DIVINE INSPIRATION lf religion was a commercial brand it would be a blockbuster. Marketers have much to learn from the way things are done upstairs.
nce upon a time in a land far far away lived a man named Sid (Siddhartha). Sid was born into wealth, yet aI29 after marrying and having a child he decided to leave his kingdom in search of
greater understanding of life. After six years, and despite almost starving to death, Sid changed his name and began to teach a way of living to all people. ln doing so, Sid, now Buddha, started one of the first and oldest religions...and brands. Whether Krishna, Buddha, Abraham, lesus or Mohammed, these people began something amazing. Millions of people talk about them, wear things that represent them, insist their children also pledge allegiance to them and, unfortunately, even kill other people in misconstrued faith for them. lf a religion was a commercial brand, it would be a blockbuster, making Coke or McDonald's look very average. Through examining the way in which religion works, brands can learn how to attract, keep and promote in a way that builds brand equity and advocacy.
THE STORY A brand must have a story behind it. Moses was found in the reeds and as man parted a sea to help his followers escape. Henry Ford at 40 started a corporation that built the very first automobile. A brand story is critical in
establishing brand roots and satisfying natural human curiosity and a desire of
'proof' before commitment. Many brands don't spend enough time developing and reciting the story ol their birth. lt is from this story that people build a deep sense of purpose and legitimacy. lmagine Microsoft without Bill Cates or Dick Smith's PowerHouse without Dick. Have your story well documented and readily accessible to customers and shareholders.
had a crucifix or yin yang tattooed on their body. Brand symbolism is an area of branding that receives much attention. From Logos for Dummies to Naomi Klein's best-seller No Logo, the visual identity of a brand is one of the first things that marketers think of...and rightly so. More than 650lo of people respond best to visual stimulation. This figure is increasing due to new technologies and visual learning tools being used more and more in human infancy. lnterestingly, logo shape and colour biases have been found to be generation specific, which means while baby boomers love your new logo, Cen Y are referring to it as 'pox' on their personal anti-establishment blog. ln recent years some organisations have spent literally millions on
establishing their visual identity. BHP Billiton reportedly spent $4 million perfecting their 'blobs' and BP (UK) paid almost double that for their 'green sun'. No need to bankrupt your brand to fund a new logo, however do spend resources defining the logo that best resonates authentically with your market position.
SIGNS AND SYMBOLS
ln the time it takes me to write this article, 2000 people worldwide will have
The Buddhist talks about enlightenment and rebirth, the Christian; 'Heaven,
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PROMISES AND FAITH When Moses returned from Mount Sinai, he came with two tablets that detailed a way
of living that would bode well for your chances of a desirable afterlife.
Similarly, the Buddha offers us an eightfold path to enlightenment and Jesus gives many lessons as to how to inherit the kingdom of heaven. All of these acts
and suggestions are a way of stating a brand promise; 'if you interact with
you will get...' purgatory and hell', and 'reincarnation' is a central belief of those of the Hindu faith. All religion has proprietary language that helps unify members or those
Brand promises create desirable expectations in the mind of your customer and provide a clear motivation as to why someone should buy your story and lherefore product or service.
with an allegiance. Strong brands also have their own language. Everything that leaves the Apple warehouse is called 'i' something - iPhone, iPod, iMac. Furthermore when you use a Mac you must also learn new terms like 'the dock', 'time machine' and 'spaces'. When used correctly, brand jargon helps build credibility and gives people a sense of ownership and belonging. Advertising agencies cottoned on to this a long time ago and began labelling processes with highly creative names (eg. WIB brand DNA. conceptual target etc).
