Thinktopia Explains ‘The Cult Of Cool’ On Australian Prime Time TV

Australia TV The Cult of Cool copy
In a six-minute segment on one of Australia’s most popular television shows, Thinktopia founder Patrick Hanlon explains The Cult Of Cool: how ‘fandom’ and community create beacon Brands. Using the primal code of creation story, creed, icons, rituals, lexicon, nonbelievers and leader create a belief system that attracts others who share your beliefs. It can be complicated, says Hanlon, but so are human beings. Because companies and brand managers don’t take the time and energy to fill in all the pieces of code, is why there are so few really great brands like Apple, Nike, Google, and others. People don’t want to simply buy you these days, they want to buy into you. The way to turn meaningless products into meaningful Brands is to help people feel so passionate about your success that they are willing to create it themselves.

Smirnoff: The Primal Vodka

I was sitting at the Starbucks in Westport, Connecticut with an executive from Smirnoff’s Global Brand Planning. I was in the middle of explaining the seven pieces of primal code, beginning with the creation story, when a smile spread across his face. “That’s exactly what we did with Smirnoff!” he burst out.

Turns out, Smirnoff was created by Piotr Aresenyevich Smirnov, who was able to take raw vodka and filter it into through silver birch tree charcoal and create a potable drink. While peasants were still filling buckets of their hard stuff, Smirnov’s refined vodka was smooth and imminently drinkable. When the Czar tried it and liked it in 1886, Smirnov’s career took off. He was appointed purveyor to the royal court and was awarded not just a single coat of arms, but four coats. He became Count Smirnov, and started wearing fur coats. The family became a part of Russian aristocracy just in time for the Russian Revolution. Piotr’s son Vladimir was arrested, escaped the firing squad, fled to Paris, lived in poverty, emigrated to America where he founded the Smirnov distillery again.

But although Americans drank, the popular spirits were brown goods (like scotch). By 1939, Smirnoff (let’s assume he changed the spelling of his name around this time) couldn’t afford to even pay his $1500 liquor license. He sold to Heublein, and encountered John Martin, a marketing guy in Bethel, Connecticut, who changed his life again.

Martin positioned vodka as “the white whiskey”. They created cocktails (they invented cocktails) like the Martini, Bloody Mary, Screwdriver and the Moscow Mule. The 1950s were a cocktail revolution. During the first three years sales tripled and then doubled from that. In 1952, the “leaves you breathless” advertising campaign was launched. Smirnoff went to Hollywood and was featured in James Bond movies, Woody Allen starred in Smirnoff print ads, life was one endless vodka martini.

Then things went a little tipsy. Smirnoff’s image became dusty and, during the Cold War, essentially “Russian”.

During the political chill and trade embargo, an upstart named Absolut (from Sweden, no less) entered our shores and vodka was never the same again. Premium brands thrived. Grey Goose and others entered the market. Smirnoff became a bottom shelf brand, its heritage forgotten, and Smirnoff sales slumbered at the bottom of the liquor store rack.

Recently, the marketers at Smirnoff unearthed the lost history of Count Smirnoff. They informed employees how the brand had actually invented the vodka market, creating esprit de vodka. Sales staff spread the word among the trade.

In 2005, The New York Times conducted a blind taste test of the premium vodkas and Smirnoff won, surpassing 21 other super-premiums.

Using their valuable creation story to reignite the brand, the vodka that helped vodka become the number one spirit in the world, is the number one-tasting spirit brand in the U.S.A. today.

Note: “Primal” brands contain seven pieces of “primal code”: a creation story, creed, icons, ritual, sacred words, nonbelievers, and leader.

(The word “brand” is an imperfect word. For purposes here, “brand” is considered to be any person, place or thing searching for popular appeal.)

7 Ways Bob Dylan Doesn’t Think Twice About Brand Strategy

bob-dylanThe Basement Tapes, Volume 11 from Bob Dylan and The Band will be released this week (for a free sampler click here).

