{[ promptMessage ]}

Bookmark it

{[ promptMessage ]}

WHAT BECOMES AN ICON MOST

WHAT BECOMES AN ICON MOST - What Becomes an Icon Most Every...

Info iconThis preview shows pages 1–7. Sign up to view the full content.

View Full Document Right Arrow Icon
Background image of page 1

Info iconThis preview has intentionally blurred sections. Sign up to view the full version.

View Full Document Right Arrow Icon
Background image of page 2
Background image of page 3

Info iconThis preview has intentionally blurred sections. Sign up to view the full version.

View Full Document Right Arrow Icon
Background image of page 4
Background image of page 5

Info iconThis preview has intentionally blurred sections. Sign up to view the full version.

View Full Document Right Arrow Icon
Background image of page 6
Background image of page 7
This is the end of the preview. Sign up to access the rest of the document.

Unformatted text preview: What Becomes an Icon Most? Every society needs m ytlis — simple stories that help people deal with tensions in their lives. Today’s most potent brands succeed by providing them. MMtcH 20m; SK; i‘iCTiJiii. by Douglas B. Holt of Nike, Harlewaavidson, Apple, Absolut, Volkswagen — they‘re the bra nds every marketer regards with awe. Revered by their core customers. they have the power to maintain a. firm hold in the marketplace for many years. Few marketers; however, have any no- tion of how to turn their brands into icons, and that’s because icons are built according to principles entirely differ- ent from those of conventional market- ing. These brands win competitive bat- ties not because they deliver distinctive benefits, trustworthy service, or innova- tive technoiogies (though they m ay pro vide all of these). Rather, they succeed because they forge a: deep connection with the culture. In ccsence, they corn- pem for culture share. it’s a form of competition that is par»: ticuiarly fierce in what marketers refer to as “lifestyle"categories, such as Fmd, clothing, alcohol, and automobiles. Here, 5 gain E B RAN us become icons. Think the name of the game is symbolism: The strategic focus is on what the brand stands for, not how the brand performs. And it’s the only limit of competition that yields icons. Their impressive mar- ket power is based on a kind of cus~ tomer value we don’t think about very often: Icons are valued because,tl1rough them, people get to experience power- ful myths. Myth making isn’t the. sort of skill a marketer acquires in the course of hawking Cornfiakes. But neither is it in— cffablc or random. l’vc researched many of the most successful American iconic brands of the past four decades to dis» cover how they were created and how they have been sustained. The underly— ing principles I discovered were consis- tent across these brands. As we’li see, even a seemingly unremarkable prod- uct like Mountain Dew“ water. sugar, green dye. and carbonation—can take on iconic power and keep it. :13 iiit; tilt.“ {Mitt w Wit-Jr, l3;‘<.:‘;ll'li"> .‘in lcnn Moat The Makings of an Icon i’copic have always needed myths. Sim- ple-.2 storics with coiiipciiing characters and resonant plots, myths help us make sense of the world. They providc ideals to live by, and they work to resolve life’s most vexing question; icons are cncap» sulatcd myths. ‘l'hcy are powerful be- cause they deliver myths to us in a tan- gibic form, thcreby making them more accessible. icons are not inst brands, of course. Morn often, they are people. We find icons“ among tho most succcssful politi- cians— think of Ronald Reaganw artists and entertainers like Marilyn Monroe, activists like Martin Luther King, and other celebrity figures, such as Princess Di. Peopie feel compelled to make these icons part of their iich becausc,through t11cm,thcy’rc able to Experience pow— erful myths continually. iconic brands operate similarly. When it brand creates ii myth, most often through advertisements, consum- ers come to perceive the myth as um- bodicd in the product. So they buythc product to consume the myth and to forge a relationship with the author: the brand. Anthropologists call this "ritual action." when Nike's