Nike, BMW, Starbucks, Apple, Obama are the iconic brands we talk about all the time. When we develop marketing plan for our product, we leave several marketing ideas by categorizing them as the ones that work only for iconic brands. This brings about a very important question: how did these brands become iconic? Were they born iconic or the way they were marketed and developed made them iconic?
In 1964, Philip Knight, a track athlete and his coach founded a company named Blue Ribbon Sports that operated as a distributor of a Japanese Shoemaker selling shoes at track meets out of Knight’s automobile. A couple years later BRS opened its first retail outlet and few years after that launched its own line of shoes. In 1978, 14 years after first starting business, BRS renamed itself to Nike. In 1980s Nike expanded its product line through in house development and acquisitions, launched its legendary campaign “Just Do It” (1988) and gained major market share. It took more than three decades for Nike to become “Nike”, the iconic sports brand.
Nike was not born iconic, neither were BMW, Starbucks, Apple, Obama and for that matter any other company. Starbucks started with one store in Seattle’s Pike Place market, Apple was just another start-up in Silicon Valley in early 1980s and Obama was about 30 points behind Clinton days before Iowa democratic primary. But all of them worked their way through to reach to the top and become iconic. They were able to do one thing perfectly, and that is linking an idea to the product. They were able to brand themselves as the first choice for a cult, gather a group of mavens and enter mainstream with their help.
So next time when you plan a campaign, try to go for something that can attract a group of dedicated mavens, try something that can help you define a cult around your brand. Nothing out there works only for iconic brands, but there’s a lot out there to help you make your brand iconic.
Nice write up. I understand the strategy to build a cult and go mainstream. Do you have thoughts about strategies for iconic brands like Ford who are mainstream but not necessarily have brand cult. How would you suggest Ford linking an emotional idea to its product in this phase?