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Iconic Brands

Iconic Brands

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Published by api-3703947
Check the blog @ http://managementchords.blogspot.com
Check the blog @ http://managementchords.blogspot.com

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Published by: api-3703947 on Oct 14, 2008
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B IG
P IC T U R E
W h a t B e c o m e s
a n Ic o n M o s t?
b y D o u g la s B . H o lt
E v e ry s o c ie ty n e e d s
m y th s -s im p le
s to rie s
th a t h e lp p e o p le d e a l
w ith
te n s io n sin th e ir
liv e s .T o d a y 'sm ost
p o te n t b ra n d ss u c c e e d
b y p r o v id in g
th e m .
S

OME BRANDS becom e icons.Think o f N ik e , H a rle y -D a v id s o n , A p p le , A bsolut, V olksw agen - they're the

brands every
m a rk e te r
re g a rd s w ith
aw e.

Revered by their core custom ers, th e y h a v e th e p o w e r to m a in ta in a firm h o ld in th e m a rk e tp la c e fo r m a n yy e a r s . Few m arketers, however, have any no- tio n o f h o w

to turn their brands into ic o n s ,and that's because icons are built a c c o rd in g to p rin c ip le s e n tire ly

d iffe r-
e n t fro m
th o s e o f c o n v e n tio n a l m a rk e t-
in g .T h e s e b ra n d s w in c o m p e titiv e b a t-

tle s n o t b e c a u s e th e y d e liv e r d is tin c tiv e benefits, trustw orthys e r v i c e , or innova- tiv e te c h n o lo g ie s (th o u g h th e y m a y p ro - vide all of these). Rather, they succeed b e c a u s e th e y fo rg e a d e e p c o n n e c tio n w ith the culture. In essence,they com - pete for culture share.

It's a form

o f c o m p e titio n th a t is p a r- ticu larly fierce in w h at m ark eters refer toa s "lifestyle"c a te g o rie s , such as food, c lo th in g , a lc o h o l, and a u to m o b ile s . H ere,

the nam e ofthe gam ei s sym bolism : T he
s tra te g ic fo c u s is o n w h a t th e
b ra n d
stands for, not how th e brand perform s.
A nd it's th e only form
o f c o m p e titio n

th a t y ie ld si c o n s . T h e ir im p re ssiv e m a r- ket pow er is based on a kind of cus- to m e r v a lu e w e d o n 't th in k a b o u t v e ry often:I c o n s are valued because,through them , people get to experience power- ful m yths.

M yth m aking isn't the sort of skill a
m a rk e te r
a c q u ire s
i n
th e
c o u rs e
o f

h a w k in g c o m fia k e s . B u t n e ith e r is it in - effable or random . I've researched m any of the m ost successful A m erican iconic brands of the past four decades to dis- cover how they w ere created and how th e y h a v e b e e n s u s ta in e d . T h e u n d e rly - in g p rin c ip le s I d is c o v e re d w e re c o n sis- tent across these brands. As w e'll see, even a seem ingly unrem arkable prod- u c t lik e M o u n ta in

Dew - w ater, sugar, greend y e , and carbonation-can take on ic o n ic p o w e r a n d k e e p it.

M ARCH
2 0 0 3
B IG
P IC T U R E
\u2022 W h a t B e c o m e s a n Ic o n M o s t?
T h e M a k in g s o fa n Ic o n

P e o p le h a v e a lw a y s n e e d e dm y th s . S im - p le s to rie s w ith c o m p e llin g c h a ra c te rs and resonant p lo ts , m yths helpu s m ake sense ofthe w orld.They provide ideals to liveb y , and they w ork to resolve life's m ost vexing q u e s tio n s . Icons are encap- s u la te d

m yths. They are powerful be- c a u se th e y d e liv e r m y th s to u s in a ta n - g ib le fo rm , th e re b y m a k in g th e m

m ore
a c c e s s ib le .