core customers laced up their Air Jordans in the early W905, they tapped into Nike’s myth of individual achievement through per- severance. A5 Apple’s customers typed away on their keyboards in the late 19903, they communcd with the com- pany’s myth of rebellious, creative, llhen tarian values at work in a new economy. As these examples suggest, iconic brands embody not just any myth but myths that attempt to resolve acute ten sions people feel between their own lives and society’s prevailing ideology. Such tensions are widespread. An ide— ology, by its nature, presents challeng- ing‘ntornl imperatives; it lays out the vi— $ion to which a community aspires. But, inevitably, many people live at a con- siderable: renmvc from that vision. A na~ Douglas B. Holt is an assistant pm cssor ofmn rkrti'ng at Harvard Business Schtmf in Buser 453 tinnnl ideology may. for example, pro mote tho iticu] of a family with two parents, even though many ciliccni‘ conw tend with broken l’lnillrfliThi.‘ contradic- tions between ideology and individual expo deuce produce intense dctircs and anxieties, fueling the demand for myths. That demand, in turn, gives rise to what I call “mth markets." it’s in these marl-tots. not in product markets, that brands compete to become icons. Think ofa myth market as an implicit national conversation in which a wide variety of cultural products compete to provide the most compclling myth. ’i'hc topic of the convcriation is the national idc~ ology. and it is taken up by many can tenders. The winners in these markets American ghoul"), liurlcy with initiaw hilt-cm, Volkswuucn with bohemian urt— ists, Apple with cyborpuiika. Anti cvcn licfiiit: thorn, thorn was the wit drink Mountain flour. 1 .ut'i: take it look at how. back in the 19303, n small hottiur in Ten- nusucc succeeded with a re.th myth that addressed one of the most potent idao~ logic-til contradictions ofthc day. The Case of Mountain Dew to uiidorsitand the early iconic power of Mountain Dew, we mun hark hack to the American ideology or'thc 19503 and 19605, which was deeply influenced by World War I] and the Cold Wani'hc suc cost; of American military operations - cxccutcd according to El rationalized, The most successful icons rely on an intimate and credible relationship with a rebei world. become icons; they are the greatest performers of the greatest myths, and thcy bask in the kind ofgiory bestowed on those who have. the prophetic and charismatic power to provide cultural leadership in times of great need. Morc often than not,in America at least, thos‘c who win in myth markets are perform» ing a myth of rebellion. No matter the era or the ideological climate, Americans are resolutely prag- matic and populist in spirit, deeply dis» trustqu of political dogma and con- centrated authority. For guidance and solace, Americans turn to those who stand up for their personal values in— stead of pursuing wealth and power. The country's myths draw on its stock- pile of rebels, people who are often a threat to the prevailing ideology. These figures are usually found where pop» ulism takes its purest and most nun t'ticntic form, among thine who live ac- cording to beliefs that are far removed from commercial. cultural, and politi- cal power: on the fronticr, in holicn'iia, in rural backwaters, in athletic leagues, in immigrant areas, and in ghettos. The most succcssful icon-5 rely on an intimate and credible relationship with it rchcl world: Nike with the African- hiemrchicai model — and the nation’s ability to “outccicncc” the Nazis in the race to develop the atomic bomb an— nounced the beginning of a new era. ideology lauded scientific expertise, the power of which would be unleashed by professionally managed bureaucracies. Popular culture was filled with visions of technology used to create fantastic futures and to help the country con- duct new markets and heat back the Soviet bloc. ideas about rugged individualism had become anachronistic; manhood was now to be corned in a corporate cnvi‘ mnmont. The man who was mature cnotigh to subsonic his individuality under the umbrella of corporate. wis~ dom was praisvcd. Outside of work, these ideals found expression in the new “modern living" practiced by nuclear {aunties in planned suburbs. These values produced a litany of C011“ t‘tadictions. For men, time ideals felt coercive and cnmscuiating when men— uurcti against Aincricei’s historical poo tilism. Books liitc William Whyle‘s Thu Organization Mon and David Rieslim'ri's T’iic Lunuiy Crowd, which damned the new conformity of corporatc America, bccanic best-sellers, Myth markets soon I HRWlRI? BilSiNESix REVEEW (vi-Mil mm! arming; up 4 usrng the Western frontier. the heats! hohemia, and the hillbilly backwater — to provide. solves to? these tensions. 