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  • Writer's pictureTom Lewis

Branding … My Ah-Ha Moment.

Photo credit: National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation

It was Christmas Eve 2011 and I found myself seated on a crowded couch alongside my two sons and my Aunt Sara. It was the night of our annual, McDaniel side of the family, Christmas gathering – a special night filled with sausage balls, deviled eggs, chick-fil-a nuggets, eggnog and a variety of mouth-watering desserts. As usual, I pretty much ate everything they could throw at me, which I easily justify during almost any special occasion. In addition to the endless food, there is live accordion music provided by my cousin Gary and the highly anticipated white elephant gift exchange.

After attending this party for 42 consecutive years I didn’t think there was anything that would stand out, but this year would be different. After scarfing down my third helping of pigs in a blanket there was an announcement that the gift exchange would commence. Under the tree was an assortment of gifts that stirred everyone’s imagination. What will I end up with this year … Chinese checkers? A box of Whitman’s samplers? A three-pack of Saddlebred socks? I could hardly wait. Even though all the gifts are $10 or less, there is an excitement from childhood that never quite goes away.

After drawing the number 6 from a lime green Tupperware bowl, I waited patiently as my family unwrapped their gifts and fought with each other over who would get the king-size Kit Kat bar, and then it happened. My Son Cole unwrapped his selected gift, which contained Old Spice Cologne (the original). After removing the small red cap and taking in a full-sized whiff of this well-known fragrance, he wasn’t too happy with his choice. Out of nowhere my uncle Wayne, who had obviously supplied the gift, immediately said: “that’s some good stuff!, I used it when I was a young man.” This made Cole feel a little better, but he ended up spending the rest of the night trying to make a trade with one of his naive younger cousins, but without any luck.

A Lesson I Won’t Soon Forget

The party came and went, but a few months later, as I was getting ready for work, I realized that I had used the last of my cologne and decided to look in the hall closet for a possible alternative. Our hall closet is the final refuge for all the products that don’t make the cut and actually get used, but I gave it a shot. After moving the hydrogen peroxide and an unused bottle of generic shampoo, there it was, Cole’s Old Spice.

As I held it in my hands I couldn’t resist smelling it and when I did, it stirred memories from long ago, memories of my granddaddy Ralph. When I was younger I used to sit in his lap and watch TV, and for a brief moment, I was there again. It’s amazing how one’s sense of smell can immediately take you back to places from long ago. Afterward, I picked up the box and caught a glimpse of some text that was emphasized on the backside. It said, “If your grandfather hadn’t worn this you wouldn’t exist.” Are you kidding me?? Seriously? Did I just read that? It was a big branding ah-ha moment for me and a lesson I will never forget.

The Takeaway

What Old Spice did is the epitome of great branding. They used the essence of their uniqueness to create compelling communication that continues to keep their product relevant, even 76 years after it first hit the market. A brand is not a name, a logo, a color, or even a slogan. It’s all of those things and much, much more. It’s something that is crafted and honed over time and if done correctly, will connect with you on an emotional level and never be forgotten. My hats off to Wieden + Kennedy for giving all of us such a great branding example.

So how does this benefit you? By understanding what a brand truly is and how it needs to connect with consumers on an emotional level, you can start to look at your brand in a whole new way. Every consumer touch point should be taken into consideration. Something as small as a quote being added to your product packaging can leave your consumers with an experience that is unforgettable.

So what’s your branding “ah ha” moment?

Tom Lewis, Partner | Creative Director

With over 25 years of professional advertising and design experience, Tom has spent much of his career working with a variety of companies throughout the southeast. His client list includes Lenoir UNC Health Care, Maola Milk, Hutchens Law Firm, Wayne Community College, Craven County Tourism, Nash County Tourism Guardian Repellent, Equifax, Georgia Pacific, Primerica, Weyerhaeuser, The Atlanta Hawks, Randstad Staffing and The Shizzle Jerk Marinade.

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