Icons are not just brands, of course. M o re o fte n , th e y a re p e o p le . W e fin d icons am o n g th e m ost successful p o liti- cians-think of Ronald

R e a g a n -a rtis ts a n d e n te rta in e rs lik e M a rily n M o n ro e , a c tiv is ts lik e M a rtin L u th e r K in g , a n d other celebrityfig u re s, such as Princess D i. People feel com pelled to m ake these icons part of their liv e s because, through them , they're able to experience pow- e rfu l m y th s c o n tin u a lly . Ic o n ic b ra n d s operate sim ilarly.

W hen a brand creates a m yth, m ost often through advertisem ents,consum - ers com e to perceive the m yth as em - b o d ie d in th e p ro d u c t. S o th e y b u y th e p ro d u c t to c o n su m e th e m y th a n d to fo rg e a re la tio n s h ip w ith th e a u th o r: th e b ra n d . A n th ro p o lo g is ts c a ll th is " ritu a l a c tio n ." W h e n

Nike's core custom ers laced up their A ir Jordans in the early 1 9 9 0 s, th e y ta p p e d in to N ik e 's m y th o f in d iv id u a l a c h ie v e m e n t th r o u g h

p e r-
severance. A s A pple's custom ers typed
away on
th e ir k e y b o a rd s in th e
la te
1990s, they com m uned

w ith the com - p a n y 's m y th o f re b e llio u s , c re a tiv e , lib e r- tarian values at w ork in a new econom y.

As these
e x a m p le s

s u g g e s t, ic o n ic brands em body not just any m yth but m y th s th a t a tte m p t to re so lv e a c u te te n - s io n s p e o p le fe e l b e tw e e n

th e ir o w n

liv e s a n d s o c ie ty 's p re v a ilin g id e o lo g y . Such tensions are w idespread. A n ide- o lo g y , b y its n a tu r e , p re s e n ts c h a lle n g - ing m oral im peratives; it lays out the vi- s io n t o w h ic ha c o m m u n itya s p i r e s . B u t, in e v ita b ly , m a n y p e o p le liv e a t a c o n - s id e ra b le re m o v e fro m th a t v is io n .A n a -

D o u g la sB . H o lt isa n a s s is ta n t p ro fe s s o r
o f m a rk e tin g a t H a rv a rdB u s in e s s S c h o o l
inB o s to n .
tio n a l id e o lo g y m a y , fo r e x a m p le , p r o -
m o te
th e
ideal of a fam ily
w ith
tw o

p a re n ts ,e v e n th o u g h m a n y c itiz e n s c o n - te n d w ith b ro k e n hom es.T he c o n tra d ic - tio n s b e tw e e n id e o lo g y a n d in d iv id u a l experience produce intense desires and a n x ie tie s , fu e lin g th e d e m a n d fo r m y th s .

T hat dem and, in turn, gives rise to w hat I call "m yth m arkets." It's in these m arkets, not in product m arkets, that brands com pete to becom ei c o n s . T hink o f a m y th m a r k e ta s a n im p lic it n a tio n a l c o n v e rs a tio n in w h ic h a w id e v a rie ty o f c u ltu ra l p ro d u c ts c o m p e te to p ro v id e th e m o s t c o m p e llin g m y th . T h e to p ic o f th e c o n v e rs a tio n is th e n a tio n a l id e - o lo g y , a n d it is ta k e n u p b y m a n y c o n - te n d e rs . T h e w in n e rs in th e s e m a rk e ts

A m erican g h e tto , H arley w ith o u tlaw

bikers,Volkswagen w ith bohem ian art- is ts , Apple w ith cyberpunks. And even before these, there was the soft drink M o u n ta inD ew . L e t's ta k e a lo o k a t h o w , back in th e1 9 5 0 s ,a sm all bottler in T en- nessee succeeded w itha rebel m yth th at addressed one ofthe m ost potent idetv lo g ic a l c o n tra d ic tio n s o f th e d a y .