'l’he hillhilly first caught the public’s attention in the 19305 in U"! Abner, .1 comic strip in which Al Cdpp cxaggel‘~ died the hillbilly’s lack of civility to create biting social satire. As the igsos unfolded. the hillbilly—u figure who is in touch with his innate animal quali- ties — seemed powerful and dangerous. the exact opposite ot'th-e corporate man. Elvis Presley. the poor Mississippi hillw billy who brought “primitive black mu- sic” to a white audience, oozed u titil~ lilting sexuality and sent young people in search of me k—und—roil records. CBS’S The Beverly Hillbillies, a populist allegory that championed pragmatic knowledge twer “hook learning," character over selfiprcsentation, and traditional hospi- tulity over proper etiquette. became one of the most popular television shows of the 196m. Mountain Dew's inventors named their product after an oldltlme Appu lachéan folk song that told of the plea— sures of “mountain dew" v moonshine liquor. They filled the beverage with ‘Nilill {item l‘l‘lc : n caffeine and sugar so that it would LiC' liver :1 heart-pumping rush and gave it fewer bubbles than most sodas so that it could be. chugged. They then created a comic hillbilly character- Wil.iy—-who drank Mountain Dew to“gct high.“ in- voicing Appalachian stereotypeq like the blwd—t‘eudlng Hatfields and McCoys, the bottlc’s label featured a barefoot Willy pointing his cocked rifle at a neighbor running away in the distance. Tied. to Willy’s hip was a stoneware jug, the type usually associated with home made booze. When l’epsiCo bought the brand in 1964, the company kept the hillbilly character, renamed him Clem, and put him in animated television ads. One ad, called “Beautiful Sol," features a cast of barefoot country folk. "Mo bumplo‘ns court Sal, at buxom redhead in a brief, tattered dress. Sal refuses flowers from both men and tugs their hats down over their faces before she struts away. Enter Clem. Half Sal’s height, Clem seems like an unlikely mate. But from water his ten-gallon hat, Clem reveals a tall but tle of Mountain Dew. Sal swipes the bottle and takes a few gulps. As Clem gazes lustily, Sal lifts a leg and hollerst When ideology shifts, we see new icons take off and incumbents struggle to remain relevant. MARC}! 2”“; “Yahoo, Mountain Dewl" Her long hair snaps into curls her side her head. If the audience failed to understand that Dew has the power to change atti» tunes in a heartbeat,the muz- zle flash that explodes from Sal’s ears seals the deal. She growls like a panther in heat, embraces Clem passionately, and smothers him with a kiss. The spot then cuts to a single toothed old man who reaches behind his head, wiggles his finger lasciviously through it bullet hole in his hat, and says, “Mountain Dew’ll tickle yore innards, out that‘s a bring in ever’ bottle." n lgzm Mom? - 2:3». % i; Sales took off like .i shot in eastern rural areas. Mountain [Slew haul suc- ceeded in creating a kind of manhood that rivaled the buttoned-up en'iotions and routines ot'the organization men. Its hillbilly was a devilish prankster who called on male viewers to let loose. their own wiltl man. Traversing Cultural Disruptions Mountain Dow's success as an icon he- comes all the more impressive when one considers how it outlived the ideal logical tension it was initially imsltioncd to address. National ideology works something like Stephen Jay Gould’s idea of punctuated equilibrium or Clay Christensen’s and Michael Tushmun’s de~ scriptionn of innovation cycles in tech- nology markets, which