Leadership Marketing Part VI: Icon Brands

 Michael Marino

Michael Marino / Founder & CEO

Who doesn’t want to belong?

Let’s face it. Everyone wants to belong somewhere or to someone. Even the Unabomber wanted to be part of the social conversation. But belonging to anything we want isn’t easy. Or is it? There’s no better way to be a part of something than by accepting an invitation from an Icon Brand. Longing for civilization? Purchase a British Airways ticket. Missing the magic of childhood? Book a Disney World family vacation. Looking for cutting-edge business insights and solutions? Hire IBM Global Business Services.

Disney, IBM and British Airways represent examples of some of the deepest, most enduring brands in the world today. They transport us to a better place, welcoming everyone with the promise of a ‘perfect world’ open to everyone.

Big Promise, Big Reward.

True Icon Brands steadily and consistently build long-term customer relationships by promising big rewards like childhood magic or civility. They are built over time – not overnight – so as a result, they appear timeless – floating somewhere between yesterday, today and tomorrow.

Yet the best Icon Brands feel very down-to-earth, approachable and accessible to all; available to anyone, anywhere. Beyond larger-than-life in-person experiences, access can be delivered via on-line experiences, pop-up shops, large-scale events, good works, even lower-priced points of entry and the occasional promotion.

Emotions Run High.

Icons Brands rarely talk about their products’ functional attributes, but more about the feelings they produce.  Their themes and messages are highly emotional, and aim to create a feeling of escape, empathy, wonder, inclusiveness, access or security.  As a result, their customer relationships go deeper and are more impenetrable. (Icon Brands typically survive product crises better than their competitors.)

Welcome to Wonderland.

Icon Brands execute big, tackling universal themes like motherhood, freedom, nationalism, family, financial security and harmony. Their spots radiate lots of positive energy, and usually rely on story-telling, high production values and myths or symbols that reinforce the benefits of belonging to ‘perfect world.’ Ever visit the Valley of the Jolly Green Giant as a kid? Or become crazy with NCAA March Madness? Even spots that air during the Super Bowl aim to become iconic in and of themselves.

If You Build It, Invite Everyone.

Icon brands are leaders among leaders, and share a special status: They clearly deliver much more than the products they represent or the services they provide. Their secret? They are not all things to all people. They represent one thing, clearly and consistently, to everyone, no matter who, what or where we are.

Communication Strategies of Icon Brands:

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