to achieve the same.

Yes, yes, there are prestige brands that appeal to the masses. Apple. Coach. W Hotels. But these brands didn’t become successful overnight. They appealed to a very specific audience initially, differentiating themselves from other brands. In doing so, Apple, Coach and W Hotels were able to define and refine their fundamental value over and over, eventually becoming remarkable brands that everyone could enjoy.

So Roger Ebert was right. Good movies aren’t for everyone, nor are good brands. Good brands are targeted to a selective group. They begin with clear objectives and an even clearer understanding of their value. They tell a specific story that is as equally focused as it is honest.  Like movies, good brands tend to also have an added element. People in the film industry like to call it magic, but I like to call it authenticity.

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