These rough recordings Dylan made in Woodstock, New York during the spring and summer of 1967 (two years before the famous Woodstock Music Festival) were created, as we all know, after Dylan his flipped his Triumph motorcycle on a country road and suddenly went dark. After pushing out two albums in 1965–“Bringing It All Back Home,” and “Highway 61 Revisited” and “Blonde On Blonde” in 1966, the so-called basement tapes created between “Blonde On Blonde” and “John Wesley Harding” (also in 1967) hardly seem like down-time.

Dylan, who had already gone from folky protest singer to electrified warlock, was just resetting the table.

“Nashville Skyline,” which came out in 1969, was a kick on the side of the head for fans still getting stoned on Rainy Day Woman #12 & 35. And the album birthed an entirely new era of country rock.

The Basement Tapes have all the production value of just letting the tape roll, but include the not-yet-gelled versions of Quinn The Eskimo, and gangly but listenable takes on classics like I Shall Be Released, You Ain’t Going Nowhere, and This Wheel’s On Fire.

There is no question that Bob Dylan is a major brand in every sense. From the manufactured name “Bob Dylan” (his birth name is Robert Allen Zimmerman) to a lifetime of continual innovation and rebranding, Dylan-as-brand seizes the attention of a global fan community in the millions.

It is worth deconstructing the “Brand called Bob” to see the strategic touchpoints that lay  behind what all the fuss is about.

Like any powerful brand, the brand called “Bob Dylan” contains each of the seven pieces of “primal code” that design a narrative that attracts a community of believers, zealots, and the other advocates that create full-spectral fandom.

“Primal code” includes creation story, creed, icons, rituals, sacred words, nonbelievers, and leader that, when combined together, form a holistic belief system that attracts others who share your beliefs. These touch the emotional connections that we have with all brands, and create a template to help us understand why Bob Dylan has been attracting fans by the millions since the 1960s.

1. Creation story: As mysterious as it is famous, the spine of Dylan’s origin myth is that he made his way from Hibbing, Minnesota to New York City to visit legendary folksinger Woody Guthrie who was hospitalized in New Jersey. Along the way, Dylan shed his name Robert Zimmerman, for a hybrid based on the Welsh poet Dylan Thomas. Dylan joined the folk music scene in Greenwich Village and recorded an unspectacular eponymous album of cover tunes in 1962. But the release of “The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan” album the following year (1963) included Blowin’ In The Wind, A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall, Girl From The North Country, Don’t Think Twice It’s All Right, and rightly changed the world.

2. Creed: Probably expressed best in Dylan’s track You Go Your Way And I’ll Go Mine. Dylan has always zig-zagged across musical styles and affiliations, leap-frogging genres, and creating bridges to new times and places.

3. Icons: The fact that Bob Dylan is an icon in popular music is no question. He is in the Rock And Roll Music Hall of Fame and Songwriter Hall of Fame. His personas as Greenwich Village folksinger, masked member of the Rolling Thunder Revue and never-ending leader of the Never Ending Tour (as well as his role in the aborted film Reynaldo and Clara), are images forever imprinted on Dylan fans and music public alike. But icons are not just images. Sound is also iconic: Dylan’s voice is iconic, and so are the iconic melodies in some of his most popular songs. This “sound” instantly identifies it’s Dylan, which is what being “iconic” is all about.

4. Rituals: Concerts are rituals. And so are interviews, appearances, signings, going into the recording studio and all the other seemingly random events that are woven together to create the map that designates the Dylan landscape. Waiting to see what Dylan comes up with next is also a ritual.

5. Sacred words: “Dylan.” One word, two syllables that represent a mountain of meaning for fans. The lexicon of Dylan album titles, the incredible song lyrics (the books, articles, student papers and blogs written about the meaning of Dylan lyrics number in the hundreds of thousands), and quotes from interviews and elsewhere become part of the sacred liturgy that surrounds the Brand Called Bob. These stimulate, provoke and titillate his global fan community.