T h eC ase o f M o u n ta in D e w

T o understand the early ic o n ic pow er o f M ountain Dew, we m ust hark back to the A m erican ideology ofthe 1950s and 1 9 6 0 s, w h ic h w a s d e e p ly in flu e n c e d b y W orld W arI I and the C old W ar.T he suc- cess of A m erican m ilitary operations - e x e c u te d a c c o rd in g to a ra tio n a liz e d .

T h e m o s t s u c c e s s fu l ic o n s re ly o n a n in t im a t e
a n d c re d ib le re la tio n s h ip w ith a re b e l w o r ld .
becom e
ic o n s ; th e y
are the
g r e a te s t

perform ers of the greatest m yths, and th e y b a sk in th e k in d o f g lo ry b e s to w e d on those who have the prophetic and c h a ris m a tic p o w e r to p ro v id e c u ltu ra l le a d e rs h ip in tim e s o f g re a t n e e d . M o re often thann o t,i n A m erica at least,those w ho w in in m yth m arkets are perform - in g a m y th o f re b e llio n .

N o m a tte r th e e ra o r th e id e o lo g ic a l c lim a te , A m e ric a n s a re re s o lu te ly p ra g - m a tic a n d p o p u lis t in s p irit, d e e p ly d is- tru stfu l

o f p o litic a l d o g m a a n d
c o n -
c e n tra te d
a u th o rity . F o r g u id a n c e a n d
solace, A m ericans tu rn
to those who
s ta n d
up for their personal values in-
stead of pursuing w ealth and

pow er. T h e c o u n try 's m y th s d ra w o n its s to c k - p ile o f re b e ls , p e o p le w h o a re o fte n

a
threat to the prevailing ideology. These
fig u re s a re u s u a lly fo u n d
where pop-
u lis m
ta k e s
its p u r e s t a n d

m ost au- th e n tic fo rm , a m o n g th o s e w h o liv e a c - cording to beliefs that are far rem oved fro m

c o m m e rc ia l, c u ltu ra l, a n d p o liti- c a l p o w e r: o n th e fro n tie r, in b o h e m ia , in ru ra l b a c k w a te rs , in a th le tic le a g u e s , in im m ig ra n ta r e a s , a n d in g h e tto s .

The m ost successful icons rely on an in tim a te a n d c re d ib le re la tio n s h ip w ith a rebel w orld: N ike w ith the

A frican -
hierarchical m odel - and the

n a tio n 's ability to "out-science" the N azis in the ra c e to d e v e lo p th e a to m ic b o m b a n - n o u n c e d th e b e g in n in g o f a n e w

e r a .

Id e o lo g y la u d e d s c ie n tifice x p e rtis e , th e p o w e r o f w h ic h w o u ld b e u n le a s h e d b y p ro fe s s io n a lly

m anaged bureaucracies. P o p u la r c u ltu re w a s fille d w ith v isio n s o f te c h n o lo g y

used to create
fa n ta s tic
fu tu re s
and to help the country con-
quer new
m arkets and beat back the
S o v ie t b lo c .
Id e a s a b o u t ru g g e d in d iv id u a lis m
h a d
becom e anachronistic; m anhood
w as
now to be earned in a corporate envi-
ronm ent. The
m an
who was m ature
enough to subsume
h is in d iv id u a lity

u n d e r th e u m b re lla o f c o rp o ra te w is- d o mw asp ra is e d . O u ts id e o f w o rk , th e s e id e a ls

fo u n d
e x p re s s io n
in
th e
n e w
"m odern
liv in g " p ra c tic e d
by nuclear
fa m ilie s in p la n n e d s u b u r b s .

