We truly do live in the future. A future that is a wondrous and fluid place — filled with an endless stream of juicy options, updates, and new-to-the-world product choices for your consideration. It’s a whirring cascade of “next big things” competing for your attention and actions.
Our brains (with the help of the latest ad blocking tech!) have gotten quite good at filtering this massive stream of stimulus and weeding out the generic and uninspiring stuff. How do you get what you’re doing to stand out and command the attention of audiences that are living and breathing and buying from the comfort of their almighty devices?
As a marketer, how do you successfully overcome the din to get your brand noticed?
Let’s go back to a simpler time…
Remember The Breakfast Club? Remember the characters?
If you’ve seen it, you do. You remember who they were. The way they dressed. The way they spoke and gestured. They earned a place in our minds, effortlessly owning their turf against a tide of 20 years’ worth of exponentially snowballing information. And how?
Each of them had their own flavor, vibe, and appeal that together created an indelible impression.
- The criminal. (Judd Nelson)
- The princess. (Molly Ringwald)
- The basket case. (Ally Sheedy)
- The jock. (Emilio Estevez)
- The dweeb. (Anthony Michael Hall)
Each had a palpable, distinct identity that they authentically brought to life. It oozed from their expressions, looks, and lines. They knew who they were. And we did, too.
John Hughes, who directed the flick, did a great job making the most of these archetypes. Admittedly, lots of movies have presented these stereotypes in some shape or form. What made these characters stand out in TBC is that they were made to be intricate, well-developed, and accessible. Each character was relatable, whether or not you ever identified as a princess, jock, or criminal. And that’s because each character was unapologetically quirky. They weren’t afraid to project who they were…imperfections and all. Each character used their imperfections to make them more likeable, believable, and unique. In other words, the characters worked their quirk and we loved it.
Let’s dig into that for a minute. There’s something to be learned here.
Great movie characters work their quirk; they don’t hide or blunt its edges. They make it part of their essence. It’s not so different with companies who seek to build a unique brand identity. Here’s the watchout: Project a personality that feels off-the-shelf — something obvious or stereotypical, without a soul — and you risk blending in or being pegged as disingenuous.
Instead, figure out your unique quirk or your endearing imperfection or obsession, and work it for all it’s worth.
You can’t simply choose your brand from an external position. You can’t make it a response to what you think the world wants. It should be a reflection of the truth that’s burning within. As with the cast of The Breakfast Club, your brand needs to transcend its packaging. If you hope to be remembered, if you hope to be honest about who you are, you need to focus on the brand’s true essence and unabashedly project it.
There are several brands out there that masterfully work their quirk. How they did it is worth a closer look:
Dollar Shave Club: Back in 2012, Dollar Shave Club turned the shaving and grooming industry on its ear with a model-busting subscription razor business that included a hilarious viral video and a killer value proposition: have quality razors automatically delivered to your door for as little as $3.00 a month. No contracts, no hidden fees, “no BS.” They created a distinctive brand personality built around in-your-face honesty and humor (“Our blades are f*cking great.”). Yes, the brand had its quirks…which is exactly what made the brand real for men. It behaved like every man’s best friend who made life more fun because you almost never knew what he’d say next.
Geico: Any giant insurance company that would bet their future on a couple of caveman definitely looks at the world differently. From day one, Geico projected its quirky vision through the use of characters that include cavemen (“So easy a caveman can do it.”), a stack of cash with googly eyes, and an Australian-sounding gecko (or is he British?). Their off-centered approach was exactly what the stuffy insurance industry needed and Geico worked it like a champ.
Arby’s: “We have the meats!” is a pretty arresting way for a brand to frame its approach to business…and that’s exactly what Arby’s did to successfully to differentiate itself. Arby’s quirk was its unequivocal commitment to, um, meats. Focusing on high-quality, high-quantity meats and sandwich experiences has been a boon to Arby’s sales and is still going strong after years in the market. To demonstrate further, Arby’s used Ving Rhames, the actor who became famous as Marsellus Wallace in Quentin Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction, as the voiceover in all its commercials.
So ask yourself, what’s your quirk and what’s it worth to your business?
Particularly now, amidst the rise of white noise, it’s a tall order to catch the goldfish-quick attention of your audience long enough to connect with them in some meaningful and sustainable way.
That is, unless you are living out your archetype, breathing your branding, owning your turf.
A brand that succeeds is not selected; it is found and embraced. It is resoundingly, unforgettably owned. It is a persona oozing from every vector that it emits. When a brand knows its true identity, it is grounded, honest, and bright — a lighthouse that becomes a beacon for those who seek it out.
Are you ready to work your quirk and create an indelible brand personality? Let’s talk.