Mystery or Mystique? The Power of the Why in Brand?

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Without a good product, your brand won’t survive long. Without a great product, you won’t survive long-term. But what goes into a great product –including the surround-sound service — is far harder to achieve than just making sure the shampoo cleans your hair as it says on the bottle. Following Porter’s 4Ps, you definitely need the good product, at the right price, available in the appropriate places and stimulated with the commensurate promotions. But Porter’s vision of marketing is decidedly rational in approach and markedly insufficient for today’s world. In Porter’s model, there’s little room for magic, much less mystique or mystery. At the same time, consumers demand transparency. As such, it’s a subtle blend to achieve. You need some mystery and yet be transparent. The best brands today not only have great stories to tell, they must incarnate something abstract to which all the stakeholders gravitate. It’s like the air we breathe: it’s essential, transparent, carries impurities and goes everywhere. My acronym is AIR: authentic, imperfect and relevant. And it will give oxygen to your brand story.

Inherent in any good story, you need to discover the denouement at the end. In other words, you need to keep some mystery or intrigue for the final chapter. It’s my belief that great brands possess some form of mystique, in the form of lore or myth. These stories need to be told and shared over and over. They will fill the imagination and, when told well, explain why the company lives on and keep its employees fully dedicated.

A great brand has the power to relate in a relevant manner to people, inside and outside the company. It has traversed difficulty and challenges that contribute to its lore. It stays true to its core values. But more than anything, it knows WHY it exysts. Hence why my first enterprise when I quit L’Oreal was called Myndset: it’s about putting the why into business.

So, how would the world be worse off if your brand didn’t exist?

Here are four questions for all brand marketers to answer:

  • What’s your brand story?
  • How much AIR does it hold?
  • What element of mystique do you allow within the narrative?
  • Why does your brand exist?

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