T hese values p ro d u c e d a lita n y o f c o n - tra d ic tio n s . F o r m e n , th e s e id e a ls fe lt c o e rc iv e a n d e m a s c u la tin g w h e n m e a - sured against A m erica's historical pop- u lis m . B o o k s lik e W illia m

W h y te 'sT h e
O r g a n iz a tio n M an a n d D a v id R ie s m a n 's
T h e L o n e lyC row d,w h ic h d a m n e d
th e
new conform ity of corporate A m erica,
becam eb e s t - s e l l e r s . M yth m arkets soon
4 4
H A R V A R D B U S IN E S S R E V IE W
W h a t B e c o m e s a n Ic o n
M o s t?
\u2022 B IG
P IC T U R E
sprang u p -u sin g the W estern frontier,
th e

B e a ts ' b o h e m ia , a n d th e h illb illy backw ater - to provide salves for these te n s io n s .

T h e h illb illy first c a u g h t t h e p u b lic 's attention in the 1930s inL i'lA b n e r , a com ic strip in which Al Capp exagger- a te d

th e
hillbilly's lack of civility
t o

create biting social satire.As the 1950s u n fo ld e d , th e h illb illy - a fig u re w h o is in to u c h w ith h is in n a te a n im a l q u a li- ties-seem ed powerful and dangerous, the exact opposite ofthe corporate m an. E lvis P resley, th e p o o r M ississippi hill- b illy w h o b r o u g h t " p rim itiv e b la c k m u - s ic " to a w h ite a u d ie n c e , o o z e d a titil- la tin g s e x u a lity a n d s e n t y o u n g p e o p le i n s e a r c h o f r o c k - a n d - r o l lr e c o r d s . C B S 's

The B everly H iU h ilU es, a p o p u lis t a lle g o ry
th a t c h a m p io n e d p ra g m a tic k n o w le d g e
over "book

le a rn in g ," c h a r a c te r o v e r s e lf-p re s e n ta tio n , a n d tra d itio n a l h o sp i- ta lity o v e r p ro p e r e tiq u e tte , b e c a m e o n e of the m ost popular television show s of the 1960s.

M o u n ta in
D e w 's i n v e n t o r s
nam ed

th e ir p ro d u c t a fte r a n o ld -tim e A p p a - la c h ia n fo lk so n g th a t to ld o f th e p le a - sures of "m ountain

d e w " - m o o n s h itie
liquor. T hey filled
the beverage with
c a ffe in e

and sugar so that it w ould de- liver a heart-pum ping rush and gave it few er bubbles than m ost sodas so that it could be chugged.They then created a com ic hillbilly character-W illy-w ho drank M ountain Dew to "get high."In- v o k in g A p p a la c h ia n s te re o ty p e s lik e th e b lo o d -fe u d in g

H a tfie ld s a n d M c C o y s,
th e b o ttle 's la b e l fe a tu re d
a
b a re fo o t
W illy
p o in tin g
h is
c o c k e d
r if le
at a

neighbor running aw ay in the distance. T ied to W illy's hip w as a stonew are jug, th e ty p e u s u a lly a s s o c ia te d w ith h o m e - m ade booze.

W hen PepsiCo bought the brand in
1 9 6 4 ,the com pany
kept the
h illb illy
character, renam ed him
C le m , a n d p u t

h im in a n im a te d te le v is io na d s . O n e a d , called "B eautifulS a l," features a cast of b a r e f o o t c o u n t r y fo ll< . T \v o b u m p k i n s c o u r t S a l, a b tix o m

r e d h e a d in ab rie f,

tattered d ress. Sal refuses flo w ers from b o th m e n a n d tu g s th e ir h a ts d o w n o v e r th eir faces before she struts aw ay. E nter C lem . H a lf S a l'sh e ig h t, C le m s e e m s lik e a n u n lik e ly m a te . B u t fro m

u n d e r h is
te n -g a llo n h a t, C le m
re v e a ls a ta ll b o t-
tle o f M o u n ta in
D ew . Sal sw ipes the
bottle and takes a few
g u lp s . A s C le m
gazes lustily, Sal lifts a leg and hollers.
W h e n id e o lo g y s h ifts , w e s e e n e w ic o n s ta k e o f f
a n d in c u m b e n ts s tru g g le to re m a in re le v a n t.