have extended periods of incremental innovation dis- rupted occasionally by radical techno logical changes. As an ideology loses its relevance, people lose faith in its tenets. Experimentation ensues, historical in gredients are reworked. and society t":- naiiy arrives at a new consensus. when such a shift in ideology occurs, people are forced to adj List their aspirations and their views of themselves. Myths pro vidc a powerful sense. of structure at these i‘unctures. and they grmv up spun. taneously around the emerging ideol- ogy, forming new myth markets. These are. the moments when we see new icons take off and incumbents strug: gle to remain relevant. Mountain Dew, which has enjoyed dramatic growth since the 19603, is one of only a few iconic brands that have been able to in- crease thcir market power across dis- ruptions in national ideology. cro“ cultural Chas-ms instead of he mantled by them. Consider what hnpr ology that prcwide lain. Dow‘s or" {6 ¢ came to " log "? don’t“ 1‘ 47 "of (A. ‘3‘ Cr «.9 as» v? “is (is 9o of. c8) (:9 @ ban; ’5} "(v '9 e “b ’9‘ the Gn «a, “‘3 corpornti ’r nit. nit t’tiztt w Whn' flaccitttw an icon Most? companion wort: hardly world leaders, Arab oil companies demonstrated the vulnurability of America-1's economic power. the Vietcong made £1 joke of'U.S. military superiority, and Watergate un- dcrminccl Amoricnns‘confidunco in their political system. So the country began to experiment with new ideoiogical pos- sihilitics, influenced by the rebels of the clay: black power activists, hippies, envi» roumentalists, and feminists. The bill- billy’s challenge to conformity became irrelevant, and he soon disappeared from the mass media. Mountain Dew sales slid, and a variety of new branding initiatives failed to break the fall. age}? who ruthlessly pursued wealth and power. Urban professionals quickly picde up on their role as the economy’s new cowboys, and by the mid-19805 they were decked out in cowboy boots and heading out to urban cowboy bars on the weekends. The media celebrated those MBAS and lawyers who put in Sohoqu weeks orchestrating billion—dollar L805, but working—class men had troubie seeing this new breed as frontier heroes. These “yuppies” weren’t patriots (they had no problem sending jobs worsens), they weren‘t tough (they are [nan Cuisines and iiked to jog), and, worst, they Wound Slackers made fun not only of the ideals of the free~agent nation but also of the people who tried to dictate their lives: marketers. Ronald Reagan finnily galvanized the United States around a new ideol- ogy, one that rcsuscitntcd Teddy Roo- sevelt’s funnier myth. Pin cajolcd Amer- icans to stand up to the country's twin throats: Soviet communism and Japa- nese economic prowess. Reagan mas- terfully painted a portrait oftho country using images of the cowboy and the Westcm frontier. relying on his many actor friends who’d portrayed cowboys and similar characters in films: John Wayne, Clint Eastwood, Charlton Hes~ ton, Arnoid Schwarzenegger, and 5y1~ vesth Stallone. Stallone’s film "First 'i'iiood,” which depicted a Vietnam vet overcoming an ineffectual government bureaucracy to save soidie rs missing in action, became the signature film of Reagan’s administration. As Reagan trotted out metaphors from the past, they were retooled by the mass media to make sense of the dis» tanning of the American economy. mortal: restructuring was led —in the tint imagination, at leastwby a new, invollian typo of businessman, rop— d by Donald Trump and lvan '1 Wail Street and by JR. Ewing ion. Reviving the economy quite a new breed of man— hard to buy their BMWS and Rolexes, not because that's what a man does for his family, his community, and his country. Many workingciass men instead idena tified with the redneck rebel, 21 causing of the hillbilly, who emerged in the rural South during the 19705. The redneck was a reactionary, standing against vast cultural and economic changes. South- ern rock, featuring bands like Lynyrd Skynyrd, the Charlie Daniels Band, the Outlaws. and Molly Hatchet, became a radio staple. [n 1973, a new television serial, The Dukes ofHuzzord, quickly be- came a hugc hit