It’s common for marketers to exaggerate the importance of their brands in consumers’ lives. Brand positioning statements are often written as if consumers constantly think and obsess about the brand. Social media from brands can make it sound like every consumer is a cult follower.
In reality, even “brand loyalists” have complex lives completely separate from our brands. Brands can play important roles, but we should be careful not to overstate how much consumers give thought to our brands.
One of the most emotional brands I ever worked on was Cheerios. Parents would recount, sometimes with tears in their eyes, the first time their children could pick up and eat a Cheerio with their own fingers. That “first finger food moment” became (rightfully) a cornerstone of the Cheerios brand, and that “nurturing” insight underscored everything from literacy promotions to heart health packaging.
But Cheerios wasn’t the star of that moment. It was a supporting character. The Cheerios brand didn’t cause that moment for these parents. It had the privilege of sharing it. Brand loyalists are loyal to a brand only as long as a brand complements their own life and priorities.
As marketers, it’s important to remember to keep our brands in perspective.
I first drew a version of this cartoon in 2007. A lot of people have told me that it’s one of their favorites, and it’s still one of the most licensed and syndicated cartoons from the last 12 years. I decided to redraw it to make it a little easier to read, and because my drawing style has evolved. Here’s the original.
(Marketoonist Monday: I’m giving away a signed print of this week’s cartoon. Just share an insightful comment to this week’s post by 5:00 PST on Monday. Thanks!)