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All the world’s a stage ……

And all the brands merely players. They have led us on a magic trail (Babycham), winked and beckoned (Captain Morgan) and held us in awe (Sandeman)

Mary Lewis Lewis Moberly

Many are fictitious, many are rooted in truth. Both can create legends.

Imagine meeting them at a party. There’s Johnnie Walker holding court looking suave, and polished, and worldly, while everyone’s admiring Sailor Jerry’s tattoo.  The Sandeman Don is mysterious and brooding, resolutely wearing his caballero. A few pets are parked as well, the Black and White scotties are perfectly behaved, and Babycham Babe remains the true party girl. Standing alone, Arthur Bell looks a little lost. No cheery “Afore ye go”, maybe a new suit and a conversation piece would bring him out?

The fact is we do ‘personalise’ our brands. Objects of affection, desire, security, friendship and aspiration. Sounds like family? Managing their maturity is tricky. At what point a facelift? and at what point banished? The Babycham deer famously bounced off the pack, in the 90’s and sales promptly plummeted. The trademark icon was reinstated and the green bottle.

Some age gracefully, the ‘striding man’ alias Johnnie Walker, has to be the best. He’s changed his clothes, but never his panache. Today he’s a gleaming, iconic, example of a carefully nurtured, crafted character.

The Sandeman ‘Don’ is another example of an enduring icon. One of the three most famous characters in the category, in one of his scenes he would rise dramatically from the landscape, only to be removed as a motorist distraction. But, he remains central to the brand, mysterious and aloof, self-assured.

Some characters are there, but more elusive. The widow Clicquot, Le Grande Dame de Champagne is not seen, or heard, but is definitely in command. As is Jack Daniels.  Not in person, but his persona is everywhere, his style is enduring, and he is a man of integrity.  

The Helen Mirren of the category has to be Bombay Sapphire’s Queen Victoria. Most of these characters are inventions, but other are associations, and if you’re going for association why not make it regal? As an endorsement she is passive, but as a character she is powerful.

And characters travel well, breaking down language barriers. For example in China, the Rémy Martin bar call is Chinese for ‘man headed horse’ – thanks to the enigmatic centaur and their inability to pronounce Rémy and Martin.

Keeping fit and healthy is a challenge for those born of a bygone era, but there are new characters emerging which tells us they can still win hearts.

As a premium single malt Cardhu lacked a story. Enter the “Cummings of Cardhu”. Distillers of Distinction no less, and their heroine Helen Cummings. This feisty lady hoisted her flag to alert neighbours to the excise man’s approach. She was a spirited visionary. She could become a brand ambassador.

Let’s return to the stage. Our brands play to their roles, we applaud and boo, they win our hearts, and hopefully our minds. They also have to win the eye. To be appropriate and relaxed in modern society, not awkward and irrelevant. Their stories need to be told and retold. Afterall, players do have their entrances and their exits.

 Many of these brand players peaked in the heady days of 1950’s advertising. Packaging design then was often merely a trigger, iconising an animated character. Saw it on the telly, bought it on the pack….

In a modern brandworld, brand characters are caught up in a multi layered multi-sensory experience. They are part of the cast, and need to know when to take the spotlight, or to step back.

In our increasingly sterile and remote world they could be the comeback kids.

Let’s give them a round of applause and raise our glasses….

13 April 2015