"Y ahoo, M ountainD ew !" H er lo n g h a ir s n a p s in to c u rls b e - side her head. If the audience failed to understand that Dew h a s th e p o w e r to c h a n g e a tti- tu d e s in a h e a rtb e a t, th e m u z - zle flash that explodes from Sal's ears seals the deal. She g ro w ls lik e a p a n th e r in h e a t, em braces Clem

p a s s io n a te ly ,
a n d s m o th e rs h im

w ith a k iss. T he spot then cuts to a single- to o th e d o ld m a n w h o re a c h e s b e h in d

h is h e a d , w ig g le s h is
finger lasciviously through a
b u lle t h o le inh ish a t, a n d sa y s,

" M o u n ta in D e w 'll tic k le y o re innards, cuz thar's a bang in e v e r'b o ttle ."

S a le s to o k o ff lik e a s h o t in e a s te r n
rural areas. M ountain
D ew
h a d
s u c -

c e e d e d in c r e a tin g a k in d o f m a n h o o d th a t riv a le d th e b u tto n e d -u p e m o tio n s a n d ro u tin e s o f th e o rg a n iz a tio n

m en.

Its h illb illy w as a d e v ilis h p r a n k s te r w h o called on m ale view ers to let loose th eir o w n w ild m a n .

T ra v e rs in g C u ltu ra l
D is ru p tio n s
M o u n ta in D ew 's success as an icon b e-
com es
all the
m ore im pressive w hen
o n econsiders how
it o u tliv e d th eid e o -
lo g ic a l te n sio n it w as in itially p o s itio n e d
t o
a d d re s s . N a tio n a l id e o lo g y w o rk s
s o m e th in g
lik e
S te p h e n

Jay G o u ld 's id e ao f p u n c tu a te d e q u iiib ritu n o r C la y C hristensen'sa n dM ic h a e l T ushm an'sd e - s c rip tio n so f in n o v a tio n c y c le s in te c h - n o lo g y

m arkets,which have extended p e rio d so f in c re m e n ta l in n o v a tio n d is- ru p te d

o c c a s io n a lly b y ra d ic a l te c h n o - lo g ic a lc h a n g e s .A s a n id e o lo g y lo s e s its r e le v a n c e ,p eo p le lose faith in its te n e ts. E x p e rim e n ta tio n

e n s u e s , h is to ric a l in -
g re d ie n ts are reworked,and
so ciety fi-
n a lly arrives at a newc o n s e n s u s . W hen
s u c h

a sh ift in id e o lo g y o c c u rs , p e o p le a reforced to adjust theira s p ira tio n s and th e irv ie w s o f them selves. M y th s p r o - v id e

a pow erful sense of structure at th e s eju n c tu re s ,and they grow up spon- ta n e o u s ly

around the em erging ideol-
o g y ,form ing new m yth m arkets.

T h e s eare the m om ents w hen w e see n e w ic o n s ta l^ e o ff a n din c u m b e n ts stru g - g leto re m a in re le v a n t. M o u n ta in D e w , w h ic h

h a s
e n jo y e d
d ra m a tic g ro w th
s in c eth e
1 9 6 0 s , is o n e o f o n l y a
fe w

ic o n ic brands that have been able to in- c r e a s e their m arket pow er across dis- ru p tio n sin n a tio n a l id e o lo g y , cro"^

c u ltu ra lc h a s m s in s te a d o f b-""
m a n tle d by them .
C onsider w hat hap"-
o lo g yth a t p ro v id e
ta inD ew 's or-
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cam e
t o
\u2022"
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9 -
tio n 's
>. '% , ' ^
o t.
b a n1
th e G r^
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f
M A R C H
2 0 0 3

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