6. Nonbelievers: For every “pro” there is a “con.” While Dylan has a global fan-base of millions, like all artists there are millions of others for whom his voice is a nail scraping a tin roof. His lyrics are too incomprehensible. After decades of deification, most of these critics have been beaten down or died off. And still. I used to have a dog who howled every time he played harmonica.

7. Leader: Bob Dylan is certainly the character who set out to recreate the world according to his own point of view. And now even at age 73, he continues to push the reset button.

Or maybe all this fuss about the release of yet another round Basement Tapes is just another set-up. Following press on the Basement Tapes, producers have announced a new Dylan release in 2015. Watch for “Shadows In The Night.”

To anyone born before, well, whenever, Dylan’s role in contemporary music may seem suspect. The words to Dylan’s first hit “Blowin’ In The Wind” might seem light and insipid. Until you realize that issues of race, freedom, war, ignorance, and myopic politicos are as contemporary as it gets. The wind is timeless and the questions raised are unanswerable.

It is testimony to Bob Dylan’s stature as a songwriter and generational muse for the last 50 years that even these scrappy 138 songs in a six-CD box set deserve consideration. (Bob Dylan is the only rock musician to ever win a Pulitzer Prize: “for his profound impact on popular music and American culture, marked by lyrical compositions of extraordinary poetic power”.)

Last word. Bob Dylan doesn’t have to think twice about brand strategy because he has created a community so enthralled by his music and so committed to his success, they are willing to do it themselves. And that’s all right.

Thinktopia Launches New Primal Branding Website

 

Primal crowd 7 thingsThis weekend, Thinktopia® is soft launching a new site called getprimalbranding.com. The site is inspired by the success of the book Primal Branding. In the Fall, the site will launch a new service to help people put the Primal Code™ into action.

Primal Branding: How To Create Zealots for Your Brand, Your Company and Your Future was published by Simon & Schuster/Free Press in 2006 and has become (we are told) a cult classic in marketing and branding.

Branding legend Al Ries declared when the book was launched that Primal Branding was, “Not the same old branding B.S.”

For the last decade, Thinktopia has been using the construct outlined in Primal Branding to help Fortune 100 companies and start-ups alike define brand strategy, launch new brands, and help to re-engineer existing products and services.

The seven pieces of Primal Code™ are what move people, places and things from being meaningless (or unbelievable) to becoming meaningful enough to gather millions of fans. In fact, the primal construct of creation story, creed, icons, rituals, sacred words, nonbelievers and leader can be identified in the most popular and powerful brands that exist.

Even YouTube, the largest social engagement platform on the planet, teaches fledgling videographers and storytellers this primal construct. YouTube metrics show that the most-watched YouTube videos all include at least five out of seven pieces of “Primal Code.”

This is because Primal Code designs a system of belief that attracts others who share that belief, creating a community of believers: the tribe of people “like us.”

This also can be said for the communities that surround powerful brands like Apple, Nike, Google and Facebook as well as for the communities that surround Obama, Lady Gaga, New York City, Silicon Valley, the Civil Rights Movement and climate change.

The construct of Primal Code is even used in military intelligence and artificial intelligence.

“Until the concept of Primal Branding, marketers worked in a maze without a flashlight,” says Primal Branding creator Patrick Hanlon. “Thanks to this fresh understanding of how we can design and embed the emotional connections that attach people to brands, we have helped brands get unstuck, and find new markets.

“Most importantly, we have helped marketers create new social media strategies that help them attract new communities of people that want to participate with them because they are attracted to their values, their products, and their actions.

“Every tactic now becomes a long-term investment in their Brand, rather than a one-shot buzz.”

The new website which is beginning its soft launch in July, will feature articles on current events and other communications that highlight the impact that Primal Code has on Brand culture and society as a whole.

