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CHAPTER

19

May the Force Be with You Capturing Category Essence

E

V E R Y C O N T E M P O R A R Y C A T E G O R Y that has stood the test of time has an antecedent from the preindustrial age that reveals its true, deep meaning or purpose. Before cars, we had horses and donkeys; before washing machines, stream beds and ritual baths. Understanding the original purpose of a product—in the life of an individual or of a civilization—gets us closer to its primal meaning. “Branding” the primal meaning and claiming it as your own gets you closer to market dominance. This is because category meaning is like a strong tailwind or current; it’s not the “engine” of the brand, as is relevant differentiation, but it can be the force that accelerates the brand’s power and increases its momentum. This idea goes far beyond the old concept of owning the “category benefit,” which ordinarily was perceived in objective, functional terms. Archetypal brands instead come to represent the meaning be317

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