Last night saw celebrations taking place across the globe, as people everywhere celebrated Chinese New Year and welcomed in the Year of the Dragon.
So what could that mean for brands? Aside from the usual plethora of promotional activities, targeted advertising and tourism campaigns, there are some interesting lessons for brand managers everywhere.
According to the Chinese zodiac, those born in the Year of the Dragon share certain characteristics. Take a look, and see how many of these four key elements you recognise in a brand around you.
- Dragons are the free spirits of the zodiac; irrepressibly energetic and happy to ignore the rules and regulations that those around them try to impose.
- Everything a Dragon does is writ large: flamboyant gestures, revolutionary ideas, prodigious ambitions.
- Dragons are innovative and highly adaptable. Where others stumble around the obstacles, they’ll find new paths to their end goal.
- Given all of the above, it’s no surprise that Dragons are brave, enterprising, and confident in their vision – but it’s anchored in a real passion for what they believe in.
I asked some of my colleagues to identify brands they felt were Dragons: brands that may not have been born under its sign, but certainly should have been. Some of the answers were predictable (Richard Branson, we salute you!) while others are more surprising…
Our nominations for the top 10 brands of the Dragon:
- Red Bull
- Jamie Oliver
But how do you go about turning your brand into a Dragon? Here are our top five tips for greatness:
1. Write your messages large
In today’s world of multiplicity, even the most compelling brands can struggle to fit themselves into a single box. As long as your brand philosophy remains consistent, you can vary your propositions by audience, product or service. Let’s return to Virgin: from gyms to financial services to space flight, each sub-brand has a very different proposition – yet each is recognisably part of the Virgin DNA.
2. Have the confidence to say ‘No’
Too many brands are wary of shutting down avenues or audiences, so find themselves falling prey to the old saw: ‘Jack of all trades, master of none’. Marmite does it brilliantly: it’s unashamedly proud of the divisive taste of its product, and takes every opportunity to celebrate it. The end result? Even those of us who hate the taste can’t help but love the brand.
3. Don’t let your customer make the rules
Of course, the customer’s needs and wants are hugely important – no-one’s denying it. But it’s easy to spend so much time listening to customer feedback that you forget your core purpose. Remember: insights drive marketing; visions drive brands. Where would Body Shop be today without Anita Roddick’s passion for change? Or Disney without Walt’s mission to make people happy?
4. Adapt, adapt – and adapt again
Easy to say, much harder to do. If you keep running into a brick wall with a particular issue, it’s time to switch tracks. What’s the problem behind the problem? What’s the elephant in the room – the big issue everyone knows and no-one talks about? What can you steal from your competition? Or from another industry?
5. Be a free spirit
Your mother always told you it was wrong, but when it comes to brands, a little bit of deviancy can be a very good thing. Take the practice of market research as an example. Over the past decade, insight gathering has become established as a core tenet of good marketing practice, with new methodologies providing smarter, faster and deeper results. The unfortunate effect is that most brands are asking the same sorts of questions of the same sorts of consumers in the same sorts of ways – and getting to the same answers. It’s a recipe for blanding, not branding. If that’s something you’re guilty of, it’s time to get deviant.
So as we go forward into the Year of the Dragon, why not take the time to stop and think about how your brand could breathe a bit more fire? And while you’re at it, feel free to share your nominations for the new brands of the Dragon with us, either here or on Twitter.
Gong Xi Fa Cai, one and all!