From the archives of the…

Rugged, strong and self-assured, John Wayne embodied the values that American males held dear in the 1940s, 50s, and 60s. In his footsteps followed Clint Eastwood (Dirty Harry,) Bruce Willis (Die Hard,) and now Keanu Reeves (The Matrix.)

But America didn’t love John Wayne. We didn’t know John Wayne. We loved the characters he portrayed. Cloaked in myth, Marion Morrison became “John Wayne.”

Myth is the artistic embodiment of values that run deep in a society.

Brands are basically the same thing. 

Actors, writers, musicians, athletes and politicians are merely different flavors of hero. Each in their own way, they embody values we hold dear. Sometimes these values are as superficial as “style.” Other times, they are the very foundations we build our lives upon. 

Brands embody values as well. We buy them because they remind us – and tell the world around us – who we are.

Product endorsements are likewise built on this power of myth. A year ago, when Kobe Bryant embodied “discipline, commitment, loyalty and the work ethic,” dozens of companies were willing to pay him millions of dollars to say their name. What changed? Was it Kobe, or was it merely his ability to carry the weight of our expectations?

Building a brand is easy. All you have to do is mirror the deep convictions that most people don’t even know they have.

But living up to the brand you build is hard. Unlike actors, writers, musicians, athletes and politicians, your private world is open to the daily inspection of a demanding public. It requires no paparazzi to see you real. Customers are invited to invade your place of business and see you real every day. This means that you must deliver what you say you stand for.

If your brand is weak, it can only be because:

1. It stands for nothing that anyone cares about, or 
2. You’re failing to live up to your own brand image.

We hear a lot less about branding these days than we did a few years ago. I think a lot of people were disappointed when they found it wasn’t quick and easy. So now they’re off looking for some new kind of quick-fix gimmick. But you’re not like those people. You knew all along it was going to be a hard climb to the top. 

So how’s it going so far?

Good art is not what it looks like, but what it does to us.
– Roy Adzak

Written by: Roy H. Williams for the Monday Morning Memo