RITUALS AND CEREMONIES Without exception all religions involve annual rituals and ceremonies. Everything from sacrificing animals, removing a young boy's foreskin and starving, to eating chocolate bunnies can be the order of the day when it comes to demonstrating your advocacy for your faith. Similarly, strong brands also incorporate various traditions. lf you go to McDonald's on a particular weekend of the year, you will find Kyle Sandilands
or some other quasi celebrity volunteering their time for'McHappy Day'. Virgin Blue offers specials at certain times that represent their'happy hour'. Rituals and ceremonies are another way that strong brands (and religion) interact with
PROPAGANDA AND PROMOTION Be it a fish sticker on a car window or a canvas sign outside the local church that reads "He died foryour sins", religion has been promoting itself since its creation. The early 'prophets' and current day lehovah's Witness door knock initiatives are based on promoting a philosophy or concept. This is not really so different from television advertising or a brand's latest outdoor ad, aside from the bells, whistles and creative quality. This is however not one of most religion's strengths, in fact for some it is off-brand to overtly promote itself. We marketers would probably refer to this as
a viral approach.
BRAND BEHAVIOUR . GODE OF CONDUCT My grandmother kept her "Sunday best" in a special section of the wardrobe. Every Sunday she got dressed up and drove up to the local church with my grandfather. When they got to church people smiled pleasantly at one another with an air of dignity and mutual respect, intertwined with hushed tones. lt was as if 'politeness' was the basis of the faith. Conversely, go to a Jewish wedding and expect to suffer an injury as the groom enters, gets thrown onto a chair and tossed around the room, often belting unsuspecting patrons in the face with the odd limb. All religions have an unspoken code of conduct that defines the 'feel' of membership.
"ln many cases neligion makes above-the-line advertising appear very unsophisticated. " Strong brands also have a very subtle'feel'to them that is often a result of organics interaction rather than a stated brand behaviour. Starbucks encourages
ALL RELIGIONS HAVE AN UNSPOKEN CODE OF CONDUCT THAT OEFINES THE 'FEEL OF MEMBERSHIP
include John Travolta for Qantas. Some of the lesser ambassadors can be found behind the Citibank stand at the domestic terminal...and Tom Cruise...enough said.
WOBD OF MOUTH According to basically everyone, the best kind of promotion
and customer advocacy. Well look no further than religion to show you how this is done. lf you are born from a Jewish mother, then by defaul! you become .lewish. What an awesome'dob in a friend promotion'. lf you are from a
Christian family your first name is referred to as your'Christian name' ...sneaky, and if you are a Scientologist, you can make a few bucla by recruiting people. Some of the best brand recruitment schemes come from religion. ln fact in many cases, religion makes above-the-line advertising appear very unsophisticated. There is nothing more persuasive than the intimacy of a friend or family member sharing their heart-felt belief about something.
casual discussion, checked shirts and old leans, and if you don't throw a pickle on the window at McDonald's, then you are off-brand.
EXCLUSTVTTY (TO EXCTUDE OTHERSI
You must learn the ceremonial practices and protocol, profess your faith and in most instances commit your soul to a religion before you can be part of it.
Wear a small round hat on your head, dress in a burqa or don't cut your hair
ln some cases you are not allowed in if you were born in a particular part of
ever and wear it in a turban. All of these things represent the visual language of
particular religions. They are distinct and clearly distinguish one religion from
Brand and religion share a high degree of exclusivity. The more exclusive, the more desirable to either involve oneself or oppose oneself.
another, much like a branded T-shirt or the style guide of a brand. Distinction and unique appeal are what a brand lives and dies by. Visual language/brand recognition is the first stop on the way to brand advocacy.
AMBASSADORS Its 8am and you are on a train when a man approaches you and tells you he will 'save'you. You wonder which pub opened early and get off at the next station. Despite this being your safest bet you may have missed out on hearing from a Christian ambassador looking to save you from your life of sin and future
THE WBAP-UP This year when you sit down to review your brand and marketing plans, think lesus, Moses, Mohammed and Buddha. Consider the way in which they have built mass followings and unwavering advocacy. The main lesson from upstairs is this: in order to build brand equity and advocacy help people feel like your brand is part of their personal identity. History suggests religion has mastered this, now it's your turn.
as Satan's play toy.
All religions have ambassadors. People dedicated to recruiting new members. Strong brands also have ambassadors. Some of the better ones
rnor:ssroruAl MAFKEflNG April-June 2OOB I
Karl Treacher is tbe CEO of brand intelligence group Brand Behauiour and is a recognised authority in the area of brand psychology.