The best way to see how a community evolves is to take part in its evolution. You’re invited to come along and offer your own comments and help us make the site better for everyone at getprimalbranding.com

Thinktopia Launches New Primal Branding™ Website

This weekend, Thinktopia® is soft launching a new site called getprimalbranding.com. The site is inspired by the success of the book Primal Branding. In the Fall, the site will launch a new service to help people put the Primal Code™ into action.

Primal Branding: How To Create Zealots for Your Brand, Your Company and Your Future was published by Simon & Schuster/Free Press in 2006 and has become (we are told) a cult classic in marketing and branding.

Branding legend Al Ries declared when the book was launched that Primal Branding was, “Not the same old branding B.S.”

For the last decade, Thinktopia has been using the construct outlined in Primal Branding to help Fortune 100 companies and start-ups alike define brand strategy, launch new brands, and help to re-engineer existing products and services.

The seven pieces of Primal Code™ are what move people, places and things from being meaningless (or unbelievable) to becoming meaningful enough to gather millions of fans. In fact, the primal construct of creation story, creed, icons, rituals, sacred words, nonbelievers and leader can be identified in the most popular and powerful brands that exist.

Even YouTube, the largest social engagement platform on the planet, teaches fledgling videographers and storytellers this primal construct. YouTube metrics show that the most-watched YouTube videos all include at least five out of seven pieces of “Primal Code.”

This is because Primal Code creates a system of belief that attracts others who share that belief, creating a community of believers: the tribe of people “like us.”

This also can be said for the communities that surround powerful brands like Apple, Nike, Google and Facebook as well as for the communities that surround Obama, Lady Gaga, New York City, Silicon Valley, the Civil Rights Movement and climate change.

The construct of Primal Code is even used in military intelligence and artificial intelligence.

“Until the concept of Primal Branding, marketers worked in a maze without a flashlight,” says Primal Branding creator Patrick Hanlon. “Thanks to this fresh understanding of how we can create the emotional connections that attach people to brands, we have helped brands get unstuck, and find new markets.

“Most importantly, we have helped marketers find ways to differentiate themselves and create Brand communities that surround them because they are attracted to their values, their products, and their actions. This helps move goods and services from being meaningless to becoming meaningful. It also helps people create deliberate omni-channel engagements with their Brand community.

“Every tactic now becomes a long-term investment in their Brand, rather than one-shot buzz.”

The new website which is beginning its soft launch in July, will feature articles on current events and other communications that highlight the impact that Primal Code has on Brand communities and society as a whole.

The best way to see how a community evolves is to take part in its evolution. You’re invited to come along and offer your own comments and help us make the site better for everyone at getprimalbranding.com

Hanlon Article Tags New Robotics Launch

A new piece by Thinktopia® founder Patrick Hanlon posted in Forbes this week was picked up by a new social robotics firm headed up by MIT’s Cynthia Brazeal. Breazeal is an Associate Professor of Media Arts and Sciences at Massachusetts Institute of Technology where she founded and directs the Personal Robots Group at the Media Lab. She is a pioneer of social robotics and Human Robot Interaction. The piece reveals a new world beyond the Internet of Things—and indicates just where social robotics might be going in the decade ahead. Breazeal and her team are building robots with social intelligence that communicate and learn the same way people do.

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‘Begin Again’ Director John Carney Redubs Film Ritual

Ritual is an important part of brand narrative. Relating narratives is a ritual, and rituals are also embedded in the actual production and action of narratives.

Let me explain. Going to the movies is a ritual we have all enjoyed. But what we may not realize is, that the act and art of creating a film is also a ritual: filled with moments of joy and despair. (As anyone inside the film community knows, film production is hours of sheer boredom, interrupted by moments of sheer panic.)

Characters within the plot have rituals. Jack Nicholson’s character in ‘The Shining’ for example, acted out the ritual of writing a novel. ‘Game Of Thrones’ is filled with rituals, from sword practice and beheadings to sex romps.

