Robin Williams: Branding Icon


Robin Williams, who tragically died yesterday, was a branding icon: He epitomized “unique.”

Some of your friends will claim a person or thing to be very unique or pretty unique. Impossible. Unique literally means one of a kind. Unique has a binary quality: someone or something (including your product and company) is either unique or not unique. Period.

If your brand is not unique, it isn’t worth much — and your costs of sales, capital, and media are too damned high.

Robin Williams was unique. What does that mean? There was no one like him, not even close. Even though Jonathan Winters inspired and influenced Robin Williams, the man who played Mork iconically stood alone.

You never heard anyone say: Oh, Robin Williams, he’s that comedian who’s sort of like (fill in the blank). Never. He was, and always will be, unique. He has made a lasting impression on all of us. Do people discuss your product with unique impressions, or do they lump it in with the competing products?
People Make Emotional Purchases

The objective of a brand is narrow and simple and specific: to make its target audiences — customers, investors, and reporters — react to, remember, and repeat your underlying value proposition.

CEOs of industrial and technology companies typically reject this critical truth: people make emotional purchases. Their generic, jargon-filled, product-oriented homepages prove it. Be Unique or Be Ignored: The CEO’s Guide to Branding is for them.

When you listen to fans and talking heads memorializing Robin Williams, they don’t cite his height, weight, or hair color — these are product attributes. No, they react emotionally about how he made them feel. Because they react, they remember him. Because they remember him, they can repeat his jokes, his lines from movies, his facial expressions, and where they were when they saw him perform.

Yet, you believe that your customers worship your product’s attributes. They don’t. Do you know, with certainty, how your industrial product makes your customers feel?
Parting Advice for CEOs

Are you branding or debranding? If customers, investors, and reporters confuse or compare you with your competitors, you’re debranding.

What to do? Stop copying your competitors. Stop jargonizing. Stop blending into the white noise of me-too competition. Stop using branding amateurs and wannabes, and social-media addicts, to perpetuate white noise.

Start creating a unique brand. Use Robin Williams, branding icon, as your model. Otherwise, accept that your company produces a look-alike, sound-alike commodity — akin to the ones your competitors sell — and price it accordingly.


About the Author

Marc Rudov is a branding advisor to CEOs,
producer of MarcRudovTV, and author of two books:
Brand Is Destiny: The Ultimate Bottom Line
Be Unique or Be Ignored: The CEO’s Guide to Branding.


© 2014 Marc H. Rudov. All Rights Reserved.


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