outside major metro— politan markets. And Mountain Dew took the cue as well. retooiing its wild man to deliver a redneck rebuttal to Wall Street’s nicelmation of the frontier myth. A look at Mountain Dow’s 1981 telen vision ad Rope Swing” shows how the brand moved into this new mythic ten ritory without betraying its constit- uents’ understanding of what the brand stood for. The ad depicts an informal teen outing in lush, hilly terrain. A sin. owy young man dressed only in shorts and running shoes stands with his bud- dies on a ledge high above a river. He waits for the perfect moment to swing out, 'l'arznn~sty|c, over the writer on a knotted rope. (lat tho opposite hunk, four teenage girls swing on empty ropc out to meet him halfway. Filmed in slow motion, he executes the switchemo non fectly, his body taut and rippling as ho releases the first rope to grab the sec ond, after which he swings safely to the other side. The girls cheer his crossing— u clear rite of passage —~ and greet him, bouncing excitedly. intercut with the action, the hero appears in ciose-ups chugging a bottle of coid Mountain Dew. By the. Spot's end, he’s polished off the entire bottle without coming up for air. Shaking water from his hair, he faces the camera, eyes shut but mouth wide open. The film freezes with him seem- ingly shunting,“Ah!" its corporate executives donned cow— boy gear in the mid-1980s, Mountain Dew responded even more assertively- with a campaign called “Doin’ it Conn try Cool." A dozen vignettes show our redneck studs, this time. decked out in cowboy rcgalin, once again showing offthnir athletic talents and buff bodies to cheering young women. Mountain Dew argued, through myth, that virilc guys live to play dangerously, not to sweat: it out at the office. The brand re— taincd its iconic power by reinterpret- ing the wild man to fit the new ideo~ logical reality. Again, Mountain Dew championed the wild man against the emasculation of corporate work, but this time by asserting physical tough» ness and darting—do over the flaccid cow— boys of Wall Street. From Redneck to Slacker By 198?, Mountain Dew was again an endangered icon as the nation’s ideol- ogy underwont another shift. the coun— try became disenchanted with the ideals of the Wall. Street frontier in a matter of months as Reagan left office, scandals rocked the financial. world, and the stock market crashed. A deluge of pop his: books and. films cxcoriating arbi— trageurs for their greed and indulgence marked the end of this am. Before ion it became clear that the very nature of the economy was changing: Com panics had to be more agile and aggressive to compete giobaily, and workers faced an Hx‘\l{‘~"r\RU HLfifilNiESS REVIEW increasingly Hohbesisn,winnertakoall labor market. In the new era of the“ free agent,” in which seniority systems were thrown out in favor of performance- driven meritocrncies, every job was up for gm b5 to the most talented and most tenacious worker. During this period of cultural disrup— tion, a new, turbocharged version of Reagan’s frontier myth took hold, this one lending heroic individual achiew‘ ment. Now manhood was defined by the ability to tackle extremely difficult and sometimes dangerous challenges that demanded both mental and physi- cal toughness. Myths of the day defined heroes as those who competed most fe— rociously, such rehei athlete Michael Jordan with his brand of“in your face” basketball. Professionals no longer sa— vored expensive dining and Rolexes. Now they headed into the wilderness For tests of wili against whitewater and mountains, and the must-have item was an SUVuif not a ranch in Montanaffhis new version of the frontier myth gal— vanized both made and Fernaie profes- MARCH 1003 What Becomes. on iron Most? »- our. i-‘iC'HfiisE sionals and those who competed in the labor market to join their ranks. But most people ended up in a secondary labor market with depressed wages and no job security, or in service work that promised only stifling. micromanaged employment. Contradictions between the free“ agent frontier and the realities of work were extraordinary: While m...
View Full Document

{[ snackBarMessage ]}