It is cliché in classical consumer marketing that the brand is always the hero. The brand (think Coca-Cola) is always the fix or the problem solver. Have a Coke and you will be happy. Buy our product and life will be better. This is certainly the messaging that you see in the cable series Mad Men, for example. Back then advertising was at its pinnacle. The thinking of the day was that people needed to be persuaded to buy the product.  And in that case, persuasion often meant hearing or seeing an advertisement thousands of times until you were beat senseless by the repetition.

Today’s consumer is more sophisticated and not so easily duped. In fact, we are increasingly cynical about advertising messages and presume them to false or misleading unless we hear otherwise from our peers. Savvy consumers use services like Yelp and ratings on Amazon to help them decide where to spend their hard-earned money.

Yesterday’s advertising heroes were expected to be perfect.  In order to showcase the benefits of their product, many advertisers cast their product or service as the “hero”.  Today this approach can still work up to a certain extent.  The Most Interesting Man in the World featured in Dos Equis beer commercials is a good example of this. Yet, he is a parody and we know it.

However, modern consumers sometimes find this approach disingenuous.  Consumers today appreciate a more authentic hero — an everyman with both flaws and good intentions.  In the article “Heroes and Brands”, author Bernard Urban discusses why a flawed hero is ultimately more convincing.  In fact, our society is rather forgiving of the hero with flaws; this is especially true in sports. Think Tiger Woods or Kobe Bryant. Despite their failings, their brands thrive.

What makes someone heroic today is that they overcome their limitations.  Overcoming obstacles makes their hard-fought triumph that much more romantic and believable.

John Bradley Jackson
© Copyright 2012
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