In the new movie ‘Begin Again’ from director John Carney, Keira Knightley plays a young songwriter who, at least in this segment of the movie, is onstage performing her new song. As Carney points out in his narration over a pivotal scene when his two main characters meet for the first time (in a video provided by The New York Times), this scene is an oft-performed movie meme. In fact, Carney points to Judy Garland playing a similar scene in ‘A Star Is Born.’ Part of Carney’s challenge, he explains, is to give this tried-and-true scene a twist that makes the rite something new for his audience.

Actor Mark Ruffalo plays the record producer and A&R man who hears something in Knightley’s music that no one else in the bar can. This is a genre piece, which, by definition, must fit a genre: a cluster of easily consumable memes whose predictability both satisfy and annoy us.

Memes are patterns, icons and actions that make us comfortable. But that comfort embraces a predictability that frustrates our lust for unpredictability.

Hence New York Times’ reviewer A.O. Scott simultaneously likes and dislikes ‘Begin Again,’ without understanding why. “I’m trying to praise this movie with faint damnation,” he concludes. “It’s not very good, but it is kind of enjoyable, at times infectiously so.”

The crowd is a fickle audience. Carney’s new film is scheduled for limited release on July 2.

 

“What Chatterjee Said” Launches A New Conversation About Branding

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Why do some company’s products and services mean something to us, while others don’t? Why do people stand in line waiting for new iPhones, Lady Gaga tickets, or to get into Disney World? It’s not about their Facebook page, their selfies, Twitter count or hashtag program. These brands have an emotional connection that makes people feel like they’re a part of their community. They have a belief system that attracts others who share their beliefs.

It’s one thing to say that, it’s another to actually create it. So, how do you create that intangible ‘something’—that sticky soft tissue that attracts people to brands?

This is all revealed in Chapter 16 of The Definitive Book Of Branding, the new book edited by Kartik Kompella and published this month by Sage Publications, Inc.

Thinktopia ceo Patrick Hanlon contributed the article that leads the Emotional Branding section of the book, with a chapter titled “What Chatterjee Said”.

“When I wrote Primal Branding: Create Zealots For Your Brand, Your Company, And Your Future,” says Hanlon, “it was a theory I had. Since that time, the construct has been proven out, thanks to working with Fortune 100 brands all over the world.”

(The big news is that YouTube (the largest social engagement platform on the planet) did the metrics and proved that the Primal Branding™ construct works. It is now their recommended way of creating online social narratives. YouTube includes it in their certification courses at YouTube Labs.)

“We have learned a lot,” Hanlon nods. “And I wanted to share that. So when Kartik called me with his idea, I jumped at the opportunity.”

The Definitive Book Of Branding also includes chapters by Al Ries, Adam Morgan, Kevin Roberts and others. These people have written some of the best books ever written on branding, and it was great to be included, adds Hanlon.

“It was a privilege to have Patrick Hanlon contribute a chapter to The Definitive Book of Branding,” adds Kartik Kompella. “I had read Primal Branding and his perspective of brands was radical and brave. His approach is insightful and refreshing.”

Today, some people look at brands as Madmen trying to sell them something. But Hanlon, who worked on Madison Avenue, says nothing could be further from the truth.

“In today’s environment, Brands are more important than ever,” says Hanlon. “When there is a proliferation of products and so much choice, brands are the only way consumer can assess if something is real or not. The need for ‘brand’ has become larger, not smaller. Authenticity and transparency rank highly, and we want to know who we can trust.”

Hanlon’s primal branding construct includes creation story, creed, icons, rituals, a special lexicon, nonbelievers, and leader. Known as the primal code, these elements create a strategic brand narrative that is relevant, resonates with people and, at its core, is the glue that bonds social communities together.

Primal Branding Featured In Suriname Turnaround Brand Workshop

Turning stagnant brands into dynamic powerhouses was the subject of a workshop at the Anton de Kom University in Suriname this week. Primal Branding was featured in the class, according to attendees.

