The most beautiful bird just flew in front of my office window. A Cardinal: bright red, yellow beak, that sharp tuft of hair on his head. He’s still out there and I’m watching him flit around the trees. And, I’m thinking, he doesn’t look real, he looks like a cartoon, he looks like a drawing.
Which is when I realized that my thoughts made perfect sense. I grew up looking at a drawn, caricatured Cardinal because I’m from St. Louis. The majority of my childhood, until the football Cardinals were sold and moved to Arizona in 1988, was entrenched in Cardinal sports. My family is full of die-hard fans. St. Louis is one of the greatest sports-fan cities in the country.
I’ve been branded, people – by a brand. Those baseball and football Cardinals have been so firmly entrenched by TV, sports uniforms, t-shirts, hats, billboards, the Clydesdales, etc. that my addled brain actually thinks that’s what a Cardinal looks like. It’s in my blood, part of my DNA.
I realize this example is a sports team – but it has a logo, a song, horses. It’s selling seats and hot dogs and beer and hats and….The impact is so powerful because there’s real feeling and countless sensory experiences behind the brand: family, summer, hot nights, bright lights, the thwump of the ball in the catcher’s mitt, the crack of the ball off the bat, the taste of the nachos, the roar of the crowds – doesn’t matter whether we’re winning or losing, never has. And they’re called to life every time we see that bird – the logo or the real one.
Proof: I started crying just watching the Clydesdale videos…as I tried to pick one of the thousands that exist.
Are there brands in your life that have had this kind of powerful impact on your world? And how can you make your brand, or the brand that you’re writing about, that full?
If we take our cue from the Cardinals, then we realize that we have to give a total experience. It’s not just about a tagline or a cool package. It’s about interaction, conversation, the senses, the meaning, the life that happens around the product.
Image credit: Ian Turton
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I grew up in Southern Indiana but my dad was from St. Louis, so yes, we too were Cardinals fans. Some of my best summer memories include my dad on the back patio, watching over some poor beast slowly twirling on the rotisserie, a sweaty Weideman bottle (the 5-kids,poor- man’s Budweiser) in his hand and Cardinal baseball on the radio. I can still hear that Rosemary Clooney-esque gal belting out their song –“You St. Louis Cardinals, you high-flyin’ Redbirds. . .” — at the beginning of the broadcast. Great memories and still, after all these years, a brand loyalty that’s pretty much secured a lifetime guarantee – mine at least (even though now I should officially transfer it to the home team — the Reds). Thanks for the refreshment!