Primal Branding is the most effective construct for helping turn around brands in trouble. When you deconstruct a brand into its seven (7) pieces of Primal Code (creation story, creed, icons, rituals, sacred words, nonbelievers, and leader) you can identify what (if any) elements are missing.Primal Branding at ADEK university in Caribbean Suriname

For example, when we worked on the Maxwell House coffee brand for Kraft, few stakeholders at Maxwell House recalled that 100 years ago there was actually a Maxwell House Hotel in Nashville, Tennessee. One night, a President of the United States stayed overnight at the hotel. The next morning, as the President was having his morning breakfast, the waiter came over the refill the President’s coffee cup. Teddy Roosevelt held his hand palm down over the cup and said, “No, wait! This coffee is so good, it’s good to the last drop!” Roosevelt lifted the cup to his lips and drained it.

Using the Primal Branding process (which is now ratified and promoted by the largest social engagement community on the planet—YouTube) also helps you to identify and refresh brand elements to make them more relevant and meaningful for today’s markets. Those elements can include the logo, packaging, naming, delivery processes, even ingredients.

The process also helps to identify and single out brand assets. When we worked on an iconography project for Levis, we inspired the internal teams to revision their brand, their in-store merchandising, even their product design. Similarly, when we assessed the Fig Newtons brand several years ago, the packaging was colored an aseptic yellow. A more fruit-colored palette that aligned with healthy figs was recommended—and the new packaging boosted sales into the double digits. Fig Newtons new pkg

This process of deconstruction leads to a more kickass understanding of your brand and your brand community. The process also underlines which elements attract and appeal to your brand zealots. This is not about building your Facebook “likes” or dominating Pinterest. This is about the reality of your brand and bringing it to life, online and off.

YouTube Gives Primal Branding Thumbs Up For Building Social Communities

As the largest social engagement platform on the planet, YouTube is designed to interact and connect. That’s what all the likes, commenting, and sharing is about. But how do you design, build and sustain all that interactivity?

YouTube suggests using the community principles outlined in Primal Branding, written by Thinktopia founder and ceo Patrick Hanlon. “Community is going to happen with you or without you,” says Rachel Lightfoot, senior programming strategist at YouTube Next Lab. “You want to make sure you’re shaping that discussion.”

Thinktopia_Animation_v1use this1This helps construct the socially reinforcing circle.  “Everyone wants to belong,” says Lightfoot, citing Primal Branding as her source. “Everyone wants to find a like-minded group of people who can come together for a common topic or cause.”

Big companies use a few simple triggers to create brand zealots—people who feel they are a part of your community, and advocate (that means buzz) their favorite likes to others. These people are not only focused on the brand, they are the strategic core of the brand.

“What’s great,” continues Lightfoot, “is that we see all these principles [from Primal Branding] in all of today’s top YouTube channels.”

In an instructional video headlined as “Build a sustainable community” on YouTube Creator Academy, Lightfoot cites five of the seven pieces of ‘primal code’ outlined in the book Primal Branding. Those elements are: the creation story, creed, rituals, leader, and lexicon. Although just as relevant for creating community, the video omits Icons—quick concentrations of meaning like the Nike logo, Apple’s iconic white design, the iconic smell of Chanel No. 5, or the iconic taste of McDonald’s French fries.

Rachel Lightfoot quote2.001The video also does not include Nonbelievers—that counter-culture that reminds you of who you do not want to be like, and what you do not want to become. Understanding who your ‘nonbelievers’ are, helps define who we are and strengthens the values of our own community. (Nothing like getting a Tea Party member on the opposite side of the table from a Democrat—or just about anyone—to solidify and recommit the beliefs of both.)

YouTube (the second largest search engine in the world after parent Google) has determined that the Primal Branding construct is their preferred method for narrative design and connecting community.

“These are things that can help you build your community,” asserts Lightfoot.

To create and grow your own social community, watch YouTube’s Rachel Lightfoot as she explains how to design narrative and build audience viewership.

You can also look for Primal Branding on amazon.com, which outlines how to create your brand narrative and provides dozens of examples.

You’ll become a believer, too.